Time Trial Face Plant

I think it’s an interesting story. Or at least it could be if I tell it right. So, here goes.

Despite my silence  on my blog, I have been very busy in 2010. My new role at work as a project lead is challenging; I’m managing two projects. I’m finishing up my Master’s degree in Educational Technology from SDSU. And I’m fueling my passion for endurance sports by training about 12-15 hours per week. My primary goal this year is to have my peak performances at the long course triathlon distance, or Ironman 70.3. In the midst of all this business, I’ve competed in three races since January, a 5K and two half marathons. In two of these races, I barely missed my personal goals by a margin of about 16 seconds. So I’d say that my running is doing very well. At our recent track time trial, I ran a 6:20 pace over a 2-mile distance.

Even swimming, my nemesis, has improved. I’ve been swimming about 4.5 to 5 miles weekly in the pool for the last three months on my own and as part of a Master’s Swim group with the Escondido Swim Club. My swim pace has steadily dropped. It was about 1:55/100 yards when I first started. And now, I can swim a little faster than 1:38/100 yards. I’ve had my fastest 1.2-mile swim to date at 41:38. The only unknown left to conquer is to find out if I can relax while racing in the ocean and just let the miles of swimming that I’ve been doing take over.

Even though I’m relatively new to serious athletic training, I’ve found my cycling to be my strongest discipline of the three sports. I don’t really have anything to make that determination other than a couple of informal time trial results at Fiesta Island. My fastest prior to this writing was 31 minutes over 20K, which is three large loops around the island, or 12 miles.

Two days ago, one week before my big race (Ironman 70.3 California), I participated in the first time trial of the season with Breakaway Training. Despite being only one week away from the race, Coach Luke said to go for it. My goal: finish the 12 miles in under 30 minutes, which meant that I needed to average greater than 24 mph.

My buddy, Eric and I, started off together. Just as an aside, before the start of the trial, Eric was moaning on and on about how tired he’s been and not feeling well. Just so you know, Eric, I’m on to you buddy! Anyways, I “warmed up” my legs for a hundred yards or so, then Matt took off. And so the chase began. I followed him with the lead group of about five or six others) close behind. For a second or two, I reached speeds of about 29-30 mph to give chase, overtaking the lead for a short time around the first turn where it’s easy to go fast on a slight downhill. The lead group (Matt, Eric, Dave P, Kent, Gary, and one other dude) set the pace, and I followed behind.

I’m not sure if the lead group was forming a paceline. As you know, there’s no drafting in triathlon, but our coaches said drafting was okay for this informal “race”. In any case, I didn’t participate in any rotating off the front, but hung in the back, conserving energy. We rode anywhere from 25-27 mph at any given time. Whenever I thought the group was going too slowly (under 24 mph), I sped up and took the lead. I’m not sure if they liked that or not; the lead group never let me stay too far ahead and always brought me back into the fold.

I like to think that most of the guys (other than the other middle-aged 40-yr old+ athletes) didn’t like some new guy on the block up in the front, especially some 44-year old with gray hair and all, like me. Ha! Most likely, nobody in the group thought about that. I like saying it, though. By the middle of the second lap, I noticed that my buddy Eric had taken a strong position in the lead group.

Although I wasn’t really sure if Eric was truly on his second lap, I decided to surge forward and pass the whole group when we reached the back side of the island. There was a slight headwind, and our group speed had dropped to about 22-23 mph. I was a little agitated by the slow down, so I yelled out: Let’s go. We’re under 24!” Again the lead group brought me to the back of the fold as we came around for our last lap.

Given the few glances at my speedometer over the course of the trial, I knew that I would easily finish in under half an hour. I was sustaining speeds of over 25 mph for the race. My strategy for the last lap was to hang in the back of the group to conserve energy, and then sprint to the finish when it was in sight. I estimate that the sprint would be about 1.25 km long, maybe 45 seconds to 1 minute. At the back of the group, it was effortless. I love that feeling where your legs are pedaling in almost a free spin. Whenever I look at my speedometer at that point, I’m always amazed by how fast I’m going with such little effort.

At the back of the island there were a couple of cars that were riding to far to the right, which slowed us down to about 22 mph. We had to pass them on the left, which was kind of weird. After navigating around another couple of cars, our speed had dropped to about 21 mph. All of a sudden, I saw Eric take off. Matt and a couple of others gave chase. Dave P and I were in the back of the group. I knew in a few moments, the finish would be visible in the distance.

With the finish line in sight, the group spread out. The sprint was on. Dave P and I maneuvered to the left of the road. I glanced down at my watch. 27.3 mph. I looked at the space. I looked at Dave. For a second I hesitated because I was on the edge of the road, very close to the sand. Neither Dave nor I wanted to yield. In that moment of hesitation, Dave took the space and my bike had no choice, but to go in the sand.

In slow motion, I could feel the bike wobble. And then wham! My front wheel turned left at 90 degrees. I yelled, “Oh sh…!”

Read the rest of this entry »