Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Onion Hombre.

I chose the Onionman Olympic distance triathlon as my "tune-up" race for the big show down at the Hawaii 70.3 this coming Saturday.

This was my first time racing on the new clincher-style Gray Wheels, so I was pretty excited to be trying out their equivalent of Zipp 808's, along with a new SRAM Red 11-23 cassette. The one element that is always present at Onionman is occasional big gusts of crosswind, so I knew this would be a great chance to see how these wheels performed in Hawaii-Like conditions.

Onionman has never been without it's share of "hiccups" for me. The first year I raced, my water bottle and fuel bottle flew off my bike on the first speed bump coming out of transition, and spilled my nutrition all over the road. The next year, I fought pre-race poopies that left me standing in a porta-potty with a wetsuit around my ankles just a few minutes before the race start. That year, I just did not feel right, and came in seventh overall. Here were my splits for that year:

Swim: 0:21:36
T1: 1:03
Bike: 1:03:19
T2: 0:36
Run: 0:39:35

Time: 2:06:09

So this year, I was anxious to see what would be in store. And sure enough, just as the race announcer said "10 minutes to swim start, everybody down to the water!", I heard a loud sound like a gunshot - BOOM. Somebody's tire blew. Sucker.

As I adjusted my wetsuit and headed down to the water, I happened to glance at my bike. The rear wheel visibly flat. MY tube had blown.

I sprinted to my bike and whipped out my flat change kit, and at the same time, a race official showed up, "Just go down and swim, man, I got it."

Seriously? ROCK ON. I was a bit apprehensive about him getting adequate pressure and leaving my rear derailleur in the proper gear, but what could I do? You can't pass up an offer like that. I didn't see him again after the race, so I guess he was probably my heavenly triathlon angel, with huge feathered wings tucked under his bright orange official vest. ;)

The swim here was cold. Headache cold. And dirty. You should not open your mouth and swallow any water if you value the health of your gut flora. Incentive to swim fast! I wore my neoprene cap, but about 200 yards in, I felt like it was choking me, so I tore it off and kept swimming. So some fisherman is going to find himself a nice little thirty dollar piece of floating headgear...

My swim split was a 21:35. One second faster than laster year. I'll take it.

I hopped on the bike in sixth place. Everything, including the tire, appeared to be set-up perfectly. My only error was 1) forgetting my aero tube bottle, so I rode with my downtube Gatorade bottle - full of tasty GU Brew; 2) forgetting my sweet Zeal Optics sunglasses, so I had to use some old generic glasses that fogged a bit, but not really a big deal.

Bike split on my Specialized Transition felt great. I hammered into the headwind going out, knowing it would be an easy ride coming back. I rode a 1:00:11, 3 minutes and 8 seconds faster than last year. For a 40K bike, that is a seriously sweet improvement. With an extra gear, I could have ridden under an hour.

With that bike split, I was in first place by the turnaround point.

Coming off the bike in first place, you feel like the rabbit - with all those hungry dogs chasing. I slipped into my Avia Bolts and took off for the 6.4 mile run, running scared. At 1 mile, I looked back. Nobody.

At 2 miles, I looked back. Nobody.

At 2 and a half miles, I checked again, and this time, saw Michael Gordon about 100 yards back. Knowing he could hammer out a 34 minute 10K, I knew I could be in trouble.

He passed me at the 5K mark, and I thought about trying to run with him, but I can't move that fast - I was feeling pushed to the limit running 6:15's.

As Michael opened a big gap, my strategy moved towards holding off 3rd place and finishing strong.

I managed to keep a large gap between myself and 3rd place, and came across 38:42, about 45 seconds faster than last year, and good enough for a 2nd place finish, an age group win, a little bit of cash, and a 2:02:09 overall, EXACTLY 4 minutes faster than last year, which I'm very happy with for an Olympic distance race!

Ultimately, it looks like (despite the last minute tire blow!) those Gray wheels turned out pretty well! Thanks to SynergySports, I'm looking forward to racing a great bike split in Hawaii, and feeling very good about my fitness.

With the Hawaii race so close, this will be the first time I've raced Onionman without planning a stagger-fest of red wine tasting in downtown Walla Walla after the race. Somehow, I didn't imagine a few barrels of ethanol to be conducive to recovery. But a Mexican restaurant stop at Caseula's in good ol' Ritzville, Washington was the next best thing.

P.S. A shout-out to my race homies for the weekend: Scott Chesrown ( - 2nd place division finish ) and Amy Larson (who did not stop to pet the miniature donkeys on the bike course) - they had great races and were fantastic trip-mates!


Bucer's Coffeehouse Pub said...

Y A Y!!!!

Nat said...

Congratulations on a very solid improvement and an hugely successful oly race, Ben!!!

Diane Swift said...

congrats Ben on a fantastic race!
Gee, you ate in my hometown next door to where I have my massage
practice. Good ol Meican food...