Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Bike

Running to the changing tent after exiting the swim, my left shoulder was throbbing. I braced my left arm against my body to reduce the impact. In transition, a volunteer was taking my race belt with number attached out of the bag and ripped my number off. I had to wait there while he re-pinned it. I was now curious to see how this injury was going to effect my cycling as I headed off to find my race bike. I had one leg down, two more to go!

To say the bike leg was frustrating would be my understatement of the year. I had trained very well for this race and my cycling was feeling very strong. But as I mounted my bike, I could feel sharp, shooting pain in my shoulder and it intensified as I went into the aero position. I immediately took two more Excedrin, but it still hurt like a mother to rest my left arm in the aerobars, so for the next 60 miles, I would do 3 minutes in the aero position, 3 minutes upright. To add to this frustration, the pack riding on the way to Hawi was disgusting. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse discussing this and I know that those who’ve read my race reports are probably tired of my bitching about drafting, but this was the worst I have seen it by far. Usually it’s just a train of people, but they weren’t even breaking up the blocking. There were packs of 20 that were three cyclists wide, like a peloton! I saw some marshals on the course but I think they were overwhelmed or intimidated, because I didn’t see many penalties issued. I really just don’t get it. I pedaled much easier than anticipated at times, dropping back from the huge packs. I don’t believe in the statement “everyone was doing it, so what was I supposed to do?” All’s that I know is that there were many athletes there who had much faster bike splits than they were actually capable of. Lisa waited for me to come out of the water and then hopped in the rental car and took the high road through the mountain to make it to Kawaihai which is about the 35 mile mark. I saw her there and gave her a smile and a thumbs up. On the climb up to Hawi, the wind started to blow a little bit, but nothing too bad. I was still in a lot of pain, and very pissed off to boot. Riding upright, with your hands on the pursuit bars creates a lot of drag, and on this course, it’s like riding with a sail hoisted. As I neared the turnaround, the pro’s were coming back the other way. Norman Stadler had a huge lead. Next came Chris Lieto, who had a one minute gap on a train of maybe 15 pro’s. If these guys were riding 7 meters apart, than I need to have my contacts prescription re-examined. I would say they were maybe two meters apart at the most. Stadler and Lieto both have a low cadence pedaling style. It looked like they were pushing huge gears at maybe 70 rpm’s and they were heading downhill.

At the turnaround (60 miles out, 52 back), I took two more Excedrin and went into the aerobars. I was going to suck it up on the return trip and deal with the uncomfortableness. I began motoring! Not one cyclist went by in the last 52 miles. We had a headwind back on the queen K, but it wasn’t bad considering what could be here, and it switched to a tail wind around the airport. I averaged 24 mph on the return trip. The weather conditions on the bike were good. Mostly cloudy on the queen K, the sun came out on the climb to Hawi, and then back on the queen K it went away and we actually got sprinkled on for 10 or so minutes. The heat and humidity was building though. I could see a lot of salt build up on other competitors. I could also see a lot of fatigued competitors in the final 30 miles – athletes that were riding very strong much earlier in the day. I believe that most athletes overestimate what pace they can truly hold. These athletes usually look frazzled in the last 30 miles of the bike ride. Almost bewildered like they don’t understand why they are feeling lousy at this point. This makes for a long marathon. There is a lot of bravado in a fast bike leg, but I always thought the goal of racing a tri is to get to the finish line in as fast a time as possible, not do a so-so time but with a crushing bike split.

I used my power meter to guage my effort and I loved racing with it. The benefits of racing with power are enormous, the main one being that It kept me focused on my plan instead of me getting caught up in what everyone else was doing. Interesting note; I stuck with my plan the whole time which was to maintain 265 watts give or take 10 on the flats and slight uphills, and 300 watts on the climbs give or take 10. On the way out where I couldn’t ride aero much, I was much slower, averaging 21 mph. I ended up with quite a significant negative split. Just shows how one’s position on the bike can make such a difference.

Riding into the second transition, I felt solid, yet down a bit. I knew I was capable of going much better during this ride and was limited by my own stupidity. You see, in the past, I was always capable of getting away with three weeks of swimming prior to the race, and still post a decent time in the swim. This year, I started up my three week swim training plan once again. I had written about the swim mp3 goggles in a previous blog and how they caused a great distraction from pool boredom, allowing me to swim much more yardage in my first two weeks than I had planned. Hindsight now, I feel this extra yardage probably irritated my rotator cuff. Not enough to cause the problem I was experiencing with it in the race and during the past week, but enough to make it vulnerable. Then, on my flight out here, I did the damage. Maybe lifting my bike box, or even leaning on it the wrong way on the flight. It was like a rope that had been worn in a spot to where it was just a few strands, and then one thing, big or small, is enough to make it snap. I was thinking about how stupid this was and how this swim build was something I’d never advise for a client of mine. The pain I was experiencing, that was limiting my ability on this day, the day I trained so well for in two of the disciplines, was my own damn fault! Live and learn. I won’t make this mistake again.

It was now a little after 1pm and I still had a nice run to do in the heat and humidity.

More to follow!

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