A wash, a spin cycle and a heated dry

In the middle of my Robie Creek training, I found myself frequently distracted by thoughts of the Spring Sprint Triathlon I’d done two years ago. The race, after all, still exists, though I hadn’t done it last year. And it was a ton of fun—an easy 400-yard swim followed by a brutal triathlon bike course, followed by a rolling cross-country/road 5k. What more could an athlete ask for?

Immediately after selling my Robie registration, I started eyeing the race and mulling over whether to go to it. About two weeks beforehand, I got an email with a discount coupon for the registration and a warning about the registration cost increase. So I took the plunge!

Then, three days before the race, I got this email update informing me that they’d scrapped the freaking awesome bike course and replaced it with something far more tame and toothless. Also, the run course had been expanded to be a full-size 5k where it had been a 2.5-miler before, and that didn’t sound particularly appealing in light of my calf issues.

Miffed, I emailed the race director and asked for a refund. Seconds after sending the email, I developed a nasty case of email remorse and started hoping she refused my refund request. And, sure enough, she did.

That night, I came home and yapped with my wife about what to do differently. I said something like, “Well, I’m not going to slap the aero bars on at the last minute,” since we all know the golden rule of racing is not to change anything just before your race. My wife replied, “Oh really? I thought you’d do that for sure.”

I got to thinking about it, and my next thought was, “What the heck? Why not? I still remember how to race a time trial.” I’d spent most of 2007 and 2008 racing time trials, after all. So I slapped on the aero bars and took the bike out for a spin to get my seat in the right spot. Here’s what I ended up with:

Not bad for a last-minute adjustment, right?

We made the drive down to Utah, and, adding to the extemporaneous nature of the whole experience, my wife decided to come spectate the race while our in-laws watched the kids.

After dropping my stuff off at transition, my wife and I headed to the pool where the start would take place. I peed probably five times. I know, TMI. Tons of folks got lined up as soon as the first few jumped in the water despite the race director’s insistence that people wait their turn. I heeded her directions and budded into a spot probably 15 minutes after the start.

I met a couple of girls doing their first triathlons. As we got closer to the start, I gestured at the spot in the pool where everyone was to start from and then said, “I wonder how many people have peed right there.” I don’t think the newbies appreciated that little observation.

I’d told the girl behind me that she would probably pass me in the swim and should probably start ahead of me. In a show of unwarranted modesty, she insisted that wouldn’t happen. But once we were in the swim, it happened pretty quickly. I got caught up in a couple of traffic jams in the pool and wound up with a lousy slow swim split, even for me.

Plenty of traffic in the pool

When I got to the transition area, it looked like a ghost town. I’d started with the slower swimmers (where I belonged), so most of the bikes were gone already. I managed a decent transition time, but I had a little trouble getting my triathlon top on—it’s not the easiest thing to do when you’re wet.

Just as I was getting out onto the bike course, a guy went past me with a sweet Specialized triathlon bike, decked out in aero everything: one-piece tri-suit, aero helmet—the works. I thought to myself, “I can match that,” so I did. He was holding about 22.5 mph. We soon reached an intersection where, evidently, another competitor in the race had been in an accident with a car. We probably dropped down below 10 mph going through there, but I quickly got up to speed on the other side. Oddly, the Specialized guy started easing off on his pace, and I blew past him shortly thereafter.

The course, it turned out, wasn’t entirely flat. It had a long, gradual climb on the far end and a short power climb just before the transition area. We did two laps, which was fine by me. I probably passed 100 cyclists along the way, and I’m not exaggerating.

Like my little ITU position? Watch out, Brownlees!

It wasn’t until later that I’d discover I had the 12th fastest bike split on the day and the fastest bike split in my age group. In the end, however, I’m just glad I didn’t get hit by a car. As I was coming into transition after my second loop, I saw an ambulance picking up another competitor who’d been in another bike-on-car accident. My wife told me she saw this guy’s wife sobbing and worrying about her husband. I felt pretty bad for them. That’s a lousy way to end a little Saturday morning workout.

The transition area still looked like a ghost town as I went out onto the run. I guess everyone else was still out on the bike course. As I started up the run course’s first two grass hills, I felt like I was crawling. But as slow as I was running, the folks around me seemed to be standing still. No one ran with me on the run. I spent the vast majority of that time alone, and I managed to pass five or ten more folks along the way. This time, when I got to the finish line in the Olympic Oval, I was all by myself.

My finishing kick—not so pretty!

Secretly, I was hoping to make the podium for my age group, and the truth is that I might’ve had the fitness to do it. I wound up missing third place by only 21 seconds, second place by about 40 seconds and first place by about a minute and a half. I’m pretty sure I could’ve taken 30 seconds out of my swim split, never mind the extra 10 seconds I spent wrestling with my tri top in transition.

Regardless, I had a fun race, and I’m glad I didn’t get a refund. It was definitely a confidence booster going into the season. And I enjoyed things enough that I think I’ll probably go back next year—no matter what they do with that bike course.

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