Thursday morning before a Sunday race I registered for my very first aqua bike. A swim bike race. Life has been rough lately and swimming and cycling (sort of) is really all I feel comfortable with. Even so, it was a bit odd toeing a starting line without being in good condition or even having a "feel" for how hard is hard.
RAM Racing out of Chicago has a few events. These events don't use USAT marshals and are a bit chaotic. No pre-race talk. No instructions. Just do a swim, bike and run... unless you are in the aqua bike and then we don't know where your finish is. More about that in a minute.
I showed up to about 1,000 people in transition. My rack was fairly empty and everyone was cool about sharing space and helping the new folks.
The swim was certainly long. Additionally, a lack of boats and marshals in the water allowed for several folks to cut some buoys. Most notably the final turn buoy. I noticed that I was one of two or three folks who actually went around the final buoy from my wave. Everyone else just went for the mucky exit. At least the high school swimmer (relay) who beat me went around the buoy. When I tried to stand up I went nearly knee deep in muck. Freaky. The weeds were pretty high in a lot of places. Not the best swim I've ever done but not the scariest. That easily goes to Lake Louisa (FL) where the water is opaque red from the cyprus trees and there are signs warning of alligators everywhere. Matter of fact, the starting line was a "WARNING: ALLIGATORS" sign. I'm pretty sure I had the third fastest overall swim that day - pros included.
After a 400m run or so, I was back at my rack and my private wrestling match with my wetsuit which seemed GLUED to my legs. It seemed like for-ever to get that damn thing off. With it off, the rest of transition went fine.
The bike was going to be rough. I just got Retuled last Sunday. I rode for 1 hr Saturday and didn't feel great, but I was going racing anyway. Sunday I felt a bit better. Once on the bike I started to roll past some slower folks. I wasn't in a rhythm yet and had a few folks from the earlier waves torch me before I could get the water to stop dripping from my face. By the top of the hill, I was at 19.3 mph and moving well. Top speeds of 37.1 mph was not very good. The most exciting thing is that it came at the end of my second loop and I felt I was getting stronger as the race wore on. According to my Polar CS600 (the first time I've ever raced with a computer/power meter) the largest hill was 9% and avg was 5%. Top speed of 37.1 mph and avg of 22.1 (race had me at 22.3 I believe). Wattage was kinda low for a 38k ride, but I had a few nice peaks. I did hear someone who recognized me yell out "Go get 'em Bob!" when I started my second loop. It came at a good time. I was feeling the pain. After all, this was my second ride (counting Saturday) since the first few days of July. Since my dad has been diagnosed with Cancer, I have been doing more with dad - workouts be damned from time to time. Swimming three or four days a week (this will increase shortly... namely tomorrow - going to 5 days a week. I need to pull some weight off and the pool is the best way for me to get CV fit and burn some calories.)
Here's where it gets interesting. Before the race I asked a race leader where the finish for aqua bike was. She said "T2 entrance". Cool. Simple. Easy. Upon entering T2, I was told to "run to the finish". Joke or not... I was off. So was the guy behind me in aqua bike. We ran all the way to the finish... barefoot about 600 meters or more.
Other than a few odd happenings - there wasn't a ton of drafting. A lot, but I was passing a lot of people so I didn't see any bad drafting except for a few guys who latched on to my wheel on an uphill. Unfortunately for them, my 56 tooth big ring (and gravity) helped me pull away from them on the down hill. On my second loop of the bike I was pushing hard in front of the crowd. 27.1 on the flat.
I got what I wanted. A hard open water swim effort - even if everyone I was "racing" didn't swim around all the buoys... I did. I had a good hard ride which went alright considering lack of training. No USAT marshals was very notable. I really don't like racing where there are no marshals ITU, WTC or USAT. So, my expectations were that guys would cut the course. Whatever... losers.
There's hope. Dad has an 80% chance of kicking cancer (again) and I am back on my way. Final verdict: 2nd in my AG and 10th overall.