Sunday, October 21, 2012

Du The Bears, First Duathlon

Exhilaration and despair! There! Two contrary states of being all in one sentence.

This is how I feel when I compete now at my ripe old age of 58. My drive to compete, my focus and mental energy is just where it was 40 years ago but, I'm driving this shitty old car that's getting harder and harder to keep running in an efficient manner.
It's agonizing to see these young ones stay ahead of me and my inability to hang with them. I see why many middle aged people can become bitter and jealous when they lose what these young kids have in abundance.

"You don't know what you got till it's gone"!

I so understand that now.

Saturday morning I was up at 4:45 am. I went online and re-checked the registration roster for the "Du Bears Duathlon". I noticed there had been quite a few new sign ups for today. More younger and some more in my age group. This was going to be a tough race. One of my rituals is to go through the registrants jersey sizes for the event jerseys. Literally sizing up the competition. Everyone in my group was either large or, medium. I was the only small. At least I might have a weight advantage on the climbs.

I wished I had rested and tapered more this week. I was still a bit tired and I felt the possible onset of a cold which is a sign that I haven't easing back enough on the training lately.
I rode my bike down to the Bart train and caught the 6:15 to Orinda. When I arrived in Orinda I stopped and filled my water bottle at Starbucks with some Dark Roast blend and headed off for the 6 mile ride to the start. I took it easy and actually enjoyed the time I had to get my body moving and focus on the race.

I arrived, got my reg-pack, number and headed for the "Porta-san". After I went back to the starting line set up my bike in the transition area and listened to "Wolf" the Race Director's final instructions.
After the Star spangled banner was played we got the get ready signal and I jumped in line.

3-2-1-GO! The mass start and it was FAST! We looped around the parking lot and headed down a steep descent. It was a bit tough on the legs not being thoroughly warmed up. Even going down hill my heart-rate was in the red zone. Things settled in a bit and I just tried to find a comfortable groove. I new the real race would be once I got on the bike. The climb back up to the bike start was pretty taxing. I got really hot and wished I hadn't worn my outer jacket, which I ended up pulling off and tying around my waist.
I got to my bike and the real fast runners were all gone. Seemed I was one of the first older runners to reach my bike.
I slipped into my pedals very easily while I noticed a lot of other riders going through the change over in to bike shoes. So glad I put on cage pedals and straps.

As I headed out down San Pablo I passed a rider (young), struggling with his pedal adjustment. As I made the first right turn the same rider passed me seemingly grumpy and annoyed this old fool had gotten past him. I like first Rabbit and I will crush you down the road. On to the first little climb another rider, pin thin and sinewy on a TT bike with the aero wheels and helmet passed me. By the looks of it I wouldn't be seeing him again. 

OK, that's one else is going to pass me. My stomach and gut had been feeling a little troubled and my legs felt a little tired. I was somewhat worried but forced the negative out of my head and just focused on the enjoyment of riding and letting the training base take care of the rest. On the first substantial climb I passed two riders, one young woman and a guy. That gave me a little confidence. At this point I started feeling like I was in my element. I was amazed how strong I felt on the climbing and kept picking off everyone who was ahead of me. 

I think the last couple of years of focusing on riding a one speed has really paid off and given me considerably more strength then I've ever had. I don't spin the easy gears anymore. I gear up and power climb standing more than sitting.
My one issue though was my lower left back had been spasming on me since the beginning. It may be due to the fact I lowered my bars earlier in the week. You're not supposed to make any radical equipment changes on the week of a race. I should have known better and I was paying for it.
By the time I reached "Papa Bear", I was really cranking over the pedals and the guy I had been cat and mousing for the last three climbs I was finally able to vanquish. when I hit the top of the climb he was about a hundred yards behind. 
The descent down Papa Bear was spectacular and traffic free. I hit the last short climb and turn on to San Pablo ave for the final stretch and I started to feel the pain. I was pedaling into a headwind. Headwinds are my nemesis. I thought the guy I passed up Papa Bear would probably pass me and that thought kept me pushing hard. 
I finally made it to the bike finish and I was ecstatic that only one person had passed me and been able to stay ahead for the whole ride. One other side note is that for the past decade or so, I've developed very bad "Carpel Tunnel" in my hands. I could barely brake as I came into the bike finish. I got my bike on the rack and for the life of me I could not unbuckle my helmet strap! I kept banging my hands against my legs but, could not feel anything. Then the cat and mouse rider pulled in and I really started to panic. All that work and my freaking salami hands were going to give this guy the lead over me! As he trotted off my hands finally woke up enough and I got my helmet off and took off running.

I thought it hurt on the first run but, damn my legs were toast and I just forced myself to keep moving. when I finally made it down to the dam and the turn around I started seeing other runners pouring down the hill and most of them were really young and also a couple of guys looking around my age. My heart was pumping out the adrenaline and I just focused on keeping my pace. On the climb I passed a few runners and I kept looking over my shoulder to see who was gaining. I just couldn't catch Mr. Cat and Mouse but, I didn't care any more. I just didn't want anyone to pass me. I worked to hard for this. I deserved it and I got mad! I put my head down and just hammered with everything I had left. I could hear the crowd going wild as the runners crossed the finish and I ran and ran like I would die tomorrow!

-I'm so lucky I'm alive. All the shit I've been through in my life. The wrong choices, the right choices. The gift of life. The chance to experience pushing the human machine to it's full potential. Proving to myself that I'm more than I ever thought I would be. I try forgive myself for the bullshit I caused. I run from the part of me I hate. It's over and done so move on. Go out a winner and have no regrets. Life is a gift so live as best you can. The exhilaration and the pain is the reward...-

I dig deeper and the final climb is before me. One more glance back...clear! I rise up to see the finish and everyone yelling and smiling. I'm just instantly joyous and beaming! As I cross the finish line I think of what inspired me to try something like this.
I read a book recently by "Chrissie Wellington" renowned triathlete (probably one of he greatest) that truly inspired me. For many years, through injuries, hardship and grueling training she dominated the Hawaiian Ironman. 
When she crossed the finish line she would drop and roll to commemorate the athlete "Jon Blais" another Triathlete who passed away from Lou Gehrig's disease, who inspired her very much. It's called the Blais Roll. So inspired by her I did a modified version of the Blais roll. I'll call it "Chrissie's roll"!

I do my Chrissie's roll and everyone laughs and cheers while the announcer yells over the loudspeaker,

"And there you have it! The most spectacular finish of the day by Pete Ferguson"!
That's good enough for me...
2nd In Age Group, 25th place over all.

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