This race is one of my favorites. It's the first Olympic distance of the year in Eastern Washington and it always seems to draw a competitive field. This year was no different.
I elected to drive down the morning of the race again this year. I did this last year because I was too cheap to pay for a hotel. This year I was too cheap to pay for a hotel and I needed to stay and help with Amelia who just happened to come down with an allergic reaction to formula at about 7:30 the night before. So... after running around getting her liquid benedryl and talking to the pediatrician multiple times we got it all straightened out, but that meant I still had to pack everything up in a hurry at the end of night. When all was said and done I finished packing the car up at about 10:45 pm and headed off to bed.
The alarm sounded at 3:00 am and I rolled out of bed to hop in the shower and start my 3 hour trek down to Walla Walla. The drive down was beautiful as always, but about the time I hit Dusty, Washington it started to sprinkle a little. By the time I got to Dayton it was raining pretty steady. This was not good for me. I had only brought my Planet X race kit consisting of a singlet and shorts. Not exactly warm on the bike. Well, I pressed on checking the weather on my phone multiple times and it kept telling me it wasn't raining in Walla Walla and it wasn't going to all day. Great I thought. The forecast is always right. Right?
Wrong! I pulled into the parking lot at Bennington Lake and I could look out the window and see that it was raining.....and windy..... and 45 degrees. I actually contemplated turning around and going home, but I had driven all that way and I was super excited to see where I was fitness wise to start the tri season. Besides, a little rain never hurt anyone. I've always ran well in the rain. After all I'm a mudda! My mudda was mudda! (Seinfield quote those true fans out there)
The rest of morning consisted of the usual. Setting up my tranisition area and getting everything all ready to roll. (On a side note I did get quite a few compliments on my bike and how "stealthy" it looked. Stealthy was never a word used to describe my old yellow Cervelo.)
Anyway, the pre-race meeting started and they anounced that "due to the water temperature, the swim would be changed to a one loop swim instead of two." Normally a shorter swim would have me very excited. The problem is with this race I like to use it to see where I'm at for the season. A one loop swim doesn't help much as far as comparing from year to year. Oh well, it was out of my hands and actually probably helped me in the long run as I wouldn't be so far behind the fish.
The swim started pretty uneventfully. I lined up directly in line with the first turn buoy and kind of at the front. When the race started I took 100 hard strokes and then hopped on some feet in front of me. I was able to draft for most of the swim and ended up coming out of the water 23rd overall. That's actually pretty good for me. I was quite happy with the swim as I saw fellow Spokanite Troy Nelson get out right in front of me. I was pretty sure he was usually one of the better swimmers. So far so good.
This is where things took a turn for the worse. I started running up the boat ramp to my bike and was doing great stripping my wetsuit when I heard someone yelling that I dropped my goggles. To be honest I really didn't care about them but I turned around and the guy was nice enough to toss them to me. From there I ran up to my bike and struggled with my wetsuit. It of course got stuck on my heels and it took me forever to pull it off. Finally I was running out of transition did a great flying mount and stuck my sunglasses on. From there all hell broke loose.
Bike-1:04:12- So my sunglasses go on, but they are covered in rain and I literally can't see 5 feet in front of me. I get my feet into my shoes and start pedaling but I still can't see and the road was in the worst condition I've ever seen it with speed bumps to boot. So there I am swerving back and forth trying to see and getting my shoes on. Oh... I forgot to mention that I wear my Garmin 305 on my wrist for the bike so I was also holding that and waiting for a good time to put it one. As if things weren't going badly enough my aero bottle was rattling so bad the velcro started to come loose and I was inches from losing it into my front tire. If you were behind me watching this I apologize for the complete lack of control I was showing. During this whole debacle I was passed by 3 or 4 riders. Not a good way to start!
After that whole debacle I get everything on and I can almost see 10 feet in front of me when I see the first corner coming up. No problem.. I'll just ease on my brakes. Well easing on the brakes yeilded me no stopping power. This was my first ride in the rain with carbon friendly brake pads. They don't work so well when they're wet. I had heard this before but it was really hitting home here. I made the turn but honestly I was not optomistic about the rest of the ride. I was freezing but so was everyone else so I can't really complain. I wish I could claim that my body temp was lower than everyone elses thus I was colder, but that's not the case. On a side note Ben and Jerry's has a new flavor with potato chips in the ice cream. This might be contributing to the extra body fat.
Back to the race. I finally settled in and started catching people pretty quickly. I passed 3 of the 4 that passed me almost immidatley and slowly started realing others in. By the time I hit the turn I was in 7th and only about 15 seconds down on 5th and 6th. I caught 6th right away and it took about 15 minutes to get 5th. The 4th place guys stayed just ahead of me and I followed right behind him into transition.
T2- Another comedy of errors. My first mistake was leaving my shoes on the bike. As soon as i hit the ground I felt the sharp gravel digging into my feet and looked up to see my T1 spot was a good 50 yards away. The only positive was my feet hurt so bad from being cold the gravel wasn't too bad.
I dropped my helmet and had to stop and pick it and ran my bike to it's spot. At that point I realized my hands were not working at all. I couldn't grab my shoes and I had to put socks on. I know this is a rookie move but I felt like I had no choice but to sit down and get to work. I could see out of the corned of my eye that 2 guys left transition while I was struggling, but I felt confident I could run them down. I finally made it out to the run and I knew at least I would warm up.
I couldn't feel my feet for quite a while. Like 2 miles actually. It ended up taking me about 2 miles to catch the first guy that passed me in transition and I caught the next guy right after the 5k mark. This put me in fourth. The problem was I could see there were a few people coming on strong behind me and I could tell one in particular was running really well. I managed to hold him off until there was about 1.5 miles left but I was feeling some cramp like twinges in my inner quads. I guess that's what I get for running beyond my current run fitness. He passed me and I was able to hang with him for about 100 yards at which point I decided I needed some water at the last stop. I ended up missing the water and getting gatorade and losing contact with my man. We were both putting in serious time on the guy in third place as I noted I was about 2 minutes behind at the 5k mark. I just tried to stay as close to 4th place as I could. I ended up about 10 seconds behind 4th and 18 seconds behind 3rd place. I found out after that 3rd place got cash so I was a little bummed I wasn't able to catch him.
Finish Time- 1:57:13
All in all I'm very happy with this race. The swim is what it is. I don't have anything to compare it to but I did come out of the water about 10 places better than last year. The bike was a 3 minute PR in poor conditions so I gotta be happy with that. As far as the run goes I think this is what I'm most proud of. I was only 7 seconds off a run PR and I haven't put in the mileage to be there yet. The one thing I need to work on is the free speed in transitions. Hopefully it all comes together in Boise.