Monday, March 31, 2008

Oceanside 70.3

A race really begins at the Expo. We drove down to the lovely little town of Oceanside, got checked in to our lovely little motel, met our friends with whom we were sharing a room, and all headed off to the expo.

They did their packet pickup thing while I wandered around the expo and chatted with vendors. I listened to a panel interview with a number of pros, which was interesting. None of them wear socks, and all of them get blisters as a result. Except for those sponsored by Zoot who are wearing the new Zoot triathlon-specific shoes. No socks needed, no blisters. I must have a pair.

Basta and friends finished their registration obligations, then did the expo thing themselves. Basta bought an Ironman 70.3 bike jersey, because one simply must have one. A friend bought some compression socks, which seem to be all the rage right now. They look silly, but they appear to really work.

Then it was off to an early dinner. Italian, of course. We found a lovely little restaurant in the heart of downtown that had good food at good prices. Can't ask for more than that. A lot of other athletes found it, too. The waiters were looking a bit puzzled -- all these people coming in for dinner so early. None of them drinking wine. All asking for a pitcher of water. Apparently they didn't check the local events calendar or consider the ramifications . . .

Finally, back to the motel. Everyone futzed with their gear. Bike and helmet labeled with the sticky race numbers provided. Bib attached to race belt. Gu, Shot Bloks, Mojo bars in the Bento box and stuck in the little pockets of the singlet. Water bottles filled, ready for the Motor Tab to be added in the morning.

They start the event in waves based on your age group, and each wave has a different colored cap. Basta's wave was hot pink.

There he is, all set up and ready to go.

We watched a little tv, then turned it off at 9 and hit the sack in hopes of some sleep.

But alas, it was not to be. Our lovely little cheap motel turned out to be a busy place. People were coming and going, roaming around the parking lot, climbing stairs, and shouting (maybe just talking) to each other all night. It was a noisy place despite the double-paned windows. I slept on and off, as did everyone else. No one really expects to sleep much pre-event, anyway, so it was not that big a deal.

At 4:45 the alarm went off. We all jumped out of bed and launched into our final preparations. At 5:15 or so, we got on the bikes and rode down to the start of the race. They all had their wristbands that gave them entry into the transition area. I had to find my team leader to give me my volunteer wristband that would get me in, too. I kissed Basta goodbye, wished him luck, and went off to check in to volunteer.

I found my guy easily enough. I did this last year so I knew where to go and what he looks like this time. He handed me a wristband through the fence and told me where 'Volunteer Bike Parking' was to be found. This event is really organized, I tell you. I took my bike to the designated rack and locked it up. Then it was off to work!

My volunteer job was working Timing. I got through the fence and into the special area, right where the timing mats are at the start of the swim. I put on my official volunteer t-shirt over my regular shirt and became part of the team. Our job was to hand out new timing chips to people who had lost or forgotten theirs. This is a Very Bad Thing because they don't get an official time without a chip. So we have to register the new chip to the right person and disable their old one. We also had a small supply of essential parts, like swim caps, swim goggles, ankle bands for the chips, and safety pins for attaching bibs to shirts. We answer a lot of questions. We try to be as helpful as possible.

Some dude -- a "World Renowned Hip-Hop Artist" -- that I'd never heard of sang the National Anthem. He came in through the egress in the fence next to me and left the same way. He was a nice looking young man with very well-coifed hair. He put his heart and soul into the anthem and gave an impassioned rendition of it. Pity I didn't catch his name.

At last, it was time to begin. Everyone started to line up in their waves. First, the pro men. Their start was right after sunrise, 6:45am.

Here is Andy Potts, last year's winner, looking happy and confident, waiting for his start with the rest of the pro men in their yellow caps. He would go on to repeat as winner this day.

After the men came the pro women in their green caps. One of these came up to me and asked me if she could clean her goggles on my t-shirt. At first this seemed like an odd request, but then I considered that a wetsuit makes a poor cleaning cloth, indeed. She knew mine was a branny-new cotton volunteer shirt, perfectly good for lens cleaning. I offered up the bottom of my shirt, she cleaned her goggles and thanked me. I wished her good luck. She looked to be a good four inches shorter than me, and I'm a mere 5'3". How can anyone so short be fast enough to be a pro? The mind boggles.

Each wave continued on afterwards. Men 20-24 in blue caps. Women 35-39 in red. On and on, each with their own cap color. Basta's pink wave was up at 7:17, 33 minutes after the first.

Here he is looking quite serious and focused, as is everyone.

And then he was off. Other waves followed. Soon enough the first swimmers came out of the water and sprinted up to transition. One pro ran up so fast that he missed the turn down the Swim In chute and tried to run back down the Swim Out chute. Volunteers and race officials yelled and steered him to the right way. He spun around, zipped back to the right chute, and bashed right into another pro. They both went down, spun around and rolled around on each other in their slick wetsuits on the wet carpet. They looked just like puppies on ice.

But they recovered quickly and sprinted down the chute as if nothing had happened. In a blink of the eye they were off on their bikes. Those pros do amazing transitions. After that they stationed 3 volunteers to stand in the way so that swimmers had no choice but to go down the right chute.

More and more people came slogging out of the water. Eventually the first pink-capped guy came through. I know Basta isn't a fast swimmer and didn't expect him to be anywhere close to the first guy, so I kept my camera in its case. Soon enough, the next pink-capped guy came out. Caps of all different colors were coming out of the water at a rapid pace. The starts are staggered but there is such a wide variety of swimming skills in each wave that the assortment of caps finishing at any given time looks much like a handful of M&M's.

I broke out the camera, expecting Basta any minute. More and more pink caps finished. A big clot of them finished together and I thought Basta might be in that group, but no. A skinny guy about his height came stumbling up the ramp and I was sure that was him, but no. I kept waiting, camera poised.

At last, Basta finished the swim. He trotted up the ramp quickly and made his speedy way to transition.

Official swim time: 43:54. We had estimated 50 minutes, so this was actually good. But it was 77th out of 88 in his age group. Have I mentioned lately how competitive his age group is?

He had a very speedy transition and was in and out before I spotted him. Another tri-club member was working Transition as a volunteer. He helped strip Basta out of his wetsuit quickly and then snapped this picture of him getting ready for the bike.

In 4 minutes, 32 seconds he was off on his bike.

Anddddd . . . then we had some time on our hands. There was still plenty of volunteery stuff to do, but I wouldn't see Basta again for over 3 hours. After the last swimmer was out of the water we broke down the Swim Out path and set up the Bike In path. They lined us volunteers up along the final couple hundred yards of the bike course to yell at bikers as they rode by, "Slow Down!!" "No Passing!!" "Ride to the End!!" Riders get easily confused as to where they are supposed to dismount and it's our job to keep them riding to the dismount area that is much farther than expected down the route.

I kept looking at the legs of people as they rode by. In triathlon they write your age on your left calf. This way you can tell who is in your age group. After around 3 hours I had seen lots of men with an age between 50 and 54 ride through. Crap. Basta was having a tough ride, I was afraid.

But I also saw loads of women, all who seemed to have the number 43 marked on their calf. My age. These women push a bike a good 5 miles an hour faster than I can. Grr. If they can do it, why can't I? It was both frustrating and inspirational.

I had hoped Basta could do a 3:15 bike. That time came and went, and I started to get worried. I had seen several people come into the medical tent with scraped shoulders and road rash. They'd gone down. Unfortunately, it happens. I hoped it hadn't happened to Basta.

At last, in he came:

3 hours, 26 minutes, 17 seconds. 72nd out of 88 in his age group. I'd forecast 3:15, so he was 11 minutes over. There were some big hills on this course and a good headwind for the last section. Who was regretting his skipped bike workouts now? His missed hill training sessions? His shortened courses? Mmm hmmm.

So a 6:00 or 6:15 finish probably wasn't going to happen. If he'd had a tough ride chances were he'd have a tough run, too. If the bike had taken it out of him he wouldn't have much left for the run. I did a few calculations and figured we'd be happy if he got a sub-7 at this point. 6:45ish might be possible.

He had a very fast T2 -- 2:37 -- and that included a stop at the porta-potty. Then he was off on the run.

Another 2 hours to wait. I guided in hundreds more bikers and shouted support and encouragement to all, "OCTC!" to fellow club members. I had a good time with it, chatting with fellow volunteer and club member Wendy, meeting Ironman legend Greg Welch, and doing my part to keep the athletes going.

I had signed up for the 6am to 11am shift, but ended up staying long after 1pm. Last year there were so many volunteers we all stood around with not much to do. This year we were quite understaffed and they really needed me. So I stayed until I thought Basta might be about to finish.

And finish he did.

He said he really, really wanted to meet his personal goal of sub-6:30. He knew he'd need to hoof it to do that so he started running intervals on the second loop of the course. He all-out sprinted the last mile or so. He finished with a 2:04:37 run. 42nd out of 88 for the run.

The clock time you see there is from the first pro-wave start, so subtract 33 minutes. His official time is 6:21:56. He made his sub-6:30 goal.

He was elated, as was I. I put his medal over his head, then put my arm around him and sort of propped him up, trying to keep him walking while his body adjusted to the new, non-racing state. It involves a few minutes of delirium. During that time people are handing him a finisher's hat, the finisher's t-shirt, removing his chip, handing him his chip strap, and herding him off to athlete food. I took most of that stuff for him and led him back to the food.

There he had some pizza, and had a nice sit in a chair for a while. We chatted with friends and fellow competitors.

A fine event was had by all.

Two happy finishers.


Tri&Tri said...

Congratulations, Basta! Looking good out there!

Basta said...

Who says I slacked during training? What a race, what a day! I'm happy it's behind me...but am contemplating the next step...taking the plunge into FULL Ironman competition: 140.6. I've got the Ironman bug I've heard so much about. Brasil here we come: Ford Ironman Brasil September 2009.

tribug said...

Great write up! Thanks. And congrats to you Basta for fulfilling your goal and congrats to the author, your coach too! I knew Basta would get the bug. You forgot the most important event. Afterwards in the parking lot. I'll leave it at that....:)