Or maybe Blech.
Today was the Dunedin Rotary Triathlon, which also served as my first triathlon since October (the Great American Cooter Triathlon, by the by). Usually at this point of the season, I’ve done at least five races, including at least one long-distance race, so I was really looking forward to getting back into the scrum. Unfortunately, an injury has killed my training lately, but hope springs eternal, or some crap like that.
I should have expected as much when I first woke up this morning. Usually, I wake up like a shot on race morning and head out the door with a quick, albeit sleepy, step. This morning, however, was a different story. I ended up leaving late and then getting to the race site late, which is also unlike me as I like to get to a race early to avoid the late-arriving crowd. Hence, I had to dodge and weave to get through registration and then rack my bike in the last six inches of space on my assigned rack. (Ed. note – Why must people take up three rack spaces when it’s really easy to figure out that if you take up too much space, the last people to arrive at the rack are just going to move your stuff? The person next to me had set up a picnic blanket size area complete with Camelbak. Needless to say, his area was trampled by T2)
The second sign occurred during the swim warm-up. The current was pushing everyone back to shore, which meant that we’d have to heads towards Texas in order to make it to the turn buoy (and nobody really wants to be swimming into the Gulf any further than they haver to right now, thank you very much BP). Being as poor a swimmer as I am, that meant trouble. I envisioned beaching myself several times and losing several minutes before getting to the last buoy.
Onto the race:
The most intense part of a triathlon is the swim start, unless you’re one of the best swimmers in the wave, and this race held true to form. The kicking, slapping, head-butts, dunkings, and grabbing make a WWE match look like a pre-school game of Duck Duck Goose. It would be interesting to see the heart rate spikes of the fifty people in my wave who all arrived at the first turn buoy at the same time and then tried to swim through, over, and around each other. My swim ended up being just about what I expected for as little training as I’ve done, which meant I was in the bottom third in my age group.
Coming out of the water, we had a 200 meter run to transition through the sand. That hurt. That hurt a lot, but the best part of the swim leg is that it’s followed by the bike. The bike course at Dunedin would be great for anyone learning English and was having trouble with the phrase “ON YOUR LEFT”. As the course is two loops and twisty near transition, free space was at a premium. There are two bridges to break up the monotony of most out-and-back courses, and the wind coming back towards transition was a nice reminder of how out of shape I am.
Then onto the run, which is usually my best event where I get to reel people in. Not today. Each step was a struggle not to call it a day and turn around. My recent lay-off has taken its toll on my fitness and people passed me pretty easily, frequently, and mercilessly. In this race, athletes run on the beach and then through the back trails which are nice on the joints and nice on the eyes, but not so nice if you’re out of shape. I never even looked at my watch during the run to check my splits as I didn’t want to depress myself even more. The finish line couldn’t come quick enough; I wanted to forget this race as soon as possible. I figured beforehand that I wouldn’t be nearly as fast as I’d like, but man, that was depressing.
Despite my race, the organizers for the Dunedin Triathlon do a great job. Packet pickup was effortless, even though I arrived pretty late. The swim may have been a little short, which is always a big plus in my book. Also, a plus for a lot of people had to be that you could walk the entire swim. On a couple of occasions when I’d turn my head to breathe, I’d see people water-jogging; apparently the subsequent bike and run wasn’t going to be a good enough leg-trashing. The bike course was fair — not too easy, but not too difficult either. The only real complaint about the race may be that the bike course is way too crowded and, at times, terrifying. As Dunedin attracts a huge number of first-time triathletes, riding through the masses was kind of like that scene from Days of Thunder where Tom Cruise has to drive through the smoke and confusion of a wreck in front of him — just close your eyes and pray that you ride through the gap in the carnage. The run course is nice as you get to run through the woods instead of on the road, although you can lose sight of the competition at some points (which made my race even more depressing).
Most importantly, the post-race fare was ample and delectable. Pizza (though cold), muffins, fruit, and most importantly, beer from Dunedin Brewery greeted famished and dehydrated athletes after crossing the finish line. As I’ve noted before, races that have post-race beer will always rate highly on the SwimBikeRun race quality meter.
As Dunedin has become a tradition on the Tampa Bay triathlon calendar, it was nice to see a lot of familiar faces pre- and post-race. Probably one of the best parts of race day for me is finding new and believable excuses as to why my race sucked so bad this time. Hopefully they believed it.
Anyway, congrats to everyone who raced today, and see you all at the Oldsmar Taphouse 5k next week, another burgeoning tradition for Tampa Bay’s alcohol-dependent endurance athletes. For 5 bonus points, can you guess as to why I’ll be there? (Hint: it’s not for the Gatorade.)