Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Race Report: XTERRA Vashon Island

I decided to do a triathlon even though I'm not in top form. To be truthful, I'm not even in middle form. I have been riding my bike to work casually while listening to audiobooks. I have been jogging now and then but never more than 2 miles because of a bum knee. And I haven't swum laps in, um, about five years.

That last bit isn't precisely true. During our trip up to Vancouver last week, I swam in a gigantic pool in Stanley Park in which a small section of the pool includes a set of 50-meter lanes. I knocked off 600 meters and declared myself fit.

Speaking of Vancouver, I'm proud to report that Luke has a fancy walk. Of the few people who happen to have fancy walks, not many are willing to break it out in a big city. Luke's not afraid. His fancy walk is eerily similar to the dance that Gene Wilder breaks out when he's wearing black shoe polish on his face in "Silver Streak." I'll stop there. I need to be careful about the whole gushing parent thing.

Now that I've covered my training regimen, I'll go into specific race details.

The Swim (800 Meters)

The race packets included the appropriate color swim cap for everyone's starting time. The first wave (Men 39-) started at 9:00 am, the second wave (Men 40+) started at 9:07 am, and the third wave (Women/Relays) started at 9:14 am. They do a staggered start in this race to avoid a bottleneck at the start of the steep bike ride.

The race takes place in a cove of the Puget Sound, so the water is cold (60 degrees). I wore a wet suit that I purchased back when I weighed 170 pounds. I bought it a little tight for me because I thought I should weigh under 165 to compete in triathlons. I weigh 185 right now, so I had the "Fat guy in a little suit" ditty from Tommy Boy going through my head as I stood on the dock waiting to jump in the water. I tried to hang my arms casually by my sides, but they kept popping up at 45-degree angles.

The start of the race was anti-climactic. Instead of a gun going off, the race director said, "OK, go." Not even an "OK, go!" That's probably for the best since overly excited swimmers do crazy things. When I started to swim, I had an ice cream headache and foggy black goggles that made me feel like I was swimming in a cave. I could barely make out the bubbles from other swimmers. About every ten strokes I would pop my head up to make sure I wasn't swimming out to sea.

One of the great things about wet suits is that they're a great equalizer. With little effort, I finished near the back of the pack.

I got my wetsuit off just fine thanks to the clever trick of spraying my lower legs with Pam cooking oil. (Note for other triathletes eager to take advice from a near DFL competitor: Another trick is to have a towel and a water bottle in your aid station for squirting mud off your feet.) Unfortunately, while I was trying to put on my Fat Cyclist jersey, it got all twisted up. When I finally got unsnaggled, I snapped on my helmet and ran my bike out of the transition zone.

The Mountain Bike Ride (15 Miles)

I hopped on my Ibis Mojo (purchased when Bill Clinton was president, George W. Bush was a governor who boasted about his ability to compromise, and Barack Obama was in his 30s) and started the ride up a steepish set of switchbacks. By the way, this was my first mountain bike ride of the year.

If I were in decent shape, I would have ridden up the pitch without too much effort. Instead, I overdid it for a photographer, went into oxygen debt, and had to get off my bike to put my head between my knees. The slower swimmers from my wave and the faster women from the next wave passed me with words of concern and encouragement.

Fat, I pushed my bike along a section that I should have been riding in the middle ring. I finally was able to get back on my bike and ride along the rolling trail. The first 5-mile lap was not fun, but I did manage to recover from my swoon.

The next two laps were actually fun. I managed to convince myself that I was actually doing well in the race. In fact, I didn't find out until later in the day that I had finished near the back of the pack, second to last in my age group (45-49).

The Run (3.6 Miles)

The trail run consisted of a 1-mile climb followed by a loop through a forest and down a paved road, a repeat of the loop, and then a full descent. Despite my gimpy knee, I managed to jog the whole thing.

I crossed the finish line to the tepid applause of volunteers who wanted even the worst racers to feel proud of their accomplishments.


Deep down, the main reason I signed up for the race is because I knew I needed to get my ass kicked. I need to lose weight and start training. To quote George W. Bush, "I know that. Don't you think I know that?"