Yesterday I ran in the Grady Williams Memorial Freedom Days Triathlon. It was the 22nd running of this Farmington, NM based Olympic distance triathlon and it is an unusual event.
The order of the race is Swim - Run - Bike and there are two transition areas. T2 is at the race finish at a local high school and T1 is down by Farmington lake, about 5 miles away. On race morning everyone shows up at T2 for body marking and bike racking. It feels strange setting up half a transition area and then leaving but that's the drill at Grady Williams. From T2 you do what you can to find a ride out to Farmington lake where you set up T1 and check in for the swim.
The Swim takes off in one wave and the course is triangular in shape but the base of that triangle is very elongated so the swim out to the first bouy covers about half the swim course. I just can't say enough about how much I've come to love the open water swim. The water temp was a perfect 72 degrees and the lake surface was fairly calm. The only problem was that the first bouy was sooo far out that it looked to be the size of a ping pong ball and you were swimming into the rising sun. It was hard to tell if you were swimming in the right direction and the swim felt slow because it took so much time to get to the first bouy. I was able to get out of the water in 29:38, which is a fraction slow for me but still a pretty good showing.
Into T1 to strip the wetsuit and try to keep the feet clean, which was impossible. T1 was nothing but sand and laying out towels didn't help, it was just messy and gritty. I got out of the suit and into my socks and running shoes in 2:45 and was off on the run to test my new hip. Lest you forget, I've been unable to run for about 2 1/2 months because of a stress fracture. I went to the Doc's Friday for a check-up and he gave me the go ahead to start running again.
The run was almost all dirt trail with several sections with deep sand. There was probably a 200 yard stretch that was on asphalt. About the first two miles of the course was uphill with a few slight down turns. The course would through the New Mexican desert and was marked by a rapidly dissapearing chalk line. In general it was an excellent run, beautiful terrain and lots of variety to keep things interesting. There were so many sharp curves, steep ascents and decents, Pinions and Juniper that it was sometimes difficult to stay on course. As you ran you would occasionally catch a glimpse of a triathlete flitting between trees, appearing at the top of a hill or dissapearing over the crest of a hill. You could also occasionally catch the sound of feet traveling over the ground or of someone breathing hard chugging up a hill. The whole run had the feel of the scene in Monty Python's Holy Grail where the troupe encounters "The Knights who say Ni!"
So here is where the race got really interesting for a number of people. While I was running along feeling fine I was suddenly passed by Professional Triathlete Viktor Zyemtsev. I thought, "What the hell, this guy just came in third among the pros at Buffalo Springs last weekend, how on earth did I get this far ahead of him?" I just figured that they made him start like 45 minutes behind everyone else and kept trotting along through the desert looking out for Knights who say Ni. By the time I hit T2 I was feeling a little tired because the running legs aren't as well conditioned as they were earlier in the season but I still posted a 53:13 10K, which is a respectable pace for this Clyde, all things considered.
I was able to blow through T2 in 45 seconds and was off on a very challenging 40K bike. The route is a simple out and back and the pavement is as smooth as any you are likely to run across but if you were not descending you were climbing. I don't remember any flats whatsoever and the climbs were long. There was just no way to make up time on the down hills, you had to give your legs the time to rest for the next climb. To make matters worse, all the sand that I couldn't keep out of my shoes at T1 was being compressed between the ball of my foot and my carbon fiber soles with every pedal stroke, not comfortable. The other problem I had on the bike was dehydration. While I flew downhill I couldn't drink because of the speed, when I was climbing I couldn't drink because my heart rate was soaring and my breathing was too hard. This left relativly brief periods of time just after the crest of each hill where I was recovering and trying to suck down as much fluid as possible. Oh yes, and on the return ride, headwind, stiff headwind. I remember bombing down the outbound hills closing in on 50 mph...on the way back...downhills were more like 20.
One item of interest, about 5 miles into the bike I was passed by my old buddy Vicktor Zyemtsev..."What the F&*%K, why am I being passed by him...AGAIN!?" I could only surmise that when he reached T2 the Knights who say Ni forced him to cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with...a herring! I ended up posting a ride of 1:29:05, which was on par with the kinds of times everyone was turning out on this course but just seems appalingly slow. With transitions my total time was 2:56:10, which earned me a place on the podium. Now, I actually took home the third place trophy for the Clyde 39 and under catagory, however, according to USAT rules I am a Clyde 40 plus. I would have take home first place for the 40 plus group but despite being a USAT sanctioned event they went with age on race day.
Oh well, the trophy is beautiful! It is a hand made, hand painted Navajo vase, something you can only get in New Mexico and it is signed by the artist. While I would have liked the larger frist place version I am just happy to have one at all. Wife had a much worse experience in the race along with many others, including New Mexico state champion amature triathlete Clay Moseley. I felt bad not only for the fact of her experience but that it took place on our wedding anaversary. You can read her account at Athena Diaries.