Sunday, July 26

FCF race season begins!

A picture of Pittsburgh? On a Cleveland sports blog? What's going on here?

Dont worry, there hasn't been a paradigm shift here; Nick and I just did the Pittsburgh Triathlon this Sunday. As an aside, even though I enjoy being here in Cleveland, have no plans to leave, and love the sports teams, Pittsburgh really is a superior to Cleveland in most respects. Trust me, I've lived in both cities, and in most categories (other than teeth per person), they've got us beat right now. But we're making a comeback. And we're still not Detroit.

Both of us opted for the Sprint distance: Nick because it best suits his skills, me because my recently-repaired knee probably can't handle a 10K run too well right now. The results were positive: out of 276 finishers (165 men), Nick placed 12th (overall and among men) and I finished 65th (55th among men). Yeah, I lost to 10 girls, but I have a bum knee, and you didn't do the race at all, so you lost to 111 women. So there. I also notched 14th in the male 30-34 age group, which infuriates me, because I'm fucking 29, not 30. USA Triathlon automatically makes you whatever age you'll be on Dec. 31, which ensures that, on average, half of all race entrants will be listed as a year older than they are. They do it to keep athletes in the same bracket during a calendar year, but what it does for me is bump me up to what turns out to be a harder (and inaccurate) division prematurely. Damn, I thought that after high school, my late birthday wouldn't cost me in athletics anymore.

Anyway, though storms loomed overhead, it was overall a pretty good day for FCF Racing to make their 2009 triathlon debut. The night before was inauspicious; our free lodging plans fell through on us late, but another generous friend and his wife put us up for the night, so things worked out. Somehow, it seems the pizza, beer, and desserts we had the night before weren't ideal pre-race food.

We got up at 4:15 am on raceday, at which point Nick managed to lock himself out of the house. Always something with this kid. We actually got there, set up in the transition area, and ready to go with time to spare, which hasn't been our MO in the past. The three waves of International distance racers hit the water between PNC Park and Heinz Field starting at 6:45, and the under-39 Sprint men hopped in the Allegheny at 7:10. This group included me, Nick, and this hilarious costume Nick was wearing. The swim course was weird; the International people had to swim upstream a bit towards The Roberto Clemente Bridge then head back to the transition area with the current, 1500 m total. The Sprinters only had to do the downstream point-to-point portion, 600 m total. Were we a bit unclear at first on exactly where to go, but it made sense once we got out in the river. The Internationalers leaving first meant a bit of a traffic jam with us, but not too bad. You'd like to have the Sprint group lead off, but they did it this way to minimize the total race time. Fair enough. Nick was 14th out of the water at 9:09; I was 134th at 12:24. Who knew I was such a lousy swimmer?

We hopped on the bicycles for a 20 km ride that was mostly uphill on the way out (up I-279 North) and downhill on the way back. For me, at least, it was also pretty windy and rainy for a good portion of the return, though that passed before I got back to the North Shore. Nick was 22nd in the bike leg at 34:44; I was 35th at 36:38. Much better event for me.

Finally came the run, which I knew was going to be a problem for me because of the knee. Not only did the surgery cut into my training quite a bit, but it's still not fully healed, and running is much more difficult than cycling or swimming. It's a tough deal because running is typically my best event, but now is temporarily my worst discipline. The run went along the Allegheny river - a pretty pleasant course to travel. The only weird thing was how the signs pushed runners to stay to the left. Without elaborating too much: left is not the side runners (and bikers) generally stay on, and they didn't all that much at this race either. Seems maybe next year they could iron out that one. Nick kept up his all-around consistent work on foot, notching 18th in the run with a 21:45 5K. I turned in an embarrassing 152nd at 28:48, the slowest 5K I've ever run in competition, a jaunt that probably cost me 20 spots in the overall rankings. Oh well.

Overall, I really liked the Pittsburgh Triathlon. This was the first year they had a Sprint distance, so you have to expect a few logistical issues with integrating the two courses. Still, the race was really well located and set up; parking was easy, transition areas were numbered, course layout was logical, volunteer staffing was solid, and the post-race spread was excellent. I'll probably head back to the Golden Triangle for this event in 2010. And this time I'll be 30 for real.

Next up for our intrepid triathletes: the Cleveland Triathlon, August 2.


Nick said...

I think we can both look forward to better finishes this week in Cleveland.

Andy said...

Really? I'm expecting to do about the same.