Monday, June 8, 2009

Vulcan Tinman 2009

The day did not start off very well at all. You might think I’m referring to the weather—I wish. We weren’t running late, either. Nor was the excellent Moroccan Lamb I had the night before at Escoba bothering me…

It seems that every year or so, something happens that tarnishes my faith in the goodness of my fellow man. Hopefully, this will be it for at least another year.

When we went to the bike locker (a chain-link cage with bike stands and about 30 or so bikes in it at any given time), I noticed that my under-seat bag was open. Then I noticed it was a little light. Then we both noticed that Nicole’s was completely gone! Grrr…

So after a brief stop at Pedalhead for some spare tires, we headed south. I was simmering, but tried to put the theft out of my mind, and focus on the race.

Here’s something not too common—snow on the ground, in June! (Well, it might be common if you live in the southern hemisphere, but that doesn’t count) We could see the snow out our window when we woke up, but it was still shocking to see the snow-covered hills that popped up on the horizon just as we passed Chaparral.We had both filled the car with extra clothes- gloves, tights, rain pants, toques, extra shoes, extra sweaters, even wool socks. We even stopped at Walmart to buy two plastic bins for transition, even though I’d always silently mocked guys at other (sunny) races who toted around similar kits. I figured we were so over-prepared, the weather just had to improve—that’s just how the weather works in Southern Alberta!

And, for the most part, it did get better. We were pretty cold getting organized—especially the body-marking part!! (For my non-triathlete readers, there are three ways that race organizers keep track of you on the course: a computer chip strapped to your ankle, a numbered “bib” that you usually pin to your clothes, and the same number written in permanent black marker on your calves and upper arm). Peeling ones shirt off in the blowing rain will chill anyone—even someone as hairy as me!

Because quite a few people didn’t show up, and because Vulcan has a small pool, meaning the heats are VERY spread out, we had our choice of spots in transition. We got organized, and went to watch the action in the pool. Because so many people had wimped out, the lanes were pretty wide open, and they were allowing people to get in early. The only downside to this was that it made it a little more difficult to figure out when to jump in—no one was standing on the pool deck discussing lap times like usual!

Despite the less than ideal weather, the worst part of the race was stripping down, and getting onto the pool deck, waiting to get into the water! I could tell that Nicole was having second thoughts…so I put on my coach hat: “C’mon, get going! Give me your jacket, just get in, focus on the race, and you’ll warm up real quick! Go! Go! Go!”

You know what, it actually worked! (That, or she’s getting good at blocking me out). She got out there, swam great, had a very slow T1—but that was expected-- finding that I enjoy watching races almost as much as I enjoy competing! I get a blast talking to first-time athletes, (not so long ago I was one myself!) first time spectators (“how many of these marathons have you done?”), and lending out the cowbell to whoever asks. Even in the rain, sleet, snow and hail, there are people out cheering at every race supporting friends and family. It’s just such a great atmosphere.

But I wasn’t in Vulcan just to watch. Because people were getting into the pool early, I needed to get ready shortly after I watched Nicole cross the finish line. And I needed to get warm! Fortunately, the change rooms are indoors, so I went in, went through the race in my mind as I got ready. I was hoping to be able to get into the water quickly, but it seemed like forever before they gave me the thumbs up, even though there was no line on the deck. I’m sure it was just the goosebumps.

Once I finally got in the water, it was great! Sooooo warm—like a hot tub! At least compared to the air; I’m sure it was only a few degrees warmer than usual. Right away, I settled into my stroke. The goggles were great, and I felt strong. On lap 8 though, my cap was starting to come off, so at the wall, I tossed it. The goggles also fogged up, but they didn't leak. I think my eyeballs just run too warm for them.

Out of the water, short quick steps, I didn’t even notice the cold concrete. The usual fuzziness, but I got to my gear no problem. I’d packed the box in the order that I’d need things- towel, tech shirt, tech sweater, tights, socks, jacket, race bib, gloves, sunglasses, helmet, bike shoes. That’s a lot of crap to put on!!! The usual 30 second transition became 4-5 minutes.

The bike is pretty much a straight-shot out-and-back on a great little highway- not much of a shoulder, but a typical Alberta prairie view—gently rolling hills, gold and green fields, an old homestead or two, and wild skies. I don’t remember what anything looked like on the way back. It was head down, make myself small, and focus on circles!

T2 felt really fast—change shoes, change hats, and go. Despite the tights, my legs were almost numb for the first few blocks. I kept them going, turning over as quickly as I could, then settled in to my usual pace. At the halfway point, I shed my jacket, and picked up the pace just a bit, but my hip flexors felt a little sore, and I could feel a bit of a stitch coming on. If I can work on my core, and do some more speed work, I think I could push more. Anyway. Saved enough for a final kick—I was so fast, this was the finish line photo:

On the social ride last night, someone asked me what the best part of my race. My answer was the first part of the swim, and the final kick. But really, the best part was how quickly I recovered. I was really surprised how quickly my breathing and heart rate came down.

Overall Place: 35
Age Group Place: 4/15
Swim Rank: 18
Swim Time: 9:17
Bike Rank: 55
Bike Time (includes T1 and T2): 34:40
Run Rank: 42
Run Time: 23:38
Total Time: 1:07:34