1-mile swim, 34-mile bike, 10-mile run. Longer than an Olympic, but
shorter than a half-IM. Piece o' cake (yeah, right). So, how do you pace
yourself for a course like this? All out, fast and hard, like for an Oly,
or slow, steady and deliberate, like in a half-IM? I don't think I ever
really resolved this question for myself, and that proved my undoing.
Of course, it didn't help that I was fighting off a cold last week,
feeling really rotten from the Monday night of race week right up 'til
Thursday morning when we took off for Santa Barbara. I hadn't worked out
since Monday evening, and come race morning, I was pretty uncertain of my
readiness for the race. Oh well, what the hell, I'll just do what I can,
I thought. No pressure. Even though this is one of only 4 races this
season with a Clydesdale/Athena division, don't worry about placing, just
enjoy the race.
I decided to go ahead and hammer the swim, since it was basically the Oly
distance swim. Then, I'll pace myself carefully on the bike. Driving the
course the day before convinced me that relaxing and pacing was the only
way to approach that bike; it was too variable, too much gradual climbing
that could sap your energy without your even being aware of it. That
would leave me with plenty to handle the run, which was the one discipline
I'd really been trying to work on lately and actually had a decent amount
of training in. OK, so that was the plan.
I will state unreservedly that the swim at SB proved to be the toughest
I've done to date. Mama mia! The fog, the constant, rolling swells, the
foggy goggles, the chaffing that resulted from constantly having to raise
my head to navigate. And how frustrating to get out there and actually
feel surprisingly good after more than a week without swimming, only to be
soundly trounced by the conditions (not to mention the competition).
Nearly 36 minutes for 1 silly mile! Well, it's comforting to realize that
everyone had trouble with the conditions, and many others had remarkably
slow times. Considering that fact that I was swimming virtually blind
most of the way, I oughtn't to feel so bad.
After an uninspiring swim like that, and knowing that Roxanne the Rabbit
was two minutes up on me out on the bike, my plan to take it easy on the
bike sorta went out the window. I started out intelligently enough,
carefully holding back on the first long gradual climb, allowing
hammerheads to blast by me. Felt reasonably good, and fully intended to
ride conservatively. But then that bloody bee bzzzzted me, which made me
mad, and I had that hollering match with #1420, which REALLY steamed me,
and I got all pissed and emotional and said "To hell with a conservative
bike!" I got to thinking how the bike was disproportionately short
compared to the run for this race, and how hopeless my running is, and
that my only chance in hell to do respectably was my (such as it is)
biking ability. There it went, conservative bike out the window!
Someone asked me after the race, "So how does this bike course compare to
A good question. After a moment of deliberation, I stated that I believe
the SB bike course to be harder. It's certainly much more technical than
WF, where the roads, though rolling, are generally pretty darned straight
nearly all the way 'round the lake. The SB course never allows you to
relax and settle into a rhythm, because it is constantly changing pitch,
surface, and line. The roads are narrower, curvier, rougher in places,
and there's more traffic.
Because the SB bike is shorter than WF, and has fewer clearcut, decisive
climbs, it can deceive you into thinking that you can and must hammer it.
That's what happened to me ("Oh, it's only 9 miles more than an Oly, just
go for it."). The pitch of the road never remains constant for more than
(at the most) 1/4 mile at a time, so you're constantly shifting gears and
adjusting your tempo. The descents are, almost without exception, curvy
and technical, so there isn't even some free speed to be gained there.
In short, it is one deceptively tough bike course! I underestimated it,
but will never make that mistake again. Take heed, ye who would blast
that bike in future seasons!
I'm not sure if the run was really as tough as it seemed, or if the fact
that it followed that obscene bike made it so. All I know is it HURT.
The first and the last two miles are pancake flat, but the 6 miles in
between are either UP or DOWN. Mostly UP on the way out, ouch. By the
time they become DOWNS on the way back, you're too wiped out to care! I
honestly cannot recall another race where I felt as completely drained in
the last mile as I did here. Whew! This was definitely a case of "crisis
management", to quote PNF, and I'm darned proud that I succeeded in
managing my crisis! Now if only I could have skipped the portapotty
stops, I coulda shaved off close to five minutes and.....
I must tell you, when I came over that line, I couldn't even speak. I was
immediately surrounded by RSTers, but was in such a state of pain that all
I could do was gasp, "Please, don't anybody talk to me. I can't talk."
Pretty damned anti-social of me, I must say! But y'know, it was just one
of those moments when the very thought of *thinking* enough to listen, pay
attention, and converse is totally repugnant because you are SO exhausted!
The rest of race weekend was truly glorious. I was delighted to meet up
with many RSTers in SB, including Bill Read (Silly man did that swim
without a wetsuit, ay yi yi! I was teasing him at the start that I could
already see him shivering...), Bill Mason (who finished about 4 seconds
behind me), Steve Blum, Roxanne Scott (who kicked my big Clydesdale butt,
going just over 4 hours in her first longer-than-Oly-distance race and
finishing 9th in her AG!), Kurian Davis (finished in 4:19:xx), Tony Walsh
(5th in his division at 3:17:xx, the stud! and his pal Kevin Joyce WON
the whole shebang in a time of 2:55:xx, talk about STUD!!), Brent
Swartzentruber and his lovely girlfriend Amy Bettencourt (to both of whom
Skippy and I are most beholden for their various local restaurant
recommendations, YUMMMMM!!!), and if I've forgotten anybody else, I
apologize most heartily! Roxanne's pal Jim dropped out of the Long Course
at some point, but I never found out what happened; all I know is I
spotted him walking alongside the beach path as I started the run and he
said he'd had some problems. Hey, Rox, didja ever find out what happened?
A *very* great treat for me was getting to meet at long last our own
Timothy Carlson, who proved just as witty and intelligent in person as he
is in writing. But Timothy, what on earth happened to you? We never
heard from you after parting at the Radisson, wha' happen'?
The weather was spectacular, as was Santa Barbara itself. God, I wanted
to stay a whole month, 3 days just was not enough, sigh. The race
organization left a little something to be desired, but I think I'm
getting a little less picky in my old age! Either that, or I was just so
concerned with getting my butt around that course alive that I didn't fret
much over small details. Postrace pasta and fruit were more than
adequate, and it was basically a very safe and reasonably well-executed
One helluva weekend, I tell ya! One comical note: I fully expected that
I'd been soundly trounced in the Athena division, so was none too
concerned about being on hand for the awards ceremony. When they began, I
was in the transition area collecting my gear and cleaning up a bit. I
was wrapped, ignominiously, in a beach towel, discreetly changing out of
my tri briefs into underwear and shorts, and I joked to Skippy, "Watch,
they'll do the Athena division now, and it'll turn out I actually placed!
Not." No sooner had I returned to a state of (slightly greater) decency
than they announced my name as the "winner" of the Athena division!
Timing is everything.
A final note: Ok, ok, so they also announced that I was the lone entrant
in the division! However, in perusing the preliminary results on the web
today, it turns out that there was indeed one other Athena contender, whom
I handily beat by a margin of 40 minutes, so there!
"'Be a terrific innovation if you could get your mind to stretch a little further than the next wise crack."
"Y'know, I tried that once, but it didn't snap back into place."
---Katharine Hepburn & Eve Arden in "Stage Door" (1937)