Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Kindom Aquaman “Even Up” Triathlon

By Josef Kurtz

Before I get into the race, let me first say that I know I have a wonderful life: I am married to a smart, sexy, supportive wife, my first-born is destined to become the first ever winner of both the Nobel Prize and the Alpe d’Huez mountain top stage in the TdF, my job is engaging and challenging, I have great friends who do interesting things and add flavor and depth to my life, and I am healthy.

All that said, apparently there is a cosmic balance sheet for karma, and for all the pluses I receive in other facets of my life, I can only conclude that the account that it is drawn from is my triathlon activities. When the Even Up race was announced, I thought: This is it, my race. 3.5 mile swim, with a 30 mile bike, and a ½ marathon. If the swim doesn’t scare away the proverbial ‘skinny fast guys’, then hopefully I could put in enough time that at least they will have to be really skinny and fast to catch me on the run. This is the race that I always envisioned having against the likes of Matt, Pat, Austin, Jamie, etc, where I could gain 10 minutes on the swim and they would not have 8+ hours to make it up biking/running. (The only person that could blow this for me was Bill Reeves, but he was no where to be seen.)

But even before the race, there were warning signs that this may not be a smooth day. It was the inaugural running, although it was being held the same day as a sprint tri that has be run for several years. Also, the communication was pretty sketchy leading up to the race, as many of the communications assumed you knew the local area pretty well (e.g. Drop you run stuff off at the Beach House. Where the f*ck is the beach house? A town would have been nice.) And finally, in a communication to Laurie D, the race director specifically mentioned “those fast people from Boston should not expect too much.” Yikes.

So, race day, and it was beautiful. A perfect day for a race. WTC should find a way to schedule weather like this. It turned out only ~15 people were doing the race (including a relay), and while the race start was a bit disorganized, with such a small group, we were corralled and the director started us off. The lake was possibly the second clearest lake I have ever swam in (Lake Superior being first), and the temp was perfect (low 70’s), so no overheating in the wetsuit. At the start, I was off first, but purposefully holding back, knowing that swimming for almost 1.5 hours is not something a fast start will make easier. Within 500 years, 2 other swimmers came up on me; one went past pretty quickly (maybe Bill did show up?) and other sat on my feet, then went around. So I hopped on the second person’s feet, and decided to ride for a bit. But about 1 mile in, it was clear this person had over-estimated there swim endurance (this ain’t no sprint tri!), so I went around them, put in 20 hard strokes, and dropped him, off in search of the leader. At this time, the sun was directly in our faces, so I was unable to see the lead swimmer, but as became apparently later, this person was not the best at sighting, and I was able to catch her before the end of the first loop. As I left the water to touch the table and grab a gel (I had never eaten in the middle of a swim before, but I had no negative effects at all), I head out with the leading woman for the second loop. Again, I was surprised to find her initially behind me, but then she caught up but was 50 yards off to my right. I checked my sighting, and was going straight, so I could only conclude that even with additional distance, she was the same speed, thus actually faster. At the first buoy, when she closed in, I decided to sit on her feet for a bit, and I confirmed that while she was faster, her zigzagging kept us the same speed. It was a bit annoying, as I could not draft, but at least I had a pilot fish to motivate me. The swim finished with her reaching the beach first, and me coming out nice and relaxed right behind her. Swim times: loop one = 40:16, loop two = 41:24, combined = 1:21:40; second fastest overall swim.

The bike course was a point to point of 30 miles, and mostly rolling hills and a very beautiful ride. I was quickly through transition (1:53), which entailed crossing a small road and getting ready in a parking lot. It was actually a pretty nice setup, although scaling up for the future may get tough. Hit the road, aero helmet on, borrow disc wheel in back. I knew it would be an interesting day when I was cruising at 27mph (hello tailwind!), and this was bore out on the may 17 mile stretch into this wind. But whatever, everyone had the same wind. The biggest problem was that as I came through each town, the people who were supposed to be directing/marshalling traffic were nowhere to be seen. At the second town, I saw one person drinking coffee in their car, which was not really useful. Luckily, I thought this might happen (based on pre-race communication), so I had written the directions on my left forearm in black Sharpie, along with mileage, so I did not have to rely on direction from volunteers. Additionally, the ride was completely self-supported, which is not a problem as it was only 30 miles and we were told this ahead of time. Bike times: 30.28 miles; 1:27:19, 20.8mph; second fastest overall non-relay bike by only 7 seconds.

Coming into transition for the run, I was still in first place overall, but the last 3 miles was overlapping with the slow end of the sprint race. This lead to some confusion, but nothing major. Biggest issue was someone in the sprint had placed their bike directly on my stuff set up for the run; not next to, but directly on top. After almost throwing this bike into the lake (Kristel saw that momentary flash of rage across my face, although I thought I had hid it), I got my shoes on, and heading out for the run. I had purposefully held back on the bike, as I wanted to have a great run (bike for show, run for dough!). A half mile out, I asked the first volunteer directing traffic where to go (again, the beginning overlapped with the sprint race). He directed me to cross the road and make the first left. This did not seem correct to me, but herein lies the fatal flaw of my race prep: I did not write the directions for the run on my other arm. So when I got to the turn, I specifically slowed down and asked the next volunteer “Are you show the Aquaman racers go this way as well?”, she was very definitive in her response to go left. So left I went, and I rapidly caught and passed people from the sprint race, becoming more and more sure that I just got screwed. I even asked the photographer if this was correct, and he said absolutely. So, I kept following the directions, and lo and behold, I ran the entire sprint course, which is not part of the Aquaman course. At this point, I knew the race was screwed, so I did the spring course again (completely unsupported this time, as they had started to take down the aid stations), and then because I had my GPS watch, I tacked on an additional 3.8 miles to make it a legit 13.1 mile run. I crossed the line second, only behind the relay. As soon as I crossed, the relay guy asked where the heck I was, as he had been ‘hunting me down’ as he knew I had a 7 minute head start on his swimmer/biker. Final run time, including T2: 1:37:29.

When it was all said and done, my final time was a 4:28:27. The second place guy, who I beat on all three legs, was a 4:37:36. Granted, the ½ marathon that I did was not as hilly as the actual course, but I am pretty confident I could have held this guy off. Also, it turns out that several other people were specifically directed the wrong way, included Laurie D, so a couple of us were officially DQ’d (ironically, not Laurie, as the race director found her on the wrong road, and drove her back to the course so she could do the legit race).

All in all, the race director was extremely apologetic, and in fact I came away with more swag than if I had officially won the race (free entry to future race, 4 free lift tickets to Jay Mountain, shared BTT prize of free night in Jay Peak condo), although when he asked if I would come back next year to ‘defend my unofficial title’, I told him probably not due to IMLP. Actually, one of the moments that made me smile the most was after the race, the guy who did the bike relay only, in a very poor effort to make me feel better, stated that it was OK, as there is always another triathlon the following week. Under her breath, Kristel proceeded to mutter something along the lines of “Yeah, but not with distances like this, dumbsh*t.” (Man, I love that woman!)

But, I would do this race again in a moment. Once they get the logistics down, etc, I think it will be a great race. So I will throw it out there: 2012 – Matt, Pat, Austin, are you guys in???

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