When you have a triathlon that has become legendary for the difficulty of its bike course, with the first 12 of its 28 miles being unrelentingly uphill, with a persistent headwind nearly the entire course, and you have a total noob who has never raced on a bicycle in his life, who happens to be a runner, volunteering to do the bike leg as a part of a team, you have to wonder about the guy's sanity. How's that for a run-on sentence?
Earlier today (August 9th) my teammates and I (dubbed "Three Dads-a-Sweatin') raced the Whisky Dick Triathlon in Ellensburg, WA. It was my first triathlon and first time racing on a bike. I'll give the final results first, then break down the individual legs, along with some detail.
Distances were: 1 mile swim, 28 mile bike, 10k run. We finished in 2:58:14, placing 2nd of 5 in the Men's Team division, and 23rd overall, among both teams and individuals, out of 107 finishers. Our splits were:
Swim (David): 24:09 (13th overall)
Bike (yours truly): 1:52:25 (49th overall)
Run (Arthur): 40:28 (8th overall)
T1 was 44 seconds, T2 was about 29
David (my brother-in-law) was amazing! He was out of the water much quicker than I expected. Not being a swimmer myself, I don't really have a reference for his time as it relates to a 1-mile open-water swim...but I know it's fast. He was a freestyle sprinter in high school and was a bit concerned about pacing himself. Obviously there was nothing to be concerned about!
After getting the timing chip from Dave and onto my ankle, I took off on the bike and tried to pace myself the first few miles. For some reason, I had trouble regulating my breathing. A little of it was probably adrenaline, a little was just the toughness of the hill (the first 12 miles are uphill).
At about mile 5.5, the grade became so steep that I had to drop into my bottom chain ring...which I NEVER used in my training rides. That was one flaw in my training. Since the hills I was training on during my repeats were relatively short, I could stay in the low gear of my middle chain ring and be fine. I did that as long as possible today, but if I hadn't dropped down, I knew I would have bonked big-time. So I shifted. The chain didn't budge. It just made a grinding noise as it rattled against the derailleur. I tried to force the issue and off came the chain. That smooth move cost me about 2-3 minutes. Had to hop off and get it back on the low ring THREE times before it finally stayed. Once that was done, my legs rebounded just a bit and my breathing came more under control, but the hill just kicked my butt. There were long sections where I could only average 9-10 mph. And once I finally crested the hill, the headwind kicked my butt some more. My rough goal was to crest the 12-mile hill in 60 minutes. It took me 63, for an ugly 11.4 mph average. I did manage an average of 19.6 mph the last 16 miles...but even then I was passed several times. For the last 10 miles or so, I fought an ever-tightening left glute muscle. I could tell I was losing some power on my left side as a result. Maybe it was caused by the hill climb, maybe from not ingesting enough electrolytes and sodium. Whatever the cause, I was truly humbled out there.
When I pulled into the transition and got off to run, I was incredibly wobbly. That's when BOTH glutes cramped up. Arthur took the timing chip off of me himself and got out of the transition quickly, while I racked my bike and fought my locked-up glutes. I went to high-school with Arthur and ran track and x-country with him. The last few years, he's gotten heavily into ultra-running, placing 7th in last year's Cascade Crest 100 mile trail race (which he'll be running in again later this month). A 10k is short for him, so to knock out a 40 minute split was impressive & my hat's off to him.
And with that said, I'll say this - our placing was really a credit to our swimmer and runner. I had a pretty rough go of it out on the bike. Yes, I can use the excuse that I've never raced on a bike, I'm really a runner, there was the hill, the wind, yadda yadda, but I know I could have trained more effectively. I got lured away from the bike back in June to train for and run a little 5k race...which I honestly enjoyed, but I know it set me back on the bike.
I almost feel a little guilty for saying this, but I'm glad to officially be "off the bike" and getting into my half marathon training. I've REALLY missed running the last few weeks.