Thursday, August 27

FCF at the races: Lorain

The third installment of the FCF racing team's 2009 season took place this past Sunday at Lakeview Park in Lorain, for the 7th running of the Lorain Triathlon. As usual, Nick took home some hardware while I took home some vaguely injured body parts. Good times!

The weather all morning was ominous, with clouds big and dark enough that it you saw them in a movie you'd balk at their obvious symbolism and heavy-handedness. It seemed unlikely that we'd get through the race without some precipitation, (even though it's sparkling Downtown as I write this) and we indeed did not. The cloud omen proved true in another way, as upon opening Nick's trunk we discovered that his bike tire had developed an incurable (for us) flat, marking the third time in six triathlons his bike has experienced a pre-race deflation. We've nicknamed his cycle "The Red Devil" in honor both of former Tribe manager Charlie Manuel (given that moniker during his playing days in Japan) and reflecting its evil influence.

Fortunately, this quick-thinking blogger realized that, since the International race (in which I was participating) started 18 minutes after the first Sprint wave (which included Nick), and since I am not a particularly fast swimmer, that Nick could do his swim and bike and return my fully armed and operational battle-cycle to the transition area before I emerged from the water. Hence the photo above of my bike with a league-leading two race numbers affixed to it. Plan set. Ready, break.

It was sprinkling at 8 am as we prepared to delve into Lake Erie for the swim portion of the race. Well, as Nick prepared to, anyway. Like I said, he did the Sprint course while I elected to tackle my first International distance race. In kilometers using the swim/bike/run race order, the course breaks down as such:

Sprint: 0.6/23/5
International: 1.5/35/10

Needless to say, I am far more of a badass than Nick. Our resident Browns expert once again cruised to an impressive finish in the kiddies race, earning 7th-place overall (out of 128) despite some unfamiliarity with handling my awesome bike. Nick scored 2nd in his division, as his 1:09:10 finish (7:20/39:36/20:21) was just 10 seconds slower than Jason "The Zangmeister" Zangmeister. Nick maintains that he would have taken home the age group trophy on his bike. However, Nick's 21.6 MPH is a career best; I maintain that his bike is totally lame.

My race was a bit more interesting, I think. There were only 25 competitiors in the International group, and the full distance tends to draw tougher fields. I'm accustomed to easily finishing top third in races, but here I got only 18th out of 25. Yikes. Among those who toppled me were The Zangmeister's father, John "The Zangmeister" Zangmeister. I also lost to Indians media relations director Bart Swain. I remember him passing me about 1/3 into the 10K, though I didn't know who he was at the time. Still, it's not like I ran a bad race, it's just easier to notch a higher percentile in the Sprint class. Zangmeister.

Anyway, my small band and I hopped in the lake (which was warmer than the air) later than anticipated thanks to an unusually pokey female Sprinter, but eventually got rolling. I'm not going to sugarcoat this: I had a tough time with the swim. First of all, I've never done 1500 m in open water. After today I can proudly say that I've done about 2500 m in open water, considering how far I ended up off course. The waves made it hard to stay straight, and the microscopic nature of the buoys made it hard to chart a course. My goggles were foggy from the get-go, and several times I simply had to tread water, pop off the lenses, and try to find where the hell the little orange and yellow balloons had run off to. This, apparently, is not recommended swimming technique. One guy told me post-race that a lifeguard had blown a whistle at me for ending up too close to the breakers. I totally believe this, and will add it to my bulging file about how much I despise lifeguards.

At 30:50, I was one of the last out of the Black Lagoon, but that, coupled with our late start, meant that my bike was ready for me upon reaching the transition zone, free of flat tires. Score! I took down the bike course in 1:05:12, which is pretty good for me. That works out to a 20 MPH pace; I only posted a 19.1 MPH in the Sprint a year ago. A train crossing delayed a few guys in my group; I wasn't stopped, but they got 15 seconds knocked off of their times, which seems fair. My cycling highlight was one enthusiastic volunteer telling me: "You're almost there! Time to put the hammer down!" I appreciate the support, but:

a) This is my first lap and I still have about 16 miles left
b) It's "throw" the hammer down

Hopped off the bike feeling pretty solid as I faced down a 10K, which I cleared in 51:59. This pleases me; the 8:23 pace crushed either of the 5K paces I put up in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. I'm back, baby. It drizzled most of the time, but I missed the heavy stuff. The highlight, by far, was a comical move I made about 2.5 miles in. Heading in from my first of two 5K laps, I spotted an 8-foot portable basketball hoop by the side of the road and decided to throw down a monster two-handed jam on it. It was awesome. For my trouble, I got two of the most bewildered looks one could imagine from fellow racers, and a pulled left hamstring. The leg was OK - I finished fine and it's not bothering me now, but at the time it was simultaneously spectacular and annoying.

So, I ended up with a 2:30:24, which I will absolutely take since it felt like I was in the water for about four hours. Like I said, I only scored 18th, including 3rd of 3 in my age group, but I felt good about my effort, and even better about the excellent maple donut I got post-race.

The FCF Triathlon Series wraps up next week in the Erie area, at the scenic Presque Isle triathlon. Ideally, we can avoid the ridiculous cold and mud pits that tarnished last year's race, and hopefully Nick can acquire a functional tire.

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