Well, 9/11 has fallen upon us once again, this time, it is 10 years after that eventful day that no American will ever forget. Personally, I was scheduled on a flight from SFO to Washington DC the morning of 9/11/2001. Needless to say, my flight never left SFO, and the images I, and millions of American’s witnessed on that morning, will never pass from my memory. It was a tragic day, and I grieve for the thousands of lives that were lost. As I watched the television saga 10 years later, I realized, that despite the horrific events, there was no country aside from America, that could have endured sure pain, yet rebounded so strongly…today is a day, I am so proud to be an American. Yet where does that leave me, 10 years from that monumental day? I am in a wet suit, bobbing peacefully in the San Diego Bay, under the marine layer that was soon to break into full sunshine, waiting for the horn to blow to start my 2nd attempt at the TriRocks San Diego.
The start to the morning was an early one as I beat the alarm to the punch and was awake by 5:00 am (who doesn’t toss and turn the night before a race). One may think that 5:00 am is a late start to a race morning, with the transition opening at 5:30 am, but the rewards of crappy work travel paid off and my wife Julie and I were comfortably situated on the 10th floor of the Hilton Bayfront thanks to HiltonHonors points. I had arrived around noon with my bike and gear and a rental car complements of a work trip re-routed due to San Diego’s massive power outage. I checked in, and made my way to our room for the night. It was a great room and while one would typically prefer one king, the two queen beds offered a chance for my gear (bike still got shoved in a corner) to spread out! Here is the view from the room of the swim venue:
One may have noticed that it was just “me” at the hotel…I still needed to check in at the expo, then head back home to Carlsbad to access my bride (@lindsayjl). The expo was limited in my mind, but at least the check in was easy. With my new USA Triathlon card and CA-DL I breezed through the process and was back to the hotel in no time. I still needed to do some post SD power outage clean up so a quick trip to SAN airport to pick up our mini and off to Carlsbad! I grabbed the bride and we were back in SD in no time at all. Once we were settled within the room, dinner was next on the priority list. We settled into the Hilton’s Odysea bar and while sipping on our usual pre-race cocktail, utilized their Ipad stations to lock in on an Italian restaurant for “supper” that night. We decided to hit up Bice, in the Gaslamp district, and it was amazing. If you are ever in SD and want Italian food, please don’t pass up this location! Once back at Odysea for the evening’s night cap, we realized that the SD Charger’s opponents were staying at the Hilton. This made for quite the sight as pro football players and triathletes are two discretely different body types.
So back to race morning…after having a cold pop tart (great pre-race nutrition) and quietly airing up my tires (ha) I made my way to the elevators and down to the ground floor. A nice ride down the water front and I was at the transition zone. I was surprised at how busy it was and after some time I managed to find my rack in row 16. I really love the individual transition bays they provide at this race with your name and race number. It’s nice that everyone has the same amount of space and room to spread out. Anyway…I set up my gear and walked back to the hotel to awaken my bride. I think Julie sensed me staring at her and the clock and decided it was in my best interest for her to awaken. This gave me some time to snack on a banana and start the complex process of getting into my wetsuit. Once it was half way on, we grabbed my goggles, swim cap and the all important spectator backpack and headed to the swim start.
Along the way to the swim start, I pointed out where my bike was, where the swim exit was, etc. to the camera person. Julie has a great time making videos of herself while I race. One of my favorites is this one from Vineman 70.3 in 2010: http://youtu.be/jlUvlSGhcHA We made it to the start and watched several waves head out before it was my turn. I’m not a fan of the swim, but am getting more comfortable with each event I participate in. My wave marched down the ramp onto the dock and then into the water we went. I think we had a good 7 minutes of time to acclimate to the water and get ready for the swim. Soon the countdown was on, and then the horn!
The swim was off! I was a little apprehensive at first but soon settled into a good spot. I tried to follow bubbles, not feet. If I came upon a set of feet, I would just move around them and follow the next trail of bubbles. Of all my swims to date, I was mixing it up the most in this one. I think that I am beginning to feel at least comfortable in the swim. At the first buoy, I was in a large pack and we all converged together at the turn. Once we cleared buoy #1 we all got into our rhythm and headed south to buoy #2. As I cleared buoy #2 I set my sites on the finish. It did not come as quick as I wanted, but I made it. My number one goal in the swim, not get caught from behind by the next wave! As I was nearing the finish, I heard the start of the next wave and realized that goal #1 was in the bag. Unlike last year’s race, I did not really hear the band in the water. I’m not sure why, but they sounded good from the shore. I reached the stairs, got some nice help out of the water and once on level ground, made my way to my bike. Swim time for the 500m course was 10:23. That put me in the top half of the division, but a few minutes down on the fast guys.
Once at my bike, the wetsuit came off with relative ease. Next was socks, then shoes, followed by sunglasses and helmet. Last was my race belt and some nutrition (although I know I didn’t really need any for a sprint). I had some issues with getting the Gu in my pocket so back-up plan was initiated on the way to the mount line and up the shorts they went. I don’t like looking like I have a rather vulgar vascular deformity in my thigh, but bike short can keep pretty anything in place for a good long time. Once at the mount line, I clicked in on the right, started off, and clicked in on the left. Before I really got started cranking the bike leg I needed to get the nasty saltwater taste out of my mouth. A quick swig from the bottle and I was set for the next 9-10 miles.
On Saturday I drove the bike course. I remembered from last year that the first part was rough and the infamous railroad crossings were nothing to just ignore. My preview made me think “there really is no smooth way through here, its going to be a bumpy 10 mile ride.” On the bright side, the course is essentially one straight shot which will allow once to just open up the tank and GO! There was a small overpass to deal with on each of the two loops, but other than that it was a “go, go, go” course. I made the sweeping right hander and charged up the hill. I decided not to push too hard but crested the overpass at just under 20mph and decided to hit the down hill pretty hard. The 1st smooth part of the course was fine and then I hit the choppy part. Despite my fears, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, there were bumps and some ruts here and there, but I think I manged as best I could. The first RR track crossing came at about 1.75 miles. I was surprise by the look of them but quickly realized there was some carpet over the tracks. I slowed a little and tried to hit the tracks perpendicular with a little bunny-hop for show points 😉 Good news, I made it over and figured lap 2 would be about the same. Sooner than I expected was the 1st turn around. It was a slow affair and the road was pretty congested at this point. Out of the saddle I went and back towards the start/finish. Heading back over the tracks was a little easier as it was on a slight uphill. The course volunteers were telling everyone to “slow down” and “be careful.” Much to my surprise, there was no carpet this direction which from my drive on Saturday indicated would be the roughest crossing. I wish they had invested in enough carpet (and maybe a few 2×4’s for the ruts) to at least carve out one good line each direction. But with that behind me I had no choice but to just up the speed and head for the transition based turn around!
On my approach to the 2nd turn around I heard my lovely bride cheering me on. It was the first time during the race I had heard her and it motivated me to jet out of the U-turn. Despite slowing to 7.5 mph on the turn around, I was quickly back up over 25 mph to hear Julie send me on my way for lap #2. This lap I charged the overpass and approached the tracks at 22mph. What I saw coming from the other direction was a scene from mass start cycling road race. In addition to seeing 10+ athletes already piled up on the ground at the tracks, more athletes were approaching and their only option was to either go down at the tracks or before. It was a site I never want to see again and something that really needs to be addressed by the organizers. A rough course is fine, but one that creates such carnage needs to be modified. I saw a lot of the athletes that went down later at the finish (all right shoulder and right side road rash) and was so proud that they kept going and finished! Those folks were the hero’s of today for sure! Despite the carnage, when I came through for my second crossing it was all clear. I made it safely through and then charged home. I did the flying dismount at somewhere between 7 and 10 mph and was on my way to T2. Bike time: 25:15 (22.4 mph and 2nd fastest in my AG).
T2 is my favorite of them all! Ditch the bike, on with the Zoots, grab a visor and go! Total time for me 1:18, 2nd fastest in the AG and all teed up for the 5k run that lie ahead!
I had no idea where I was with regards to my age group at this point, but since I felt good, I decided it was now or never. So down went the hammer (bang!!!) and I laid it all out there (tribute to @Michaelhutto). My biggest goal for the race was to go under 1 hour, and upon leaving T2 I looked at my watch and realized that I needed to run somewhere around 20 minutes for the 5k to be sub-60. Out of T2 I saw at least one from my AG just ahead of me. I caught him quickly then just kept the tempo rolling. I thought I was in about 7th at the turn around but later learned that both the 40-44 AG and 20-24 AG shared the 700 bib numbers…so I was probably looking pretty good. I just turned myself inside out (ala @PaulSherwen & @PhilLiggett) on the way back and saw one other potential AG athlete just in front of me as we approached the finish. Despite my effort, I was unable to catch him and was 5 seconds back after crossing the line. Run time: 20:22 (6:35 pace and 1st in my AG).
So I went under an hour according to my watch. Once the results were posted it was confirmed!!! I was sub 60 and ended up 3rd in my AG. It was my first podium in a tri! I was so jazzed! So I emerged from the beer garden when my name was called and corrected Ann (@annwessling) with regards to our swim cap color 😉 and gave the Iowa girl a little “Go Hawks!”
Post race, my bride and I needed a bloody mary, and the Hilton Bay Front (@HiltonBayfront) delivered!!! Can’t wait for the 2012 race! Oh, one last thing, sponsors, the door is open…”come and get ’em while the gettin is good!”