I have no one to blame. I know better. Don’t mess with things right before a race. Here’s what happened: I had read that one way to decrease rolling resistance on the bike, and therefore go faster, is to use latex tubes instead of the standard butyl ones. They cost a little more, but compared to other my other bike upgrades, it was pretty inconsequential. I had bought the tubes weeks ago and promptly stowed them in the cabinet, where they remained until 9 PM the night before the race. After I swapped out the tube and started to put the tire back on the wheel, I realized that the valve was too short for my race wheels and I wouldn’t be able to use them. The things you don’t think about…
I removed the latex and wrestled the old tube back into the tire and and the tire on to the wheel. It had been a while since I had changed a tire, and my clumsy and somewhat forceful efforts damaged the original tube around the stem and caused a leak.For a panicked moment I thought that I wouldn’t be able to race, but I still had my stock wheels lying around so I created a bike mullet (business in front, speed in the back!). Crisis averted, but I was now worse off that I would have been if I had just left well enough alone. As an aside, I am now the proud owner of two shiny, new valve extenders.
To beat (ha ha) the heat, the race starts early. The youth waves started at 5:45 in the morning, with the adults starting at six. To get people through the course as quickly as possible, a serpentine swim is used and each individual racer is assigned a unique start time. I would be going at 7:21, which gave me some time to kill (all bikes had to be racked before the kids started).
I have a streak of besting my previous time each time I have done this series, and I hoped to keep it going. The last time I did a Tri Tucson race, the volunteer had signaled for me to get out of the pool before I had completed all 825 yards, so I am using my estimated time of 1:13:23 rather than the official time of 1:11:42. Firecracker tends to lead to slower times because the pool was set up long-course (50 meters), you have to somewhat awkwardly duck under lane lines after each out-and-back, and it’s really bloody hot, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. On the other hand, I did have my one race wheel and an aero helmet this time.
13:26 | 750 meters | 01m 38s / 100 yards
Age Group: 1/20
After doing some easy laps, I lined up according to number and got ready for my start. The pool is cooled during the summer and felt really refreshing. The race director double-checked my name and number, and I was off. At a recent aquathlon, my training buddy Ross had noticed that my stroke was choppy, so I tried to focus on extending long and keeping my body as flat as possible. After a few laps, I passed a swimmer, and I felt like I had a good rhythm going. Down on one side, flip, back on the other, duck under the lane line, continue. About two-thirds of the way through, I reached a bottle neck. I had caught up with two other swimmers, and I couldn’t really pass them because of how they were positioned. When I tried to make a move, I kicked pretty hard and got some water down the wrong pipe. Coughing, I had to stop at the wall and catch my breath. Thankfully, there was only one 50-meter length to go.
Transition went fairly smoothly, although it took a couple of tries to get my aero helmet snapped on.
Bike (includes transitions)
37:26 | 11.5 miles | 19.9 MPH (estimated speed after taking transitions out)
Age Group: 1/20
I got off to a good start and felt really solid in the aero position. The song “I’m Flying” from the musical Peter Pan popped into my head as I zoomed down the road (I had played Wendy’s daughter Jane in a 7th grade production. It was a small part, but I got to fly!). Not exactly a push yourself song, but it captured the fun of biking fast. Because of the serpentine swim, the course is a little more crowded than it is during the spring and fall races, but the passing and being passed went smoothly. I saw one woman who had a full backpack on and wondered what she might be carrying.
The course is three loops around the University, so there are a lot of turns. I kept hearing Ross’s voice telling me to downshift before making the turn, so I don’t waste so much energy getting back up to speed. There were a few times where having to steer around people and kept my hands away from the shifters, but I did it for most of the turns. I was happy that I was even able to stay in the aero bars part of the time while on crazy-cracked Euclid. It’s been a slow process, but I am becoming a decent bike handler. I had put a Nuun tablet and a bunch of ice cubes in my aero bottle, but the fluid was warm now and not super-refreshing. Still, hydration is hydration. The good news was that there was cloud cover, so I was spared the brunt of the sun. I hoped that it would stay that way for the run.
Transition Happens. Riveting, I know.
20:50 | 3 miles | 6:56 min/mile
Age Group: 1/20
Last year I had made the decision to carry a small hand-held bottle at this race, and it served me well. I could use my bottle to for hydration and pour all of the cold course water directly onto my head. I was feeling good about keeping the streak going, as long as the heat didn’t suck too much life out of me. There were some kids with water guns on the course, but I was next to another runner when I passed them, and he got the benefit of the soakage.
I saw my friend Pat taking pictures when I made a sharp turn at the east end of the mall, and tried to smile for the camera. The beep of the Garmin alerted said I knocked off my first mile in 6:45, which was much better than I was expecting. I didn’t feel like I was going too fast either, and felt that I could probably hold the pace. I was also passing people at a regular clip, which always makes things more fun. My friend Shannon, who was in the middle of Ironman training and not racing himself, was out cheering, which I appreciated. The second loop was more of the same, and I was almost worried that I didn’t feel worse. I mean, I was running hard, but maybe I was holding back? Mental DJ, cue Linkin Park. I bleed it out, digging deeper…
The sun started to peek out from behind the clouds as I finished my second lap and headed toward the finish line. Ross was heading out for his run, and we high-fived. I crancked up the effort, but in reality, I wasn’t going that much faster. My heart rate shot up though, and it certainly felt worse.
I bleed it out
I’ve opened up these scars
I’ll make you face this
I’ve pulled myself so far
I’ll make you face… this… now!!!!
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any chase-fodder to provide extra motivation. Still, when it was all over, I had completed my run almost a minute faster than I had in March, and came within one second of beating my official (short) time from that race. It was much better than I had expected to do, and I was thrilled. I also ended my Firecracker podium drought and by winning my age group.