December 7th is the HITS Ironman, which I signed up for in July on account of the ridiculously low price. While triathlon season is over now for most people, not so for us in Southern California. As a short prep for HITS I also registered for the Riverside Triathlon on October 20th -- a reverse sprint triathlon -- meaning you begin with a run, then bike, then swim. I have participated in one other triathlon like this (PossAbilities Triathlon in Loma Linda), but do not especially love the order. The reason for the reverse is that the swim is in a pool; that is, there is not an open body of water nearby.
I showed up to the race around 6:40am with a kick-off at 8:00am. The nice thing about events in Riverside is that I can just ride my bike there, which is what I did. A few weeks prior I had scouted the 2012 times so I knew there was a chance I could actually win. Given this is such a rare event I was more excited about this race than I probably should be, as the only other time I'd won a triathlon was a practice Olympic distance race in San Diego with a total of 8 participants -- so it didn't really count even though I clocked a 2:01 (shortened 1200m swim though). Judging by the people who rolled up to the race, I figured there would be five or six other folks who may give me a run for the money. In other words, there were not a lot of lean, muscular people with expensive bikes, Newton running shoes, and a transition bag that says Ironman fill-in-the-blank (usually the sure-fire signs someone is a serious triathlete).
As the race played out though, it became clear there would be just one main competitor. The bang went off and several people sprinted down University. I was near the front and as we turned left onto Victoria about 5-6 guys were ahead of me, most of them young men in high school or early college. Based on their clothing, however, I knew they were probably good cross-country runners and not much else, so I wasn't really worried about them as they would be disposed of quickly during the bike split. As I approached the 1 mile mark I passed a guy in a nice looking tri suit and could tell he had the goods. We exchanged a few words and I knew I'd seem him on the bike so I tried to build as much a lead on him as possible. I finished the run in fourth place in a time of 17:07, which was a minute improvement from my Loma Linda time (although that course was more hilly). That's nice because I had been hitting the track hard all year and it's great to see improvements.
I fumbled around a bit in transition so by the time I hopped on the bike this other guy was basically with me. He seemed like a real pro at this! We took off but he passed me right away, so I decided to tail him to see how things would play out. We bombed along and it was clear that it would be mano-e-mano or however you spell that. The speedometer was reading 24-26 mph on the flats, low 20s/upper teens on the inclines, and high 20s/low 30s on the descents. The course is mostly flat but has some rolls to it, and as you go out Victoria Ave. there's a net decline. On the way back it's the reverse. The other guy had a disk wheel and fairly deep wheels in the front so the trend that developed was he'd pull away from me a bit on the down hill and I'd pull back on the incline. He kept looking back and I was at my top speed so decided I'd tail him to the turn-around and see if I could pull ahead half way on the way back on account that I probably had better endurance (unless he was also doing Ironmans, etc., but you really don't know) and I seemed to be a little stronger on the incline. Moreover, it's hard to hold a lead on someone, psychologically, so was hoping to wear him down. As it turned out I was only able to catch him at about mile 10, there were a few times where I thought he was getting away but I managed to reel him in. As I passed him, it felt good, and I thought, this is good for his character (which is always what I think when I pass someone who has passed me earlier in the race), but I was also conscientious that I was unlikely to put any significant time on him. This turned out to be true because shortly thereafter he passed me again as we rounded the turn back onto University with less than a mile to go. We made our way up University to T-2 basically going neck-in-neck -- it was actually quite a thrill, especially since the fans were cheering us on. We finished the bike in 29 minutes and change, not bad.
At T-2 though I knew he'd do me in given his super fast run-bike transition, and in fact that is what happened. As I grabbed my goggles to head to the pool he probably had a 5 second lead. But then he stopped, I thought, maybe he pulled a hamstring, is a crap swimmer, who knew? Turns out he hadn't actually registered for the event and was just crashing the party hoping to get a good session in. If he crossed the finish line he'd have a bunch of questions to answer. Well I'm glad he did show up because otherwise it would have been lonely for me. Anyway, I jumped in the pool and now no one was close. I swam the 150 meters in 2:47, which was actually the sixth fastest time of the day, but nothing at all to write home about. I felt slow as molasses but after watching some of the other people later I didn't feel so bad! In fact, it was really quite entertaining because many looked exactly what I would have looked like three years ago -- about to die. In any event, I exited the water and promptly slipped on the pool deck cutting my ankle and knee. It seems like I always have some sort of abrasion. But I got up quickly to clock in in just over 51 minutes -- almost identical to the previous year's winner. A few minutes later the rest of the competitors showed up to the pool so I got to cheer them on. Later in the day I joined some folks from the Triathlon Connection club for breakfast and everyone was happy. Always fun to see Kandi, Orietta, and the rest of the crew.
I got home, took a short nap and then began packing for my flight out to Fayetteville, AR, to begin my 2 week research trip across the South, visiting 4-5 archives along the way. Training is always tough on the road but luckily I am due for a recovery week. They always seem to fall at the right time.
By day I am a political scientist studying campaigns, public opinion, and race and ethnic politics. By early morning and/or night I am an endurance athlete.