Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lavaman - Part Deux

This is a long post, so bear with me.

I need to preface this post and say that this race .... was more than a race... it was a physical and emotional experience. As you probbaly know, I totally caught the triathlon bug last year, and found a competitive spirit in me that I didn't know existed. Lavaman was my first triathlon ever last year, and since then, I have learned a lot, and made numerous changes to my training this year so that I could see some significant improvements in my quest to being able to place in my age group in triathlons.

The days before the race were a bit stressful. I normally don't like to travel with more than 1-2 other people when I travel, so being a mentor, I had some responsibility to try and coordinate group of 85 triathletes to make it through a very packed weekend. Unfortunately, this causes stress for me, in addition to all of the running (literally) around I had to do. Most triathletes take it very easy the last 3 days or so leading up to a race. I, unfortunately, did not have that luxury, and with some jet lag, dehydration, not eating enough, blah blah blah... I was not a good person to be around. It wasn't all bad though. We did have some good times hanging out with teammates, I read a letter to the team from my buddy Jeff about his experience with cancer, and plus, it was HAWAI`I, but I digress...

If you don't want to read the entire thing, the break down from last year to this year is:

Swim: 28:59
T1: 2:34
Bike: 1:14:58 (19.5 mph)
T2: 00:27
Run: 50:25 (8:08 min/mile pace)
Total: 2:37:22

Age Group: 12/28, Overall: 100/507

Swim: 26:55 (2:04 improvement)
T1: 01:53 (41 second improvement)
Bike: 1:07:25 (22.1 mph) (07:33, 2.6 mph improvement)
T2: 00:28 (I demand a recount!)
Run: 47:04 (7:36 min/mile pace) (3:21, 00:32 improvement)
Total: 2:23:43

Age Group: 8/46, Overall: 49/606

Anyhow, onto the story....

Alarm went off a bit on the early side, we cleaned up, and made our way down to the front of the hotel where everyone met so that we could ride to transition. I got to transition, and I promptly got marked with race numbers on both my arms. I made my way over to my bike to finish setting up my transition area (planned out meticulously), and my buddy Paul came over and asked me if I was gonna do a warm up (of course I was), and he said he would join me for the 20-25 minutes I would spend on the bike (at an easy pace of course). We did our warm up, and unfortunately, Paul had some mechanical difficulties, so he had to go off and get them fixed (which he did). I wished him luck, and little did I know, that would not be the last time I would moving along side him that morning. I racked my bike again, and made my way out to do a little run warm up on the lava fields to get used to them, since we start the run on them. I got back to transition just in time to run down to the beach to take the team photo. Gurujan did his customary "race vision" spech (which always calms the nerves), and then I did my swim warm up.

I opted to swim with my race top on this year. Last year, I swam sans shirt, and had some issues putting on my TNT singlet at T1 (swim/bike transition). I puchased a singlet this year, and got the TNT logo silk screened on the shirt so I could show my colors (even though they weren't TNT colors :)) I finished my warm up about 3 minutes before race start, and then quietly calmed myself, and did a little stretching before the the gun went off.

The race announcer start yelling into the mic "30 seconds until the 10th annual lavaman triathlon gets underway!" and the yells from the crowd picked up. There wasn't a lot of comotion from the participants in the water... I dont think anyways, either that, or the crowd just drowned us out. We heard the customary "10 seconds!!" and...


Whatever stresses, anxieties, worries... whatever I had before the race... was gone instantly. As soon as the gun went off, I started with a clean slate like I just flipped a switch. I let the person in front of me go, and then I started off.

The swim has never been my strong point, but I'd say I am respectable at it. Since the swim start included relays, pros, and about 300 age group men, this certainly qualifies as "the human blender". This is what it looks like from shore:

This is what it feels like:

The swim course has got to be my favorite part of this race, not because its my strongest, but because its in 78 degree, crystal clear water with tropical fish and the occasional sea turtle, with beautiful coral reefs below. However, the swimming during this race is in 2nd in terms of enjoyment while racing. At most races, the human blender for usually 200-500 meters, but here, I was battling with people for the first 750 meters (half of the swim), and on the second loop, I was still surrounded by people, and making a half-ass attempt to jockey for position. One major complaint I had about swimming was that it seemed like NUMEROUS people hadn't cut their finger nails in weeks. I felt like at times I swimming through a cactus forest. Ouch. I made my way towards the beach to exit the swim, and tagged the mat at a time of 26:55. SWEET! My goal was 27 minutes, so I made my way off into T1 happy.

For whatever time I lost due to wearing a top during the swim (due to drag), I certainly made up for in T1. My biggest problem T1 at any race is I dont run well after swimming. But, I didnt have to deal with getting my top on, and I also made the decision to leave my bike shoes ON my bike, so I would just hop on and strap in, rather than trying to clip in. For more details, check out this post.

My favorite/strongest part of the race. Last year, I thought the course was boring (which it is), but this year, I was looking to make up some serious time on the bike, so I wasnt going to focus on the surrounding area. I also developed an appreciation for the Queen K and that may be because I am a total tri geek who watched for the first 9 hours of the ironman championship back in october (same bike course) adn watched in awe as Normann Stadler AVERAGED 26mph for 112 MILES (UNREAL!), but whatever reason why I liked the course is because I wanted to kicked people's butt.

After turning on the Queen K from the resot, I could see a pack of people ahead of me. Determined to pass every one of them, I quickly got in a rhythym, and started passing them. I nestled myself into a comfortable spot a few people behind Jay Pedersen. I also realized that I had already drank 1 bottle of my carbo-pro/gatorade/salt elixir about 3 miles into the bike, and considering it was 1 of the 2 bottles I planned on consuming, I decided to ease off the fuel for a little.

Suddenly, this, what I perceived to be a guy, passed me on the left. This person had a Argon 18 tri bike, a zipp 404 front wheel, and zipp disk. For those not familiar with those products, this person had about $8000 worth of bike gear under them. But after this person passed me, then never moved back to the right - they stayed on the left, which is illegal by USAT standards. We went back and forth a little bit (with me passing "it" on the right"), and finally the frustration mounted when "it" looked like "it" was going to pass Jay. I finally said "Screw this", got out of the saddle, dropped the hammer, yelled "On your right jackass!" and said to Jay as I passed him "Kick this guys ass!!!" Jay happily obliged.

I continued on at a great pace, and about 10 minutes later, this person passed me going up ahill. Being taken out of my rhythym, I said "nope", and got out of the saddle to pass "it" again. Now, of course, I had to pass it on the right. As I passed, I realized it was a female, and I mentioned that I guess USAT rules dont apply to her. She didnt even acknowledge me, and I took off. About another 10 minutes passed, and she came up along side me again. I thought to myself "this is the last time this will happen". I changed a few gears, got out of the saddle, and just hammered the hill. I didnt care if I would pay for it later, but I was so p'd at this person, I didnt want them bothering me anymore.

I had already emptied my second bottle of carbo-pro/gatorade mixture into my aero bottle, and my stomach started feeling weird. I soon realized that the mixture it was too concentrated. I approached the turn around point on the bike (it is an out and back course), and grabbed a water bottle. I poured half through my helmet to cool off, and put the other half into my aero bottle. The aero bottle is the aerodynamic looking bottle between my aerobars.
I felt like I was making pretty good pace, and nearing the end of the bike course. I looked ahead, and could see a purple singlet on someone, which meant a TNT participant. I wondered who it was. I saw the 4 spoke race wheels, and knew.... it was Paul Jesse.

Paul was on the lavaman team last year. We are about the same age, and about the same ability overall. But he beat me by 23 seconds last year, and I wasn't going to accept anything of the like this year. I knew he improved his swim quite a bit, but now we were in my territory - the bike, and he was in my sights. As I started making ground on him, I saw coach Dave on the side of the road cheering people on. He told me "Good Cadence DenDen!" and I kept trucking. I later learned that when Paul passed him, he said "Nuno is right behind me". He had no idea I was closing in. I kept him in my sights and kept making ground on him.

I pulled into transition (shoes on the bike again), and knew I had to pass Paul's transition area on the way to racking my bike. He was putting his running shoes on, and when I was behind him, I gave him a "Hey Pauly!" in a sarcastic "I right behind you!" type of playful voice to let him know I was there. As he ran past me putting my shoes on, he naturally gave me a huge slap in the arse and yelled "Get on it Denner!". I quickly got my stuff together, and started making my out of transition.

I had Paul in my sights. He seemed like he was 10-15 seconds ahead of me, but I had no clue. We both started off strong, but I told myself not to lose the ground I just made up on him. At the mile 1 aid station, it's a cul-de-sac/out and back, so Paul had a good glimpse of how far (or close) behind him I really was. Zero words exchanged.

I ran through the aid station, and juggled putting more water in my hand water bottle, and putting ice in my hat. The run is so hot at lavaman, that I opted to put ice in my hat to help cool me down. The water in my bottle wasn't for drinking, but for spraying on myself to help regulate the body temperature.

We started making our ascent (read: up hill) to the mile 2 aid station, and again, I knew I couldn't lose ground on him, especially on a hill. He was looking strong. As we reached the summit, I started feeling the effects of the heat and humidity, but I trucked ahead. We made the right turn to get to the mile 3 turn around. As we started down the hill, I felt like I was able to make up a little bit of ground on him. Now, even though this is an endurance event, and 10 seconds doesn't sound like a lot, it is hard, especially when you are pushing yourself. I started realizing that it was going to be hard to catch up. I didn't want to risk picking up the pace, only to burn out doing it, so I told myself to relax.

This was a fairly long road that seemed like it went on forever. I could see the turn around at the end. As I entered the turn around, Paul was on his way out. I slapped his hand, made my way around, looked up ahead, and could see Paul was stopping for water. Taking advantage of this, I opted not to stop, but to just run through the aid station, and just get ice in my cap.

Which meant that I had caught him.

Although this was good at the time, it also meant no falling back now.

We ran shoulder to shoulder, and exchanged a few words about how miserable the run was becoming. It was hot. It was humid. It was miserable. As we made our way up the hill, we saw Nuno making his way down the hill. We both knew Nuno was a fast runner, and I wouldn't have been surprised if he caught us by mile 5. Paul started pulling away at the top of the hill, but I would only allow myself to be a few steps behind.

and then it started.

I yelled.

Not anything coherrent - I just yelled. I almost didn't even mean to. I just opened my mouth, and something came out. It was more like a yelp... or something. I really don't even remember. and then about 5 minutes later... some type of moan came out of me. I think it was my mind/body willing myself forward, and not letting me lose ground. It was kinda scary too... this noise that I made.

We approached the mile 4 aid station, and both stopped for water to fill up our water bottles. I squirted some in my mouth, and actually drank it. I knew this was bad. I normally can't drink water on the run since my heart rate is so high - it just causes a side cramp. But it tasted so good. I took another swig. I realized that I was dehydrated (probably A LOT), and it was because I didn't take in as much water as I should have on the bike due to my way to concentrated elixir's. DAMN.

We took off from the aid station, and went up a slight incline. The yell came back. In fact, it came back twice. It was HOT, and my body needed fluids. It was also in pain. So, I just started spraying it everywhere on me. I caught a second wind, and started moving ahead. I passed Paul, and kind of got into a zone for a little bit. I focused, and got into a rhythym, but it was short lived. I quickly came back to the painful reality that is: mile 4.5 of a hot olympic distance triathlon in hawai`i. We got to the coast at this point, and the coastal breeze was a god send. We came up onto the lagoon, and Coach Gurujan's words ran through my head:

"If you are overheating on the run, and you need to cool off, there is nothing wrong with going off the course, taking off your shoes, and going into the water for a bit to cool down your body temperature. In fact, you may need to do it in a race like this".

I am not gonna lie. It crossed my mind. In fact, it kept on playing like a broken record. I almost opened my mouth and said "Paul, dude, seriously, we should hit the lagoon". But I opted not to, and instead, let out a moan. A loud one this time. We went through the single track, and then over the bridge. Paul had caught up to me, and he was feeling everything too (he is just a lot more quiet about it than I).

We got to the part of the resort where there were families around. So, here are these nice, innocent families enjoying some nice R&R in Hawai`i, and here comes a triathlon runing through the resort. Paul and I were shoulder to shoulder with minimal words exchanged still. There was people ahead, and I yelled out at them to move. We continued on the trail, and I let out another yell (of the incoherrent variety), and I think I was starting to make Paul worry a little. I know that if I was him, I would be like "WTF is wrong with this kid!".

As we approached the downhill leading up to the mile aid station, I yelled to the volunteers "Water... Ice.... Times 2" so that Paul and I could refill our hats and bottles. Unfortunately, my ability to juggle a hat to put ice into, a water bottle to put water into, and a water bottle top didn't work at this aid station, and I accidentally dropped my top in the middle of the trail. As if that wasn't bad enough, there was a stampede of 3 people who came out of nowhere and were in the process of passing us, and running all over my water bottle top. Naturally, I let out a "Oh, F%&k!" For some reason, Paul said the same thing. I figured he had a similar unfortunate event happen, but later learned that the only reason why he said it was I said it! This is what happens when your body takes over and your mind is long gone!

Then we started "the tease" portion of the race. As you make your way back to the coast, you can see the finish line 1.2 miles ahead. Unfortunately, you are such a state of disarray, that its like being lost in a desert and you come across an oasis, so it kinda messes with you. I quickly looked away, and focused on the task at hand. This part of course is particularly difficult since you are running on a combination of sand, lava rock and coral, which can lead to some unstable conditions. At this point, I wanted to ask Paul, but didn't have the energy to, "Why does it feel like I am going at a base building pace (slow), yet my heart rate is through the roof?" This, of course, was in addition to the feeling of the ice cream headache caused by the ice in my hat, accompanied by the overheating feeling of my body. My mind just didn't know what process at that point!

It should also be noted that look on Paul's face says it all (and how we truly felt), and that I was just "smiling for the camera" (Hey I guess I have a good poker face) in these run pictures.

Paul and I trudged through, and finally hit the mile 6 marker, which starts the beach run portion. As if things weren't bad enough at this point, it's on very loose sand, so you work twice as hard to go half as fast. As soon as we hit the sand, I said "let's finish this together", and after about 30 ft, I decided to drop the hammer. Paul tried to keep up, but couldn't, and then said "You go man... I can't finish like this" it just so happens that I happened to be thinking the same thing, so I backed off for a little bit, and then we finally just "sprinted"... or, what felt like a sprint, but in reality, looked more like a fast walk to the finish line! I literally felt like I was going to explode at this point, and the finish line photo shows as such!

As soon as we crossed, I literally almost collapsed. I bent over to catch my breath, and a few volunteers came over to grab my timing chip. I gave Paul a hug, and got a huge congratulations from Coach Dave. I snagged 2 freezing cold water bottles, and proceeded to dump both on my head/in my mouth simultaneously. Finally, the water my body was searching for since mile 3. I quickly grabbed 2 more, and repeated. Everything after that is gravy.

In the minutes and hours after the race finish, Paul and I had some good laughs about everything. As for my yelling and moaning, he literally didn't think I was going to finish the race. He started to contemplate that if I happened to collapse, would he continue on, or stop and help? He was smart to realize that if that did happen, and had he stopped to help me, he probably would have collapsed himself. He also mentioned how when we approached the lagoon, he totally wanted to jump in as well, and also was thinking of mentioning it to me. But one thing is certain, we both have a tremendous amount of respect for one another for pushing ourselves, and one another through the pain, heat, yelling and competition between ourselves and everyone else. It truly was more of an experience, than a race. Coach Gurujan says that for those racing for time, leave everything out on the course. That was most certainly the case on sunday, 4/1/07. It was a very gratifying experience to know that I COULD NOT GO ANY FASTER, and that I gave it my all. The other day, I read a quote by Mark Allen (6 time IM World Champ) that says: "When you go for it 100%, when you don't have the fear of "what if I fail", that's when you learn. That's when you're really living."

Mark couldn't have summed it up any better.

Other notable things:
* Pat Drain falling off his bike and getting a serious case of road rash, and still getting a 2:38!
* Damian for placing 1st in his age group!
* Greg Kurras for having the funniest quote of the day 5 minutes after he finished:
Me: Hey Greg, congratulations man! How'd it feel?
Greg: I had 2 thoughts during the last part of the race: 1. I am never doing a triathlon again, 2. How can I give my wildflower spot away?... but then I finished, and I can't wait to do the next one!
* Nafiseh taking 15 minutes off of her PacGrove time!
* Jaybuddy for taking 15 minutes off his time from last year!

The first few hours after the race were incredible. Everyone was totally AMPED about how much fun (fun???) that really was. What's even more incredible, is the race, and the run left such a lasting impression on me, I literally couldn't stop thinking about everything for about 4 or 5 days. It was like being a cloud 9... only your entire body was sore :)

Other Race photos:
Bike 1:
Bike 2:

Thanks for reading!!!!!

Next Race: Vineman 70.3 on 7/22/07!!!!!


SanDiegoPJ said...

Hey said it all. The race was incredible and I can't thank you enough for pushing me til the finish. Definitely wouldn't have been able to hit that time if it wasn't for my stubborness and not wanting to let you pull away.

But next time we finish at the exact same time, I get the higher place! haha

Let's do it again in a few months. Vineman baby!!!

Anonymous said...

awesome race Denner, next year... you wont pass me until the run!

Tri-ing to Find a Cure! said...

You did a fantastic job babe!! Way to go!!