Whitecaps. And headwinds. And cliffs. Oh my.
And all of them? They played a role in my second attempt at the High Cliff Sprint Triathlon on Saturday. And while I didn't have quite the race I was hoping for, I'm pretty happy with the result that I turned in.
I headed up to the race expo on Friday after I got done with work. I picked up my number, got my wave and while I did a quick walk through the expo vendors, I didn't stick around long. I drove over to my parents' house, dropped my stuff off and made quick trip out to the park to check out the water. Not too cold. Then it was time to head back to Mom and Dad's have some dinner, get my gear ready and relax.
Because the 4:45 a.m. alarm went off really early. I got up, took a really quick shower and Mom put two French braids in my hair. Then it was time to head off to the park. Driving to the park, I actually go down the last 4 miles of the bike course and part of it runs right alongside Lake Winnebago, where the swim course is. As I rounded that curve and I saw the water for the first time, I swear my stomach dropped.
And not little ones. We're talking waves 3 to 5 feet tall. Oh boy. I went into that whole denial phase. The race isn't starting for another 2 hours and my wave won't start for almost 3 hours, those waves will be gone by then. Yeah.
So I got to the park, set my transition area up and headed out for a visit to the port-a-potty. After that it was one last glance at my transition area and then I headed down to check out the water. Still whitecaps. Not good. I got wet, swam a little bit of a warm up and realized this swim was going to be tough. I went back ashore, chatted with my Mom and sister-in-law for a bit and pretty soon it was go time.
The Half Ironman waves went off first and I was in the fifth or sixth sprint wave. While standing on the beach, waiting for the course officials to tell us go, I noticed something. The people in all the waves before me? They were pretty much walking. And not just to the first buoy. Nope. Walking past the turnaround point back towards shore.
No way. That's not going to be me, I thought. Yes, I didn't get a lot of time in the pool but I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be one of those people who walked the swim leg of the triathlon. Whitecaps or not.
I was wrong.
When the gun went off, my wave took off running into the water, hoping over waves. We got to the first buoy, still running. On a calm day, the water is probably about waist deep at this point. Not on this day. With the waves, the water was almost over my head.
So I found myself doing exactly what I thought I wasn't going to do. I was doing more walking than swimming. I'd try to swim, but I'd take a few strokes and sight and I'd be totally off course. Or the waves would keep me from actually going anywhere. I ended up doing a combination of walking and attempting to swim the last half of the swim and let me tell you, I was never so glad to be done with a quarter-mile swim.
TRANSITION 1: SWIM TO BIKE
Transition went well. I threw on my shorts and a tank, exchanged some "man that swim was brutal" with other folks in my wave, grabbed the helmet and shades and I was off.
I got to the mount line, jumped on my bike and I was off. Ready to tackle the cliff road. I got to the base of the road, shifted down to a pretty low gear and started pedaling. I just got into a zone really quickly. There were folks passing me, but I wasn't worried. I just kept pedaling. And I actually did pass a few people. Which made me happy.
Pretty soon I was at the top of the cliff and out on the road. The first three-quarters of the 22-mile bike were pretty nice. I kept a pretty steady pace, around 16 or 17 miles per hour, which kind of surprised me. But all of a sudden, around mile 13, I make a right turn on to a country road to head west and BAM! The bike begins to suck.
I'm heading west, 9 miles from the end of the bike, into a steady 25mph headwind. And it was brutal. As brutal as those whitecaps I tackled during the swim. For the next 4 miles or so, I felt like I was working so hard, yet going absolutely no where. At a few points I seriously struggled to keep my speed above 9 mph. And at that point I briefly thought about throwing my bike in the ditch and crying, but I kept on pedaling.
And eventually I was at the end of the road. Let me tell you, I was never so happy to turn south and ride those last miles into the park.
TRANSITION: BIKE TO RUN
Transition went smoothly. Racked my bike, got rid of the helmet and tried to put on the visor. But the French braids weren't allowing me to wear the visor. So I threw on a head band thing, debated briefly about whether to grab the iPod (ultimately decided to go without tunes) and I was off.
I got to the base of the road and started to go up. I made it up the first uphill segment and a portion of the deceivingly flat looking chunk before taking a small walk break. Started running again just before the killer climb at the top of the cliff. In all, I'd say I ran just a little more than half of the cliff road, which was better than last year. Once I got on the trails I felt better. I took a short walk break around the Mile 1 aid station, another around the Mile 2 aid station and a third short break somewhere around Mile 2.5. In hindsight I probably could have gotten rid of one of those breaks, but oh well. Even with the breaks, I was passing people on the run, and no one was passing me. Made me feel pretty good.
After that last walk break in the quarry area, it was a right hand turn and I was going down the cliff road that I'd worked so hard to bike and then run up earlier in the day. And going down? So much easier than going up. I felt good going downhill. Strong. I had a pretty nice kick at the end through the chute into the finish line.
I was done. I'd tackled High Cliff a second time and this year I felt pretty good with how I did. In my mind at the beginning of the day I was hoping to finish in 2 hours, 15 minutes. And I just missed it this year, but given the whitecaps and headwinds, I'm OK with it. Aside from those few moments on the bike where I just wanted to curl up in the ditch and quit, I felt strong during the race. And know that if I wasn't dealing with the whitecaps and headwinds, I could have gotten that 2:15.
So let's look at numbers:
Total Time: 2 hours, 23 minutes, 48 seconds
Swim: 7 minutes, 58 seconds
T1: 3 minutes, 32 seconds
Bike: 1 hours, 33 minutes, 36 seconds
T2: 2 minutes, 13 seconds
Run: 36 minutes, 27 seconds
And for comparison's sake, here's 2009:
Total time: 2 hours, 26 minutes, 28 seconds
Swim: 8 minutes, 28 seconds
T1: 4 minutes, 52 seconds
Bike: 1 hour, 26 minutes, 33 seconds
T2: 1 minute, 59 seconds
Run: 44 minutes, 34 minutes