Sunday, July 31, 2005

Half Vineman to Me: Here, Pete; I Have Your Ass for You
Today I entered a new realm of triathlon. I sucked. Wait -- don't be alarmed! I'm not brimming with self-loathing. I'm actually proud of my performance. The run was 2+ hours of hell, yet I never stopped. I ran the whole thing. I ran slowly, but I ran it and in the end they gave me my medal and I look at it, right now, and say, "I earned that thing."

But I still sucked.

I'm not sure what my time was. Somewhere around 6 hours, more than 20 minutes slower than last year's 5:38 and 15+ minutes slower than my first Half Vineman, in 2002.

What happened? Two things: First, in my so-called training, I didn't put in the necessary work on the bike. Gordo has said many a time that the bike is the heart of long-distance triathlon. "The bike is the engine," is how he's put it, the idea being that if the engine isn't powerful and well-tuned, the athlete will come out of the bike in no position to run well. My story, in a nutshell. In poor cycling shape, I nevertheless splitted under three hours, making it a typical Half Vineman bike for me. But getting that time zapped me. Typically, I come off the bike and uncorked a couple of 8-minute miles and only slip by about a minute-per-mile over the course of the 13.1-mile run. Today, my first mile was 9 minutes. My second was 10. My legs were shot. It was all I could do to turn out 10-minute miles the rest of the way.

There was also the matter of hydration. My wave was second-to-last of 16 to go, each separated by 8 minutes. By the time we started our swim, at 8:45 a.m., the fog deep in the Russian River Valley was already burning off. On the bike, I never felt hot and never felt thirsty, so I didn't drink much -- probably about half what I remember consuming in previous Half Vinemans. By the time I began running, I realized I was parched. I drank a couple of cups of water, and sips of Gatorade, at every aid station (every mile). My stomach took it reasonably well, and after each station, I'd feel stronger for a couple of minutes. Then I'd fade. This repeated over and over again.

OK, so how dehydrated was I. Well, three hours and a probably a half-gallon of fluids later, my weight was still down almost 6 percent. This is serious dehydration, friends. (Check out this link; I was shocked.) Now, another hour and a sandwich and a liter of water and a beer later, as the cooling evening breeze kicks in and blows into the office here, I still feel very hot.

So, OK, I sucked and I was stupid.

But hey, as I said above, that's OK. I started, I finished, I learned. Now I'm going to get ready -- really ready -- for a cool local half coming up in October. Half Vineman handed me my ass today and the Napa Valley Vintage Half is going to pay for it!

UPDATE: Official numbers are in.
--0:40:30.9  on the swim (fantastic, a PR);
--3:03:11.5  on the bike, but they didn't have a T1 for me, so it looks like they folded my usual 5-minute transition into the bike time, which means I biked a 2:58;
--a 4 1/2-minute T2 (awful; couldn't find my bike for a full minute, then when I tried to put on my tri shirt I found I'd pinned my race number through the front and back of the shirt, making it impossible to put on);
--and the aforementioned hideous run, 2:15:45.6, between 20 and 25 minutes slower than my previous Half Vineman runs.
--total time was 6:03:54.7; this left me a surprisingly high 144th out of 234 in my age group, which suggests I wasn't the only guy to suffer from a, uh, drinking problem.

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