Oscar L. Race Report: Kerrville, Texas - Olympic Distance
We have stayed at the Inn of the Hills before. It is a nice place, however, it is beginning to show its age. The one & only attraction for us this weekend was. . . the location. It is practically next door to the race start. If you are lucky enough to get a room facing south, you could potentially see the Transition area from your room. It is THAT close! Seriously!
The Kerrville Tri Festival scheduled the Sprint for Saturday, but, the Half & the Olympic distance was not until Sunday. Still, we drove from League City to Kerrville, Friday afternoon. Why? Because an extra day of rest never hurt anyone, right?
The traffic Friday was challenging, but, not unmanageable. Along the way, Elizabeth happened to look at the BAM! Facebook page on her i-Phone and blurted out, “Oh NOOO.!” Apparently one of the BAM! crew had a bad bike day. Martin Bontz had his bike slide off of the back of the bike rack, at 80mph on Interstate-10, somewhere around Luling, Texas. We were about one hour behind them, and I looked for the broken bike on the side of the road, but never saw any evidence. I quickly called the gang and volunteered my bike so that they could still race the Sprint that they had signed up for. It was an easy, “No Brainer” decision for me because, all we had to do was set the seat height, and the change the shoe/pedal combination. Besides, I believed that someone with the means would do the same for me, should I ever be found in a similar situation.
Elizabeth & I finally checked into the ‘Inn’ after dark, found our room, dropped our bags, and immediately walked back to that restaurant on the Guadalupe River and enjoyed a wonderful meal of salad, veal & pasta, steak & asparagus & potatoes, and a couple of glasses of red wine while overlooking the water that we would be swimming in soon.
When we walked back to the Inn, there was Martin Bontz and Kim Dardin, standing around in the parking lot waiting on us. I set up my old Cervelo on the trainer directly behind the truck, and we started our own “Bike Fit Clinic” right there on the sidewalk. I think I scared them both when I whipped out the Ryobi Cordless Saw and whacked the seat post right there in the parking lot, but hell, that’s how I operate! If something needs to get done, then get it done dammit! Stop fooling around!
Once our preparations were complete, we all went our separate ways for the evening. Kim & Martin went back to their rooms to get some much needed rest. Elizabeth & I sat out on the Balcony, enjoying the evening. Me, with a Cigar and some good Bourbon, Elizabeth with a glass of Malbec. Sunday was still another day away.
Saturday was supposed to be a day of relaxation for us. First, we walked to the Hotel restaurant to eat breakfast. Bad Coffee, nasty scrambled egg product, stale pancakes, fatty sausage, sugary muffins, and flimsy bacon? yuck. I cook MUCH better than this at home, but, we were not at home. The bill that the server brought to the table was in the amount of $23 and change. I had just recently come from the ATM machine and had nothing but $20 bills in my wallet. In order to pay the tab and get some change for a suitable tip, I inserted two $20 bills into the little black folder and walked up to the counter to pay. The woman rang me up and gave me back four $1 bills.?.?
“I gave you two Twenty’s” I told her, “what’s this?”
“Where is my other $20?”
“No sir, there was only one $20 in there. But, you each get a four dollar credit off of breakfast because you have a room here.” She tells me.
“Noooo, I know I gave you two twenty’s. How else could I pay a $23 tab? I had to give you two. I had no other choice!”
“I’m sorry sir. Maybe you dropped it by your table.” She says. ”If you go look for it there, maybe you will find it before someone else picks it up.”
Forget it. F’ng crooks. I hate getting ripped off. But what was I to do? Make a scene? Call the Manager? Be a Dickhead? I figured, that ignorant whore needed the money more than me, so, I just let it go. Screw it. A $40 breakfast. Whatever. I could afford it.
Martin’s bad luck with bikes continued Saturday morning. While we were choke’n down a nasty, expensive breakfast, a youngster got in front of him and caused him to crash. He slid down the wet road scratching up half of his body!
What are the chances of THAT this crazy weekend? I felt so bad that my unfamiliar bike was the cause of all his pain and bleeding. He felt so bad that he crashed a borrowed bike! But, there really wasn’t anything broken, or even scratched, or even bent on the old Cervelo. I just put a new wrap of electrical tape on the handlebars, swapped pedals, and raised the seat back up to my pre-measured height, and life was good! Didn’t bother me a bit! Martin, however, was going to have a bad case of road rash for the next week.
At packet pick-up Saturday afternoon, I learned that we had three different bags to place needed items into. They were color coded in Red, Green and Blue print. I would think that the red color would be for the run – because running hurts. The green would be bike, right? Because my bike is “green-light-go” fast? That leaves the Blue color for the swim, and who doesn’t want to swim in clear blue water? Right?
Well, the green bag was actually called the “Morning clothes” bag. But, you didn’t put “morning” clothes into it. You would place all the items you wanted at the finish line in the Green bag. Items like your hotel room key, or car keys, or some warm, dry clothes for after the race. Things like that. But, it wasn’t called the “Finish Line Stuff Bag”, it was called the “Morning clothes” bag. The sticker for it was actually titled, “Dry Clothes Bag”. I got so dang confused.
The “Red” bag was called the “Bike gear” bag. And, yes, you guessed it. It was NOT for Bike gear. It was supposed to hold all of your swim gear after the swim. I think the sticker for the red “Bike” bag was titled, “Swim Gear Bag”. . . I tried not to think about it too much.
The blue bag was the “Run” bag. (I don’t know why.) It actually had a corresponding sticker labeled “Run Gear”. At least that one matched. The blue bag was supposed to be dropped off in T2 on Saturday afternoon – so your expensive running shoes could marinate in the firkin’ monsoon of weather related moisture just like your expensive bike! At least we were getting consistent.
Saturday evening brought a very strong cold front that stretched all across the United States – all the way from Mexico to Canada. Since the bike check-in was Saturday from 1:00pm – 6:00pm, BOTH of our bikes AND BOTH of our running shoes were sitting out in the rain all night. I never did understand the reasoning behind checking in (arguably) the most expensive pieces of Triathlon equipment the day before. If I am allowed into transition in the morning, I’ll just bring my bike in the morning, thank you. If not, I plan to send the knucklehead race director an invoice for the refurbishment of all the rusted chain, bolts, cables, and bearings that occurs from leaving ten thousand dollar’s worth of high tech gear out in the rain for nine hours!
And then, the silly participants. I see this at every race and I still cannot wrap my head around this behavior! People actually wrap the seat of their bicycle with a plastic bag to keep it dry. Why? After your ass is in the frikin’ Guadeloupe river for twenty or thirty minutes, do youthink your shorts are going to miraculously DRY before you run to your bike? And then. . . what? You don’t sweat on your bike? You will have a nice dry tushy for another three hours? Absolutely delusional behavior! I will never understand it. As you can probably tell by now, I was in a Royally Rotten mood, and the race was not even close to starting.
Sunday morning I woke at 5:00am. (Don’t ask me why.) Our start time was listed as 8:20 for Elizabeth and 8:28 for me. Great! Three hours to sit & wait. I watched The Weather Channel and ate some breakfast. Elizabeth laughed at me when I broke out the “BAM!” temporary tattoo and stuck it on my arm.
“Hey!” I told her, “This reminds me that I have thought of every little detail. Because, if I can remember something as ridiculous as a stick-on tattoo, then I must have got everything else organized!”
She just yawned, “Gosh, I hope I get some motivation, or some ‘get-up-and-go’ in the next few minutes.” Then, as she stretched, “Cause I don’t feel like doin’nothing today!”
We finally walked down to the start and dropped off our “Finish Line” bag. Do you remember the Green “Morning” bag with the “Dry Clothes” sticker? (Don’t even try to follow this.) I filled up our tires to race pressure and then walked back to the truck to drop off the bike pump. Elizabeth stuck the prepared water bottles onto our bikes and the Red “Bike Bag” (which was really the wetsuit bag, remember? not the bike bag!) and we were finally ready to race.
I watched Elizabeth, after the “Females, 40-45” start, as long as I could and sucked down a raspberry-something-or-other energy gel, but, after a few hundred yards, all the rotating arms sort-of blended together. I didn’t particularly like the one hundred calories of fruitiness swarming around in my mouth so I tried to camouflage it with a second gel. This second one was some kinda coffee, mocha, chocolate thingy. I didn’t care. I didn’t care for two reasons. Reason one, it was my second, hundred calorie shot. (Two hundred calories in the bank, Baby!) Reason number two, because, now. . . it was my turn.
Looking around the start area, I didn’t see any athletes in my start wave that stood out as being particularly strong swimmers. No one I might want to draft off of. I splashed into the water and drifted over to the right (the outside lane) and flipped over onto my back and closed my eyes for a few moments of quiet meditation. I always try to make friends with the water. The announcer shouted rhythmically into the PA system, “Five, Four, Three, Two, One.” The Horn blasted. . . and we were off!
From the Right hand, “outside” lane, I had a fantastic time breathing on my right side every fourth stroke and sighting every second breath. Since everyone else was on my left, I didn’t have to worry about a fellow competitor splashing water in my face. I kept trying to slow down, but, I was a little excited and my stroke rate was a bit faster than normal. But, what the hell. At the first turn, I realized that I was all alone! Me? WTF? I’m leading the swim? How tha’hell did this happen? I have never been in the lead. Oh crap. . . what do I do now?
Now, I made it a point to slow down. I actually began counting: Right-one-thousand, left-one-thousand, breathe-one-thousand. Left-one-thousand, right-one-thousand, breathe-one-thousand. I sucked some air every third stroke and made sure to pause and glide every time my hand stretched out in front of my body. It didn’t take long for me to begin passing different colored swim caps. Pink caps started four minutes before me. Green caps started eight minutes before me. That Grey/Silver cap dude must have started at least 15 minutes before me, but, still I don’t see any other Red caps around me! I’m leading the swim! I am really in the lead! HaHa.!.! This is such an unfamiliar feeling I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what-tha-hell to do.!.! I remember thinking, “OK, this is something we never rehearsed. . . uhh, point your toes!” We never planned on the contingency that I would actually be in the lead!
Finally, about 200 yards from the swim exit, I was so relieved to see a red cap behind me. I actually stop swimming, flip over to float on my back and take a couple of deep breaths, waiting for that guy to catch up to me. When he swims by, I resume my normal pace, but, now I have someone to draft behind. That guy was probably mad at me for poking my fingers into his feet so many times.
Once out of the water, I saw that swimmer guy I drafted behind. He was sitting on the ground as the wetsuit peelers were working on him. I passed the “Strippers” and jogged on up the hill to find my Red “Bike Gear” bag so I could stuff this wetsuit into it. (like I said earlier, don’t try to figure that crap out.)
For the record, my transitions are all the same. It doesn’t matter if it is a “Super Sprint” or a “Half Iron”, the format is always the same. “Grab & Go.” Sooo, I take off running barefoot with a bike in my left hand and I’m fastening my helmet with my right hand. I’ve practiced this so many times I could practically do it in my sleep. I jump on the Bike and remind myself to slow down. It’s supposed to be an easy training day, slow down.
The Garmin display showed a heart rate of 136 and a cadence of 92. I like that. I try to keep the numbers low and remind myself that, if I really am leading this thing, if I really am out front. . . then something bad is about to happen any minute now! And I think of Martin sliding down the road. Yeeeesh!
Just ahead of me I see Elizabeth tucked into her aero position and pedaling smoothly on her groovy white bike with the flashy race wheels. “Heeeeyyy!” I shout to her as I cruise by on my own slick carbon fiber machine. “Lookin sweet!”
“Go get’em Baby!” she hollers back. . . . and, I pedal on.
At this point, I began doing what all age groupers do – looking at the back of everybody’s leg. All the athletes are body marked with their age scribbled on the back of the calf, so I kept looking at legs. Some kid passed me and I immediately checked at his calf – 20. Good. Not in my age group. Keep it slow and easy. Another guy slides by and I glance at the number on the calf – 42. Wow. That was close! “Slow down, keep it slow.” I keep telling myself, “Take it easy, phone it in.” About five or six miles from T2 a guy passes me going so fast, that I can’t even make out the number scribbled on his leg. I think it is the number 46. Which means he would be in my age group. Which means I will chew his heart out and rip his legs off in the next 30 seconds. I apply a bit of power and easily catch back up to him. I get a good second glance and read the number again. It is not 46. It is a 26. (Some volunteer with a sharpie is giggling right now.) He’s just another kid, not even close to my age group.
As I roll back into downtown Kerrville, I’m waving at people and having a ball. Why? Cause I’m the idiot in the lead! “WhooHoo!” I wave at Martin Bontz, Kim Darden and Ceseilia Perez as I see a sign with a “right turn” arrow. “WassssUuup!” I yell at them.
About two seconds later, I think to myself, “Wait-a-minute. Was that my turn off? Was that the finish line?” Next thing I know, I’m heading back out of town for a second lap of the bike course. Uh-oh. Not good. Dumbass took the next right and doubled back through a convenience store parking lot to arrive at Transition number 2 a couple of minutes later than I should have. What a f-tard!
And, T2 is very nice. I open my little Blue “Run Gear” bag and sit on the ground to wipe my feet with a clean (wet) towel. I decide on socks for the six-and-a-half mile run, and leisurely stretch those on. My shoe choice today is the Blue & Orange Newtons that I love so much. The water bottle on the bike still has a few ounces of Gatoraid in it , so, I suck that down along with three ‘Endurolytes’ capsules, (just in case) and I finally take off running.
The first person I see out of T2 is the World Famous Johnny Z. from PowerHouse Racing. J.Z. won his age group Saturday in the “Sprint” event, and here he is today, giving me a few words of encouragement as I head out onto the run course.
About mile three, I see Elizabeth running. “WoooooHoo!” We veer over into the middle of the street and “High Five” as we cross each other.
Whenever I can race with the love of my life, I know it will be a good race. And. . . now that I think about it. . . every time Johnny Z. is at a race slapping my hand and shouting out words of encouragement, I win first in my age group. Both factors are lined-up here today. Hmmmm? Coincidence? I don’t think so.
But. . . . I began stressing over the possibility of someone passing me in transition. After all, I DID miss a turn on the bike course. A couple of guys could have gotten by me there. Then, I actually sat down to put my running shoes on. That made it seem like a 15 minute transition. How many speed demons passed me already? Stop thinking about mistakes and concentrate on running efficiently!
That big screen Garmin on my wrist showed me cutting down the miles by about ten seconds every time it beeped. 8:10. Then 8:00 minutes. Then 7:50 something. Then 7:42. I was feeling good, running well, and slapping my wife’s hand every time we crossed each other. The Garmin beeped for mile five and I looked down at it. 8:17. Ouch.
Apparently I had slowed down quite a bit. Come on Os, concentrate! A girl passed me about a mile from the finish and I tried drafting/pacing off of her, but, my heart rate got a bit too high and I was forced to back it down a notch and let her go. I remember telling myself, “In about five minutes this will all be over. Dude, can go fast for five more minutes, can’t you? That little girl is running faster than you!.!.!”
I stopped the clock at 2:33. Not bad for an old man.
Elizabeth came cruising into the finishing chute with a big smile on her face a few minutes later and we celebrated with big sweaty hugs and kisses. We headed over to the Massage tent and Elizabeth got her name on the list for a well deserved rub down.
Jim Yarzy streaked by looking strong on his Half-Iron “run” course. I spotted Melanie Yarzy also, and saw that wonderful, infectious, patented smile that she always seems to display. Todd O’Neal zoomed by on his “lap three” looking like a man on a mission! That dude is an animal!
Some guy breaks me out of spectator mode and shakes my hand saying, “Congratulations. Good job.” Then he adds, “You came out second.”
“Thanks.” I answer. I’m quite surprised that he knows the results already so I ask him, “How do you know that?”
“That tent over there,” He points “just type in your race number and it shows your result.”
“Cool. Hey, thanks. Good race.”
I turn to grab Elizabeth’s hand & I we head over to the results tent.
Once I get to the table with all the little laptops, I turn around to say something to my wife, but, she is nowhere to be found. She was just here, holding my hand a few seconds ago! I start scanning the sea of athletes, looking for a little short woman with a big smile. There! I finally spot her at the Beer tent. It figures. “That’s why I love you!” I shout over the crowd.
We enter our numbers and the display shows bib number 723 as number “1st” in the Dinosaur age group. That guy said “second”. This thing says “first”. I don’t know what to believe. “I guess we have to wait till the awards ceremony now.” I joked with Elizabeth as she handed me a cold Beer.
When I woke up that Sunday morning, I had good intentions. I told myself that I would finish my race, then, run the last lap or two of the ‘half-iron distance’ with Todd O’Neal. . . Just to keep him company. Well, one beer later all my good intentions went right out the window and I just leaned over the rail and shouted at Todd O’Neal as he ran by for his last few miles. “Go gets’em Big Phaddy!” and I slurp.
When it came time for the Male 44-49 age group announcement, I was so busy visiting with all the BAM! Friends, I was actually surprised to hear my name being called. I stumbled up to the front and the announcer shoved a first place trophy into my hand. I recognized the other guy next to me. He was the same guy who informed me about the results tent. “I thought you told me second place!” I shouted at him over the crowd noise. He just shook my hand again and laughed.