I made up for a lot of missed opportunities in one day last Saturday. I won the Summer Open sprint (triathlon) in the morning up in Longmont and then I won the second stage of Superior Morgul (bike race) in the afternoon. Yet it was still a shitty day. I came home that evening to learn from Adelaide that an eight-year-old girl had been killed by a careless driver in Longmont the day before. The little girl had been riding her bike home from school with her dad on her last day of second grade. Someone in a pickup truck ran over her and she was killed instantly.
My bike trauma PTSD, though I’ve never been diagnosed with it, erupted. Even though we had guests arriving that very minute through the front door (Adelaide’s sister Lydia and her husband Jeff), tears streaked down my face. I retreated upstairs and fell to pieces, crying my eyes out, as they say. The day’s previous accomplishments and fun immediately evaporated. They didn’t matter in the slightest. The only thought in my head was how much I fucking hated this world and nearly everyone in it.
Adelaide took Lydia and Jeff, and their new baby Charlee, for a walk so I could have some time alone and calm down before dinner. I came down to the kitchen and began chopping and cooking ingredients for the massive pizza we were having. Onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, bacon, sausage. I fought back sobs as I thought about that little girl and her parents. Eventually I succumbed to chugging a half glass-worth of white wine out of the bottle in hopes of drowning my emotions like an under appreciated house wife. I would have had more but I was immediately drunk and didn’t want to fuck the pizza up, so I had a root beer instead. The root beer and its sweet bubbles of joy cleared out the last of the tears and I got on with my life somewhat. I mean, what’s one more dead child in the streets? People in cars have places to be and no country and its morally dead citizens understand that better than America.
Anyways. The rest of this won’t be sad.
I missed out on the first three 70.3 triathlons that I’d planned for the year for various reasons.
1) Monterrey. I was sick for three weeks in January and didn’t have the fitness to race by March since I was only able to start training at the end of January.
2) Texas. I got sick before this too and ended up being sick for five weeks through April.
3) St. George. This was my first big goal of the year and Adelaide and I had been looking forward to the trip out to Utah for approximately 12 months. This was my first triathlon and the one that won to get my pro license the year before. I really liked the course and the spectacular scenery of the high desert, and I thought I had a decent chance to make some good prize money. Instead, I injured my back a few days before we were going to leave and had to take a week off training and two and a half out of the pool (I only just got back in the pool). My weak cyclist’s upper body and incredibly sloth-like posture apparently aren’t adept at swimming 26 kilometers a week. Full disclosure for my coach Michael Lovato’s sake: I should have stopped at 22 km like he had in my plan. Instead, I did an additional 4K throughout the week.
As you can tell from the number of sick and injured days I’ve had this season already, I’ve been gently easing into triathlon training, trying not to let the sport notice my presence, like a closet soccer fan on a Friday night in small town Texas. The only two races I’d managed to do before last weekend were Air Force road race a few months ago, which I raced while incredibly sick, and the Rio Grande road race, where I somehow managed to pull off third place despite only training on the TT bike 10-13 hours a week without any true intensity. By true intensity I mean nothing above 350 watts. Having decent legs at that race could have been a fluke, so I didn’t get too proud of myself afterwards. This weekend changed all of that. My depression from being so slow the past two years has now finally been replaced with my incredibly large pre-2014 ego, so I’m equally unpleasant to be around, just for a different reason.
Friday Evening. Superior Morgul TT. I was 7th and fairly happy with my result and power output. Things had seemed to be heading back to normal during training, thyroid-wise, though I hadn’t been sure without a real race to test myself.
Saturday Morning. The triathlon, which, like Superior Morgul, is also put on by Without Limits, started at 8:00. This meant that Adelaide and I had to wake up at 5:50, which meant that I was cranky, especially after a poor night’s sleep nightmaring about transition times. Adelaide, who came to help provide race support, and I drove up to Longmont’s Union Reservoir. We got all my stuff in the transition zone and I dipped into the cool water for a brief warm up, hoping that my back wouldn’t spasm and render me useless for an additional three weeks. It felt okay swimming a few hundred meters, during which I remembered how much different open water swimming is to the pool. About 30-40 of us in the first wave lined up and were off. As I flailed wildly in the froth, suddenly forgetting how to swim, I began thinking of all the reasons that I hate triathlon. The predominant reason is the lack of oxygen and lack of coasting. The only time you’re ever at somewhat ease is on the bike. The swim and run are just hypoxic torture chambers. I do like the fact that there are almost no tactics and the strongest person almost always wins.
The race was only a sprint, meaning the swim was a half mile, the bike was 12.9 miles, and the run was 3.1 miles. I exited the water in 7th (it was a small race with only four other local pros), and tried to stop hyperventilating as I ran through transition. All these triathlon race reports for the rest of the year will be the same. Gasp for air during the swim. Gasp for air during the transition. Take a two hour rest on the bike. Gasp for air during the run. Collapse at the finish with permanent bone and ligament damage.
The bike was uneventful. I passed a few guys and was in first within a few miles, hammering out a pace that I realized should be my 70.3 pace if I want to be competitive, not a sprint pace. I’ll have to work on that. One thing that I had worked on the previous day was doing running mounts and dismounts with the shoes staying attached to the pedals. I’ve been told that it saves roughly seven minutes per transition.
Next up was the run, which was on dirt. It started out slightly uphill and I went out too fast. By mile one I’d topped out at on the hill, gasping, and had a half mile false flat downhill to the turnaround, during which I developed a super sharp lung cramp. I contemplated jogging, but just slowed down to a more manageable 6-something pace for a few minutes. In that time I also decided that I no longer cared about winning, and that second place would be fine. There has to be a good amount of pain for my mind to enter this thought process.
Of course, as the second place guy came into view after the turnaround, and I saw that I only had 40 seconds on him, I panicked the pain away and started hammering again. I kept a healthy lead and won, but I had felt like shit in the swim, my bike power was way too low, and my run pace was also super low. God I suck. “Being unsatisfied with a win is a characteristic of someone who will never be happy,” I thought to myself. “Maybe two wins will remedy that.”
Damn, I look gooooood.
Saturday Afternoon. The race started and I began attacking fairly often, every few minutes or so, feeling just a bit like shit from the run earlier that day. But solid shit. Shit that’s been baked into a super hard brick by the summer sun. Shit that, if it were thrown at a person’s head, could cause a minor concussion. When you have shit legs like that you might as well ride at 500 watts because it feels the same as 200.
I got away on lap two and took the second of four money primes. Another guy bridged up to me fairly shortly after but punctured after a few miles. Now I had a conundrum. I’d hopped that three of four guys (including someone like Burleigh or George) would bridge up to me a few miles after my initial attack and we could make it stick. Maybe I’d be able to get third in the sprint and move up a bit on GC. Now it appeared that I had to do it all by my lonesome, or more likely, I’d just piss everything away in the wind and get brought back with two to go and have nothing left.
Photo: Dean Warren
By lap four I still had over a minute and took the next money prime. By lap five my gap was roughly the same and I was still feeling strong, taking the fourth and final money prime. “At least now most of my entry has been paid for,” I told myself. Lap six came around and I still felt just as strong. “Hmm, must be all those performance enhancing drugs I’ve been taking,” I realized. Kidding. But only sort of. My thyroid results were back to the level of a normal human the last time I went into the doctor a month earlier. My desiccated pig thyroid medication (yes, it’s dried up pig thyroid) seemed to have returned my health.
By lap seven I knew that I needed 40 seconds at least to hold it over the last half lap (the laps were short at 7.5 miles, but hilly and somewhat windy). I came into the final turn around with over a minute to a few chasers and almost two minutes to the pack. I knew I had it a few miles later when I looked back and couldn’t see anyone. I cruised to the finish line and crossed first in a bike race for the first time since 2013. It’s been way too long.
Photo: Dean Warren
I was one point off the lead of John Freter going into the next day (before the officials fucked with the results), so despite feeling successful with two wins that day, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied unless I won the next day and the overall too. “Always move the target. That way you’ll never have to be worried about being content.” I’m pretty sure that’s in a self help book somewhere.
Sunday. I should have pulled the plug on my bike racing career on Saturday and ended things on a high note. Instead, I attacked quite a bit, somehow missed the massive breakaway despite feeling just fine, pulled the pack around for 60 miles trying to bring back the 12 guys up the road, and then got disqualified for crossing the yellow line with a little over one lap to go. I retaliated by stripping my jersey off, throwing it to the side of the road, and, with some encouragement, starting to take my bibs off as well. All in good jest of course.
My rational for taking off the jersey was that if I didn’t have a number I could still ride right behind the field and just not participate in the chase. But that wasn’t allowed of course, so I drifted off the back and finished the lap alone, finally pulling off at the feed zone to say hi to Adelaide, who had volunteered to give neutral feeds for the day. I’d already been pissed off that I’d missed the breakaway and had spent the previous few hours yelling at guys in the pack to help pull, to little effect for the most part, though a few guys like Luis, Drew, and some others did lend a hand. So to be disqualified for crossing the yellow line on a section of the course that was closed to traffic, and an area that I remember having both lanes in years past, was an insult to injury.
I realized that I shouldn’t have been too disappointed since I’d won two races the day before and, more importantly, I’d finally proven to myself that I was healthy once again and that if I were to start bike training and racing, I’d likely be fast once again. Instead, I’m going to continue gasping for air at triathlon. I don’t plan on doing any more bike races this year. My next triathlon, and first professional race of the year, is just three weeks away, assuming I don’t get sick or injured. If anyone wants to come out an cheer, it’ll be at the Boulder Reservoir on June 11th. I’ll be the guy in the snot encrusted pink jersey sprinting all out for the first spot that doesn’t pay.