Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Old Man in the Donut Shop

I know I know. You thought that either your RSS feed for this blog was broken, or that I fell off the face of the earth. Well, both sound way better than the actual truth. The actual truth is that I have been writing, but mainly in my journal. Anyway, it’s about time I start blogging again, and I have a doozy to start this whole party off. It’s about that time when everyone is kind of getting tired of the training and the racing, and that tailgate party you keep getting invited to is looking way more exciting than another 5 hours with a bike seat. I mean, boudin, beer and BBQ, or Gatorade and Gu? I know, tough choice.

Since that desire is creeping in all of us to wrap up the season, most people are definitely not pondering what their weaknesses are and what they need to work on for a successful year next year. I am definitely in this camp, as I’m sort of like the grumpy old man that has been drinking his community coffee and reading the paper every day at the donut shop. I mean, I’ve done what I’ve done for many years now. There are certain workouts I think I need to be ready for an Ironman, or some wattage/pace/swim numbers that I need to see before I’m comfortable and confident knowing I’m about to race. And it’s not just the comfort in these numbers, but there’s a “relatively” comfortable training path to get there. They say men love routine, and I must be the annotated picture in the science literature that proves this. So I kind of shocked myself that I wanted to start asking some people that I trust what they see and what I can do/change to improve. Well, if you do decide to do this, make sure you have had an EXCELLENT few days or are half drunk. Cause hearing where you suck might be a touch of the buzz kill. But I think it’s important to do this, as everyone myself included, views their training/numbers/log with rose-colored glasses. And there is a definite explanation for certain biases, workouts, ideas that you have. Even if these ideas are completely stupid, they are your ideas so you stick to em. So I’m writing this to you, but also as a public challenge to myself. The only way you get better is by improving (Thanks, Captain Obvious). And the only way to improve is to work on what you’re not good at. And the only way to truly know what you’re not good at is to look at the numbers, or ask some training mentors/confidants and get your answer. Once you get your answer, it’s all up to you. As for me, I started the process and getting ready to make a few changes to my grumpy old man in the donut shop training. I do love my training set up, and the way I’ve done things up to this point. However, if I keep doing what I’ve been doing, I’ll keep getting what I’ve always gotten. The way I look at it is that I can only get better. And if not, I know exactly where the donut shop is.

Chicken or Fish? Uh, Cajunman....?

Now, why would I write a race report on a sprint race? Well, it’s simple. First, Rusty puts on a killer race. B, winning this race is one of only two things that I’ve wanted to accomplish since starting triathlon. I mean, it IS my hometown race (Technically, the Scott Triathlon is, but since it is now defunct we will annex Cajunman as the hometown race). And 3, whether it’s a state championship or not, Cajunman is THE race that started it all (mad respect to New Roads tri, another long-standing classic on the south Louisiana race calendar). Rusty’s race set the bar on what and how a top notch sprint triathlon is supposed to look and feel like. Anyway, I digress. The Cajunman is a crown jewel that I’ve never won but continue to swing for the fences on. I came close in 2007, finishing second to a studly and wicked fast Neil Rowlland. That close call is what keeps me coming back, and a reason I signed my name on the dotted line to race again.

This year was, uh, hot. I mean, that kind of hot where it’s summer and you’re standing next to a running 18-wheeler engine and there’s not breeze outside. Yeah, that kind of hot and it’s only 7am. The good news about the heat is that your warmup can be pretty minimal. Anyway, after seeing and chatting with a few people pre-race, it was time to get in the water. Since it is South Louisiana, and I get exactly zero opportunities to wear that badass TYR wetsuit in the swamp, I called Kiwami and had them whip up a Kaiman onesy with my favorite bike shop’s logo on it. I knew it’d be a good boost (even if it was just mental) to have a super fast tri suit on for the swim. The only problem? Well, it is red and when it gets wet, um, let’s just say people can tell if you’re Jewish or not. So I modified a pair of tri shorts to fit under this super slick, super fast suit. All I remember of the swim is that the bouy kept creeping over toward us, and then I was getting bumped around. After about the 5th time of getting hit, I knew it was time to swim wicked hard. After that, I had some clean water and just swam long and controlled. I focused on reaching the stroke, and not getting frog kicked in the face by one of the stragglers in one of the previous waves. A unique part of the Cajunman is the deep water start and exit. After exiting the water with your heart rate at MAX + 10, you have a nice long stroll to your bike. However, if you’re trying to win it’s an opportunity to sprint while hopping from carpet square to carpet square and moving that heart rate to MAX + 30. After my carpet hopping, I got to the beautiful, always ready newly slick Speed Concept. Sometimes I just get my geek glasses out and just gawk at all the details and engineering that went into this steed. But this was not the time, as I knew that of the other main contenders here, I had to push my swim advantage as far as I could. Onto the bike I was so excited to go that I MAY have almost wiped out in the first chicane out of transition. I was hoping no one saw it, but there were about 40 people that got a nice giggle out of my elementary school bike handling.

You know that route you go home every day, and you feel like you could drive it with your eyes closed? Well, that’s how I feel about this bike course. I’d hate to even give a guess on how many times I’ve ridden parts of that course. But just in case the previous 400,000 trips down these roads didn’t do it, I pre-rode the course the day before for about 2 hours. I knew every bump in the road, and at times I just buried my head and hammered. About halfway through the ride, I see what just about every triathlete sees during the bike. It’s almost like a mirage on the horizon, as you see people and they look like they are grouped together. As you get closer, you realize that they aren’t anywhere near each other. However, this time there was a group that looked like they were riding tip to tail with one poor soul pulling the train not knowing he’s towing a school bus full of kids. As I passed I reminded them triathlon was “individual effort”. And I honestly felt bad for the guy towing all these guys shamelessly drafting, as he had no idea they were camped out on his wheel. That was all of the infamous drafting that I saw, and honestly a lot more goes on in just about every race I do. I didn’t really have a wattage goal for the bike, but I knew that if two things happened I would be going well. One was going cross-eyed and the second was drooling on myself. Check and Check. Into transition is where things really got interesting. I was hauling into T2, and saw Kevin Cart’s bike already racked in transition. Now, Kevin has PHENOMENAL bike skills, but how did he outswim me too? I started to freak out a little that I had to run him down. As I hit the run, a friend of mine yelled that I was only 1:30 down. Oh great, I ONLY have to run 30 seconds a mile into him. Uh sure. Well, it must be Kevin’s excellent skin and taking care of himself that made me forget that he is 41 and went off in the wave in front of me. In my oxygen depleted state, I finally realized this at mile 1.5. After this groundbreaking discovery, I just tried to run as hard as I could because I knew that the Primeaux brothers were gonna unleash some nasty fast runs and it was gonna be all I had to hold them off. In retrospect, I thought that maybe I could’ve run harder. But my buddy Eric put me in my place when he said, “Dude, I disagree. I heard you before I saw you. You sounded like a race horse with a weezing problem. You were in the hurt locker.” Crossing the line was nice, as was my sister and Scott bringing me a bag of ice to stick on my chest. I joke when I call myself a big diesel engine, but this was one of those times when you could feel that engine overheating. I wanted to climb into either the ice bucket with the beer, or the big ice chest with all the bags of ice. Neither worked out as there was a security guard next to the ice chest and I had enough groping in the swim so the beer ice was out too.

In the end, I got 2nd place, and was beaten by a faster athlete on the day. Mark had a great race, and was really strong across all 3 disciplines. He’s got a bright future in the sport, and it’s fun to watch these young guys go so fast. As opposed to saying the young guys are the racers of the future, they’ve proven they’re here now to win. It’s good motivation for 2011 as I drag these old bones around training for next year. However, I did get a 2nd place trophy AND a hug from Tammy D, so that’s as good as the winner’s trophy for me! Thanks a million to Rusty Bex and his people for keeping this classic race going. It’s one of the original and still one of the premier races around. Also thanks to my awesome family at Capital Cyclery. Jason built up the sick Speed Concept and keeps it running flawless. And what can I say about Lisa, except that she’s the best and I am grateful to have her help to continue chasing the dream. And of course thanks to Elyse, Kellee and Scott for suffering through the heat to cheer me on. I don’t know if free Buffalo Wild Wings was a fair trade for being out in that blast furnace, but it’s a deal I’ll take every day! Till next time, it’s back to the grind. Thanks for reading.