Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Race

Something that the United States need to learn from the race directors over here in Asia is how to throw a proper pre-race party. They really pull out all the stops here, with 5 star cooking, live entertainment, white tablecloth type affair, and fantastic organization. It is such a treat! Of course, the post-race party is purported to be even better, and I'll be telling you about that perhaps tomorrow. I'm not sure how it could be any better - maybe they throw gold coins into the crowd or something.

I had a gentleman snap a photo of Jessa and I on our way over to the pre-race affair:



Here is a shot of the pre-race banquet. Believe it or not, the Thai "karaoke" style group of ladies they had performing on stage actually were doing a decent cover of Nora Jones. Wonders never cease to amaze.



The pro race meeting was uneventful except when Murphy (the race director) informed us that the age groupers were allowed to wear speedsuits, but the pros were not. His reasoning was as follows: because Orca brand speedsuits are quite popular and because all speedsuits are black and kind of wetsuity looking, he was afraid that potential race participants would see his pro lineup looking like a bunch of seals on the beach and think this was a coldwater location. The actual rule was that we were only allowed to wear "1 layer" the whole race. Faris actually planned on wearing his speedsuit only and just rolling the top down once he hit the bike.

Problem was, Belinda Granger didn't have anything to wear for the race except her 2 piece race suit, which she apparently couldn't swim with. So she threw Murphy a curveball and said she simply couldn't race unless she could swim in her speedsuit. Hence, he was obliged to make the speedsuits legal. I anticipate these type of issues becoming quite controversial in the future for triathlons worldwide.

I headed down to the race start at about 5:45AM (7AM race start) Completely forgot to prepare breakfast, so all I had was a bunch of bananas. I must say I prefer sweet potatoes. Not that big of a deal, since this race is not even half Ironman distance (1.8K swim, 55K bike, 13K run).

BIG PROBLEM: On the way over to set-up my bike in transition, I stopped at bike tech to pump my tires. The valve extender on the back tire didn't seem to be taking air. I've had this problem in the past when the valve core simply becomes tightened during the vibration from traveling in the bike box. I checked it with a small allan wrench and it was OK.

So the bike tech guy says "Here let me try". It still didn't take after about 10 minutes of twisting and readjusting the extender and the pump. By now I was starting to get nervous because the swim start isn't even at transition. You have to take a ferry across the lagoon to get there, and it was already 6:15. The bike tech guy removed half my tubular and I guess at some point during our pumping, the tire had ruptured at the valve attachment.

Here's where I was an idiot. I have a pre-glued spare attached to my bike. The bike tech guy says, "No problem, I'll glue another tire and get it on for you right away." I should have just grabbed my spare, but instead let him throw the new tire on. For those of you who don't ride tubulars, this glue is supposed to *set* for at least a day prior to racing. This is a very technical bike course with tons of sharp twists and turns, and now I would have the issue of the tire possibly rolling off the wheel in the turns. When he finally handed me my bike, he says, "Go really slow on corners and ride conservatively. No trying to win this thing."

THANKS DUDE.

Note to self: top goal for next year is to become a better bike tech.

So we finally got the issue settled at 6:40, and I literally had to sprint to transition and set up my set up my stuff in about 60 seconds flat. Technically, they kick everybody out of transition at 6:30, so I was literally the last guy in there and the last guy on the ferry. Talk about a smooth way to start the race.

*Disclaimer*: Bike Botique was the pre-race support and I don't want anybody to read this blog and think that this error was anyone's fault but mine. These guys offered AWESOME pre-race support - I just made some mistakes in my own pre-race preparation.

Anyways, moving on, here are some pictures Jessa snapped of the race start.







So check out the video for the race start. We were supposed to start with an airhorn signal, and as we're all on our toes waiting for the horn to sound, then there is finally this tiny little monkey fart squeak. The pro directly beside me takes off and nobody else moves. He makes it like 3 step forwards, looks back and then the whole field takes off. About 5 seconds later, the actual horn sounded. It was weird. Blogger doesn't seem to want to upload my videos, so I've provided a link to the race start video:

http://www.pacificfit.net/Library%20-%201897.mov

Off we go! (I'm to the right in the white cap).



Here's a shot of me coming out of the sea. Now this is kinda a unique race, because after we come out of the sea, we run across the beach, then go barrelling into a lagoon, where we swim another 600 meters. Because the lagoon is fresh water and stagnant, it is less buoyant and far warmer. It is like hitting pea soup. Your heart rate goes through the roof! This is by far the most difficult part of the swim.



When I glanced down at my watch quickly coming out of the water, I think my swim time may have been 60 seconds faster than last year. I honestly think I swam faster than that, but the consensus among most of the people I talked to after the race was that the swim course (which was altered this year) was a slower course. I felt good on the swim, and was very grateful for that Blue Seventy speedsuit in the lagoon. It really helped!

There aren't really any pictures of the bike split. The technical first 15K of the bike, I was actually 3 minutes slower than last year. Because of the tire issue, I rode the corners very conservatively and came out of the aero bars for almost every turn. Of course, this meant that I had pretty fresh and fast legs for the next 40K. I split Faris coming out the backside of that 15K on an out and back portion and he was 7 minutes up on me. When I split him at the 45K mark, he was about 9 minutes up. So I held time decently.

I was by myself on the bike the WHOLE TIME. Basically at the front of the age groups and the back of the pros. It is a blast time trialing through villages where chickens and dogs scatter out of the street in front of you and all these Thai schoolchildren line the streets and scream like you're Superman. It's a really cool experience. Even with the tire episode, my bike split was a good 3-4 minutes faster than last year, and I was *really* flying once we got out on the 20K highway portion. Chris, my fitter at Wheelsport East in Spokane, really put me in a super aggressive position for this race, and I was tucked very low. It felt awesome, but I wouldn't dare race anything longer than this in that position.

This is me running out of bike to run transition. It was very, very similar to Hawaii, where you finish the bike and all you're thinking is: "Now I have to run in this heat? You have got to be kidding me!". It was SO hot. The first 5K I thought that I might fall apart. I came out right alongside Chrissie Wellington, so of course nobody noticed me sneaking out there on the run. You can actually see her there behind me.



There's no finish line shots. Sorry! Basically, I held back the first 6K of the run and went conservatively, just trying not to overheat and blew up, which, by the way, a good number of folks did, because they passed me on the run and I re-passed a bunch of them in the final 2K, dragging their legs in cramps and sucking air.

I did the first 6K, by my reckoning, in about 25 minutes, and the second 6K in about 23 minutes or so. My goal for this race was a 2:45, and my final time (official results not yet posted and I don't know anything except what I'm approximating) was a 2:49. I have absolutely NO IDEA how I fared with the pros/age groupers, but I think I had a decent race.

The run was very hard and I thought I was going to pass out when I turned on the afterburners in that second 6K and started blasting by people. But I survived! Post race party starts in a couple hours, so I'm going back to my hotel room to take a bit of a nap. By the way, the whole registering as a pro thing was really worth it just because the buffet line and massage therapy was like 10 steps above the age grouper treatment I got last year (and even *that* was good). I sat at a table with Faris Al Sultan, Bryan Rhodes, Richie Cunningham, and Peter somebody from Australia. I felt completely outclassed, but had a great time. Looking forward to the party tonight!

Cheers,
Ben

P.S. Jessa's doing great! Whenever I got really tired and hot, I kept thinking about those two little fellas curled up in her tummy. Somehow that kept me going...so guys if you want to race faster, just get your wife pregnant. OK, I'm obviously getting loopy, so over and out!
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