Monday, August 4

FCF at the Cleveland Triathlon

Half of our writing staff participated in the 2008 Cleveland Triathlon, held this past Sunday, August 3, on the North Coast of Cleveland and surrounding areas. Andy and Nick both made their triathlon debuts and didn't do too badly for themselves. Since this blog focuses on Cleveland athletics, and this event was certainly both of those two things, I thought I'd send a dispatch from the race.

I woke up at 5 am to the low-fidelity sounds of "Rock and Roll Part 2" playing from Nick's phone. I had my own alarm set for 6 am, since I had checked in the day before and Nick had not. Nevertheless, I'd been crunked for this race for a couple of weeks, and had zero chance of going back to sleep. So, I got up, had breakfast, paced around the apartment, rocked some tunes, played a game of Contra, and was ready to roll. The first wave was scheduled to blast out at 6:45; my group was slated for 7:15, so I'd planned to get my bike set up around 6:45, giving me a half hour before taking off.

6:35 am: Browsing the triathlon website, I see the following line of text: "All participants must be checked in and out of the transition zone by 6:45."

"Nick! We gotta be set up by 6:45! Let's go!"

Man, I'm an idiot. We dashed to the elevator, out the door, and I biked over to the course (Nick had to walk since he'd already dropped off his bike). I was a bit late, but so were lots of other people, so we both got in OK. I stripped down to my Speedo-boxer swimsuit thing, put on my swim cap (you have to; it identifies your wave), and made my way to the dock. I'm ready to rock this thing.

So they dump us in the waters of Lake Erie on the North Coast Harbor, right next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, like four minutes before we're set to take off. This gave me a chance to tread water a while and get attacked by what had to have been sentient kelp that kept trying to drag me under like the tentacles of the Sarlaac in Return of the Jedi. I thought for a while that maybe I had gotten caught in a fishing net. Anyway, they finally let us go and the race was on.

Nick destroyed the swim part in 8:56, good for 8th out 214 people despite starting towards the back of our wave. I posted a 41st, right in what George Costanza would call the meaty part of the curve. Not showing off, you know. There was a fair amount of contact - passing people is non-trivial in the water and you have to expect a certain degree of inadvertent kicking and slapping as part of the deal. The sun was shining bright on the way back to the harbor, hampering visibility. Fortunately, the course was marked by three large red triangular buoys, which were easy to see, so that was good. After 600 meters and 10:30 spent in the Lake swimming, some kind volunteers hauled my skinny body out onto the dock and I was on to the next segment.

Let's get one thing straight here - for any shortcomings I had in the actual athletic parts of the event, I was solid in the transition areas. I dried off only my feet to get my shoes and socks on, then located my bike, even though I had to put it in the wrong transition zone because there weren't enough for my wave and, as I've pointed out, I didn't exactly show up early. Slapped on the helmet (no shirt, naturally), got on the bike, and started rolling.

Nick and I crossed paths 4 times on the cycle - his time (53:07, 27th place) was better than mine (55:54, 46th place) so our encounters became farther away from the turnarounds and thus I started making increasingly derogatory comments about these goofy safety glasses he was wearing while riding his bike. The sprint course involves two 8-mile loops on the Cleveland Shoreway (Rt. 2). It's not clearly marked at the end of the loop where to go, and there's a woman waving everyone onto the exit despite the fact that Sprinters need to stay on the highway and cycle the course two times before taking the exit and Olympic distance participants rock it three times. So I sort of skidded through the hatched white part like one of those jerk drivers who misses his exit but got back on track. I passed some people and got fished by some serious bicycle guys, the sort of dudes who post horrible swimming times but chase everyone down on their cycles. I was in a fierce battle the whole time with this yellow-shirted dude and a guy in a gray shirt; I ended up a little behind both of them by the end of the course.

12 miles in, I thought: when I finish this, I can go have a PBR. This was very motivational, which was useful because the way back featured some tough inclines and a bit of a headwind. Finally took that exit and returned back to the transition area, where I saw Nick beginning his run up E. 9th St. As with the first transition, I picked up a cheap minute on my fellow blog author during the second transition.

Racked the bike, tossed my helmet, found my bag where someone had buried it under their stuff, put on the headband, and started the run. If you haven't tried it before, running right after cycling is rough - your legs are worn out and have zero interest in any running for about a mile or so. Still, in the first mile, I chased down both yellow shirt and gray shirt. Not so tough without your bikes, eh boys? I also passed a guy with a "27" written in marker on his calf. Each participant had their number written on their arm (272 for this blogger) and their age (28) on their calf. Both members of the 25-29 age group, I knew passing this guy bumped me up a spot in the rankings. Nick ended up cruising to the finish with a 23:30 (17th overall) in the 5K run, while I put up a disappointing 24:41 (33rd, still my best event) that I attribute largely to an upset stomach. I could hear the water sloshing around, even though I hadn't drank much liquid during the race at all (too little, if anything). Perhaps I had early-onset Lake Erie Syndrome.

So, we both finished: Nick in 24th place with an impressive 1:29:47, me in 43rd with a somewhat less-impressive 1:34:14. I'll take it, though. We went to check the charts and learned that Nick claimed 2nd out of 10 in the 20-24 age group, losing only to a guy whose name is Hans something. We have decided to name him Hans Gruber, after the Die Hard villain, regardless of his actual last name. Gruber didn't show up for the medal cermony, so we're not sure what he looks like. When I first checked the unofficial results, which had been printed out in 0.5-point font and posted on the side of this random van, my run time wasn't yet recorded and I was 4th of 14 in my group following the cycle. Once my run time went up, I ascended to 2nd, having passed the aforementioned 27-year-old participant and someone else (gray shirt?) on the run. I lost by only 1:23 to a gentleman named Clinton Rife who, like Gruber, didn't show up for the medal ceremony. In their defense, the ceremony was a solid three hours after we crossed the finish line. Living near the course has its perks.

But seriously: 1:23! Out of that, 1:10 was between T1 and T2 - this guy's a wizard in the transition zone. This means he only had me by :13 in the actual racing portions. You watch yourself, Clinton - I'm gunning for you next year. Before that, the dynamic duo will be in action at the Presque Isle triathlon in a month, right before the Browns open their season at home against the Cowboys. Expect pieces about both events.

1 comment:

Clinton Rife said...

I would love to to be there next year waiting for you but I chose not to race in that race anymore due to factors that upset me. The highway was rough to ride on, I did a half lap extra because of bad marking and my cassette came loose twice during the race on my bike. The prizes are not awarded until noon, but most people leave by then which is disappointing and there was not any food after the run. The Cleveland race gets worse every year so it will be East Fork next year in Cincinnati for me, come on down if you want a challenge.