Wednesday, June 29, 2011


i blame john yakabuski.

no, actually, i blame myself. next time, i will know better, and the best result of my life will be even better. thank you to joe, sean, and harold for not showing up.

this past weekend was the annual Barry's Bay Triathlon/Duathlon. it would be my third time completing the event, and probably the best pre-event fitness i'd ever had going into it. being a sinker and a half, i forgo the swim and run twice. my runs have been short but at an average easily-sustained 4:30/km pace, and my bike fitness reached an all-time high through WattsUp this spring, though i hadn't been there since the end of May. all things considered, this was to be a great race weekend.

then there was a ballet recital, scheduled for the day before.

i arranged a ride without the lady friend and children, to head up with my gear and some friends on friday. no recital. plenty of sleep. low stress.

then the friends bailed.

back on tap for the ballet recital, i bought tickets, scheduled things in, and resolved to drive 3.5h to Barry's Bay the night before the race. non-sleeping children. fitful sleep the night before. parenting the morning of. great race prep.

the morning of the race, i got up and ate the usual breakfast, wore sweatpants, made sure i had all my gear, packed the car, and headed, alone, to the race start. i got a fine spot on the rack, half-assedly set up my transition area, and set off for a warm-up run of the first 2.2k course. it was a great warm-up. i felt like rocky, overdressed and definitely sweating, headphones with good tunes in, and it was all i could do to not practice my jabs and hooks as i trotted along, dripping wet. my mom even honked as she drove by on her way to work. this was going to be a great race.

let it be noted that the circumstances of getting to this race, with all family and travel obligations/obstacles firmly in place, relegated the race to one without performance pressure. there was no way i could be expected to do well under such conditions, so i opted to just go out and thrash myself as hard as i could.

let it also be noted that my model of pacing is essentially that of a leaky bucket - i go as fast as possible to the finish, hoping that i make it before all the water runs out.

upon returning from my run, i got the pump out of the car and opted to not put my bike on the trainer. time was passing quickly, and there were only a few more minutes until the start. i walked over to my bike, started to ready the pump, and then




LOOK! it's the girls and my dad! i should go say hi!

i hit the start line with a tool kit firmly strapped under the saddle and kanye in my head. my unilateral goal was to stay with the leader as long as possible. little did i know, it would be the whole way...

2.2k is not so far. it's not far enough to really get a pace on. it's not far enough to sound far. it's not far enough to have long strides or rhythmic breathing or a good conversation about nietzsche. it's just plenty far to drag out the agony of a slow build to excruciating lactic muscle burn. it is not far, but it is beautiful and painful.

we did it in 7.5 minutes.

after the first run, i fumbled through my transition, getting my first shoe on by the time the other leader had left, sprinting down the path to the start of the bike course, aero helmet on, carbon bike in tow. i was second, and i was screwed.

not wanting to lose too much of my advantage from the run, i got everything on, ran in my cleats down the path, up the embankment, and did my best cyclocross re-mount to the astonishment of the gasping onlookers. hefting my 165 lb. carcass onto the flexy titanium frame proved too much for the tool kit, which promptly fell apart and unravelled into the brake caliper and rear tire. i skidded to a halt, fell prostate-first onto the top tube, and clumsily jerked at the buckles to free the awful thing from my path of progress. no avail. as it turns out, i finally got the wretched object unwound, tossed it aside, and thanked the wife of the (eventual, and perpetual) champion for picking up the pieces as i scooted off.

the rest of the ride was blown.

it was a windy day, and i felt like all my power had gone into the run. i didn't feel like i had caught my breath until after the turnaround, and each hill seemed to be harder than last year. i definitely skipped the hill work i should have done long ago this spring. thankfully, the girls and my dad were all over the course, cheering and documenting and making me smile (i ride faster when i smile). top speed came to 72km/h. average speed was sadly 2km/h slower than last year, at the best of times.

on the way back through town, i railed the turns, thanked the corner marshals, and bombed in through the finishing straight. the second run was about to begin, but i had some extreme cramping in my calves that wouldn't go away.

much to my surprise, the cramps only needed a good run and they loosened up and it was time to get down to business. the girly-pink Garmin watch on my wrist told me i was going too slowly, so i ramped up my pace and hunkered down for the final 8k of pain. it was glorious. the road was beautiful. the runners on the course were unsympathetic. the volunteers at the water stations were wonderful and encouraging (i walked every station except the last one and had some nice chit chat as i went through). and i still managed to produce the finishing kick i've been practicing - upped from the usual 400m to 1k.

as luck would have it, i passed a bunch of people on the second run, and ended up just missing the podium. Barry's Bay doesn't have a podium for anyone other than the top finisher, but it would have been nice to be up there. i packed it in, headed home, and began a slow spiral of self-dissatisfaction based on my slow ride, and my slower second run. it was nice to almost podium, but almost is kind of worse than 'nowhere near', and if anything, my ride should have been faster this year than last. my lactic threshold had gone up 20 watts in three months. i could ride in the drops. it was windy, but it was also tail-windy... and worst of all, in answering queries from my lady-friend, i wondered if i had even gone hard enough. the runs were, without a doubt, all-out. the ride, i wasn't sure. and there's nothing worse than going to bed wondering if i had put in an authentic effort.

in preparing to ride to a meeting the next day, i took out the pump and straightened out the bent valve and stuck the pump head on and flicked the lock and stared at the gauge: 60 PSI. well there you go. for being a fucking idiot who doesn't check his own tire pressure before the one race of the year in front of a hometown crowd, you get 60 PSI. all that thursday morning training before the sun comes up, pushing soft, heavy tires up and down beautiful ontario hills. all those watts, straight into underinflated rubber.

even now, days after it all, i have to sigh in an effort to let it go. i hate being wrong. i hate being dumb. i hate having regrets.

i tell you one thing, though: i will never forget to pump up my tires again, and i will hang with the leader until i blow up completely. it's only 2.2 k.