Friday, August 27, 2010

Timberman spectator's report

You know, watching triathlons is kind of fun as long as you completely avoid thinking about the fact that you were supposed to be racing.  Way back in October, when I had visions of a great post-stress fracture season, I signed up for Timberman.  It was supposed to be my first chance to really race it since, oh, 2003 when I had last not done Ironman Lake Placid four weeks earlier.  Well, plans changed, and Lake Placid happened again.  I had in my head that maybe I could do both again.  But, well, I just didn't need to have THAT kind of race again.  So, spectating it was.

So anyway, the weekend began with me driving up from Bedford.  I stopped off at my sister's house to pick up her golden retriever, Marley - named BEFORE the movie and all of that, he's 9 years old - to bring up to the lake while their family went to the Cape for the weekend.  Aside from his white face, you would never guess that Marley is 9.  He hasn't slowed down in the least.  I consider him to actually be a really good dog... with two exceptions: 1. when any new people show up, he goes absolutely out of his mind.  He will very rarely actually jump up on anyone, but he will run around in circles, barrel into you with his 80-pound body, possibly be briefly distracted by chasing his own tail, and probably wind up sitting directly on your feet and convulsing while you pat him before he starts running around again.  Somewhere along the line he finally does calm down and then he's fine, it's just the initial "here I am!"  that gets him.  And it doesn't matter how often you see him, either.  It is always equally exciting.

And 2. he is terrible on a leash.  He's really never had to be on a leash.  He has one of those electric fences.  Or at least once upon a time he did.  I don't think it's actually been functional in years, but he still recognizes the boundary.  It probably wouldn't matter anyway because he has no interest in all in running away.  He likes to be as close to people as possible.  He will sit on your feet if at all possible.  Sitting next to you doesn't cut it.  So he never gets walked like a regular dog, he just goes and runs around in the yard for a bit a few times a day and comes back.  When I picked him up my sister demonstrated his backwards leash-thinking.  He was standing between us in the driveway and she put the leash on him and he proceeded to pull her down towards the end of the driveway with incredible force, practically choking himself in the process.  As though putting the leash on him suddenly makes him think, ok, now I'm free!

So you can only imagine what a time I had reining him in when I brought him with me to the race expo on my way north.  Nothing but new people and new dogs EVERYWHERE!

There he is with his little sister.  She's eight now, so this was obviously a while ago.  So I spent most of the expo getting a serious arm workout while I tried to contain him.  Amazingly, several small children still actually wanted to pet him.  I was still registered for the race so my plan was to at least pick up my number and shirt and stuff, but even though the registration was just a tent on the grass they told me I'd have to tie the dog to the fence.  I was fairly certain that the fence would no longer be there by the time I came out.  I had planned on going back later, but it never happened.  So I'm very glad to say that apparently 10 months ago I paid $300 for absolutely nothing.  I HATE that.  I will say though, that even the expo didn't seem as interesting anymore.  With WTC owning and operating all of these races, it's like the same exact race every time in a different venue.  The same sling back, the same sample size box of Wheaties Fuel, the same hats and t-shirts with the ridiculously oversized IRONMAN!!!!!!!!!  logo screaming at you.  So, I suppose I didn't miss much by not picking up that bag.  It's a shame, because this really used to be my absolute favorite race.  Like, if I had to pick only one race I could do forever, there was a time when that would've been it.  That is definitely not the case anymore.  Sad to think I might not ever do it.  One of those things where I wish I'd known at the time it would've been my last one.  This was the 10th annual Timberman, and there was almost no recognition of that fact aside from the occasional mention.  It's quite disappointing.

Anyway, after some long hours of dog wrangling (he finally relaxed for a while and lied under a tent while I talked to some people) I headed over to Squam for the evening.  On Saturday I decided not to go watch the sprint since I had a long day ahead of me the next day and needed to get my bike ride in early before going over that afternoon to help out with the kids race.  It was something like a quarter-mile run.  I don't really know.  All I know is that one minute, I was getting finisher medals ready and hearing the announcement that the race had started, the next I was seeing one or two kids out in front, then suddenly there was a sea of little heads coming towards us.  And don't think that I did not hear the parents yelling at us volunteers from behind the finish line because apparently we were blocking their view.  Sorry, maybe next time I won't give your kid a medal.

After that I brought Trent out of Kevin's care (one of us always has to be in charge of him) and brought him back to stay at my parents' house.  My mom wasn't there last night, so my dad took us out to dinner so Trent could have pasta and I could have, what else?  Salad.  That places makes amazing veggie lasagna.  It was almost painful.  Marley apparently thought Trent needed company more than I did when he plopped down in his doorway when it was time to go to sleep, but I managed to get him into my room so Trent could get his pre-race sleep.  We were in bed early and I suppose in a way it was kind of nice not to care about how much sleep I got or digestive issues or staying off my feet.  But wow, I miss racing.  I know I did two Ironmans this year already, but I feel like I haven't raced in a year.

Of course, the other nice thing about not racing is not caring what time I got there or getting a good parking spot.  The park was open at 4am.  If I had been racing, I would've left the house at 3:30 (It takes me about 25 minutes to drive there from Squam)  It makes no sense to me that the race closest to home is the one I'd get up the earliest for, but that's the way it goes.  Last year I didn't care as much since I was in a relay and decided not to be in charge of what time we left (everyone always yells at me for leaving so early if we're leaving collectively) Well, we wound up sitting in traffic for 45 minutes and then being one of the first cars turned away to go park at the remote lot at Gunstock.  I didn't really care since I was the bike of a relay team, but had I actually been doing the whole race, I would not have been happy.

This time we decided to just assume that we'd park at Gunstock and not leave as early, especially since Trent's wave went off over an hour after the pros started.  So we left the house at about 5:15 and had no issues parking and getting there after Trent choked down his applesauce - another reason to be glad not to be racing.  It was an overcast morning, but at least no rain to start.  Very pleasant spectating conditions.  I walked over to see some of the swim start but decided it would probably be more fun to watch people go out on the bike, so that's where I went. 

That would be Andy Potts heading out on the bike, of course in the lead.  I wonder what it's like to lead a race the entire time.  Chrissie Wellington, believe it or not, got her first taste of leading out of the water this weekend.  After the race when they were doing their post-race interviews I heard her as she walked up to Andy all excited to tell him that she had actually led on the swim.  He didn't believe her.

So then came roughly two hours of watching people start the bike.  It was incredible at one point to look at my watch and know that some of the pros were probably halfway through the bike while some of these poor people hadn't even started swimming yet.  In case you didn't know, I strongly believe that these races are starting to get too crowded to be all that fun.  But anyway...

The QT2 tent had prime viewing of the bike out/bike in/run out, so there was really no reason to go anywhere, which was nice.  Also nice was that the rain held out for a considerably long time unlike Mooseman, which left me more soaked than if I had just done a swim race.  I saw Cait and Tim head out on the bike, plenty of other QT2 racers including Chris Casey in what I believe was his debut race as a pro.  Eventually among the masses I saw my friend Kevin who was looking for a PR, but more importantly, looking to beat Trent.  Their goal times were scary close, so it was to be a nail biter.  It was just too bad that Kevin had a 45 minute head start on him, so we really had no clue how it was coming down.  An hour and twenty minutes after Andy Potts left T1 we finally saw Trent.  Not his fault his wave was so late.

Then there was an amazingly brief lull between the last bikers going out and the first bikers coming in.  I had been hoping for a brief moment to sit and relax for a bit, but that was not to be the case.  Ridiculous, I know, when I'm used to racing these things and exerting a lot more energy.  But when you're spectating you get much more of a chance to dwell on being tired and wanting to sit down.

Andy Potts on the left of course still in the lead, and
Chrissie heading out on the run.  Amazingly, she did not have the fastest bike split of the day.  I think she was dogging it, because she wound up running 1:19.  How do these people do that?  The beginning here was a lot of space between the pros and the next people, and it made me feel a little bad for all of those people who had to go off so late and wouldn't be done for hours.  Must be nice to be in that first wave and race so fast. 

That is Chris Casey followed closely by Tim Snow who was just going for a casual jog in preparation for Ironman Louisville.  Between the pros coming in for the finish and people I actually knew surely coming in soon on the bike I was torn as to what to do.  I managed to acquire one of those special sparkly VIP tent bracelets for access right near the finish line and eventually that seemed like the most optimal place to be.  Especially given that finally it had started to rain.  Sure, there was the QT2 tent also, but that didn't have such a great view of the finish.  So my friend Leslie and I headed over to the tent.  She had raced there before too and actually last year set me up on our relay team with a great swim.  I went on to have a pretty good bike to put us in contention for the co-ed team win.  Unfortunately, we left the running up to Trent.  We love to give him a hard time about it.

We made it to the VIP tent just as it started pouring, which was of course perfect timing.  Also nice was the location of the tent, right there at the finish and in optimal placement to receive high-fives from first-place finisher Andy Potts.  Set a new record, of course.  I don't think the conditions could've been more perfect for fast times unless someone could somehow figure out a way for there to be a constant tailwind.  I read somewhere that Andy's family used to vacation on Squam Lake when he was a kid, which is where my parents house is and where I spend much of the summer.  Andy, feel free to visit and relive the memories.  I'd offer to open water swim with you, but I think I already know how that would turn out.  He eyed the iron fence separating him from the VIP area and the announcer stage and decided to take the long way around for his post-race interview.  Now, my friend Leslie has been obsessed with Andy probably since she's been aware of his existence, so once he was in the tent she had no problem asking him point blank if she could hug him, which he gladly did.

And then I offered to give her photographic evidence of their encounter.  She is unclear as to why she decided just before the photo was taken to take a bite of that banana.  But I still think it's a good picture.  Andy went on to say that he didn't feel good all day (hate to think what he could've done if he did feel good) but didn't talk long before Chrissie came across the line, also setting a new record.  Remember just a few years ago when I think the fastest half ironman time in the world by a female was something like 4:11?  And that was on a really easy course?  Now it seems like that kind of thing happens all the time.  Anyway, Chrissie crossed the line looking exactly how she does every time she wins a race: so elated that you'd think it didn't happen pretty much any time she does a race.  She slapped some hands, signed some autographs and eventually eyed the same fence Andy decided to walk around and without hesitation climbed right over it.  This took place about two inches in front of me and I told her that Andy wouldn't climb the fence, he went around instead.  She seemed to enjoy that fact.

Can someone tell me though why that's a thing?  When you win, grabbing the finish tape and holding it over your head?  It seems to be some nearly universal first-place finisher protocol or something.  Anyway, Chrissie went to Andy and was eager to tell him about her lead on the swim.  We watched some more of the pros finish before we decided to go see if we could see some of our friends come through.  We saw the bobbing head of Kevin coming down the chute that wraps around and somehow thought if we cut across we might be able to catch him coming around for his second loop.  I don't know why we thought that, since she was coming off a double-run day the day before, I was in flip flops and neither one of us has ever run a 1:29 half marathon, and Kevin did that day.  So we'd have to settle for seeing him finish.  At least we ran into his wife and daughter and I was able to give them a pretty accurate prediction of how much time they had to go get pizza before he came across for the finish.  Leslie disappeared at some point and I was left on my own so I decided to wait for Trent to come around for loop 2. 

I yelled his name a lot, but he was just in the zone and ran on through for the second loop.  Seemed so unfair that he had so long to go just because his wave started so late.  And in Winnipesaukee, that matters quite a bit I think on the swim.  The water always seems to get choppier as the morning goes along.  Anyway, after that I headed back to the finish line once again because it was just about time for Kevin to come through.  Kevin has had some rough races at Timberman, but it was never really his fault.  Last year he couldn't figure out why he was so slow and had such a bad race only to go to the doctor a few days later and find out he had bronchitis.  So he was due for a good one.  Happy to say that he got it.
I especially like this picture for a few reasons.  First, nice finish.  I could tell his arm swing from a mile away and was able to tell his family that he was coming.  He proceeded to sprint the entire chute and this is past the finish line.  (I've coached some elementary school kids in cross country with Kevin and one of the biggest things he tries to tell them to do is run through the finish.  So yes, he practices what he preaches) The other reason I like it is because you can see his daughter there in the especially colorful t-shirt and his wife is to her left.  So it's not your average family photo.   So he had a new Timberman PR and no bronchitis.  More importantly for him though, he beat Trent.  It was a tight race, and I think it only came down to three minutes, but a victory is a victory.  Trent is still trying to say that his victory at Ironman Utah takes precedence over all others, but we shall see.
And there we go, Trent finally did get to finish even though his wave went off at noon or something like that.  All in all, some happy finishers.  Also of note, two of the athletes I coach had great races and both set PR's (one was his first 70.3, but it still counts!) so congratulations to them.  Chris had a great finish in his first pro race as did all of the other QT2 athletes I saw on the day.  But once things wound down and the rain settled in, we decided it was time to get out of there.  Lucky us, apparently everyone else had the same idea.  Remember how easy I said the shuttle bus thing was in the morning?  Not so easy in the afternoon.  I think they need to triple the amount of buses, because the line resembled that of the security check-in at the Southwest terminal at the airport in San Diego.  It just went on and on and on....  So an hour of standing in the rain later, we finally made it on the bus and back to the cars.  I took back roads home because I heard the traffic was horrendous, got to experience some hydroplaning when I came around a corner to dead-stopped traffic and slammed on the brakes only to find myself sliding uncontrollably as though I was in a snowstorm, spending a few seconds wondering how mad that little blue car in front of me was going to be when I inexplicably rammed into them before somehow my tires made contact with pavement again and I stopped just before I hit it.  It's incredibly rare that something happens that leaves me physically shaking, and I do not appreciate the fact that it has happened twice in the past four weeks or so (the other recent one was seeing that poor woman get hit by a car)

Anyway, at about 6:00, no traffic later, I was finally back in Bedford.  And I'm going to have to admit, I forgot to train.  I had plans in my head like I might get it in later but I should've known better.  Oh, well.  So that was Timberman for me as a spectator.  That is only the second Timberman that has ever existed that I did not participate in.  The other was the first year they had it, before I even had any inclination to participate in such crazy things.  I'm starting to feel like more of a spectator than a participant.  Yet another season coming to a fizzling conclusion.  But hey, I got some great pictures.  I took lots more and if any of you are friends with me on facebook, you can go through the whole album there.  This post is already pretty picture-heavy and I thought maybe 99 pictures might be a bit much.  But at least I finally gave it some color.

So I guess I'll admit that I did, in fact, write a Lake Placid race report.  Just not sure I feel like posting it.  There are only so many bad race reports I figure anyone wants to read.  Anyway, next weekend I've got a small local sprint race that will hopefully perk me up a little.  If anything, I am at least pretty sure that WTC does not own that one, so I won't have to deal with any frustrations based on that.  Two years ago it was a mass start.  But then again, there were only 100 of us.  It's the only race I've ever done where I can be top 10 on the swim.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Timberman weekend

It's Timberman weekend time again.  The ninth such time I have been aware of it.  (I missed year #1 when I had no idea there were triathlons besides Kona and then dove right in way over my head the following year)  This is also the first time since that first half ironman/second triathlon ever in 2002 that I will actually not be a part of it in any way.  That is sure going to be strange.  Although to be fair, every year that goes by it resembles less and less the race that I fell in love with way back when.  Thanks, WTC.  Maybe next year you should just throw 5000 people on the course.  Why not?  Think of the money! 

Last year I only participated as the bike portion of a relay.  Of course now you can't do that anymore, although even last year I was thinking to myself, this race just doesn't need relays.  I will say though that it is quite fun to go out on the bike course and be able to blow yourself to pieces without the worry of spoiling your run, because once you hit T2 you just have to pass off your chip to that poor guy you suckered into running the half marathon (thanks, Trent!)

It's going to be very strange to not be racing at all this year.  But I think it was a necessary choice.  Two years ago I was in a somewhat similar position and I 'raced' and, well, it was, I believe, the only time I ever actually cried on a race course.  I mean, we all know I've had some terrible races this year, but I have not been reduced to tears in 2010.  Maybe I should've been, though.  So, let's not push our luck.  I've already set my two worst Ironman times in one year, let's not go for the official worst half ironman since the first one I ever did. 

I will say that I was able to enjoy spectating at the California 70.3 when I got hurt and couldn't race in 2008, and hopefully this will be the same.  At least this time I won't waste a plane ride and a bike box fee, I only have to drive 20 minutes to the start. 

So, what next?  Well, a teeny, tiny sprint race Labor Day weekend that is close enough that I can ride my bike to the start and small enough that I am actually one of the first swimmers out of the water (amazing!) and they don't acknowledge winners and pretty much their only advertising is a hand-painted sign out in front of the local info office.  And supposedly I'm running the Manchester Marathon in November if I can get my running together by then.  I've never run a marathon by itself before.  It will be interesting, to say the least. 

Then what?  Another restart.  I seem to be reliving 2008, minus the part where I actually got hurt.  Just can't quite seem to bring it together.  Let's just hope this is not an endless every other year kind of cycle.  So the plan for the reset?  After Christmas, I am off to spend 3 months training somewhere warm.  At the moment, the front runner in this plan is Tucson.  I spent the winter of '07 living and training in Phoenix, except one weekend I rode my bike from there to Tucson and was like, well, I obviously made the wrong choice.  I know the weather is great and the training is great and it's not too expensive, so that's what I'm thinking.  Then I'll drive to California 70.3 in the beginning of April and drive home.  All the way to New Hampshire.  It sounds so simple to type that now, when I don't have to do it for months, but that's the plan right now. 

I am looking forward to a change of scenery and NOT spending such an incredible amount of time in front of my bike trainer.  In fact, as far as I'm concerned, the trainer is staying home.  I mean, come on, I have to fit 3 months worth of stuff into a Nissan-freakin'-Sentra.  The trainer stays home.  Hoping to join a masters group too while I'm out there and maybe get my swimming to improve, too.  If anyone has any ideas about where I should stay when I'm there, or anything really, let me know!

So obviously I'm excited about this year, just not so excited about what I need to do between now and then to actually set myself up for a good next year.  Once I get things going in the right direction it tends to be easy, it's just getting started that's always so hard when things are going so very, very wrong.