A “Let’s Answer a Couple of Questions” Note from Fatty: I always love reading the comments in my blog. Honestly, I read every single one. Probably multiple times. And some of the questions / comments from yesterday’s post deserve more than a comment-level response, because they reminded me of stuff I should have talked about in the first place. So before I start today’s installment, I’m going to answer a couple questions.
Q. HOW COULD YOU SWIM SO STRAIGHT TO HIT A BUOY!!! You must have done lots of sighting drills in the pool! - Ian Thompson
A. Actually, I never did sighting drills. Not even once. And hitting the buoy is only good if you mean to hit the buoy. I actually always intended to swim to the right of the buoys. I’m lucky they’re just big, soft, inflatable things or my head would still be ringing.
Q. My favorite part of that whole story was you saying someone unzipped you…I too would like to know if you expected this, if it’s customary, etc. Seems like such a kindness to extend to the “competition” in a race. - Jenni
A. I should have made it clear that it was one of the volunteers who unzipped me. You can see them in the green t-shirts in this photo. I don’t think racers were unzipping each other; we were too busy trying to stay upright — it’s amazing how unsteady I felt for the first 20-30 yards or so!
Q. So, drafting behind someone isn’t okay, but clawing your way over their back is? IronPerson is a weird sport. – Gomez
A. I’m certain that whoever crawled over me did it on accident, and there’s a >50% chance that it was my fault — I could have been angling the wrong way and got into his/her path. You just can’t see people until you’re — sometimes literally — on top of them. In any case, thanks to the slippery wetsuit effect, s/he just slid right over me anyway. It felt curious and funny, not dangerous or scary.
Q. For those people that were hypothermic and barely able to function, did the volunteers try and warm them up or just put them on their bikes and point them in the proper direction? – Cardiac Kid
A. I’m not sure what steps volunteers took, beyond helping cold racers get dried and dressed. I do know that the volunteers were eager to help in any way that was allowed. For example, after I was suited up, I started gathering my wetsuit and other junk to stuff into a bag, and a volunteer hurried over, saying he’d take care of it and that I should go get racing. I cannot say enough nice things about the volunteers at this race (and I will definitely say more nice things about them in the next couple of posts). It makes me think: I need to do some karma balancing by volunteering at a couple races myself soon.
Q. You are a lot of work, what with the pooping and the forgetting, the runner must have patience! - George Not Hincapie
A. I’m pretty sure that can be said about any woman with regards to her man.
Here’s me, getting ready to come out of the transition. It’s the only photo I have of me during the ride:
Looks like I’m eating. Which is pretty likely.
Anyways, generally, if I’m going to ride 100+ miles, that’s pretty much all I’m going to do for the day. So it felt kind of strange to start a 112-mile ride — with about 6500 feet of climbing, according to my GPS — thinking of it as the easy part of the day.
OK, maybe I wasn’t thinking of it as being easy per se, but I was happy to be doing the only part of the race in which I can claim any experience or expertise at all.
The course for the bike part of this race starts from the reservoir, goes 20+ miles, and then does two 45-mile loops before dropping into the city center for the final stage of the race.
And in that first twenty miles, there’s definitely a sorting process: the climbers from the non-climbers.
And even at my early-spring weight (i.e., I’m about 13 pounds heavier than I’d like to be right now), I’m a fair climber.
So, without really knocking myself out, I passed literally hundreds of people within the first twenty miles as we rode up two or three longish climbs.
I know it sounds like boasting when I put it that way, but the truth is, that’s entirely intentional.
Hey, I went from 979th place coming out of the water, to 544th place by the time I finished the ride. That’s 400+ people I passed.
So let me boast a bit here, while I can. Tomorrow’s post will contain little if any boasting, I promise.
As I climbed, I inspected bikes, and came to a few conclusions:
- Cervelo is the bike manufacturer of choice for Ironfolk. And not by a small margin. I would be hard pressed to pick the second-most common bike company represented (maybe Trek?), but Cervelo seems to have that market tied up.
- There was an instant affinity among those of us on straight-up road bikes. When I saw someone with drop bars and no aero clips, I’d smile and nod. And I got a lot of the same thing from others. Kind of like the way I used to get a smile and “me too” nod from people who were also driving a Honda CRX.
- Everyone who talked to me was outrageously nice. Coming into this race, I had a stereotype in my head of the triathlete: all business, no fun. And for sure there were a bunch of people who were pure game face, and those people and I didn’t have a lot to say to each other, mostly because those people do not acknowledge that other people exist when they are on their bikes. However, tons of riders said “Hi,” and a lot of people asked about what I thought of the swim (I was very happy with it), whether I could feel my hands and feet yet (I could), what I knew about the course (I knew it pretty well and was happy to describe it). So, amazing news flash: a lot of triathletes are totally normal, friendly people.
The People That You Meet
I know this part of the race is a time trial. And I did not draft, even a little bit. But when people took the time to say hi to me, I wanted to ride with them. Here are a few people that stood out from the ride. I asked each of their names, but due to a peculiar mental deficiency with a common onset around the beginning of middle age, I cannot remember most of them. So these people instead get the mental descriptions I had for them:
- The Garmin Guy: There was a big guy — looked about 6′1″, maybe 230 pounds, riding in full Garmin-Slipstream kit, who blew by me during the first 20 miles of the ride. I remembered thinking, “Oh, I’ll catch and pass him soon enough,” but I didn’t. He just pulled away and disappeared into the distance. Finally, at around mile 75, I saw and caught him on a climb. For the next 20 miles, I would catch him on every climb, and he would then catch and gap me — and everyone else in sight — on every flat. “I’m a trackie,” he explained, and it was clear that this guy had incredible power, and a lot of mental toughness to battle out the hills the way he did. At the final descent from Veyo into St. George, this guy flew away from me. I hope he did great in the run.
- The Cervelo Roadie: I mentioned before how many Cervelos were out there, but I saw only one person riding a Cervelo road bike — a guy on a beautiful R3. I passed him on the first climb and commented on what a nice bike he had, and he said “Thanks.” Little did either of us know that he and I would never be more than a couple hundred yards apart for the rest of the ride, trading places (without drafting!) dozens of times. It’s strange to think that over 112 miles, any two people would both start and finish so close together, but he and I shook hands as we dropped off our bikes at the run transition. “Nice riding with you,” he said, and it definitely was.
- The Peeing Guy: One guy — wearing a green argyle jersey — introduced himself to me and we talked for a moment; he said he reads this blog. Considerably faster than I am, he soon gapped me and I figured I would not see him again. But I did. He was riding downhill on the shoulder of a road, signaling to others not to ride behind him. It quickly became evident why: water began splashing down his leg and onto the road. “Pee break,” he said with a big smile as I went by him. Another rider, moments later, pulled up alongside me and said, “I would never do that, no matter what; I’m happy to add the 30 seconds to my finish time.” Which pretty much echos my thoughts on the matter. Still, I bet the Peeing Guy beat me by more than thirty seconds, so who am I to judge? That said, I’m glad I’m not his bike mechanic.
- The Arizona Guy: One rider and I swapped places and chatted a number of times. He’s a reader of this blog and says he told me I’d break seven hours (he was right). He also said he had a miserable time in the swim and had even had to hold on to a kayak for a while to recover, meaning he was way off his time of an hour at the Arizona Ironman. I can’t even imagine swimming that fast.
- Cory: Lynette is one of The Runner’s training partners, and Cory is Lynette’s husband. Cory and I had talked a little bit about the probability that we might wind up doing a lot of the race together. And sure enough, he caught up to me at the beginning of the second lap, and we joked together as we passed each other over and over — once again, me passing on the climbs, him passing me on the flats and downhill. It became a standing joke that each time I passed him, I’d say, “See you in about two minutes,” and I was usually right.
Where is The Runner?
One person I did not see for the entire ride was The Runner. And nobody had any information on how she was doing, which drove me a little bit nuts. Did her swim go well? Badly? I wasn’t worried about her making the cutoff anymore, because she is a stronger swimmer than I. But nobody I passed — or who passed me — had seen her. I hoped she was having a good race.
And also, I was hoping she would not pass me quite yet.
Little did I know that The Runner was having a strong race of her own, moving from 1572nd place at the beginning of the ride, to 638th place by the end of it — rocketing up by more than 900 places. In other words, she passed half the field while on her bike.
And that’s in spite of a long stop she had to make due to a loose cleat on one of her shoes. Two of the screws had come out, making the cleat swivel so she couldn’t clip out, thus earning me several Bad Husband points for not having checked her shoes before the race. Stupid.
Luckily, everything held together, and she did an awesome ride — quite possibly a faster ride than I did, if you subtract out the time she spent off the bike dealing with the cleat emergency.
Here she is, coming down the home stretch, looking very good:
Respect Where Respect is Due
I’ve made a little (ha!) fun of the way tri geeks ride, so I need to come clean here: nobody did anything stupid or ridiculous on their bikes anywhere near me.
Which is, in fact, a little bit disappointing.
Further, while very few people on their TT machines passed me on climbs (and there were a lot of climbs), I got passed dozens of times by these people on the descents.
So props to them for that.
But I’m still not even remotely interested in ever having a bike with aero bars. Maybe it’s just what I’m used to, but to me, those things are big, bulky and ugly. The opposite of what a road bike should be.
Finishing the Ride
The ride part of the race was remarkable in its unremarkabiltihoodness. I felt fine, I didn’t burn myself out, and the weather — which was my biggest worry going into the race — was cool and only mildly windy.
So after 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles of biking (in 6:32 by the way), did I feel like I was ready to run a marathon?
If I had ever thought to pose the question to myself, I would have answered, “No.”
But maybe that’s a teeny little superpower I have: not doubting. I didn’t even think about whether I could do a run like that.
It was simply what’s next.