Whether you’ve done it once or a hundred times, you can always learn something new out on the race course. Usually it’ll be something small that helps you to improve a little here or there. But then there are races where something major falls apart, and you have to figure out how to deal with it, and then to learn from it. In 2016, that race was Pleasant Prairie (double flat, 3.5mi+ bike walk); in 2017, it was Indy (4-5 gears max).
When I first started looking for Triathlons in 2015, I came across Tuxedo Brothers’ series. While it didn’t work in 2015, their races stayed in my peripherary. And when they made sense this year, I looked at which one fit best. However, I couldn’t find anyone from my normal guide pool that was available. This is where Caroline Gaynor came in to help. If you don’t know who she is, you’re probably part of that 11% in the Triathlon community who doesn’t. 🙂
Caroline helped to connect me with Sarah, and after a few months of back-and-forth, we finally met up at packet pickup. Even though this was going to be her first time guiding, I still felt very confident going into the race. But I made a mistake that morning which I believe impacted the whole race. Isn’t 20/20 hindsight wonderful?
During pre-race warmups, I heard a loud snap. I thought something might have been wrong, as I’d never heard anything like that before. We looked at it and nothing looked out of place. And the gears all seemed fine, so I chalked it up to nothing wrong. What I should have done was take it over to the bike mechanic tent to have them look at it. But instead, thinking nothing was wrong, Sarah went off to do some solo warmups while I finished setting up my transition.
We got into the water, and things went okay there. Another race where there was a minor point of having trouble breathing in the water. The breaststroke helped until I got it back, and we made it out and back to transition. Everything seemed just fine as we headed out on the tandem, with us making it onto the bike in only a couple tries.
And then things fell apart… As Sarah started to shift into the higher gears when the first set of hills came up, it felt like the chain was off. We stopped, with me falling with the bike (left foot still clipped in) and tried to fix it. What Sarah did seemed to make it a little and we went on. But about a ¼ mile later, the bike started wobbling and I went down hard with it. This fall knocked the wind out of me, and I had to sit there for a minute of so until I got it back.
During that time, I had an internal fight with myself. At this point, I knew that we’d have to do another 8-9 miles in hills with 4-5 gears max (with 4 or 5 as our ‘high’ gear). There was a brief moment where I thought about tapping out. Then I came back to reality, knew that wasn’t an option, and climbed back on the bike. As I’ve said in previous blogs, I don’t believe in DNFs. And unless I’m physically hurt or the equipment is unsafe, you’ll have to physically drag me off the course.
So on we pushed, sometimes at a snail’s pace, but on nonetheless. There were a couple of dangerous spots (bad cone layout and turnaround) where we had to struggle with the bike. And there was a point on the way back where I started physically shaking, probably from having to do so much in those low gears. It got so bad that we had to walk the bike for a little bit, as I was concerned about being able to keep the bike upright in that state.
We eventually made it back, and after having to dodge through people leaving while bringing the bike in, made it out onto the run course. Having spent my legs so much in the low gears, I knew the run was going to be a mess. But I did what I could with a run/walk throughout the course. And we found a way to make it through, even though I was in a lot of pain at points.
While this was not an optimal race, there were a few bright spots and definite lessons learned.
1) To trust my hearing, and be overcautious. While we would have been racing the clock (snap occurred with 15-20 minutes prior to transition closing), I know that the overall race would have been better if I had.
2) That the continual transition practice is paying off. Before the beginning of the season, my best total transition time was something in the 10 minute range. That’s declined over the season, including a 1 minute T2 in this race. That’s the fastest I’ve EVER done T1 or T2 in, and total transition was less than 5 minutes.
3) That there are a couple of things I need to sort out with coaches. I’m not sure why this intermittent breathing issue is strating to occur during races, and I need to find a way to overcome the ‘foot sleep’ issue that’s coming up in the run. That has happened in the last two races, one of which I was able to get a great bike in.
Even though the race wasn’t great, I’m very grateful to my parents for their support in getting me there/back, Sarah for guiding and Doug/Matt for coming out to support us. 🙂 Afterwards, I headed back to get ready to run a 5K in the dark – more on that in the next blog.