Sunday, August 31, 2008

Race Report: City of Portland Triathlon
Just the other day I was telling Niko, in that Dad-teaches-boy tone that he must really love, that not all failures are bad. "If you think about what happened, you can learn from the experience," I said, after he got scared, nearly fell and ended up dejectedly walking his bike down a short, gravelly descent. I could have stopped there, but if you're going to lecture a kid, why not belabor the point? "You can dwell on failing and never get better, or you can figure out what went wrong and improve," I added. "Your choice, but I think you'll be a lot happier if you learn how to learn from failure."

After Ironman, I did a few races that were fun and fulfilling. I didn't zero in on them in the way I did Coeur d'Alene, but when I got to the starting line, I had a good idea of what to expect of myself. Today, I had no clue. I bobbed in the Willamette, waiting for the start to the City of Portland Triathlon, coming up empty in my search for a point to the race. I finally asked myself if there had to be a point – couldn't just having fun be good enough?

Well, sure. But even if it's "just for fun," you have to lay the groundwork. You have to bring the race into some focus.

* * *

The swim was exactly like last year, starting south of the Hawthorne Bridge and heading around the west pillar of the Morrison Bridge. Is this swim really just 1.5K? Man, I'm slow (39:05), although who knows how much of that is running to the bike transition. I didn't notice where the timing mats were placed. One thing I noticed this year was that it was way harder swimming into the Willamette's current than swimming with it. Duh, but last year that didn't seem to be the case.

I lollygagged in T1. Why? Great question. It's as though I thought I should, or had a right to, because this race wasn't important to me, or maybe it was, or maybe I just suck, or maybe I just want to watch the scenery. Sheesh!

On the bike, I went half-assed up the big hill that eats up about half of the 8.3-mile loop, which we were to do three times. I did start to get into the race on the downhill. I noted that the road was pretty wide and the turns fairly gentle, and that I'd be able to stay in a good, fast aero position for loops two and three.

Oops, maybe not. The one negative about this bike course, much-improved over last year's inaugural event, is the rough patches on Naito Boulevard, along the west side of the Willamette. Another reminder that Portland has a billion dollar backlog in road maintenance, and a hazard for cyclists: Toward the end of the first loop I whacked a big crevice and heard my bike make a sharp noise. A few seconds later, I noticed that my right aero bar extension was broken, just past the arm rest. I guess the extender fits onto a base pipe, though when healthy it looks like a single piece, not a long piece fit over a shorter piece and glued on. With this loose, threatening-to-fall-off extender, I didn't ride much aero the rest of the way, and certainly didn't take the downhills aggressively. (Somehow, that seemed appropriate on this day.)

As I finished the bike with a mediocre time – 1:23:49, 58/113 male racers – I was itching to get at the run. I hadn't run in 10 days while nursing this little Achilles tendon thing, and was really missing running. For the run, I had some focus. I went out strong and stayed strong. I didn't push it completely; I read somewhere recently that a rule of thumb for racing short-course triathlon is that if you don't feel like quitting, you aren't going hard enough. I didn't feel like quitting. But I ran well, turning in a 43:58 for the 10K, an Oly-distance run PR.

So that was it, my Portland Triathlon. Crappy swim, so-so bike, excellent run. Pretty much a failure. Lesson learned: Every race needs and deserves some mental prep.

BY THE WAY: Thanks to Jeff Henderson for putting this race on. I hope it survives for another year. It's a great event. Thanks, too, to Dave and his Killer Bread – a free loaf for every finisher – and the Deschutes Brewery for their great organic ale … and all the other sponsors and contributors, and the volunteers. All terrific.

My results; full race results here, just click on "Olympic" in the pulldown.


Dan Brekke said...

Sorry--I ain't buyin' the failure thing. Less than scintillating or utterly satisfying in the scheme of your year--yeah, OK. Hey, it's a long season ...

Pete said...

Thanks, Dan. Yeah, failure is a pretty stark word. A day later, I'm certainly glad I did the race. It was a very nice workout. Funny, I've often told myself that I should treat some races like workouts, but I've never pulled it off. Maybe I need to become more comfortable with the race-as-workout idea. They don't all have to be PRs....

Anonymous said...

Ran across your blog. Good summary of the race, and bummer about the aerobar. Rough road last year coming down the hill, rough road this year- wish the city could've filled those holes and rough patch prior... but overall Jeff puts on a great race, it's well staffed, and you can't beat the location- I'm encouraging everyone I know to get over the "willamette" thing, and come out and race.

A morning swimming, biking and running is always 1- better than working, and 2- more satisfying than sleeping.

-Chris #96

Pete said...

Thanks for the commment, Chris. Agree totally on the race -- it ought to sell out! Look forward to seeing you there next year.

White Salamander said...


Just in case you don't make it back over to Wil's blog to read my retraction.

"Pete - I retract the statement. It was over the line and hyperbolic. Let me rephrase that I disagree with him and I don't find any of his concerns "legitimate". Thanks for the opportunity to correct myself."

I don't want to drag the argument onto your blog as well but just wanted to make sure you saw the retraction. Great race report by the way. Thanks again - WS

Pete said...

White Salamander: Thank you. I found this interesting. Perhaps you will too.