Though I have moved out of the San Fernando Valley to Santa Clarita, I still consider the Hansen Dam Triathlon to be my hometown race. It's the race that got me started training and it's a fun course so I try to do it every year. I had to miss last year because of my accident but I signed up to do it this year. However, with my decision several months ago to shift from triathlon to track cycling, this hasn't been a good year for triathlon training. My cycling is better than ever, my runs are limited to once a week, and swimming is pretty much non-existent. Still, I signed up for the race so, if I wanted the race shirt, I needed to do the race.
The big problem is the swim. I just don't feel like swimming much so I haven't done it. So I decided I needed to do at least ONE swim before the race. So, like a good procrastinator, I got in the local pool on the Friday before the race (my first swim in since March 2012). It was pretty horrible. My engine is good but my arms? Not so much. I could swim fifties all workout. Hundreds weren't even so bad. However, when I tried swimming a 200, things got bad. I'm not even sure I made it the whole 200; I might have stopped after 150. When I was done I felt like I was going to be sick. How was I going to do 500 yards on Sunday? Ugh. Horror show. One hope, though: it was my hope that this small workout (just 700 - 800 yards) would serve as a wake-up call to my body and that, somehow, it would respond the morning of the race.
My running had dropped off lately. Between changing apartments and preparing for trial for my never-ending divorce (I know, I know: nobody goes to trial--believe me, it's not my choice), running has taken a back seat for the past couple of months. Still, I knew finishing a 5K would be no problem so the plan was to just cruise through it. A nice jog.
With just my commutes to work (26 miles from work, 40 miles to work), my cycling is better than ever. I'm faster, spending more time in the big ring, and stronger. This triathlon was going to be all about the bike. I wanted to average at least 20 mph during the bike. I didn't care about frying my legs for the run, I wanted that bike split.
Race morning came and I made the trip to the site. The weather was going to be great: not chilly and not hot. I was so worried about finishing the swim that I didn't even bother warming up. I wanted to save whatever strength my arms had for the race. The gun went off and I waded...slowly...into the water. When I couldn't walk anymore, it was time to swim. Nice and slow. The plan was to breaststroke near each of the three buoys of the 500 yard course to give me some rest time. I got to that first buoy and felt pretty good. Hey, I can finish this! So I did. It wasn't fast but I did finish.
No world-class transitions this year. I walked to my bike, switched gear quickly, and was off. Crap! I get about 100 yards and find out I have a flat. I hadn't even had a chance to get in my shoes yet! Grr. Oh, well. I changed the flat quickly (too quickly, it turns out) and was off again. I started my computer at this point because, while the official clock was ticking off during the flat fix, I only cared about my pedaling time. I was breathing heavily at first but was soon able to get past that and the race was on! I wanted to be in the small chainring to start but once we turned the corner onto Foothill, I would switch into the big chainring when we started that slight decline and stay there for the rest of the ride. I was passing people a lot, especially on hills!, which makes no sense. In fact, I passed about ten riders when we went up that little roller past the All Nations Church. I just got out of the saddle and stomped on my pedals. Nobody from that group caught me on the ride. I got to the top of Hansen Dam and was still going strong. Not quite as fast as I wanted but my average speed was inching up towards 20 mph. When you go past the middle of Hansen Dam, there is a very slight decline (at least it seems so to me) but I didn't get the speed bump up I was hoping for. I figured I just had tired legs so I pedaled harder. Then I found out why my speed wasn't what I wanted: I flatted again. What likely happened is that, in my haste to fix the first flat, I neglected to find out what caused it and remove the little pokey. Sigh. If I wanted to finish the race, I needed to walk it in. The big bummer was that the rest of the course was downhill so I was going to hit my goal. I declare a moral victory.
I walked it in, at least a half mile, jogging a bit when I turned the corner to the transition area to milk some applause out of the spectators. I racked my bike, got my running gear on, and headed out for a nice jog on the trail. When I finished, I simply walked around for a bit and then headed to In-N-Out for my traditional post-race meal of a Double-Double, Animal Fries (I only eat them after a race), and a shake. It turns out that I finished last in my age group but only by 12 seconds. Not bad when you consider I lost probably over 15 minutes due to my flats. Even with all my drama, I did have fun. I wouldn't mind continuing to do this race in the future. I would also want to figure out how to better keep my swimming up in the future. Swimming once a week or so could probably do it, as long as I keep my engine up on the bike and run. We'll see.