Monday, November 12, 2007

Treasure Island Race Report

I’ll keep this short…

I went down to do the San Francisco Treasure Island race for a few reasons. One was that it’s a pretty big race and attacks some great competition, two it was also an ITU race so the big pos, like Hunter Kemper were down there, and three it was a multi loop race with lost of turns which meant it was going to be a technical race. The reason I want to get as much experience on thee types of courses is because that is what the ITU Worlds course will be like in Vancouver… 10k, 4 laps, lots of turns. So I wanted to get a feel for what that would be like.

Since there was an oil spill on Wednesday that dumped about 58000 gallons of oil in the bay, pretty close to Treasure Island, they went ahead and cancelled the swim… or were told that they would need to. That started my mental wheels turning on how they would handle this situation. Would they start us at 3 sec. intervals like they do at Memphis in May, or would it be a mass start bike (unlikely), or would it turn into a pure duathlon with a 5k run then the 40k bike and then a 10k run? That was what I really wanted to know. The fact that they cancelled the swim did not bother me all that much, it was truly out of their control. But how they were going to deal with this was what I was concerned about.

So they decided to go with a sort of duathlon that incorporated a true swim to bike spirited T1. So what that meant was that in my wave (35-39) we started at the swim exit with just out race suit. No socks, cycling shoes/running shoes, helmet, etc. It was pretty much how you would come out of the water without a wetsuit. I wore my sunglasses, so I guess that is not what I ‘normally’ wear out of the water, but they did not say anything.

Before the start I really went through in my mind how I would handle this race. I think that really defines people in the athletic field as to how they can deal with change. The ability to morph or adapt to a new set of constraints. It was no different than not getting the ‘ideal’ transition spot. You figure out how you will make the best, and take advantage, of the spot you get…. or if you miss a bottle at an aid station, you figure it out. But obviously this was not ideal to have the swim cancelled, but how could I still make the most of the situation and not lose time because it was ‘different?’

I walked through the transition area and tried to figure out the ‘flow’ of it the best I could. Taking note of the Bike Out, Bike In, Run Out etc. I needed to know this very well because transitions in this race would be very important. When they take out 20 minutes of a 2 hour race, seconds become even more important. Though they always try and arrange the transition area to be ‘fair’ we all know that it never truly is. Wherever you see the pro transition area, that is the fastest area. I think I had a good spot, but the younger age groups (I’m no longer in the ‘younger’ category) definitely had an advantage as to where they were. Those of you who race Valley Girl know exactly what I am talking about when you see people who have their gear inside the swim area and those that are out on the road. There is no way that those two areas are equal… not even close. But I knew that I am capable of being pretty swift in short course tris so I felt good about that.

It was about time for the start of my race so I got lined up. It was a tight area to line up in since it was the exit archway of the swim. Not ever really designed for a race start. I ended up being in the second row. I even tried to squeeze my way to the front, but it was packed. I was already figuring out how I would get in front of all these people because I ‘was’ going to be in front. The guys in front of me seemed pretty set on being there, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they would be fast from the gun. The gun went off and we were on our way. Buy about my 3rd stride I could tell that I was going to get by these guys. Running bare footed on rough asphalt when it’s 50 degrees never really feels all that good, but when you are in a race, it feels like you have shoes on to me… never even noticed it. I ended up leading the group into T1 and was in and out. I was the first out and I would imagine about 8-10 seconds ahead of the next person. Mission #1 accomplished. Now on to the bike…

Let me first give you an idea of the setting. This race was on Treasure Island… and old Coast Guard base. I think it’s been shut down for a long time, probably because of the bad roads. The roads we used were somewhat, no not somewhat, they were horrible. We used sections of parking lost, roads that we patched and re patched, roads that would make Spokane roads look like newly paved highways. I was honestly a little nervous for my bike… not wheels, but bike. The course had about 20+ corners per lap (6 laps total so 120 times going through corners). The race was split into age group and gender waves which meant that even though I might be in the lead, I felt like there was always someone in front of me because there always was. So as I left T1, I was in the lead. But once I got out on the course I never had open road. There were many times that I would be going into corners very fast and be coming up on someone that was taking it easy through them. There were times that I had to roll the dice and times I had to brake and use the few seconds for recovery. It was a war zone. Even on the straight flat sections you had to watch out for people because they would swerve erratically to avoid a pothole or bump and not pay attention to anyone around them. There were people riding 2 abreast and chatting. I passed people on the left, right, in between, through corners… any way I could. There were times that I was going 30+ mph and praying that people would not swerve. You really had to be aware of everything and make predictions and estimations. So bike handling was paramount. Having been a fairly competent criterium racer in my younger years, really paid off. I knew in corners where people would go most of the time base on their speed. I also knew some ‘escape’ areas that I could go if I misjudged a corner and people. I definitely pushed the envelope. It was the last race of the season, I have all winter for road rash to heal and fix my bike :) There were a few close calls, one cone hit, and I saw 4 people on the side of the road waiting for medical support (not because of me). It was a very intense race. I guess I could have slowed down and it would have been fine, but it was a race. And in races, you go as hard as you and the course permits.

No one passed me on the bike, so I knew that I was in 1st in my age group. But I had no idea as to the other age groups. So every second was still counting. I went into T2 fast and exited just as quickly. The run was a fairly flat out and back three times. Kind of boring, but you knew if your pacing was consistent or not. My first couple miles were a little rough. I had some tension in my stomach, nothing crazy, but it was bit uncomfortable. I eventually burped a couple times, and it was all better. Mile 3 and 4 went smoothly and I was ready to pick it up for 5 and 6. I started running faster and was watching my HR as to not go too hard right away. I made it to the final turnaround and was heading back. I was itchin’ to ramp it up, but I did not want to have to slow down before the finish. So slowly I went a little faster and faster until the final 400 meters where I opened up my stride and finished strong. No one passed me in the run either so I knew I was in good shape in my age group but it looked like there were some pretty fast guys out there on the run ahead of me from other age groups.

As time passed, they finally got up the results and I found out that I won overall. Nice! The guy who was 2nd was about 30 seconds behind. He ran quite a bit faster, but I was 3 minutes faster on the bike… thank goodness. My transitions were quick overall as well. Some people don’t understand the importance of transitions in short course racing. But when you lose a place by 3 seconds, or the entire race by 2 seconds, it hits you between the eyes. Just like in IM, nutrition is HUGE… in short course, transitions are HUGE.

So a good way to end the season I suppose. I don’t know if having the swim cancelled helped or not, but it was what it was. You race the race in front of you. You can’t dwell on what you thought, because that does not get factored in when the results get posted. Races change all the time, just like in life, and you need to adapt.

I have to thank Nick and Marissa Tuttle who drove me around San Francisco, let me stay at their place, took me to the good places to eat, and were a huge support during the race. It really takes the stress out of traveling when you don’t have to figure out how to get somewhere. During the race, Nick was out on the bike course and run course cheering me on like it was the Olympics… it was awesome. Then after the race he bought me a pop and hot dog. That was better than any award… I had my trophy and ate it.

Nick hung out in the rain to watch the ITU race with me and then stayed for the awards as well. I can’t say that it was ‘easy’ to do because it was not all that nice out. But Nick was always offering help, carrying stuff, getting the car… he was awesome. We finally were able to go and get some dinner at a great hamburger joint. I had this big hamburger with a giant plate of fries, and even a chocolate malt. Just what you need before getting onto a plane. It was a great trip. I left Spokane at 2:30pm on Friday, and was home at 9:30pm Saturday. So I think I got a lot done in about 30 hours.