Fortunately my race, the Lake Logan Sprint Tri, wasn't until Sunday. I had time to find a sporting goods store in nearby Waynesville, and get an amazing deal on a new set of goggles. My third set of goggles. You can never be too prepared!
By the time the tri started on Sunday morning, I had had three more moments of panic, when I realized I had also forgotten Tailwind (my in-race fuel, a powder I mix with water), my race belt (to attach my race number during the run), and thought I hadn't brought a strap to attach my timing chip to my ankle (I found this in my gear bag after I bought another one at the packet pickup Saturday night).
Since this was "just a sprint," I hadn't spent as much time packing as I did for my half-Ironman in June. As it turns out, you need all the same gear for a sprint as you do for an Ironman! Next time, I'll use a checklist, I promise! I had managed to find reasonable substitutes for all my omissions and now just needed to race. First up was the swim:
|My wife Greta took this shot as the swimmers were entering the water|
There is no standard swim distance for a sprint; in this case the swim was 500 yards. There was also an International tri that day, and they were swimming 1500 meters. All we had to do was swim to the closest orange buoy, then hook right to go around the buoy at the right of the photo, then swim back under a bridge to the swim exit. I had been warmed that the water in the creek that flows under the bridge was much colder than the lake; some people actually jump out of the water at that point!
The swim was wetsuit legal, so I hopped in the water in my wetsuit; the water felt fine. All 67 male swimmers in the event would be starting together, so I expected the swim to be a little crowded. A moment later we were off. Actually the start wasn't as crowded as I expected, and I found a nice pocket of open water. It was pretty easy to sight the buoy and I was there very fast. The first corner was where things got interesting. All the sudden it was like a mixing bowl as everyone tried to cut it as close as possible. Fortunately no real damage was done and I had the second buoy in my sights. Buoy #2 was a repeat of the first one, with the added bonus of dodging the last, straggling, breast-stroking swimmers from the International tri, who had started 30 minutes earlier. Now I was headed for the bridge, and beginning to feel the strain of my aggressive pace. "Cmon, Munger, it's only 500 yards," I told myself, and kept up the pace as well as I could.
As the bridge got closer, I could feel the water getting colder. Then I saw the rocky bottom. It was shallow here! The woman ahead of me stood up and started walking. No way was I going to walk barefoot 50 yards in a rocky creek, so I kept swimming, sometimes grabbing the rocks to pull myself forward. Finally I was at the dock, and I hopped ashore and headed for the transition area.
It was probably a hundred yards to my bike, so I started stripping off my wetsuit. As I tried to yank it off my left wrist, I could hear my watch beeping. Hopefully it wasn't getting horribly screwed up. Finally I disentangled my arm from the wetsuit and looked at the screen as I ran.
"DO YOU REALLY WANT TO SHUT YOUR GARMIN OFF?"
No! I fumbled for the button to cancel the operation and kept running. Finally I got to my bike, where I quickly ripped my suit off my legs. A few days before the race, I had decided to trim about 2 inches off the bottom of my wetsuit, and this proved to be a huge help; this was definitely the fastest I'd ever removed the suit. My friend Joey was three bikes away, and was struggling with his suit. I threw on shoes and socks and headed out for the ride just ahead of Joey.
|Running for the bike start, with Joey right behind me|
Once again, it was a long run before we could start riding, possibly 200 yards. Finally we reached the road and I hopped on my bike to start the 13-mile ride. I passed three or four people who were struggling to mount -- I managed to clip in get up to speed quickly. I knew there would be a quick, short climb, followed by a fast descent and then a long, gradual downhill stretch, so I figured I might as well put everything I had into the climb. I passed several riders and then pushed hard over the top. The descent was steep and curvy enough that I wasn't comfortable riding in aero position; I had to use the brakes a couple times here, but soon I was on the gradual downhill. Now I needed to pedal and take advantage of the course. I got my speed up to about 25 mph and continued to pass other riders. At one point the road flattened and I was tempted to downshift and slow down a bit, but I reminded myself that this was a short course; I needed to take advantage of all the speed I could muster, so I pushed harder and kept up the 25 mph pace. After about 5 miles I came to the next climb, and pushed over it. There were three hills like this over the next two miles, and I pushed hard each time, knowing they were relatively short and would be followed by downhills. I was doing the climbs around 16 mph and the descents in the high 20s.
I reached the halfway point, where we looped around and headed back towards the lake on a different road. This one was a gradual incline over the next five miles. I knew it would be a tough grind, but I should be able to keep up a decent pace. I tried to keep my speed over 20 mph, but the hill gradually intensified and my pace slowed to 18-19 mph. A few riders passed me here; I couldn't tell if they were in my age group though -- at least one of them was definitely a relay rider, so I tried not to let it bother me. It was at this point that I decided to glance at my watch to see if I could figure out what my average pace for the ride was. The screen did not look like a cycling screen at all! I guessed (correctly, as it turned out) that my wetsuit mishap had caused me to cycle my watch ahead to T2, so the ride was being tracked as if it was the transition between cycling and running. All I could do was wait until the run started, then cycle the watch ahead to catch up. I refocused on riding and pushed as the hill gradually steepened.
Finally we were at the base of the big hill: From Mile 12.45 to 12.92, we'd climb 163 feet. I knew this climb should only take a few minutes, and the pack of riders that had just passed me were in my sights, so I stood up and started picking them off, passing at least three of them as I ground up the hill. I'd have almost a mile of downhill to rest before starting the run, so why not? Gasping for breath, I reached the top and gave everything I had left to pick up speed for the descent. Soon, I was at the transition area, where I hopped off the bike and ran the 200 yards back to my spot. I racked the bike, threw on my shoes, and hopped back up to start the run.
I had cycled my watch ahead, so it was now properly on the "run" screen, but my pace included the time I spent putting on my gear in transition, so it was showing something like a 10:30 pace for Mile 1. Greta snapped this photo of me as I struggled to figure out what my real pace was:
|Doing math while running is hard!|
There were a few runners heading back to the finish now, and I could see an aid station ahead. Perhaps stupidly, I decided to grab a cup of water, which I subsequently choked on. This slowed me a bit, and when I hit the turnaround I was doing about 7:30. Now it was all downhill! Back at the aid station, I took some water to dump over my head and kept running. I passed an old friend, Tony, headed up the hill (Tony had asked me not to say anything negative about him in the blog, so I won't mention that he looked like he was laboring a bit ;). I passed Joey, who looked strong and gave me a high-five. Finally I passed Morgan, who was also looking strong and high-fived me too.
With about a half-mile to go I spotted another runner ahead. I was gradually gaining ground on him and wondered if I should try to pass. I squinted to try to see his age (in triathlons your age or race group is always written on your right leg), but he was too far away. I was laboring fairly hard at this point and started to hope he wasn't in my age group so I wouldn't have to put in too much effort to pass. Then I got a few steps closer and could see that his age started with a "4". Surely he wasn't old enough to be in the 45-49 group, like me. A few steps closer and I could clearly see that he was 45.
Dammit! Now I have to pass him!
I decided I needed to pass with authority, so I picked up the pace, and zipped by, trying to exude confidence by not looking back at him. I tried to keep it up for another 100 yards, then relaxed a bit as I made the final turn down the gravel road to the finish. The road seemed to take forever! The route took us into an open field, and there were two corners before the finish line. Rounding the first corner, I looked back to see if "45" was there. He was! Or was it a different runner? Either way, this guy could easily be in his late 40s, and he was gaining on me. I gave it everything I had left, which wasn't much. I rounded the last corner, with 75 yards to go. I took another look, and he was even closer! Now the finish line photographer was there, trying to get me to smile or pose for the shot, but I just kept my head down and ran, as the footsteps behind me got closer and closer. Finally I was across the line, just ahead of the man who turned out to be Zebulon Weaver, age 47. I had beaten him by two seconds, for second in our age group. He shook my hand, and I grabbed a water and guzzled it down. My pace for that last mile was finally under 7:00 at 6:46, for an official time of 22:30 for the entire run, a 7:15 pace.
Soon Greta was there to greet me, and we cheered Tony, Joey, and Morgan in to the finish. Each of them finished in third in their age groups! Here's a shot of three of us with our awards: