Where: Shreveport, Louisiana
When: 6:05 AM, Sunday, August 6, 2006
The line of cars slowly moved along the narrow road leading into Cypress Lake Park. I could see the attendants standing at the head of the row of cars. They were smiling wide and handing something through the windows to the drivers and passengers ahead of us. When it was our turn I rolled down the window and a young woman dressed in a simple straight waist flower dress, white go-go boots and heart shaped glasses handed me a daisy and said,
"Make love, not war."
The Moody Blues, Nights in White Satin played on the PA system and a young man with a giant afro and peace sign necklace waived us through to the parking lot.
Were we attending a Viet Nam anti-war rally or a Jefferson Airplane concert? By the way the people were dressed it would have been easy to think so but instead of joining a sit-in we were there to race in the River Cities triathlon. The theme -- if you haven't guessed it -- was the 60's! Volunteers wore clothes straight out of Woodstock and the transition area DJ played cuts from the Doors to the Beatles.
This was gonna be fun!
After a couple of days of being downcast over my eyesight [see the past two posts] I was more than ready to race and have a good time.
The River Cities triathlon is advertised as the best sprint race in the Southwest and I believe it. This would be the 26th annual running of the race in a beautiful piney wood state park. It fills to its 1,300 athlete capacity every year and this year it sold out in just three hours! The swag bag is legendary and is always filled a couple of hundred bucks of goodies. It included high end sunglasses, running cap, cool max shirt, cool max running shorts (with peace sign on the butt), socks, poster, canteen, tie-dye t-shirt (keeping with the 60s theme), and get this... a duffle bag with rollers and more.
Oh yes, there was also a race: Swim 800 meters, Bike 18.2 miles, Run 5K. The course record held by Lance Armstrong.
This would be my second year at the race and my goal was first to better last year's time of 1:40:03 and second to test my bike fitness and break 21 miles per hour.
In the middle of the night, before the race, thunderstorms blew through and trashed the transition area and broke loose the buoys in the lake. This delayed the start by over 20 minutes as the race director hastily remarked the swim course. The result was a lengthening of the swim by 200 meters as the first turn buoy was misplaced.
The Swim: Despite getting kicked on the left side of my face and getting a goggle full of water it went well. The stroke felt smooth and there was no need to break freestyle to catch my breath. Average swim pace 1:52 per 100 meters and I was out of the water in 18:45.
The Bike: Most of the bikes were still on my rack when I ran into T1 (Sweet!). Although I dropped my helmet I ran out of transition with my shoes clipped in the pedals in 1:40. After a few turns to get out of the park the course headed into the countryside. The surface was a pristine and fast blacktop. The rolling hills were just steep enough to get me out of the aero position but not so steep that I had to get off the saddle. I concentrated on pushing and pulling the entire 360 degrees of the pedal stroke and one by one I caught some of the faster swimmers in my age group. I made it back to transition in a time of 50:27 and averaged 21.6 mph. That's a PR for me at that distance. Woo hoo! But, there was a problem...
The Run: Triathlon consists of three sports and yours truly lost sight of this while I pushed my legs to fatigue on the bike. I wobbled into T2. Only a few bikes had returned to my rack. (Sweet again!) After a 1:29 I was out of transition and on the road. I lumbered and pushed the best that I could but the pain in my quads and a wicked side stitch reduced me to a shuffle. One after another, many of those I passed on the bike were now passing me on the run. I looked at my watch, did some quick math, and realized I was loosing time and my goal of beating last year's time was in jeopardy. The water stations offered sports drink and hand towels soaked in cold water. They felt sooooooo good and helped me get my legs back. The side stitch was gone by mile two and I picked up my knees as the course turned from a black top to a hard trail. With half a mile to go I passed the last water station without taking anything and pushed until I thought I was going to bring up breakfast. For the first time during the run I felt like I was racing and not just surviving. Some of those that passed me early in the run were now behind me. I sprinted through the finish chute with a final run time of 27:53 for an 8:58 minute per mile pace.
My final time was 1:40:09. I missed last year's time by just 6 seconds! Dang!
But you know, if it weren't for the longer swim course, I probably would have beaten last year's time by about three minutes.
Oh well, such is triathlon.
As my coach tells me no two races are ever the same. Weather, competitors, and equipment can change even the most familiar course from day to day.
It was groovy.
It was a gas.
And now it's a wrap.
Soon I'll post photos of my old school race threads.
(87 days to my first Ironman)