You might expect this post to be a rant or a trip down whiner’s road, but it’s not going to be. Truth be told, I had a decent race, and last Sunday was one of those rare days where your game plan actually happens*. All week before the race I told myself I’m going to win this thing on the bike.. and damn it, I did*.
*Just to be clear I would like to say that the 2:00 penalty I received on the bike course was not drafting related. It was a position penalty for being towards the center of the road for longer than 15 seconds. (19 seconds).
I drove up with my two good friends Marc Schommer and Kosuke Amano (who both had awesome races as well; Especially Kosuke, finishing top 5 overall on Sunday) and my girlfriend Lindsey. We camped in the outer reaches of the campgrounds next to Cal Poly and some immature/childish 30 year olds that constantly found it necessary to yell everything to each other and act as if they were all at an endless party.
The night before the race it was freezing. I knew it was going to be a good race because I woke up tired, groggy, grumpy, and seriously contemplating whether I wanted to race or not. Every time I wake up not wanting to race and feeling like crap, I somehow always have a good race. It’s the days when I wake up feeling good that I suck.
All I wanted to do was make one of the front packs and not loose too much time to the leaders. I knew Bill Jones could potentially have a huge day in the water and hold a sizable lead on the bike. My swim fitness isn’t killer right now (I’ve hardly swam in the last 3 months), but its good enough to be with the top 5-10 fast dudes.
When the horn went off I had a good jump and got out of the chute pretty fast, but for some reason just didn’t have the 2nd wind sprint power to keep with the guys in the front. Rounding the 1st buoy I got dropped. I got into a groove I saw the pack was literally 20 seconds a head of me. I swam solo behind them the whole 1st half of the course at the exact same pace. It was kind of depressing that I wasn’t up there with them. When I made the turnaround things started going awry. I didn’t know where I was swimming. It was some of the worst sighting in the history of open water swimming. This police boat had to come over and guide me away from the shore. I was zig zagging everywhere. Probably threw a good 100-200 yards onto my swim. Came out in a high 19 minute swim; I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even in the top 10. I’m really disappointed in my sighting, and anyone who’s ever swum open water with me knows how bad my aim is. You can bet I’ll be doing sighting drills twice a week every week till I’ve figured it out.
I stayed calm. I knew I could do some work on this bike course. I passed two dudes going up Lynch Hill. I have to say, no matter how in-shape you are, that stupid hill gets you every time. You’re already tired coming out of the swim and all the blood is in your arms, so trying to go straight up a hill immediately is really awesome. After I left the campgrounds I started to get my cycling legs going. I had a lot of fun on that course, feeling great, and was really embracing the hills; just kept my head down and pushed hard. I eventually caught everyone before the turnaround but Bill Jones and Thomas Roos; I saw that they had about 20-30 seconds on me as they passed by me before the turnaround. I caught up to them on a hill probably around mile 14 or something like that. Neither of them looked too good. Bill kicked it in, followed my pace and dropped Roos. I led the rest of the way, which was a pretty sweet experience. There were cameramen and photographers on motorcycles all up in my business. I felt like a pro leading an Ironman.. it was rad.
*note: at no point during the bike section was I aware that I had been in violation of a positioning rule, nor did I have any foul intentions of doing anything outside of the rules.
This is where I have a lot of regrets.
I got into T2 just a bit before Bill and jammed thru that transition. I was met by two dudes on mountain bikes to lead me on the run course. I had a surplus of energy just surging through me. The crowd got me really fired up as I left the spectator area and I tried the best I could to slow down and pace myself but just couldn’t stop my legs from bolting. There was some dude with a big backpack standing in the middle of the staircase that the athletes ascend to get on the run course, with his back to me. People started yelling at him to get off the course but it was too late, I was already in the middle of pushing him over to get out of my way. I don’t feel one bit of pity for the guy or any injury I may have cause either. Use your head bro. After around 10 minutes in I felt pretty crappy from taking off at a ridiculous pace. I kept moving and tried to keep a strong pace.
A little before the 5k marker, I got my running legs back and felt good again. I was a good ways up one of the longer hills and looked back to see Thomas Roos rounding the turn at the bottom of the hill. I thought, “no way this dude’s gonna catch me today” (no disrespect to Thomas, but I was way too determined to let anyone pass me). I booked it up the hill and didn’t even have to look back to know I was putting time into him. Somewhere around this point a couple of camera men had been riding with me on the back of motorcycles. We were chatting a bit and I kept hearing things like “Well Keith, it looks like you’ve got this.” “You’re going to be the champion. Just finish it!” I’m not blaming anyone but myself for this, but I let up and wasn’t running hard anymore. The last 1-2 miles I was merely “running” not racing. Especially coming down Lynch hill, I was dogging it and enjoying the moment. When I reached the announcer booth at the top of Lynch hill, my watch had a low 29 minute time showing, it’s supposed to be around a mile or so to the finish. For whatever reason I forgot I was racing anyone other than the collegiate guys.
It was an awesome experience running down that finishing chute, having it all to myself and lifting up the banner. However, even though I sat waiting for the next guy to come in a minute and 40whatever seconds later, I immediately felt like I didn’t earn anything. I didn’t finish with that feeling of having given it my all. I felt like I could’ve done that stupid run course two more times. That’s not how you’re supposed to feel after finishing a race of any distance. As I stood in the finisher chute, I saw every guy finishing with a look of honest pain and suffering on his face, I just felt stupid. Probably why I got over the penalty so quickly.
Lessons learned.. don’t half ass anything, even if you’re winning*; You never know when a stupid 2:00 penalty is going to blindside you. I can’t let the what-if scenarios consume me, because there are a million and 1- but I need to work harder, bottom line.
(The good news is I think my skimpy 9 units next semester will allow me race collegiately one last time, next year;-)
Next up: Honu 70.3 (and maybe the OC Triathlon if Jordan Bethke promises to not make me look too stupid on the bike).