Friday, May 23, 2008

Little Pepper Sprint Triathlon - May 18, 2008

Summary: (750 meter swim/15 mile bike/5K run) A great day for racing, and a good balanced effort.

1:28:20 -- 6/25 45-49 AG, 50/237 overall male.

Long report:

I did my first triathlon at Culpeper in August of 2005, so doing this race was a homecoming of sorts for me. It's a great venue: the swim is in a small quiet lake, with the transition area in a large grassy swale just a few yards from the waters edge. The bike takes full advantage of smooth highways and rolling country roads in the surrounding countryside, and it's topped off with a run on a closed highway that pops in and out of a couple of suburban neighborhoods. As the morning sun comes up over the lake, I can't imagine a prettier place to have a race.

Thanks to an early start, I completed my 45 minute drive and was at the race site with plenty of time to spare. Checked in, got my packet and chip and snagged a primo spot right on the end of my rack. Plenty of time to set up, so I was even more fussy than usual in getting everything "just so" in my transition area. I keep it pretty simple anyway -- helmet and glasses on the bike; bike shoes, running shoes, race belt and hat on my towel. A full aerobottle on the bike and I'm ready to go. After a liberal application of BodyGlide I strolled to the lake and checked out the water with a quick swim. Cool, but not bad. No morning fog, so visibility is excellent. Kibbitz with Debi, who made some noise about not running (sure, Debi...), and talked to a few acquaintances from C-ville and the race got underway.

My wave was next to last, so I killed time trying to stay warm until it was my turn. The sunny morning had turned overcast, with a bit of a breeze picking up. Great weather for racing, but kind of cool for standing around in a damp sleeveless wetsuit. Finally, the Women 35-up took off on the swim, a big school of yellow swim caps spreading out across the water, and it was my turn to wade in. A short wait, and the horn blew.

I'd seeded myself near the front of my wave. I'm not super fast in the water, but I can hold my own. The strategy worked well, and I had a nice pocket of space to myself right away. I got into a good rhythm and concentrated on having an efficient swim. A quick flick of the head every 4th stroke or so kept me sighting and right on track. By the first buoy we started hitting traffic from the previous wave and I played bumper boats with a couple of guys from my wave. Soon enough I was back in clear water and moving nicely down the back leg of the triangular course. I rounded the second turn and pushed the tempo up on the home leg. It'd been a good swim -- in particular I'd sighted well and stayed right on course throughout. As I hit the shallow water I went hard up the ramp, shooting for a good T1.

Swim: 14:05, 10/25 AG

A straight shot into transition, and I pulled off my cap and googles and undid my wetsuit's zipper as I jogged along. No problems with the wetsuit (thanks, BodyGlide) -- shoes on, glasses and helmet on, grab bike and go. A run up a grassy slopt to the mount line and I hopped on and coasted down the road as I clipped in.

T1: 1:33, 3/25 AG

The bike is a real joy on this course. It's hilly and fairly technical, which keeps you thinking throughout. And the scenery is great. As we headed west towards the Blue Ridge Mountains, I would have stopped to take a picture if I'd had a camera. In the first few miles of the bike I played hopscotch with a few other racers from my AG, but soon the field shook out and I found myself in my own comfort zone, keeping the RPMs up, and taking advantage of the flats and downhills to put on some speed. There were a lot of short steep uphills, and I attacked them conservatively, gearing down to keep up my momentum and pedaling speed as I went over the top.

It seemed to be working -- I was picking off dozens of riders from the earlier waves, and holding off anybody behind me. At about mile 12 another racer in my AG caught me on a downhill. Good incentive. On the next uphill grade I stepped up the effort and pushed past then put the hammer down for the last few miles. I was feeing good --- it'd been a solid ride overall.

Bike: 49:38, 8/25 AG

T2 reversed the direction of T1 -- run down the hill from the dismount area, bike on the rack, helmet off, shoes on, grab hat and race belt and out the chute. Nice smooth transition.

T2: 1:02, 2/25 AG

I've been working on the run a lot this year, and I'm feeling the benefits in my racing. The first mile of so of the run course was mostly uphill, but I got settled in pretty well. I was breathing hard (a bit of a cold wasn't helping things), but my legs felt good. No cramping, and the muscles felt pretty fresh. The course was an out-and-back, with a couple of out-and-back spurs on the way out. It made it interesting, because you could see the field in front of you a couple of times. As I hit the first spur, I started to really get into a strong running rhythm. Jack Bernardes, Debi's husband whooshed by going the other way -- I wasn't going to catch him, it looked like. But there were plenty of other people in front of me. Just like on the bike, I was passing lots of other racers. Into the second spur -- there goes Jack again -- well, at least he's not any further ahead. Finishing the second spur, I turned for home. This had the potential to be fast -- it was mainly downhill, retracing the tough first part of the run course.

I zeroed in on a pack in front of me and tried to catch them. Then I saw the "45" on the leg of a guy in front of me. Yes -- I can pick up a spot. I tucked in behind, then made a hard break past, hoping he wouldn't try to latch on. The strategy worked and I cruised in over the last 1/4 mile by myself and gave it a good shot across the line.

Run: 22:03, 7/25 AG

Overall a good race for me -- interestingly enough, my overall AG finish was better than my swim/bike/run placements. I'll thank the fast transitions and a pretty balanced performance for that. I'm not exceptional in any of the disciplines, but I won't count any of them as weaknesses, either.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Some people just don't get it...

Witness the wilderness geek in the picture. For the good of all, he subjected himself to two grueling nights in the woods, testing out gear that would keep him connected to the internet during his wilderness sojourn.

Why bother? Look, I'm no Luddite -- I'll take a digital camera, a small sports radio, and a cell phone for emergencies with me when I go backpacking, but our hero misses the point. If you've got to stay connected that badly, stay at home.

The wilderness has a powerful effect on me. I find that the time I spend there refreshes me mentally and physically. There's something powerfully meditative about focusing on a goal as simple as walking from here to there, carrying all your necessities of food, fuel, and shelter on your back.

Sure, I love the convenience and connectivity of modern life, but there's something to be gained personally by leaving that behind for a while sometimes. Our internet Davy Crockett just doesn't get it.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I qualified for Jeopardy!

Short version:

Weekend before last, the Jeoparday contestant search was in Charlottesville, and I took the contestant test on a whim. I qualified!

Long version:

I'm one of those people who watches Jeopardy and shouts out the correct answers all the time, so when the Jeoparday contestant search came to town I thought "what the heck," and went to try out. They were set up on Sturday at a local auto dealership. I walked in, sat down, and they handed me a 10-question test. Easy stuff, and I sailed right through in a couple of minutes. Handed it over to the guy running the test, he glanced at it and handed me a couple of sheets of paper.

"You did great -- come back tomorrow tomorrow to the Omni Hotel downtown at 11:30."

"What? I've got a race in Richmond in the morning."

"What kind of race?"

"A duathlon."

"Is that some kind of shooting race or something?"

"No. Run, bike, run. Kind of like a triathlon, only drier."

"Can you win money there?"

"Me? No, I'm not a pro."

"You can win money on Jeopardy -- you'll do well -- try to make it."

So, there I was on Saturday night -- not only getting my gear ready for the race, but packing a sports coat, shirt, and tie (the test invite for Sunday said come dressed as you would if you were on TV). If I got the race done in about 2:30, and drove straight back, I might make it to the hotel by 11:30.

Race over, I hustled back to my car and hit the highway, zooming up I-64 back to Charlottesville. A quick change of clothes at a rest area and a dab of deodorant, and there I was, at the hotel at 11:25. A crowd of about 125 or so of us was ushered into a ballroom and sat down at tables. After a quick intro, and a video from Alex Trebeck, we took a 50 question written test. Eight seconds for each question, then on to the next. Pretty easy stuff, mainly. The tests were taken up to be graded, and a young lady on the Jeopardy crew took questions from the audience. Amazing how many people want to know what Alex Trebeck is like in person.

Here comes the big moment. They start reading out names -- I've made the cut! The losers are ushered out, and the 20-25 survivors gather at the front of the room. A few forms to fill out, and a quick sample game and interview (our screen test, in effect) and I'm done.

Now the wait -- I'm in the contestant pool for 18 months. If they call me, I fly out to LA and give it a shot in person. No guarantees I'll actually make it onto the show, but I'm already starting to study -- I think I'll brush up on Shakespeare first.