June 14, 2010

Keuka Lake Race report

So I’ll have to admit this before I start to divulge the contents of my race report. I truly didn’t realize the impact of this race until it was about 24 hours until the gun went off and it came to pass that this would be my first triathlon back since THE CRASH in IMLP last year. I’ve raced since then but I guess just not putting all three disciplines together at once in a typical triathlon format.

It became apparent around that timeframe that this would be my reintroduction to the triathlon racing world and that was apparently a big deal. I’m not going to lie, I was really a little bit nervous! The only thing I was holding on to was the fact that the majority of the time, when I get to the starting line, my brain kind of shuts off and as soon as the gun sounds, I kind of black out and “do what I do” by just racing as hard as I can from the start. I’m kind of like Pavlov’s Dog if you think about it, except substitute the “bell” for someone shouting “GO!”

So the night before I was naming off all the people who were registered that I thought would be competition (and ultimately in front of me) and I had a pretty lengthy list on my hands, I truly didn’t feel too good and the legs were pretty fatigued still from the fast miles at the Buffalo Half the weekend before. I realistically thought it was MAYBE possible for a top 5 or top 3 finish and I even almost forgot a podium t-shirt as I was packing my bag to leave for the race site. But I was still excited and eager to get back into it and jump in again with both feet.

Race morning came and it was raining in Rochester as I drove in the early morning hours down to the Finger Lakes. (There were no deer attacks on the rental car this time around) After arriving at the race site and parking, it took a little bit to find the registration area, but I quickly got my numbers and swim cap and hauled my bike to the transition area. It was starting to sprinkle at this time and I was still a little nervous about having good old “L.P.” make her debut on the wet roads. I was in need of some new tires for her, so my baby got a new pair of “shoes” the day before from the LBS and they would hopefully keep me upright thru the bike. Swim - Mine was the first wave to go off and I was still feeling a little nervous as I really didn’t know what to expect. Gun goes off and we all charge into the deep. Right away I notice that my heart rate is pretty high. I’m always cognizant of that and can tell when I’m really pushing it. The last few years I’ve done this race; I’ve led my wave out of the water and done okay. I think my PR at this course was a 22:3X and I’ve gone 24’s there several times so I have a good approximation of where I should be. Today about halfway thru the swim, I was sighting the next buoy and noticed I was in about 5th or 6th place. Weird. I’ve been swimming pretty well at masters lately and was secretly hoping to improve my swim time. I popped out of the water in 5th place and looked at the watch and it said 21:54 for a total time and that was a 30 second PR from 2008 (last time I raced Keuka) so I knew I was getting faster and having a good race, just there were some definite studs on course today. I had a little trouble ripping the wetsuit off as I ran out of Body Glide for my arms, but I still got it off and was mounting the Lunar Phoenix and ready to rocket out of T1. The bike was prepped and this was to be her debut. I was ready to roll and hopped on after struggling a bit with the wetsuit legs in T1, but was out and pedaling away down the road.

Bike - The first half of this bike course is very bumpy and I tend to take the minimalist approach to riding and nutrition when it comes to anything Olympic distance or shorter. I taped a single gel to my top tube and had a water bottle full of Gatorade on the bike. Nothing fancy, just get thru it. I passed 1-2 guys in the opening miles and they looked like pure swimmers. I didn’t even try to settle in on the bike, I just started pushing the pace. I was cruising 24-25mph on the flats and when things settled out, there were only two guys in front of me.

We pushed and pushed and pushed and I was keeping these guys in my sights on the uphill sections and trying not to let them ride away from me on the downhill portions. There are two distinct turn around points on the bike course and thru the first one at the bottom of the Skyline Drive (I think?) I was about 20 seconds back according to Mr. Turbo Curbo The last 7 miles are all downhill and you can crank on these sections if you really let yourself go and let gravity do it’s thing. The only thing was that I am still a little freaked out by downhill sections and ripping down them on the bike. I don’t even go down into aero on any section that drops in elevation anymore. It sucks, and I’m sure it will go away, but it’s the cards that I’m dealt with right now.So after the large turn around at the top of the course and after pushing up all the hills, I watched both riders that were in front of me just slowly pull away. I tried to get going, and was cranking pretty good, but I was covering my breaks and internally freaking out a little. I rolled into T2 having “kept the rubber side down” and that was a huge accomplishment. Just getting to the run section of this triathlon was a victory enough for me. I could have dropped dead in transition and would have died happy and the only reason being that I survived the bike. The other added bonus was that I biked faster than I ever have at that race. I think I averaged over 22.5mph and biked with TOTAL and utter disregard for the run (the only way to do well on that course) Run – I had a mission on this run course, and that was to blaze a time that I would be proud of. I exited T2 in 2nd place (somehow picked up a position – hooray for fast transitions!) and started my hunt on the run. I had no idea how my legs would fare, but was ready to test them out. As I left transition and headed out, I got a lot of cheers, became a little emotional after surviving the bike and overheard the race announcer Mary Eggers yell out that I was leaving transition and 1:20 down from the leader, this was going to be quite the foot race!

I knew I needed to hold back on the run and not blow all my speed in the opening miles. As my calculations, I had 80 seconds to make up in about 6 miles. That was whipping off at least 15 seconds a mile faster than the guy in front of me. Not many people in and around the Rochester region can blow thru miles on the run in sub 6’s and I didn’t even know if I could at this moment. All I was thinking was, "I have to run this guy down". Coming thru the first mile in 5:57 was a big confidence boost and I knew I should be able to hang on to that pace for the duration of the run if all worked out. It was getting hot out and I know this run course like the back of my hand. It’s a straight 5k out and 5k back.

After about 2 miles in, I saw I was gaining on the guy in front of me by a lot, at 2.5 miles in, he was looking over his shoulder back at me to gauge where I was. By the time he hit 3 miles, he was looking over his shoulder about every 5-10 seconds and I knew I had him. We both popped around the turn around and I caught up to him just about a few hundred meters from that cone. This was it; I knew I had to make a split second decision on the race right now. I caught him, matched strides, breathed deep twice and put in a solid surge to see what he had. It wasn’t a long surge, but good enough to drop my opponent and cause me to run scared to the finish.

Coming in on this run course with the lead mountain bike in the first spot is something that’s really fun to do. You catch all the friends that are still going out and everyone gives you encouragement and props all the way in. Even people I didn’t know were yelling things like “nice work” and “there’s no one in sight behind you!” and you honestly feel like a rock star. And to make things even better, you run into the sprint folks as you are coming back, so I got a boost when I ran past the sprint turn around and saw Mr. Curt Eggers charging around his cone and coming in with me. I tried to pull him up to Brian Emelson, but he was too strong that day. Brian and I ran together for a bit and picked off some folks. However I know I was fading at around mile 5 or so, but I told myself that I didn’t know what was happening behind me and I wouldn’t look back (it shows weakness) even if my life depended on it.

There always comes a point in each race where you think to yourself, "I can just settle right now, cruise in and finish respectably OR I can push myself beyond what I think I'm capable of and see how epic this one can be. This day was a day that was beyond my wildest expectations. Now comes the embarrassing part (embarrassing only because someone caught it on film)…I kind of lost it emotionally coming into the finish line. I was just overcome with all sorts of feelings (joy, relief, anger at the downhill in Jay, exasperation, and fatigue) and I burst out into a sobbing mess of tears and gasps (I was still holding sub 6 minute pace you know). I normally don’t display too much negative emotion in races, but this was an extenuating circumstance. I’m not gonna say too much else about it, these pics pretty much sum it up: Needless to say I was pretty stoked to hit the line. I was absolutely flying high and I was elated. I still didn’t know until about 30 minutes later after a cool down that I had truly won. (With the wave format to racing, someone in the 2nd wave that started 5 minutes behind you, could perceivably finish 4:59 after you and win…) But the awards were special and I can’t believe that the first triathlon back I did turned out in a win. My run split wasn’t the sub 36 that I wanted, but I still held onto an average of 5:53’s, which is awesome for me as it’s the exact same pace from the Buffalo Half. So I’ll take it. The 2nd place guy was holding 5:43's and was coming fast (finishing less than a minute behind me, but I think he ran out of real estate) I don't know what he was doing in T2 (eating a sandwich?) but he spent 2:08 there and I think that cost him the race...But I digress, to all of you who thought I was on the couch eating Bon-Bon’s in 2009, not racing and not training, better watch out, I’m back! :o) And with a vengeance too. I put all my triathlon eggs in the basket of IMLP 2009 and that basket broke, so I’m not doing that this season. 2010 is full of tri-fun.…next one up is Musselman and that’s my 4th time on that course so that should be a hell of a showdown. But until then, I’ve got a few bike TT’s and cycle races in the following weeks to keep the legs loose.

Thank you to all who said any kind words of encouragement and kept me going when times got rough in recovery and over the last year. I think I needed this race much more than you all know. So get out on the roads, sprint for town line signs, run until you puke, and I’ll be right alongside you. Cheers.


Anonymous said...

Let me say that it was equally as emotional to announce your win my friend!

Matt Curbeau said...

Your the MAN Travis! The run is where its at and you nailed it, no worries about sub 36, on race day you just have to finish without anyone else in front of you...unless they are in a sprint tri and your in an olympic, haha..

And btw it was 17 seconds you were down, as my legs were hurting pretty bad by that point I turned to thinking about other things and I know for a fact it was 17 seconds! :)

Tim said...

Only one comment, where's the top of your hat? Curt and Brian both seem to have theirs. I bet TriSpot would hook you up with something a little less Annika Sorenstam(I knew it! I knew it!). Anyways, awesome race man and an emotional come back for you. Good thing this isn't baseball.
Res Firma Mitescere Nescit.

Anonymous said...

Nice race.