Monday, July 7, 2014

Tri for Ole Glory 2014 (Triathlons are tough, even tougher without a saddle.)

Race report for Tri for Ole Glory 2014

Let me start this by saying that last year’s Tri for Ole Glory was a blast despite the torrential downpour.  Although not without hiccups, the race was lots of fun and was not one that I could justify being a spectator for this year.

This report can’t be written without the obligatory pre-race prep.  My expectation for this race was to “have fun.”  I have not ridden my mountain bike since last year’s Tri for Ole Glory, not that I don’t enjoy mountain biking.  I just can’t find the time to fit it in the schedule.  After borrowing a friend’s 29’er for last year’s race, I was not motivated to ride my 26-inch mountain bike for “fun.”  I did, again, borrow the 29’er for this year’s race.  I made it to the course late Thursday evening to do one loop, check out the two jumps and preview some of the other “gotchas” on the course from last year.  I also discovered the river rocks that were used to fill in the erosion areas on the powerline, which added a little bonus pain to the top of the hill climb.  The last lesson from my preview was that tinted glasses on this course would not be a good idea.  Although it was late in the evening, I could tell the dense canopy kept the wooded area very shaded and clear lenses would be important to prevent unplanned delays (aka crashes).

Friday was planned to be a light day of road biking to maintain my training for road triathlons.  This plan was soon subverted when I was invited to do 104 miles with a few friends, none of whom were racing Tri for Ole Glory.  I gladly accepted and proceeded to do my first century ride on Friday.  This first also included a “second,” that is my “second” dog-instigated bike crash in the last month.  Fortunately, the result was less troublesome than the first.  Minus a scratched brake lever and cracked helmet, I escaped with just a few minor scratches and a sore shoulder and was able to complete the 104 miles.  I followed this ride with a late night of Huntsville Stars baseball and fireworks to celebrate Independence Day.  Nutrition included a ballpark hamburger and water.  Please don’t try this strategy for your “A-race”.

Race day morning, I violated the rule of “superstition nutrition,” and only fueled with a banana and peanut butter toast.  After putting some lock-laces in my running shoes and getting my transition area set up, I did down a Honey Stinger waffle.  Last business was a quick team pick by Melissa Johnson with fellow Fleet Feet Tri Team members, Paul Erickson, Wendy Tyler, Donny Neal, Jess Ahrens, Dink Taylor and Tonya Hardy.

I was in wave#2 for the start and managed to get my goggles on prior to entering the water this year – improvement.  The swim was uneventful, although it was very difficult to see the first buoy due to the sun.  T1 was slow as a result of the extra gear associated with mountain biking: socks, lace-up bike shoes, gloves, and Camel-bak.

Then the fun began.  About a half mile into the mountain bike course, I felt my seat tilt to what I thought was a very steep inclined angle.  Thinking the bracket must have loosened, I continued.  The two jumps went okay, but the log just prior to the wooden bridge proved fatal to the seat post. It wasn’t the bracket that was loose. The carbon seat post had broken right at the clamp, and it fell to the trail as I crossed the log.  What to do now?  My first thought was, ‘this race is over.  How can I ride this course without a seat?  I am not a mountain biker.  This is not a good idea (unplanned colonoscopy).  Explaining this to the ER nurse would be uncomfortably comical.’  I stopped, picked up the saddle with its broken post, got back on my bike and started to carry it with me.  It’s hard enough to mountain bike without a saddle – don’t try carrying an item in your hands too.  Realizing that wasn’t an option, I threw it off the trail and went back to racing.
Conveniently pushing the ER nurse situation out of my mind [until Julio Driggs speeding up behind me was kind enough to remind me of the risk].  Seatless mountain biking does change your strategy.  And I must say, if my legs weren’t fatigued from the previous day’s mileage, they were on fire by the end of the mountain bike course.  I also discovered how important a seat is for things other than sitting.  It is also a big part of steering and maintaining a good center of gravity while mountain biking.  Although I was passed by a few bikers, I finished the two loops (sans saddle).  I hope this was due to my fatigue as a result of standing the entire course… or maybe the ballpark hamburger.

T2 was relatively quick since I “parked” my bike in the bushes next to transition.  I mean you can’t really hang it on the rack without a seat.  I switched shoes, dropped the helmet and Camel-bak, and grabbed my hat and sunglasses.

This year’s run course went around the lake and then back to the power lines for an out and back.  Powerline hill was not fun.  Legs are toast.   At least I got to hit the water station twice.  On the way back in, Gregg Gelmis, had retrieved my saddle with the broken seat post and passed it to me as I hit the pavement coming off the powerline.  I felt like I was at the Olympics’ opening ceremony, and he had just passed me the torch.  Thanks to the hill (and the seat post) I can say that I negative split the   run, even though it was a slow 5K.All of this effort resulted in 2nd place in my age group.  I guess it does pay to be in the same age group as the Overall Male Winner, Jonathan Krichev.
Thanks to RD Dan Pline, the sponsors, and volunteers that kept this race going:  Eric Broyles, Dink Taylor, Rick Greif, Mike Gerrity, Melissa Johnson, and many more.  As always, a huge shout out to Gregg Gelmis for taking incredible race photos.  I hope this race will grow and mature, as it has great potential as a local favorite and a perfect beginner race for off-road triathlon.  

Team Rocket Tri Club has a host of quality races, so get out of your comfort zone and sign up!

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