The Hammer and I are almost ridiculously happy together. We love planning things out together. And talking with each other. And training together.
We even love going to races together.
But when we go to races, we’re never racing against each other. Partially because that’s just not what married couples do.
But what if we…you know…did?
I’m not saying we would ever go and actually just race against each other to see whom of us is faster. Because of marital harmony and stuff, as heretofore mentioned. But also because there aren’t many races where it would be a legitimate competition.
Like in the race we did last weekend, for example. If I’d have run a half marathon, The Hammer would have beaten me by a huge margin. Similarly, in bike races, I’m a little faster than she — although her recent Leadville 100 finishing times are faster than all but four of my finishing times.
But what if we were to do a race where the bike portion and the run portion were balanced out, and maybe a randomizing third event (like maybe a swim?) neither of us is good at were thrown in?
And suppose, unlike when we last tried doing a long-distance triathalon, we were both really fit and fast?
And further suppose, unlike when we last tried doing a long-distance triathalon, we agreed that if and when The Hammer caught me on the run, she would just keep on going to see how much faster she is than I?
And even further suppose that unlike in a full Ironman, we were to do a half Ironman, thereby taking away the (some might say) out-of-proportion advantage given to cyclists?
Between The Hammer and me, who would win?
You must admit, it’s an interesting thought experiment. You know, the kind of thought experiment a loving couple might discuss, just for fun. And perhaps it might even become the prevalent topic of conversation between that loving couple. And it’s even conceivable that the loving couple might engage in quite spirited debate on this topic.
But, you know, it’s not something we would actually do.
Why It’s a Bad Idea to Have Connected Friends
So, having had a number of spirited conversations with The Hammer, I took it upon myself to check and see if it was too late to register for the inaugural St. George Half Ironman (it used to be an Ironman but was generally acknowledged to be too difficult of a course, which makes both The Hammer and me feel kind of awesome that we both did it).
Not that I was going to register us for it if registration were still open. I was merely curious.
Imagine my relief to find it was sold out. “Oh well, that’s that,” I thought.
And then — for no reason at all — I emailed my friend Yuri Hauswald, who just happens to be the Brand Specialist for GU Energy Labs, which just happens to be a sponsor of the St. George Half Ironman. (Check out the inspiring thing Yuri is doing right this second: working with a blind super-athlete as a team in a six-hour enduro in New Zealand)
“I don’t suppose you’d be interested in having The Hammer and me race as part of Team Gu in the St. George Half Ironman, right?” I asked, expecting a quick and decisive “No.”
“Magic will be happening in less than an hour,” replied Yuri. And he was right. Before I could come up with a plausible excuse, The Hammer and I were registered.
(And also, two giant boxes full of Gu products arrived, which the two of us have begun training with. More on those soon.)
Suddenly, the hypothetical was real. The Hammer and I are racing in a Half Ironman.
Against each other.
Here’s my (absolutely and completely impartial) analysis of what the day will bring.
The morning starts with a — and I just checked this to make sure of the distance — 1.2 mile swim. This is the part that both The Hammer and I dread the very most. Neither of us is a trained, strong swimmer.
That said, this leg of the race is incredibly strategic.
First of all, we don’t start at the same time. Thanks to the fact that we are of different genders and have a last name that starts with “N” we start six minutes apart:
Of course, this race is timed by chip, so theoretically it doesn’t matter who starts when.
In reality, though, by having The Hammer six minutes ahead of me when the race starts, I have an excellent carrot. If I can manage to pull up even to her and say “Hi honey!” we both know that I am in fact actually saying, “I’m six minutes ahead of you now.”
In the past, there’s been a reasonably good chance that I would catch The Hammer before the swim leg even finished; thanks to the miracle of a wetsuit and stronger arms I’ve been able to compensate for my total lack of form and haul myself through the water more quickly through the water.
But The Hammer’s been in the pool several times per week this past winter, training using the much-acclaimedTotal Immersion swim method. She’s fixed some important problems with her technique and I now fear that my brute force advantage has been nullified.
Meanwhile, for your information, I have not been in the pool even one single time. I should probably fix that.
The Hammer and I have identical bikes we’ll be riding for this race: the Specialized Shiv. We both have been training using these bikes, and while neither of us could be called an expert on them, we’ve both gotten better.
In terms of raw power, I have the advantage, and that matters in time trials. But on a hilly course, power-to-weight ratios come into play. And this is definitely a hilly course — 2552 feet of climbing over 56 miles:
Both The Hammer and I are good climbers. But — and I say this in a reasonable facsimile of humility — I am a better climber.
It’s almost certain that I will put some time on The Hammer during the bike leg of this race. The question is, will I put enough time on her? Because following the ride comes…
The central question in the “Fatty Vs The Hammer” race is, “how much time will Fatty lose to The Hammer in the run?” The easy answer is, “A lot,” but that’s not very specific.
The Hammer is in fantastic running condition right now — she’s light and she’s training for an upcoming marathon and she just ran a personal best for the course in last week’s half-marathon.
She’s faster on a flat course, and she’s much faster on the climbs. And this course is climby:
She is going to crush me on this leg. As in, it’s entirely possible she’ll be two minutes per mile faster than I am. And maybe more if I am reduced to walking the climbs, which is likely.
Which means that even if I manage to put half an hour on The Hammer in the rest of the race, she could beat me at the line.
And the thing is, this is an out-and-back course, so at some point we’ll see each other and then she’ll know exactly what the gap between us is…and what it will take to close that gap.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but The Hammer is somewhat competitive. If at the point she sees me there’s even a remote chance that she could catch me, she will catch me.
And then she will blow me a kiss and keep on going.
Personally, I think there’s a 52% chance that I will be the victor in this contest, provided I manage to not go so hard on the bike that I have entirely discombobulated by the time I have to start running.
But I’ve been part of a relay team in a half iron-distance race before, and I was pretty much unable to even walk after the ride. I can easily imagine being in a similar state in this race. In which case The Hammer may win simply by being able to complete.
That said, I am a somewhat competitive person myself and do not intend for that to happen.
Please, by all means, please feel to speculate yourself on what the outcome of this race will be.
Hey, it’s just a friendly thought experiment. Right?