Sunday, October 7, 2007

Finish or Die Trying....Toughest Triathlon in Az.

Well, I picked the Fountain Mountain triathlon for my 1st international distance tri for two reasons really, one it was on Saturday (not doing Sunday races is really tough in this sport!) and two, the scenery and swim tempted me like Jason and the sirens and I forgot to plug my ears. In any case I decided to order the supersized meal of triathlons for a first go round on this distance.

To prepare for this I decided I had to get at least one tri under my belt first so did a sprint down in Sierra Vista about a month and a half ago. Shortly after I got sick and the broncitis from it took me out for 2 weeks so in effect I lost a month of training since it took 2 weeks to regain what I had lost. I new I was in for a real grinder of an event when I ran an abbreviated version of it in reverse a few weeks ago. So, that is the preamble of my report. I was not quite as prepared as I would have liked to have been but that is life I suppose.

Having checked the weather all week I knew that conditions would be ideal so I was looking forward to that. The morning temps were in the upper 60's so it was a bit chilly waiting on the side of the lake where the shuttle bus had dropped us off. It was funny to see everyone doing the wetsuit waltz which looks like some sort of modern dance as they pull and stretch and wiggle their way into the suit. I of course don't have a suit and determined a few weeks ago that Saguaro should be warm enough to make do without (I know rental is an option but funds were a little tight over the last few weeks). At 5 minutes before the race we were told to go down and get in the lake so I put all my dry stuff in a bag to be left at the finish line, pulled on my goggles and cap, and gingerly made my way down a little rocky trail into the water.

Out in the water we treaded water for a few minutes and then we were off. I found in the pool last week that bilateral breathing speeds you up so I determined I would do it. So- breathe right, ah oxygen, breathe left, gack! (as I swallow a large helping of the lake). I tried again with limited success, and upon flailing about for the next 50 m or so I resolved to revert to the form I had practiced countless times in training. From here I stopped to get bearings a few times in the first 100 meters and then I realized that I was being stupid and I knew this lake well, and I swim slow but well, and that I should have confidence so I should just swim dang it! Sighting every 10 or 11 strokes worked well for me for the first buoy and I noticed a couple of guys stopped there to look for the next buoy which I already roughly knew the location of so I turned that direction. Around here I noticed the water clarity as I was seeing rocks go by six feet below me. Around here the chop started getting pretty noticeable and the buoy was hidden by the waves so I picked a spot on the hill behind it and swam to that until I was close enough that the waves didn't hide it. I almost didn't need to sight on this stretch as all you had to do was swim parallel to the waves. Rounding this buoy was a different story. we swam diagonal to the waves and staying on course was difficult and a bit of a struggle, but once I rounded the buoy I knew I was home free as I have swum into and out of Butcher jones dozens of times now.

I hopped up on the beach at 42 minutes and jogged up on the pebbles and rocks and sand up to the road and on up to the transition (which was a ways up, I figure it took a few minutes out of my time just getting to the transition without injuring my feet). Transition 1 went good considering I had to dig all my stuff out of a bag I had left there last night with my bike, in the dark. All told I exited transition 5 minutes after leaving the water with a heartrate out of the zone I had wanted to keep.

Since I wasn't breathing hard and felt good I decided to just go with percieved exertion and moved on up the hill out of Butcher Jones at a scorching 7 miles and hour (this wouldn't be the last time either). I was able to speed it up before reaching the top. After getting onto the Bush highway and getting through the first set of hills before passing water users, I started to real people in. Climbing 4 mile hill out of Usery I passed 2 people from the short course and was passed by the leaders for the long course as they took thier second lap (man those guys are fast!). My HRM kept beeping at me but I knew if I could get over this hill I would get a bit of a rest dropping down the other side and into Las Sendas. I passed a few more people in this section as I was able to take the corners at speed thanks to the officers that were stopping traffic. It wasn't too long before I was barreling down Kong and heading back to Saguaro. About a half mile before the junction with Ellsworth Andy from the Az Tri Club passed me with a big "Hey Paul!" and he was on his way. I passed another guy before Ellsworth and was passed after Blue point bridge by a guy that said he had been trying to catch me for a long time (which made me feel good). Getting into the next transition I was feeling a bit tired and spun at a high cadence trying to get the legs ready for the trial that would be the run.

Pulling in they grabbed my bike and bike stuff and handed me my running bag I had left with them before getting on the bus. I quickly slipped on the shoes and my running cap, grabbed a water and a couple of gels and was out walking up the trail. Yes walking, I saw a couple of people doing a real slow jog but I was keeping up with them walking and my plan was not to kill myself on this first part. Pretty soon there was a group of us playing tag and walking as we would pass each other and get passed. in the first stretch there were a few places to run and I did where I could. The highway drink stop was welcomed as I began to realize in here I had not quite overhydrated enough on the bike to prepare for the run. I ate a gel, downed some water and continued on feeling the increasing objections of my legs to work right. After the real nasty climb on the second part of the run I was relieved to see that the trail went straight and not up the ridge like the trail I had taken a few weeks before and thought was the trail. The trail that goes straight is a lot easier but you wouldn't know it to look at me. I was not even 2 miles into the run and I was hurting. This was going to be a long run. I had to walk into the next drink stop as the legs needed some serious recovery, this is where the group that had been playing tag left me, and it is also where I earned my place as the last guy in the clydesdale category (but I wouldn't be last, just 8 up from last in the overall standings (if they listed Clydesdales there which they didn't which was kind of annoying)). Anyway, from here it was downhill for awhile but I was determined to run it as I just couldn't bear the thought of walking downhill on a run. I was amazed that on the sides of the wash there was still firm sand and so I ran on it catching a bush every now and then. After making the turn at the bottom I walked up the hill to the Bush highway as did most people around me. From Water Users on I was doing the walk run thing and I was just looking for that finish line, and looking, and looking. It seemed like they made the course zig zag all over that little bit of land next to the river and the ranch. I paused a minute at a direction sign that said kids on it and I wasn't sure if it meant me. Judging by the footprints I figured it must so I soldiered on and could here the PA system seeming to taunt me from far off over the bushes, although I knew the finish line was near I had nothing left and had to walk until I knew I was just out of sight of everyone and then started to run and finished at 4 hours and 2 minutes. If I could have just run better and pulled 10 minutes off my time I would have been 3rd place Clydesdale instead of 6th but at this point all I can say is that it shouldn't be hard to pull 10 minutes off between now and next year, of course I probably will not be a clydesdale then but oh well.

I don't think I have been happier to see a cooler jug full of watered down gatorade and I began to chug cups of it down for about 10 minutes until someone mentioned the pizza, which was cold but I didn't care and I downed 3 pieces and went back to chugging gatorade. I sat in the shade for awhile too (about half an hour actually, funny how time flies when you are exhausted and just kind of spacing after having completely drained the tanks). Just when I had stood up and was heading for the bike rack I ran into Andy and said hi. After retrieving my bike and stuff I ran into him again and we talked for a bit. He offered some words of encouragement and mentioned he was heading out to silverman in a few weeks. At that time Ironman distance seemed like the distance to the moon to me. I have come to the realization that the International distance is a LOT harder than the sprint distance. On the other hand, perhaps it is just that the Fountain Mountain International distance is a LOT harder than a sprint, I guess further experience will tell.

Here are the numbers if you are interested-

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