Sunday, December 9, 2012

THE worlds race report!

the WTC race report...

Can't believe this day is finally here. Everything for the last year and a half has been about this next couple of hours.

Woke up this morning at .. 4:00am with Ame chan getting cranky. Threw in some earplugs and dozed for another hour until the appointed 5am wake up time. A few spoonfuls of cold plain rice from the fridge and half a piece of white bread. Breakfast done! Figured the big ol pasta dinner from last night would serve as the fuel needed to get me around the course.

Dad turned up and we rolled out on time at 5:30am. Bike checked in and body marked yesterday, no extra air needed in the tires (since I wanted to run them a little soft for the probable wet roads) so not much to do at transition. It was pitch dark out so I hoped there was nothing I was missing. 

The organizer asked us to bring only a tiny bag for check in, so I didn't have space to bring extra shoes. Upon setting up in transition I realized I was the only fool who followed the organizers advice on the tiny bag. Everyone else had their regular huge bags with all the supplies. 

The small bag I brought meant I didn't have space for another pair of shoes, which meant after leaving transition and going over to the holding area, I would have to warm up without running, and there would be no swim warm up either. Essentially no warm up at all. Oh well. :-(

Me + 100 other guys in mens 40-44 heat walking down to the start:

Standing around in the holding area was a bit dull until the other heats started launching. The complexities of getting around the venue meant Dad and Sato weren't able to find where I was hanging out and we all waited in different areas without being able to find one another. With only about 3 min between heats things happened fast once the heats started at 7am. About 5 heats in, the 120 women in the heat before us started, then us 85 or so men of 40-44 yrs stampeded down onto the blue starting docks.

When I got down to the dock every spot was already taken so I had to run back and forth looking for a crack of space. I wrestled between a couple big dudes and before my butt could even touch down they called everyone into the water. I stalled on the dock for a sec getting my goggles on properly (I was afraid they'd start us if I was in the water, even if my goggles weren't on).

I was the last one to drop down into the water. I had about 2 seconds to consider 'I can't believe this moment is finally here' and then the horn went and the crazy swim sprint started. I hate the swim crazy sprint!
I went hard but saw heaps of people moving ahead. What the..? Everybody is fast. Lots of bodies = lots of bumping in the first couple hundred meters. Bit of a hard scramble at the first mark, swallowed about an average amount of seawater, gross.  Sighting was fairly good, 15 foot high marks makes it easy.  Rounding second mark I got a good look at the hundreds of people in front of me (it was also the heat of women from just before us) and felt a bit dispirited.  Swam on passing people for a several more minutes until  suddenly there was the ramp and I could stand up. And begins the crazy LONG 600m run to transition. On rugged concrete and over old rail lines, and only being able to go as fast as the person in front due to the narrow fenced-in pathways. What a pain. Having some slower women in front didn't help there.

headed out on the bike, yay!  It's dry!

Found my bike quickly, the guy beside me had set up a huge blue towel, against the rules, but since it helped me, I forgave that. Reasonably quick outta my wetsuit and was off on the bike feeling relieved the race was now entering into my forte of expertise. 

The weather gods smiled and for the first time in a week - we had fairly dry roads and mixed cloud and blue sky - fantastic! Still it required nearly constant evasive manoeuvres around the much slower and less aggressive traffic. 

"Passing inside!" "Passing outside!" ... Constant yells required to keep the traffic from cutting me off as I was passing at almost twice the speed sometimes.  Seemed like most of the 3000 or so competitors were on the bike course at once.  My carbon brake surface whines and squeals when I brake hard, so the siren sounded each time a slower rider started to cut me off.

Finally - a good shot on the bike!

I noticed that a majority of (slower) riders were drafting pretty shamelessly. As an ex bike racer I'm acutely aware of each riders draft and staying completely clear; but lately I'm starting to feel like a sucker for following a rule that most ignore. There were many marshals on course, but with a few thousand cyclists flying past they can't begin to determine if the no drafting rule is being adhered to.

A few fast cyclists and myself hovered around each other as we passed what seemed like hundreds. One big Aussie flew past me at quite a rate, but it was close to the end of the bike by then, so I was re-assured I would probably be flying past him again a few minutes into the run.

Nice flying dismount and again the LONG, maybe 500m run into transition. Same narrow corridors of rough concrete to run on, and again I was held to the pace of the person in front of me. :-(  Grrr...

Racked the bike pretty quick, helmet off, Bang - off on the run! I had been looking forward to the run as my new strength, my last training runs were with some crazy fast 32min/10km guys, so I knew my speed was improving.

Just starting out of transition my right calf started to feel weird, why was it hurting? The route was roaring with people and loud cheering but all I could focus on was the increasing pain in my calf, which by 1km in started to reach almost unbearable levels. What the ?!... I never have injuries, how the?!... how could this happen to me 1km into the worlds race which I've planned for the last year and a half??!!

By about 2km I had switched to heel striking on the right side (to minimize calf muscle tension) and the pain was crazy, I thought it was getting close to where I would have to stop. I decided that until the muscle actually tore I would try to keep going since I really didn't want to come this far and have a DNF. By about 3km the pain had leveled off and I was passing people again and moving reasonably well. Another racer of the same age group passed me going quite quickly and I glumly thought "with this bum leg I have no chance to chase him down". And then, as some crazy cosmic joke, he got about 100m in front of me before suddenly grabbing HIS right calf and then starting to limp. Slowing quite a bit I caught back up to him by 4km and gave him some encouragement and a thumbs up - and passed him quickly while trying to hide the fact that I was also limping.

The final few hundred meters were a bit of a blur. In the final sprint a bunch of women and a guy from an earlier heat came down the finishing chute with me. I was passing them just running at my normal speed, but then when they saw me come up, they all accelerated to 'sprint' me to the line (despite having started about several minutes before me and being of different categories of age and sex). 

Annoyingly, the announcer only called the kiwis who were finishing, so there was no mention when I crossed of how I had placed. Into the post race tent and some nice handshakes and a very painful massage... - I was done! What a huge relief to be done after the endless build up. Training, travelling, training, organizing, training... etc etc.. It was a crazy big endeavor to make it all come together.

a couple aussie chicks were 'sprinting' against me, despite starting several minutes earlier than me...

I limped out the back of the tent wondering if I was totally crippled and got a nice hug from Sato, Ame and Dad. We very slowly made our way home for a little R&R.

6th, in my age group. My first thought was - meh. Pretty bummed. The goal was podium, nothing less. Now a little later, looking at my times, I guess I did OK, I didn't make any major mistakes and was clipping along PDQ the whole way.  The calf strain (if that's what it is? I still can't walk on it) definitely slowed my run and I still did almost 18 minutes flat, so that is pretty good! 

I heard lots of people who were shooting for top ten, so if scale back to that spec then I can be a little more content with things. Will try to knock another minutes off for next year and see if that gets me to the podium!
(click on 'catagory' 40-44 so it's easier to find)

new dutch friend at awards night, jacket trade!

post race walkabout with Sato and Ame, I could barely stay awake...

Day 4 at worlds - roaring again today

Roaring 40s? Maybe? Day 4!

I'm wondering if NZ is located in, what's known in nautical circles, as the roaring 40s.

It's the part of the southern ocean where the wind and storms seem endless.  It's where sailors thank their lucky stars when the wind drops to ~only~ 50 mph.

We were greeted again this morning by alternating clear blue, and then black rainy skies, with a perpetual hurricane force wind.  I needed to get in a last ride before before the big race, so when it was blue above at around 9am, I took off hoping I could get in a quick 1 hour hammer, and get back before the next squall hit... HA!

Well, in the hour and 15 minutes I was riding, it cycled between blue sky and torrential downpour 4 times..!   Really?!  And the bleedin' gusty winds kept threatening to send me into traffic or a lamp standard at 40 kph.  I reaffirmed that it's a scary course, after trying to convince myself otherwise: wet crowned roads with off camber corners and lots of metal lids and such on the road surface.  Yeesh...  The other kicker is that I realised that combining the P4's crappy brakes with a wet carbon brake surface and my stopping power is suspect at best.  So I'm worried about other racers getting nervous and braking hard and me not being able to decelerate fast enough.  Hmmm....  One other fun thing: the rain intermittently got so hard the hammering noise it made on my TT helmet got deafening.

I finally rolled up to home sweet hotel just as the sun re-appeared, but with every part of my kit and shoes thoroughly soaked and squishing.  A hot shower kind of put things right, but knowing the afternoon plan was a recon of the swim course left me with a slight feeling of dread.  The whole of Auckland bay is solid whitecaps.

We chilled around the hotel for a couple hours - then when the course opened up at 1pm ish, we walked down to the blue carpet starting docks at queens wharf where we start the race from.  The weather was a little better, it only rained lightly and alternated with sun.  The wind howled as per the norm.  Swimming in whitecaps and very cold water isn't quite as freaky when you do it with thousands of other people, so it didn't seem as crazy as I'd first thought.  I stepped on a small shard of glass when donning my wetsuit, so I figured if the blood attracted any sharks there was a good chance they'd bite someone else, unsure of who exactly it was coming from.

Swimming out to first bouy, I noticed there was quite a strong offshore current.  I briefly stopped to look around, but with all the other challenging conditions you couldn't really tell, which was for the best.  After a couple loops and around 2 km of swimming I happily climbed up the ramp and jogged up to Dad who'd been keeping my bag.  Somehow he'd gotten some axle grease or something on it while I was swimming, (oh, dad...) but at least there was some dry clothes and towels ready to go.

Another long hot shower when we got home, and then lazying about the hotel for most of the rest of the afternoon suited me nicely.  In the evening Dad babysat while Sato and I nipped out to explore the harbour and we enjoyed some cups of tea while out on the town: par-tay!!  Living like a monk for a few more days before I can start testing the local craft beers...

rolling out the carpets...

DAY 3 at the tri worlds!

day 3 at the worlds...

A nothing day today, except it managed to be quite busy.

Woke to pouring rain and hammering winds... intentions of a morning workout were irrevocably revoked after seeing the weather.  We shuffled around the apartment a bit, and then, annoyed that the previous occupant had been a smoker, we went to the front desk and requested a room change.  Great new room, but it took till about noon to get that all settled and our crap moved.

Race registration for Canadians finished at 1pm so I hustled off to the 'Cloud' (a giant convention centre type building on a huge platform in the middle of the harbour) to get my race package, numbers and timing chip.  One catch: our hotel, while looking quite close to the venue on the map, turns out to be on top of a crazy steep hill with about 45 degree slopes, so coming and going from here to the waterfront is always an unintended workout.

The crazy steep hill!

Reg was easy, chatted with the friendly but hard to understand Kiwis who were volunteering.  They asked jokingly if there was any Canadians left in Canada, as so many had turned up here for the race.  The Cloud has a sports expo and some fun events on, I like the endless pool that people can race in - its like a big hot tub with a raging river in it, and you can swim full blast.  They dial up the speed until you can't keep up and get washed against the back wall, and then everyone watching cheers.  I think the speed goes up to about 1:10 per 100m speed, which if you know swimming, is pretty fast.

Came back to the room to meet Sato and Ame was burning up with a fever - up to 39.2.  So we got the front desk to call a hotel doctor to come have a look.  Like the bad dad that I am, I had to take off again promptly, since the Athlete meet and greet was starting and I was supposed to show up for the President's award.

There was about 3 or 400 hundred of us in our slightly nerdish team Canada track suits milling about at the Marvel Grill, the restaurant the gathering was held at.  The several tourists and locals quickly abandoned the area as maple leaf track suits swarmed the restaurant.   The awards didn't quite go as well as I'd hoped, the speaker had kind of a quiet voice and all the loud triathletes drowned out his announcements.  I listened carefully and went up to get the award (for being age group national champ) but I doubt if more than 10 of the 400 people heard anything.  I guess that it won't count toward my 15 minutes of fame.

We finished up with the athlete parade into town, with all the other nations.  Chinese Taipei (?) was behind Canada, but there was only a flag bearer with no athletes.  He looked kind of sad following the tremendous herd of Canadians.  I guess he drew that short straw.  Also noted the cook islands were really popular with their  hawaiin shirts, straw hats - and bikini girl flag bearer!  That always helps to boost interest in your country.  Also tons of yanks, ozzies, brits, french, mexicans, brazils, etc...  even a few Japanese.  Big parade.  Walked past tons of confused looking kiwis in town and various supporting family members on our march toward the Cloud and pasta party.

a horde of canucks

Dad and I skipped the pasta party and went back to hotel to meet with Sato who'd been locked up inside all day with a sick Ame-chan.  Hope she's better tomorrow.  I've gotta get out for a couple workouts and would like to hit up something touristy, 'one tree hill' sounds like a cool place to go.

city of sails ... Day 2...!

Another day down!

Don't feel obligated to respond to these mailers, they are kind of just for my keeping a log of what's going on anyway.

First open water swim today with team canada.  We rode about 6km out of Aukland to a beach at 8 this morning.  Nicely organized, they had bouys set up off-shore and bike racks monitored by volunteers.  Everyone had to sign in the book before heading out since they wanted to know if somebody was missing.  First impression: holy crap its cold!!  Hard to get your face wet, it's quite a shock.

Swam out about 500m before turning right and swimming parallel to the beach.  It was difficult to see the shore and thus felt kinda weird to be swimming by oneself.  Finally found a small group to finish the swim with.  Waves maybe 1.5 feet and blowing about 15 knots. 

I realize why sailing is popular here, its always windy.  Great for sailing but a little scary if you are swimming or riding a bike.  Swam maybe 1k or so and headed back for shore, swallowed a huge gulp when the odd wave got me - and almost retched everytime - holy crap its salty!  Water is a weird light green color - kind of like some glacier lakes you see in the Rockies.

Had intentions of another loop when I got back, but only made it 20m offshore before deciding that was a dumb idea and returning to the beach.  Nice ride home chatting with Dave Taylor, a hospital friend (vascular surgeon) from VGH.  Gotta watch the sewer grates, they are about 10cm below street level and really jagged, would flip you end over end if you hit one while your head was down.

Afternoon was the team canada bike practice, just a casual loop of the course so we could see it once before the race.  Big group, maybe 70 riders from team canada came, we noodled along the course checking the corners and hills.  Impression: holy crap it's scary.

Hill descents with sharp corners at the bottom, crazy deep sewer grates, manholes and assorted traffic islands all over the place...  Add a thousand or so fast age groupers racing each other seems a recipe for disaster. Our heats are about 3 min apart and there are about 100 people per heat, so there will be a lot of bodies on the course at once.  Add to that freakish, random direction, strong winds.  Its very sketchy and my goal has changed from 'making time on bike' to 'please, please don't crash' on the bike.  So far race stratedgy is survive swim, survive bike, then race the run.  Hmmm...

There was a team run in the afternoon, but I was sick of 'team' stuff by then and figured a run course is a run course, no advantage if I've seen it or not, so I bailed.

Dave T also invited me and my possee to the leading edge team dinner, but Ame-pooh often makes dinner out challenging and I don't know many of those guys, so we bailed and made spagetti in the room.

team VGH

Also watched the aquathlon chapionships today - basically a 750m swim and a 5k run (I think).  Varga - a pro triathlete who is one of the worlds best open water swimmers handily won the race.  He won't do as well on Sunday when faced by the complete field of pro triathletes.  It was quite a nice buzz watching the race, tons of people, loud cheering, huge grandstand and music etc... should be really something for our race if the weather cooperates... (fingers crossed).

Rolled into Aukland...

Sato Ame Dad and me all good so far.  Good flight for the most part, just got in this morning.

here is the link to the main site for the worlds stuff:

I believe they'll have all sorts of updates, and even live video feed of the many races going on.  Mine isn't till Monday the 22nd, and we are a day ahead here.

Will find out more as we get settled in.

First day in Auk...

Dang its cold!  Cold winds, cold water, cold air...  Hmmm.  This is gonna be a test.

Got in at 6am after 14hrs aloft.  Dad sat elsewhere on the plane, lucky him.  Ame was pretty good but had a meltdown when she was sleepy and the steward said she had to be sitting a certain way on my lap.  Try that with a freaking out 8 month old, it's like clutching a greased pig.

Had a walkabout today - fun city - but pricey - 20 bucks for a burger?  Yikes.  Lots of Americas cup 12 meter boats around here, its the city of sails!

Built my bike and went for a spin, very close to crashing when getting hammered by the crazy winds here.  I missed crashing into a parked truck by millimeters while going about 50 kph.  Crickey!  Cycling is dangerous...

Our hotel - the Quadrant - is nice, but we got a smokey room that faces the building about 10 feet away from our window.  Hmmm...  They sprayed some febreez on the carpet but it still stinks of smoke.  We are both feeling slightly ill from that.

Its 9pm here and we haven't had dinner yet.  Busy evening with shopping and stuff.  Groceries are a little weird - figuring out the kiwi names for familiar products...