Generally speaking, it's not hard to keep track of 500 yards in the pool especially when that's all your doing but I started to question myself as I approached the final one hundred. Volunteers had told me earlier that they would lower a kick board into the water at the half way point and again with 50 yards to go. In the video below you can see someone clearly lower the kick board into the water on my last lap but for some reason I didn't see it and yelled out "down and back?"
I was pretty sure I had onlyone lap to go but since I didn't see the kick board I began to wonder. It didn't help that I was getting tired. Trusting I only had 50 yards to go, I pushed my body to give out at exactly 50. If I was wrong, I was going to be in trouble. Luckily my math was right.
500 yard PR; 7:05
After catching my breath, Natalie asked me if I wanted to hear my time, I said yes. When she said 7:05 my eyes got really big! I couldn't believe it. Earlier that week I swam a 6:59 but with a pull buoy. I've never swum anywhere close to 7:05 on my own. I was excited to say the least.
Saturday morning Melissa and I left Spokane a little later than I wanted but still got to Lewiston, Idaho with about 4o minutes to spare. I was hoping to get a short warm up on the bike and maybe a little run. All was fine until I decided to top off the air in my tires. Can you see where I'm going with this? While attaching the pump to the stem on the back wheel I pushed in too hard and punctured it. I began to freak out.
This year I bought a new wheel set. I rarely gets flats anyway but this was my first experience changing a tube on this set. I was beginning to think my race was over before it started. Thank goodness I still had a spare tube attached under my seat post from Oceanside two weeks earlier otherwise I would have been toast.
At this point it was 9:40 a.m. and I still hadn't checked in. I had approximately 20 minutes to change the flat, check in and set up my transition area. Warming up on the bike was out the window. At about 9:55 I had fixed the flat and racked my bike. My only warm up was jogging in place until it was my turn to start the race. Since the swim is held the night before, everyone lines up behind a set of cones in the order they finished their swim.
Derek was first and I started in 6th place. The young lady in front of me swam her 500 just two seconds faster than me. When the clock hit 7:05 I took off like a flash and managed to pass her in transition and left T1 in 5th place. So far, so good. I hopped on my bike with my shoes already clipped in but it took a few seconds to get my feet in, probably lost about 5-10 seconds. After the race, the guy who finished two places behind me told me that he saw me struggling and was hoping to catch me but fortunately I was able to regroup and stayed ahead. Surprisingly, I wasn't that far behind the 4th and 3rd place riders. I actually caught and passed both of them within the first half mile. The bigger challenge was catching 2nd place who started the race a full one minute and 22 seconds before I did. He had a smoking swim time of 5:45.
Returning on the Bike in 3rd Place
This bike course isn't that hard, it's a simple out and back. The first six miles is a gradual uphill climb, nothing major but enough to make a rider work to maintain their speed. Since it was my third time tackling this course I was prepared and had a plan. First of all, I stayed in my aero position the entire time and focused on maintaining a high cadence. There 'was 'a slight head wind but not a game changer.
I was going along at a decent speed but wasn't too concerned with my overall average because I knew I'd make it up on the return trip. At no point during the first 5 miles did I see anyone up ahead. It wasn't until I hit 5.15 miles that I saw Derek. He was already on his way back. At 5.79 miles I saw 2nd place. He too was on his way back. I was trying to do the math on how far ahead they were. I knew catching Derek was impossible but 2nd place, maybe. Once I hit the turn around at 6 miles I started hammering it. I was feeling good. I was averaging about 30 mph the whole way back. As fast as I was going, 2nd place must have been going just as fast or faster because I never caught sight of him again, not until I was on the run course.
Team Tri-Fusion (L-R) Ellen, Dave, Rodger
As I entered T2, I was in third place and thought to myself, "so 'this' is what it feels like?!" Excited at what could be a third place finish, I racked my bike, put on my shoes, visor and made my way onto the run. As I was leaving I looked up to the right and saw 4th place riding down the hill. Crap! My heart rate was already through the roof and I was having trouble catching my breath and here comes 4th place! Right then and there I began thinking, he's probably gonna catch me. I so badly wanted to walk but knew this was the moment when I needed to 'keep' moving.
I did everything in my power to calm my nerves. I started a positive self-talk mantra, "Relax, breath, stay calm. Relax, breath, stay calm." The run course, which is only 2 miles, takes a hard left out of transition and then right again behind some trees. I had no idea how close 4th place was because I couldn't see him. I was still breathing really hard, my heart rate was pushing 175 bpm and I couldn't see my competition. Doubt was entering my mind.
Every 20-30 seconds I would turn to look back. I needed to know how much time he was gaining on me. I needed to see how strong he was running. I was probably a third of a mile in when I saw him appear. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to hold him off. Doubt was gaining momentum. I started thinking I would probably fall back to 4th or 5th place by the time this race is over. I've never been a great runner. I can maintain a decent average over time but speed isn't my thing. They call these races 'sprints' for a reason.
3rd Place Overall, 55:24
The final quarter of a mile before the turn-around is slightly uphill. This was the stretch I thought they'd most likely catch me. Working under that assumption I thought to myself, I'll just keep plugging away and wish them well when they pass. But when I made the turn I still had an o.k. gap. When I ran by 4th place I said to him jokingly, "it was just a matter of time before you caught me, great job."
Even though I was sure he'd still catch me, I started getting my lungs back and then my legs started to feel good again. Remember, the final quarter mile 'before' the turn was slightly uphill. The now slightly 'downhill' was my friend. I decided to use this opportunity to lengthen my stride and really push myself. With only a mile to go, what did I have to lose?! But the power of doubt kept encouraging me to look back. Was he gaining? How much longer did I have until he caught his second wind? To my surprise he wasn't gaining. With every step doubt was slowly being replaced with hope. More and more people were on the run course now. I could see them as I was heading back. It was time to refocus. "Relax, breath, stay calm. Relax, breath, stay calm."
The entire run is basically along the river except for the turn you take when leaving transition. It was this elusive turn or bend I was now looking for as I made my way back. The closer I got to this section, the more confident I was getting that I might actually pull this off and hold onto third place. I could still see 4th and 5th place behind me but they were running out of time and real estate.
Once I reached that final left hand turn, all doubt was gone and hope had taken hold. The finish line was now only a hundred yards away. One final look and I was home free. About 30 yards from the finish line I threw my arms up. I did it!
In the end it wasn't so much the third place finish as it was overcoming self doubt. It was a personal victory more valuable than any medal or ribbon. That's one of the elements that makes this sport so fun and rewarding. You really do learn about who you are and what you're made of.
With Muffin; Part Time Videographer
So, how close was 4th and 5th place? I finished in 55:24. Fourth place finished in 55:38 (14 seconds back) and 5th place finished in 55:46 (22 seconds back). In the video below you can see both of them in the background right before I raise my arms.
The race director says about 150 people signed up this year, down about 30 from last year. Of the ten people in my age group (35-39), I was second. The guy who was first in my age group was the 2nd place finisher overall.
My overall time was about 3:30 faster than last year. I was 1:13 faster in the pool, I averaged 22.5 mph on the bike (1.2 mph faster than last year) and even though I don't have the official splits on the run, I'm pretty sure I finished the run in 15:24 for an average of 7:42 per mile (1:14 faster than last year). I might be off by a few seconds here and there but I think you get the idea.
The video below begins with a short segment showing my swim on Friday followed by the race start on Saturday morning featuring overall winner, Derek Garcia, Tri-Fusion club members, Rodger McKeon and Ellen Gillespie and friends Kirsten Frost and Craig Anderson. Many thanks to Melissa for cheering me on and for shooting video. Big thanks to my coach, Roger Thompson. Plus, thank you to everyone posted nice comments on my Facebook page before and after the race!