Monday, June 2, 2008

Memphis In May

It's a been a little busy for me lately. Lots of actual work to do at my work (no kidding), plus lots of bike repairs for people as summer rolls around and people discover that most bike shops have a 6 week wait list.

A little late but first on my list...

Memphis in May has always a good time. They have a great post race BBQ, good weather, plus I have inexplicably been to Graceland four times (not even an Elvis fan). This year our car-pool for the 10 hours down were Eric and Liz Ott, Lauren Jenson, wifey, and me. The trip down was the typical road-trip nonsense including the typical game of "Uncle" for bathroom breaks and the occasional death threat if we stop at Lambert's "Home of the Throwed Roll" Cafe. (It's in Sikeston, Missouri, where I-55 and I-57 meet. It's been featured on the Travel Network's Top 10 list of places to pig out.)

We stayed in a hotel outside of Millington because of a booking error prevented us from staying by the race site, but at least the hotel was nice. The past few times I had been there, the hotel choices were the point where you slept with your clothes on because you were afraid of the bed sheets. This time we stayed near Germantown, which is basically a rubber-stamped, commercialised suburb with every chain restaurant/retail outlet you would ever want including lack of character. It was like I never left home.

We made our way down to Orgill Park for our packet pickup and pre-race warm-up rituals which would be biking, running, swimming for today. Every year, Memphis is a little like the first day at school. Everyone you know is pretty much down there and you often would have not seen any of them since the end of last summer, so it's always a game of running and chit-chatting to catch up. This year was more difficult than the past because with the creation of Liz's blog, everyone wanted to flag her down and talk. It was getting almost ridiculous, as a 2 mile jog took near 30 minutes because of all the stops, which was not doing much good as a pre-race warm-up. I'm just glad I wasn't Liz at that point, as I didn't have to be "ON" all the time like she did, and I could do my favorite act of blending in with the woodwork. Once everything was taken care of, we wrapped things up back at the hotel and got ready for Sunday.

Being well prepared for a race means that on race day, nothing unusual or remarkable has to happen to make it to the start line. We had a smooth start and I got to see Liz take off in her first Pro race. She was 32nd of 35 of the TT start, so I knew she would have alot of work catching up to the race in front of her. I lingered around long enough to see her do T1 in pretty much DFL, but she looked determined to out-bike people.

Memphis has a rare TT start, where you take off every 3 seconds instead of a wave. It's pretty much a stress-free experience at the start because you just line up, and next thing you know, you're 100yds into the water and not getting any elbows to the face. I aged up this year into the 35-39 group (even though I'm really still 34), and my seed time was set further back than it had been when I was in the 30-34 category. The swim was cold, but fast, and I mainly tried to hold form over powering through the water. Jumped out of the water a bit slower than last year, but when I came out, I was really fresh and my arms weren't all swollen from the effort.

Got on the bike and hit the course. The problem I realize now about starting later is that instead of having 50 people to work through, I now had about 600. I was scared quite a bit a few times, passing someone weaving around at 15mph while I was doing a solid 30. I felt a little bit bad at times because I would have to cut close as I passed so quickly, but it's not like I can yell ahead going 30mph loud enough for them to hear me. I'm a strong proponent of creating a middle category for people in my situation, where they aren't pro, but don't really belong in the middle pack AG anymore either. I think it would make things better and safer for everyone. The speed differential is eventually going to cause an accident. The bike was windier this year, but split-wise, I ended up with a faster time than 2007, which was nice. I felt I had struggled more last year, while this year I kept the pace more even.

As I was coming off of the bike, I could see yellow pollen blowing off the pine trees on the last stretch. I knew I was going to pay for that with my bad allergies for tree pollen. Got off onto the run, taking the first 1/2 mile under control to get the breathing down. My "controlled" pace is still probably 10seconds/mile too fast, but my brain doesn't know any better. I had a some fear of some burly GO Army guy who came in behind me on the bike, as if he had stayed with me on the start of the run, he would have given my concentration a nil. Thankfully he stayed behind me.

I knew the course, keeping each landmark I knew as a goal to get so I could keep my mind off the uncomfortableness of running hard. I saw Liz coming the other direction and she stopped to cheer. Said something about her leg cramping. I didn't need to know her explanation, I just understood. I had been to this place a couple times before, where the race just isn't going your way and you just simply call it a day. Liz had never understood why I have at least a dozen DNF's to my name, but today she did. I knew Liz had alot on her mind about her race preparedness, especially coming from St. Croix, and when everyone is watching, it's hard to keep going when your game face is not on.

At the turn around, I did some quick counting of race numbers and saw one guy who was significantly ahead of our start time difference and I would have to put X:XX amount of more time into him on the last 5K. What's funny about doing X:XX split math is I'm almost never right. When I'm going hard, I cant do 1+1, yet alone try to do all the math wizardry involved in calculating a TT start. All I knew was that I better hurry the hell up if I didn't want him to beat me.

The last mile was tough. The pollen in the air seeped in enough into my lungs where I couldn't breathe anymore. It felt I was down to 1 lung of capacity, as I was seemingly going into hyperventilation with the amount of breaths per minute. I just kept the legs turning over faster and faster, but on that final levy, I was pretty much winded and was lucky not to have anyone contest me at the finish. In the results, the next guy ahead of me came in front by just 7 seconds, using his running game to make up time on me. If it had been a mass start instead of wave, I knew he still would have still gotten me in the final kick, as I had nothing left down the chute.

I ended up losing the AG win by the guy X:XX ahead of me, which actually turned out to be something like 1:45, but I broke 2 hours here again. This was a big goal of mine from last year, and I knew I could do it again. I felt really good afterwards, except I developed a sore stitch in my side from all the breathing. I feel I could have rolled it again, except for that. My next big race is Eagleman, which MIM was a warm-up for. I will be really happy if I can feel like MIM there.
(Eric by the "Godfather" of fireworks. An $800 boxed set of mayhem guaranteed to get the attention of all the cops in a 3mi radius once lit. We would have bought this if there hadn't been 5 bikes already in the van, or 2 girls named Elizabeth that we have to answer to.)


brenda O said...

Congrats on the time!
As for the fireworks, I am glad B.O.B wasn't with you, he would have found a way to buy them and tie them to a roof and a bike to get them home. He does that with things like fireworks.... I hope he doesn't see this blog and get any ideas.....
On a slightly related side-note, NICE arms, I was just at a happy hour with Mere, and I was explaining to her and the group how ripped you are. This photo shows that off nicely!!

Jen said...

Congrats on a great race!

Christian Waterstraat said...

I swear the damn camera add 20lbs to me. Either that or I have picked up a serious body dismorphic disorder doing all this triathlon stuff. I swear my arms are pipe cleaners compared to what they used to be.

KodaFit said...

I'm with you on the different category for non-pro but fast athletes. I'm not the guy weaving along at 15mph, but I'm not too much better than he is. There is something demoralizing about cruising along at a solid 20, and having someone come flying by like you're standing still. Maybe by the time I get up to where I can average over 25, they'll have a group like that - like in 10 or 15 years...

Great race report, you've inspired me to aim higher!