The Whole Picture is Nothing But a Compilation of Details.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

'Tis the Season

Max Performance Season Opener May 11, 2014: Fantastic race, wonderful weather and a friendly, fun crowd, as always.

Glorious sunshine, and dry conditions with temperatures in the fifties, I couldn't have asked for anything more. The water was a "refreshing" fifty-three degrees so wet-suits were mandated by the race officials, which for a cold water enthusiast, was disappointing but thankfully took that decision out of my hands, saving me at least one agonizing battle with myself, trying to decide on just the right piece of equipment. Heeding to their warning of frigid water I did my warm-up in my full wet-suit and got hot, so I changed into my shortie (short legs and arms). Thrilled to feel the water on my skin after a long winter, I was happy as a clam at high tide for the five minutes I was in the wet but not so much when I got back out on the dry...  every muscle screamed so I made the decision to change back to the full wet-suit. Lucky for me that was not a timed transition. I finally squirmed my way into the skintight black neoprene just in time for the national anthem, and walked down to the start in an sea of black neoprene topped with white, pink, blue and green. You could feel the air quiver with the nervous energy generated by the field of athletes ready and eager to start the first portion of the race: the 1/4 mile swim.

It was the usual frenzy of kicking legs and swinging arms; a straight shot downstream past three buoys before heading to shore. A friend, upon seeing the video my friend shot said aptly "You look like a pack of sardines fighting blindly to get away from a shark."   I like to think I apply a bit more strategy to it than that, but having seen other heats, the image is certainly spot on. I'm quite certain it is good that we can't speak when fighting for our own path to the finish line.

The cycling course, which I'd scouted the weekend prior got changed and shortened last minute due to roadwork so I rode it blind, as did everyone else so the playing field was level in that respect. After that it comes down to bike and fitness levels which varies greatly in most races. I give a lot of credit to participants who push along on a hybrid or worse. I personally wouldn't be caught dead competing on one: Too much work, not enough results. Eager to get the best possible time in transition, I tried a new innovative way of mounting my bike, which instead of gaining precious seconds set me back approximately twenty-five seconds. Note to self: don't ever, ever try something new on race day, even if you practice a few times before the start and think you have it down pat...  Duh. I know better but tried anyway. Sometimes in life it seems we have to be reminded of why we do things a certain way.

After about ten miles of navigating a course full of potholes, sand and frost heaves, I went creaming down the steepest hill on the course, excited about the decline and a nice stretch of pavement when a gust got a hold of me and the bike and for an instant I had that feeling of "oh this is going to be ugly; at least I won't take anyone with me when I go down..."  With my heart in my throat but focused, I caught myself thinking lovingly of my older, heavier bike but also found myself grateful for the forced opportunity you only get in a race, hellbent to finish, to learn the limits of my new bike: No limits.

After putting the bike away and stepped into my running shoes, it was on to the final leg: a five kilometer run.

Running after cycling is always torture: Going from an average of 17-24 miles an hour where the scenery buzzes by in a blur to seven or eight miles an hour inevitably makes you feel like you are moving through quicksand. Add an uphill start, and you feel like you are standing still. However, is just a matter of pushing forward trying to catch the guy in front of you, one foot at a time, which I managed to do to the extent of a new PR of 7:50 splits on a moderately hilly course, sprinting across the finish in 8th place in my age group with plenty of juice left (would've placed 6th if I hadn't messed around during T2. Would've, could've, didn't...).

Made me think I should have worked harder, however as the first race of the season, and with three weeks of travel beginning the next day, my first priority was to not get injured: a goal I reached.