The oversize luggage corner of the airport is a place of sweaty-palmed dread. It’s the last crucial piece of the travel-day puzzle…like an outside border piece. Without it, the whole thing is wobbly and you spend your whole time trying to find that last border piece while everything else gets ignored (we do a lot of puzzles). Once you get to your flight destination, even if it’s not the city you race in, and you have all your luggage and your bike in hand, things can go wrong without panic setting in. Forgetting the name of your car rental company, getting lost on an unknown interstate at midnight and driving the wrong direction for an hour, and other shit like that is aggravating, but you still have control of the situation. When your bike doesn’t show up in the oversize luggage area, you have no control. And for the second race in the last four weeks, my bike didn’t show up.
During the stress of the missing bikes (Adelaide’s didn’t show up either) my worries about all the other nagging aches and pains I had magically developed in the previous six days were forgotten, such as my injured hip, sore shins, aching ankle, fucked up back, and bloody stool. All quickly forgotten in lieu of the bikes.
Luckily they showed up the night before the race, my back and ankle ended up being fine, and a little bloody shit never hurt anyone. It was the hip that got me in the end.
Swim (15th out of the water at 28:54)
This was the first time I haven’t been dropped in the swim. The front few groups may have gotten away from me, but it was them going faster, not me going slower.Or so I like to tell myself. Mid way into the swim I’d even let myself half believe that I was in the lead group since during my three total sightings (I don’t like looking up) I couldn’t see anyone up ahead of our group. I swam a fine 28:54 (six minutes faster than last year) and came out of the water in 15th place, just 3:30 down on the lead group.
Bike (race best 2:09:23)
I thought I had been super crafty by not pre-clipping in my shoes before the race started due to the steep hill the course started out on. My plan went perfectly as I cruised by others in the first hundred meters as they struggled to get their feet in their shoes. But then something didn’t feel right. “Man, I’m fat,” I thought to myself. “This number belt sure got tight.” I tried loosening it only to find that it was already pretty lose. I thought maybe my shorts were just snugger than I remembered, then I realized that I’d forgotten to take my swim skin off. I’d gotten it down to my waist during the transition run but hadn’t followed through due to my excitement about my secret aforementioned plan to save six seconds. I pulled to the side of the road, stripped the swim skin off, and threw it to some volunteer kids and yelled my race number, “Dieciséis! Dieciséis Gracias!!! with little hope that I’d ever see the swim skin, which I’d borrowed from Kenney, ever again.
I rode the first hour of the bike solo, averaging 332 watts down to Cabo San Lucas, up the hill, and back down the hill, before catching the first cohesive group of riders that I’d come across, which included fifth through ninth place. I sat in for a few minutes, telling myself that there was no reason to take even one single measly pull, that I’d made a huge effort to get up to them by myself, that I’d already used plenty of matches, and that half of them were much better runners than I and all I really cared about was getting at least 8th place and in the money and it was their responsibility to pull since they were the established guys with something on the line. I took a pull about five minutes later. I was content to sit in after that, because I finally realized my legs were fried.
First to go from that group was Gonzalez, then Hadley, and then finally Paul Ambrose a long while later, who had been doing a lot of the work with Cody Beals. Those two quietly did all the work, with no complaining, shouting, or threats like in a bike race. Strange. And I felt lazy. Even stranger.
We went through town, did a U turn, went up another highway grade climb for a few miles, then flipped it back into town. By then it was just myself, Beals, and Cunningham. There were just four guys up the road since the lead swim group’s fifth man, Andy Potts, had broken a chain 15 miles earlier. Drew Scott, Matt Charbot, Maricio Mendez-Cruz, and Allan Carillo had just a 1:40 lead on us thanks to all the hard work done by Beals and Ambrose. I ended up with the fastest bike split of they day by almost a minute, which was a tiny consolation for not finishing the run.
Run (first to quit!)
I took the lead out of T2 for some ridiculous reason at 5:45 pace in the 90 degree heat. My legs felt good and for a fleeting moment my lungs felt okay too. Then all of a sudden they didn’t and the feared chest cramp came swooping in to fuck everything up. I’m really looking forward to the day when I get this issue fixed, because 90% of my runs off the bike begin with a debilitating lung cramp that lasts anywhere from two to 13.1 miles, and it doesn’t matter how slow or fast I start out. Beals came around me a few minutes into the run, then Richie Cunningham came around by mile one. I put my hands up on top of my head and slowed things way down for the next five or six minutes, willing the lung tightness away with mind power alone…and fingers fiercely digging up into my chest cavity. By mile two the cramp was just about gone and I began picking the pace back up. I had about five minutes of okay running before the next, and unsolvable, problem came about: my hip. For those who don’t remember, I raced Coeur d’Alene with an injured TFL. Before the race it was just a nagging pain. After the race it was so bad that I was on crutches for the rest of the day and the next morning, couldn’t run for six weeks, and it didn’t fully stop hurting for two and a half months.
That was my right hip. Strangely, the issue I’d developed in the past week was now in my left hip. Both times the injuries came on in the same fashion: about a week before the race and just barely noticeable at first. Both were so minor that I wasn’t able to upgrade it from “tightness” to “pain” until four or five days out from the race.
I had it dry needled the day before we left for Cabo, but it was too little too late. By mile four I knew that my race was over. I was not going to inflict serious, long-lasting damage to myself again, especially for 15th or whatever place. Even though I was still currently in 7th, and a few miles earlier I had held onto delusional aspirations of catching up to Cunningham and contending for fifth or sixth place, I knew that the hip would slow me down to a jog by the end of 13 miles. I was already limping on it with 10 miles to go. I slowed down to a jog prematurely and let four or five guys pass me before I walked it in towards the finish without starting the second lap. It was a quick fall from actually being in the race (not just being filler) to wandering past the crowd of people near the finish line, avoiding eye contact because I was mad enough to slap the next person in the face who tried to encourage me by saying “Come on, don’t give up you can do it!”
End of Season
This weekend left me with something to look forward to during training this winter. My swim has improved a lot and I was even able to eek out of good performance in a non-wetsuit race, something that I had previously thought would elude me for years to come. My riding strength (in the time trial position anyways) has gone up a bit this season as well, and it won’t be too long before it can actually be put to use bridging to the lead group instead of the chase group. The run here was a complete flop of course. It really sucked. I mean I really sucked. It’s my least consistent of the three sports. I can either run fairly decently or not at all. The first problem is that I’m constantly plagued by serious chest cramps when I run off the bike. They got less severe and lasted for shorter durations as the season went on, so there’s that at least. Secondly, to actually get faster and to have more constant performances, I need to run more, but I don’t want the hips to become a constant injury, or develop other long-lasting injuries. To build the muscular endurance for the run I need to be doing more than 25 miles a week, which is the max I’ve been able to consistently do this year without injuries popping up. Well, they pop up anyways. I think I just need more time and the larger volume will become easier to maintain. That, and more stretching, massage, and gym work. Or, I’ll just start tracking run distance in kilometers and/or get a pair of those kids’ shoes with the built-in wheels.
PS the swim skin magically appeared in my gear bag when I went to retrieve it. Thank you volunteers!
PPS Adelaide won her age group and placed 4th in the amateur field.
PPPS Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll be going to the doctor about the bloody bowel movements.
While Kennett will be writing blogs for this website, he also writes his own blog that he has held for many years on firstname.lastname@example.org. Check it out if you want to read older race reports from other triathlons or bike races.