Monday, June 24, 2013

Lake to Lake Race Report

I have to say, of all the races I've done, the Lake to Lake is my favorite. Not only was it my first triathlon, ever, last year, it's also wonderful to get to see some familiar faces. And it's a place of stiff competition, people come from all over. From professionals testing their form for races later in the season (Chris McDonald came down in 2011) to really good age groupers, the race has a big race feel to it, while remaining a community event.

This was my first triathlon ever, and my friends and I decided to do it as a relay. If you scroll through my archives, I'm sure you can find my race report from last year. Long story short, we ended up winning our division (male relay), the overall relay competition, and came in second to the overall winner, Shannon Stallard of New Zealand. This year, we did it as a relay again, although I had initially wanted to do it solo, the pull of trying to go two in a row was too great. So I packed my bike, trainer, and assorted gear into the van, and headed to Loveland High School and the start line bright and early. A 3:30 wake up for a 7:00 race has become the norm. As has my ritual of putting on deo, despite knowing that I'll be sweating hell and high water in a few hours. What can I say, a dude's gotta be fresh, right?

Got to the transition a little later than I had anticipated, mainly because I didn't pack up the van the night before and spent a few extra minutes running around gathering gear. No big deal. Got body marked, awkwardly on my right thigh because I knew I'd be wearing a full skinsuit for the 30mi TT, and got the bike racked on the special rack for relays. Debated up to the last second, then decided to go with Vittoria PitStop taped to the top tube, like I had done at Kansas, and to be safe, an empty water bottle I stuffed with a spare tube, tire levers, C02, and inflator that was put in the XLab wing. I was taking no chances. One bottle of SkratchLabs on the XLab Torpedo, and a Hammer Gel flask in the Rocket Pocket, and I was ready to go.

After some initial confusion I managed to find Cory and Erik, and got them both body marked. Erik headed down to the swim start, while Cory kept me company as I warmed up on a trainer and my mom's MTB. We headed down to the swim start and watched Erik's wave go off and then hustled back up to T1.

Barely twenty minutes later, I watched Jessica Reed Baum run into T1 and hand off the chip to Ross Livingston. Let me digress: Last year their team, Loveland 365, came in second in the relay competition to us, but still won their division, relay co-ed. Before the race, their title sponsor had talked a bunch of crap to me, and it was enormously satisfying to beat them, even though he doesn't race, he just pays the entry fee and get's his company's name on the team. Jessica swam with Erik and me in Loveland Swim Club, and she beat Erik out of the water last year. Ross, their cyclist, beat me on the bike, and it was Brock that managed to catch their runner, who isn't very fast.

In any event, Jess beat Erik out of the water again. This time, it was by a larger margin too. Three minutes later, Erik ran into T1, handed the chip to me, and promptly puked. *sigh* My initial plan was to go for the course record, which stands at around 1:08:00, or 25.7mph. My plan went out the window when Erik came in behind JRB. The idea was to take it pretty hard until I reached Miler Mountain Ranch, at which point I would hammer the 3% grade, hammer the downhill, basically hammer it all the way home. With Ross in front, I knew I had to hammer from the start and then try to hang on, basically reversing my race strategy, which would mean I would probably lose time on the uphill at Miler.

So I hammered. Hard. The first half of the race was pretty solid. I put my head down and went hard. I had a nice little war with two fellas, one who had parked next to me that morning and asked for a hand with his S-Works Shiv. What a beaut that bike was, but it was an even better view when I dropped him and the other guy. The second half wasn't as good. I kept pushing, even though I was starting to stitch up. Not a good sign. I took a gel and kept pushing. Right past the aid station, with two guys trying hand me bottles. I tried to take one, but they hadn't bothered to dry them off from the tub of ice, and it slipped. Not a big deal, I intended to pour it over myself, not drink it.

I made it past Miler Mountain Ranch Road, and decided to keep pushing. I still hadn't gotten a good rhythm, which was immensely frustrating, and I was cramping badly. Maybe I could push out of it. The downhill was nice, I spun out my 53x11 then got in a tuck and passed about 5 people. It pays to scout this course. I hit the climb on the other side and felt it all catch up with me. My legs suddenly felt like lead. I've never gone up past my third sprocket on that climb. Today, I went all the way to my first gear. I still managed to pass people up the climb, but by this point, I was seriously hurting. Somehow I made it to the top and tried to find a rhythm on the downhill. No such luck. I felt like I was mashing the pedals, and going no where. I knew Ross was probably getting away, so I kept pushing hard. My side was killing me, and my legs just weren't there. I hit Taft Hill and finally found a rhythm at Coyote Ridge, when we finally got off  the chip and seal pavement. Thank God! I put my head down and went hard. I think I had the fastest last five miles I've ever done on that ride, ever. It was a relief to finally find the legs, but I knew it was probably too late.

I made it to transition, and handed off the chip to Cory, who took off hard. Erik gave me the good news, I had made up some time on Ross, he thought Cory was only about a minute behind their runner. I went and warmed down on the trainer, discovering that we had left a door open and the van was dead. Great...

We were walking along the finishing straight, when we found Abby. She's the assistant cross-country coach, and a fantastic runner. Her husband, Craig was racing. Craig and I go way back, he taught me how to swim as a three year old, I had his mom as a teacher in the first grade, his younger brother, Steve, taught me how to flip turn in level six swim lessons. She informed us that there was a professional runner from the Boulder Running Company named Scott Dahlberg, who runs about a 28:00 10k, had come down at the request of a relay to run. We saw him, blight orange shoes, and my heart sank. Cory came home strong 37 minutes and change, but Dahlberg ran 31 high to win the relay.

And then we got more bad news: Dahlberg had come down at the request of Loveland 365. I was furious. On any given day, I knew Cory could have beaten their runner from the last three years easily. Like we did last year, L365 came in second overall, and won the relay title and the co-ed relay title. We managed to win the male relay title, a consolation. I got my split: more bad news. The last big climb near Horsetooth with the headwind had killed me. I went slower than I had even gone in training, 1:19.

In the end, we paid for our mistakes on a course that keeps you honest. Two weeks removed from the biggest race of my life, I wasn't quite at peak form. And despite a great run, there was no way Cory would have been able to chase down a pro. I suspect this was the last year of racing for Loveland High Tri, Erik doesn't want to train next year, and I won't have access to a tri rig in college. This may be the last that's heard of us, and we had a good two year run.

Final note: I have to give major props to Derek Yorek, who won the overall. This guy came back from a horrible accident, was questioning his run form the whole week, and made the win look easy. And a shout out goes to the Lake to Lake organization who puts on an amazing event every year! Despite not racing this race in the future, I'll be around, supporting this amazing organization.

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