(cross posted from Marathons)
July 26, 2008
I popped out of bed at 4:08 am, brushed my teeth and got in the car to pick up my friend Jim for the drive from Salina to Goddard Kansas for the Mudwater Triathlon at Lake Afton State Park. All the way down we could see flashes of lightning, but nothing close and no cloud to ground bolts until we were 15 miles or so from the race site. I called up the weather maps on my Treo and sure enough, there a thunderhead right over the race site.
We arrived, parked, racked our bikes, checked in, got body marked and received our chips without incident. Then we started the waiting game. The race officials were saying we'd start 15 minutes after the last lightning strike. There was one about every 10 minutes. After about a 30 minute delay, it was time to head to the water for the start. There were three swim waves: men 39 and under; men 40 and over; and all women.
The lake is small and somewhat shallow and if the wind is blowing I guess it churns up the bottom pretty good, hence the name of the race. Fortunately, today the winds were pretty light - not over 10 mph out of the east - and the lake was relatively calm. The lake temperature was not announced, but by feel I'd say it was probably in the low 80's, so no wetsuits were allowed. The swim course is essentially an out and back along the shoreline. You swim out about 50m, turn right, swim to a far away bouy and then swim back parallel to the shore and around a bouy about 25m from shore and then in. We did a beach start, so when the gun went off everyone (well almost everyone) charges into the water and eventually starts swimming. With the first bouy only 50m from the start, it stays pretty bunched up which means there's a lot more contact than one usually encounters in an open water swim. That's okay with me though, I'll kick and punch to stay or get ahead I sighted pretty well during the swim, but never really got into a good rhythm until the last 250 meters to so. I passed and was passed until that point, then I think I probably made some net gains. After the last bouy, I turned left and headed for shore. Soon enough I was running to the transition area. The chip mat was about 100m from the edge of the water, near the transition area. Swim time 15:48.
I thought T-1 went pretty well, but my recorded time was :59. That seems like an awful long time to put on two shoes, a helmet and sunglasses and run with my bike 30m to the bike out.
I rode my bike long enough before the race started to put the chain on the big ring, so once I hit the bike mount line, I put my left foot on its pedal, took a scooter push with my right leg, swung it over the seat and was all set to start pedaling. The bike course is an out and back, almost all of which goes west and east. I knew the light wind would be at our backs on the way out, so I figured this was the time to really grind on the pedals. Let everyone else warm up and get comfortable, I was going to take advantage of what little wind there was. This almost cost me when I made the turn from the park onto the east-west road, as I had to brake hard and my rear wheel skidded on the rain slickened road. I maintained control, but not without adding 10 bpm to my heartrate. I passed lots of athletes while riding out. Many were in my age group, which was predictable, given my mediocre swimming speed. I was also passing lots of guys who started in the swim wave before me. There's a long downhill section just a little over a mile or so into the race, and I was quickly out of gears. Garmin said I was right around 29.6 mph. I was flying by my fellow competitors. Unlike other races, no one was passing me. The road surface was smooth and I rode much harder than normal. When we reached the turnaround, I again skidded on the damp road, but avoided crashing even though it cost me a few seconds. I was right around 15:00 on the 10K out portion of the bike.
The light wind was in our faces on the way in and I think the rolling hills are probably a net uphill that way too. I was still picking off other cyclists and not getting passed by anyone. At one point, I could see a huge swarm of gnats on the side of the road. As I approached, I closed my eyes and put my head down. The gnats felt like tiny little raindrops hitting my arms and shoulders. Finally, I was past them and able to resume visual contact with the road. A guy with 46 (his age) passed me on a downhill. I passed him on the following uphill. He passed me on the next downhill. I passed him on the uphill. Finally, I pulled away on a flatter section. About a tenth of a mile from the finish, I switched Garmin from its bike mount to my wrist band and then coasted long enough to loosen the velcro closures on my shoes. Three people passed me in a matter of ten seconds, but we were so close to the finish, I didn't feel there was enough time to safely pass. Instead, I thought, "You better be fast runners, my friends." I swung my right leg over the saddle and coasted the last 10m balance on the left pedal of my bike and hit the dismount line running. Bike time 32:30, which averages out to 22.9 mph.
T-2 seemed slower than T-1, but came in at :48. I had a little trouble getting my right shoe off, but the Zoot triathlon shoes I got for my birthday slid on fast and easy. In no time I was ready to run.
The three guys who passed me were the first to get left behind. I tried to keep track of how many runners I passed, but I lost count before the first mile was done. There were a lot. Most were under age 40, but there were two who had "46" marked on their a, just like me. When I see that I am passing an age grouper, I try to put a little extra burst on, as a sign that they shouldn't bother with trying to chase me down. I figure if I can go by them fast enough early in the race, if I have problems later and have to slow a little, they won't be back there thinking that they can catch me. The run course is pretty flat and I continued to pass. According to Garmin, my mile splits for the run were 6:15, 6:20 and 6:11. Total run time on the chip came in at 19:38, which works out to a 6:20 pace.
My total time of 1:09:45 is 1:01 faster than last year on the same course. I'll take that. I placed 15th overall out of 182 announced starters. I was 1st in the 45-49 age group for the second year in a row at this race. In the 50-54 age group, Jim ended up 2nd behind Mike, who is the local guy who talked my into the Route 66 Triathlons (Strippers and Dirty Hoes) earlier this season. Julie who works in my office won the 35-39 AG by a whopping seven minutes. Julie's husband, Mike, was third in his age group in the duathlon.