Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Injury, Hawaii, & The State Championship Team Time Trial

Preface: You might want to read this in two or more sittings. This post is slightly longer than a chapter of Lord of the Rings.

The last month or so has possibly been one of the lamest months of my life. I'm blaming procrastination (so myself, really), but everything caught up with me at once and my life got real crazy, real fast. It was probably the perfect time to have an injury (if there is ever a perfect time), because I couldn't have worked out even if I had wanted to. I still don't know what really went wrong with my left leg, but the week after Wildflower, I couldn't run. It was probably your common strained hip flexor-IT band-hamstring combo. Luckily, I had plenty to do in life to keep me busy and take my mind off the fact that I couldn't run or bike. For me, swimming gets old pretty fast when you have nothing to balance it with; but having that as my only option, I've been in the pool a lot in the last month. A week ago, a customer made the comment to me at work: "You must be a swimmer huh?... "oh no" I thought, I look like a swimmer now.. huge V back and massive shoulders. Great. But alas, I'm back running and spinning around again, mostly pain free. 
1 hour from landing in Hawaii.. already doing damage. 
Hawaii (32.2)

Not a bad place to be.. especially if you can't race. I had known for weeks out of the Hawaii 70.3 that I wasn't going to be able to do the run. a) I hadn't been doing any running all month b) I didn't want to risk screwing myself up even worse (as I've been told a lot in the last month: I'm too young to try and push thru an injury" c) Why do something half-heartedly, knowing you can't give your best? 

I knew I could do the swim and bike portions at least. I had gone out a few times the week before and hadn't been feeling too much in my leg while riding. It was nice to be in Hawaii and not have to be so wound up about racing all week. Cold chillin, Kona coffee and a lot of swimming over the reef is what went down the majority of the time. (Oh, and learning how to build a Shiv from the ground up)

The Race
I had absolutely 0 expectations (other than a somewhat legitimate swim, cause Lord knows that's all I've been doing lately) for this race. The past two times I've raced here, I've had a disgusting swim. The first year I swam a 34, I believe; last year I swam a 30. That's gross for what I know I can do. Of course, the swim here is much different than your average 2k sheltered swim. It's a mass start (over 1800 this year), you don't have a wetsuit and who know what the currents, sharks/sea monsters, waves and chop are doing out there. 

Lindsey on the aquabike
I started waaayyy outside to keep clear of the mass of chaos, just waiting to be unleashed. My favorite was how the race started. Everyone was drifting past the start buoys and Greg Welsh (the Aussie commentator) yells to all the athletes: "Everyone needs to get back behind the buoys.. MOVE BACK!!! I know you all can hear me, I'm not going to start this race until everyone moves ba..." right then: BOOM!!! & off goes the start cannon. Ok, I guess we’re going. I had a lovely start to this race, I was so far outside I had a clear shot to the first buoy and plenty of space to flounder and splash about without anyone molesting me. I got to the 1st buoy fast and to my amazement the front pack was maybe 10-20 seconds a head of me. Fairly pleased with myself, I settled in and set a nice pace for the next 15-20ish minutes. I wasn't passing anyone, but more importantly, I wasn't being passed.. until the last 500 meters. That's when I popped and a huge pack passed me. When I came out, I saw the clock was a mid 28 minutes. I can live with that.

The Bike
I always love getting on the bike @ Honu because I get a huge confidence boost. Since it's a mass start, you promptly pass a ton of people because there are so many good swimmers in front of you that'll struggle on the bike. I found a comfy pace quick and went to work. I went from 32 overall (or something like that) after the swim to 19th in the 10 mile out and back section before heading up the coast.
We finally started to hit some hills around mile 15 and that's where I turned it on. I felt fantastic and kept feeling stronger. I'd get a huge boost every time I'd see someone in front of me and feel the urgency to bolt past them. I think I was in the top 10 somewhere as we ascended up to Hawi and approached the 31 mile turnaround. In the final mile or so I only counted 6 or 7 people coming the opposite way. Sometime around then I felt my lower back and hip start to get really tight and aggravate my IT band (it had been bothering me for a while on the bike). I made the decision to drop out and avoid anything serious when we entered Hawi.
I thought that was the right decision until 3 hours had passed and I was still sitting in a rainy penalty box up in Hawi. However, I was constantly entertained by overly serious age groupers riding into the penalty box and yelling at this poor lady Cee'cee, who had nothing at all to do with their "ridiculous and explicative" penalties. I must have heard "There goes Kona!!!!", over 10 times. bahahah... come on. 

I’m proud of all my friends that raced especially Kosuke Amano. I’m not going to lie, if I were in the position that Kosuke was in that day (cramps all through the bike and run), I’d probably have thrown in the towel. Instead, Kosuke humbly battled on and walked the majority of the run course to finish. For someone that fast, it says a lot.

The California State Championship Team Time Trial
I’ve never like team sports. NEVER.. until this past weekend. George Gutierrez talked B+L team riders Bill Jones, Josh Soto, and myself into competing in the State TTT. It sounded awesome to me and I kept thinking to myself “How hard could it be? It’s only drafting.” Man, did I learn how hard drafting could be, especially in tail winds on flat courses. We all drove up to Lake Los Angeles together, crammed into my family’s Nissan Titan, with no a/c. That was a true test in itself. The guys had been practicing together a few times on Fiesta before the event, and I had done a little run thru with Josh and Bill earlier in the week, so we had some idea of how we would signal to each other and rotate in and out of formation. The day before, we did a 45 min practice on a section of the course, to figure out how we would take corners together and position ourselves in the crosswinds.

Race Day
We rolled up to the start with everything ready and in order (with the exception of Bill’s wallet) and busted out the trainers to get in a good warm up an hour out from the start. Once we were good and warm (some of us more so than others) we headed over to the start line. The course was a flat clockwise square where we come back and do the first stretch twice; 24 miles total. The first section was a 6 or 7 mile section with a tail wind. I thought this would be a good little place for us to, as we all agreed, ease into the effort. However, I think race nerves got the better of us all and we started off doing, essentially, a 7 mile interval at 105%.
Josh set the pace for us, which was not easy, and in a tail wind on a flat course, there’s not much benefit to a draft; So I could barely hold his wheel. He was powering beyond belief. When we rounded the first corner into a side wind, Josh fell off the back. He yelled at me something along the lines of “I’m done, I ramped up my legs too hard”. I yelled back at him “Hell no you’re not- Get on my wheel now!!!” We lost a bit of time getting everyone back into formation, but once we were all on, we picked back up the pace and started hammering taking between 30 seconds to 1 minute turns pulling at the front then falling to the back of the train. The next 10ish miles went smoothly as we passed a pretty good amount of teams that started in front of us and kept a solid pace going. George was throwing down pretty hard when we were riding into the wind. It gave us all a good chance to catch our breath and regroup. On the second to last stretch, we were pushing into a crosswind and had half of the “flying V” rolling in full force. I’m fairly sure we had to have been maintaining a high-30/low-40mph average. This is where we did the most damage on the course.

When we hit the final stretch (again) things started to get a little crazy. Josh popped about a mile or two into it and had to drop off (you only need to finish with three riders) and my gas tank was running on fumes. However, Bill Jones came in to save the day. For some reason, this is where Bill thrived.. the final stretch. George and I were really struggling to hold his wheel, and eventually I had nothing left- as well as a really tight IT band. I must’ve yelled “Bill I’m off, hold on… OK, I’m back on, lets go! (20 seconds later) Bill I’m off, hold on” over 10 times. It was just too hard for me to keep his wheel with a solid tail wind providing almost no draft. But Bill was the hero of the day, doing his best to pull/pace George and I for almost the entire length last stretch. We finished with a time of 48:18, which is pretty dang fast. That’s slightly over a 30 MPH average. We ended up in 2nd in our category to a Pro team and had one of the better times of the day.

They went all out on the awards expenses.. as evidence of our huge medals.
I’ve never been more proud of a team effort in my life. We were all so tired from just having laid it all out there, we rolled into a gas station/market and bought cokes, candy, chocolates, Ice cream… Bill and George got fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and OJ. Weird combos but hey, we earned that crap. The fun didn’t end there either. After the drive home George and I had the pleasure of working for the rest of the day at the shop ;-)

My apologies for the book-like post, but I’ve had a fair amount of events I’ve felt obligated to write about. Hopefully I can get back on the program soon and get my legs up to speed so I can have some legitimate races. As for my summer, I snuck into the San Diego International Triathlon (this weekend) on June 26th at the Spanish Landing/Seaport Village downtown. Don’t know how my run will look but the race itself should be fun since the bike course is where I train 3 days a week. (Now, whether I have a bike to ride or not, remains to be unseen). I’m debating whether or not I want to do the Carlsbad Triathlon in the beginning of June. Then it’s onto Vineman 70.3, which should be interesting because of the amount of time I haven’t been training.. Then I come home and might give the Solana Beach Triathlon a shot while I’m in racing mode. August is still a mystery. I really want to do Alcatraz again, but I have to get some travel company for that.