I’m actually more nervous about doing this post and admitting my deed than I was about doing the race this morning. Yes, you heard me correctly…RACE. Today was the Socorro Chili Harvest Sprint Triathlon, a New Mexico favorite. This year was a bit different though in that the City pool was closed for construction so we had to use the outdoor pool at New Mexico Tech University, which is a smaller pool. The result was the field had to be limited to 120 people whereas it is usually more like 350, a big race in these parts.
Despite the small size of the race we had some of New Mexico’s fastest triathletes on board and I even had one of my local nemeses present, E.P. Higgs from Socorro, to duke it out with.
Ok, ok, before I go any further I should address the calf issue. Yes it’s still stiff and sore and yes it was probably foolhardy to go ahead and do the race but what can I say…that’s the way I roll. I did have a heart-to-heart with someone whose opinion I respect and who knows me and my abilities very well. I talked it over with the GEEKGRL and some fellow Outlaws. They all know me well and know that I like to know what is going on in my life and that simply waiting for IMKY to roll around without having confidence in my leg would eat my lunch.
I took some big time precautions though. Yesterday I was taking anti-inflammatorys, I iced it down and then immediately jumped into a tub of warm water to soak in Epsom salts. I got up this morning and gave my lower legs and knees a good rub down with ultra strength muscle rub, basically Icy Hot, and then I did both an Achilles wrap and a compression wrap on the injured leg…Oh, and I promised myself that if I felt trouble I would stop and walk.
So, with all the precautions in place I toed the line and headed out to seek my fortune. The swim was tiny, 300 yards. I have discovered that I suck at swimming pool racing, I am much faster in open water. My swim time was a paltry 5:20 and I didn’t pass anyone but at least I didn’t get passed either. I came out of the water filled with anxiety because of course I had to run from the pool through transition and to my bike. I knew that this would be a time when my calf would be lacking the support of my shoes with the lifts in the heals so I went gingerly and blew 1:28 in T1 but considering that I made it onto the bike in decent shape I was glad to have taken the extra time.
Every year I do this race about a mile in I start saying to myself, “Jesus, I forgot how hard this bike course is!” Not only does it contain two turn arounds and some climbs but the roads are rough and there is a steel track laid across the road at one point where a large metal gate rolls. They do put carpeting down over the track but you do not want to hit it going fast or your wheels could be in trouble. You have to cross this obstacle twice.
I rode the bike pretty hard and don’t think I let up much at all. I was going into this thing hoping for a 23 mph average but then of curse I got out there and remembered that it was not a fast course. Now the Chili Harvest is a time-trial style race with a seeded swim start and I knew there was one Masters Clyde that was seeded well ahead of me. Rationally I know that I never have to pass him in the race in order to beat him but I just can’t go for that kind of uncertainly so I was on the hunt. I kept passing people but none were him. I kept looking at the people who were headed toward me to try and see how far he might be ahead but I never saw him but I did see E.P. several times and he was annoyingly close. At the beginning of the race he was seeded only one person behind me. He said it was so he could chase me…bastage!, he knew what kind of shape my leg was in and he wanted to put the screws to me and that’s all there is to it because he is indeed a faster swimmer than I and the only reason he did not get immediately behind me is because he didn’t actually want to pass me he just wanted me thinking about him coming up on me…well, at least that is how I thought about the whole situation.
Anyhow, I kept looking for the swimmer Clyde that was well ahead and by the time I was about ¾ of the way through the bike I still had not seen him and I was getting worried because I didn’t think I would be running anyone down on a bum leg. Just before the second and final turn around I spied him and his big red shirt, oh yeah baby wave that red in my face. I knew that if I dug in I could catch him and if I dug deeper I could probably pass him and hopefully put a bit of a cushion between us before I hit the run. As soon as I hit the turn around I was out of my saddle and cranking up to speed right on his tail and then there was E.P., damn! He was ridding strong and starting to piss me off.
Most of the rest of the bike back into transition was downhill where every Clyde has an advantage but the Clyde with the least fear of speed will come out on top and so throwing caution to the wind I entered the puke zone and hammered as hard as I could. I caught swimmer Clyde (his name is Larry BTW but I like the nickname) not long before the right hand turn that is just before the steel track in the road. He must have been slowing for the turn and the track because I went blazing by him. I came to the turn, braked and banked hard and then bunny hopped the track and laid the hammer down to get back up to speed and try to start working on that cushion. I also knew that I would not see E.P. again on the bike unless he were passing me but I knew he was back there and coming on strong.
Because I was afraid to run in my bike shoes because of the calf issue I decided to get out of my shoes while still on the bike and then just peddle in with my feet on top. Since I haven’t done this in a race before I started early, maybe a half mile out. I got out of my shoes easily enough but for some reason as soon as I did my chain just froze. I couldn’t see what was wrong but I certainly could not peddle. I was trying to peddle backwards and forward and was shifting and nothing…that is until my chain jumped off the big ring and hung loosely on my crank arm. I had been coasting for about a quarter mile by not and was getting frustrated and losing time but at least my chain was off and not frozen so I was able to shift hard and thrown the chain back up over the big ring and onto the small ring and I had power once again. I hit T2 in a fair 35+ minutes averaging just over 21 mph for the 20K. I beat my time last year by just a few seconds but then this time last year I was about 35 days out from the Oklahoma City RedMan Iron Distance Triathlon, a race I highly recommend…especially as a first timer.
I cleared T2 in about 48 seconds but now was the moment of truth, the run. I knew both swimmer Clyde and E.P. were breathing down my neck and I knew that I would not run as hard as I usually run. I started out running a little easy at about an 8:20 pace and paid close attention to how my calf felt. Things seemed to be working well and the stiffness was tolerable and didn’t feel like anything was going to give. I then decided to try and pick up the pace a bit and settle into a nice stride that would carry me through to the end. The run route is and out and back with a few turns, a few ups and downs and about half of the run is on a dirt trail. I had come out of transition with some age grouper that I figured would smoke me but I hung on his tail the entire time. I think I passed two, three, maybe four people on the run and was only passed once and that was by fellow Outlaw “Mighty Mike”, which is something I expected.
I ran and ran and did my club presidential duty of waiving and gasping the name of every Outlaw I saw. By the time I reached the turn around I there was still no sight of swimmer Clyde or E.P. but all that meant was that they had not passed me. I headed back to the finish and there was E.P. and he was too close for comfort. I guessed he had started the race about one minute behind me and I had now idea if he was still one minute behind. Oh well, there was nothing left to do but try and pick up the pace one more time. I started speeding up and all of a sudden my calf whispered out from under the tape job, “Ahem, remember I’m still down here. Are we sure we want to do this?” I thought about it for a second and replied, “Why certainly” and so off we went. Just then I saw swimmer Clyde…E.P. had gotten him and he was fading so one down and one to work on.
By the time I rounded the final corner and saw the finish line just ahead I picked it up one more time and came in to the cheers of the truly speedy Outlaw. I finished off the run in just over 25 minutes managing an 8:07 pace. Not great but not too bad all things considered. I then waited...staring fixedly at the finish chute to see how long it would take E.P. to come rolling in. It didn’t seem to take long, at least not long enough. I was pretty sure he had beaten me and so I went over to him and said “Great race!” and then headed back to transition to pack my trash. I spent a little time talking to folks, took a shower and met a soon to be fellow Triathlon ref and then saw that the results were up so I walked on over to see what that damage had been. The usual suspects topped off the top 10. As a matter of fact 7 of the top ten positions were held by Outlaws…Semper Outlaws! Much to my surprise I was sitting at #16 overall but not only that, I was #1 Clydesdale. I handled both the Masters and the youngens. My time was also just a fraction faster this year than last. Funny thing too, at this race last year I ran with the exact same tape job because that is when I first injured this particular muscle.
My legs are a bit sore and my calf more so but it isn’t anything other that tons of lactic acid. The leg she did me good. So it’s another one in the books and tomorrow I have and easy breezy 60 miles to ride with the GEEKGRL and the Dread Pirate then it is rest up and coast my way to Louisville.