Posted by: bradhammond | July 25, 2009

July 12

Well, it has been an interesting weekend!  I have felt pretty stupid a couple of times, and almost nothing has gone quite the way I expected, but sometimes life goes like that…
The Good:  Friday night I was registered for an open water 2.4 mile swim race.  Actually, they had a series of 3 races, and I registered for the first one a month ago, and switched my registration to the second one when I had my kidney stone episode.  First moment of feeling stupid – I had never been there before, and got horribly lost.  I had looked at a map online and jotted down a couple of quick notes.  Somehow I thought the park was on 232 SE when it was really on 272 SE, so I wasted about 30 minutes searching an area that was several miles away.  At this point I was half expecting to not find the park before the race started and not getting to swim!  I finally found the park, found out the parking lots were full and parked half a mile away on side streets.  I jogged over and got there  with just enough time to fill out my waiver, get my number and get changed before they explained the course and started us.  I had plenty of the nervous adrenaline working for me, and had a good swim.  I had been hoping to finish in about 1:15, but they timed me in 1:08:20.  I think that works out to about 28:30 per mile or 1:37 per hundred yards.  The whole second half of the swim I could feel my wetsuit chafing my neck, and I got a nice big raw patch.
The Bad:
Pride goes before a fall.  – Proverbs
Pain and cussing comes after a fall.  – Brad
Saturday I drove down to Enumclaw to bike a couple times around the half-ironman bike course.  Again, things did not go exactly as planned.  The park where the race starts was still closed when I got there, so I had to park out on the street.  I thought a little bit about my swim race the night before, day dreamed about shattering my time goals in the ironman (I want to go under 13 hours) and said to myself “If it wasn’t for the running thing, my biggest worry would be over confidence!”  A few miles later, I had another one of those opportunities to feel really stupid.  I wanted to check my time, so I glanced at my wrist watch, then glanced back again to read the seconds.  I swerved slightly to the right, and my front tire went off the pavement into the sand and gravel and then rubbed against the pavement, knocking my bike over.  I slid to a stop, and let out a few expletives.  My elbow was bleeding, my bike shirt was totally ruined (although it protected my shoulder reasonably well) and I had a massive bruise (also bleeding) near my left hip.  My bike tire had also gone flat during the crash, so I picked up stuff that was strewn across the road and started fixing it.  In keeping with my 50% failure rate on flat repair, I somehow managed to break off the valve stem after I had finished changing the tube – I could pump it up nice and hard, not leaking a bit, but the second I took the pump off, all the air rushed out.  I tried pumping up the other tube to see if I could patch it, but the air rushed out as fast as the puimp could put it in, so I gave up on that and started walking back.  After about 30 minutes of walking some fellow bikers stopped to help, and gave me another spare tube.  In keeping with my 50% failure rate, I got it changed successfully this time, but I settled for just riding back to my car and driving home.
I pondered what lessons I could from this crash.  “Never look at your watch ?”  No, too simple to say and too hard to follow.  I’m too curious about about things like times, heart rates, etc. to never look.  Also, I do lots of other things on the bike like eating, pulling out waterbottles to drink, that are just as potentially dangerous.  Had I just been lucky so far?  Well, fairly lucky, for sure.  It occurred to me that when this happened there were no cars anywhere on the road, and there was no paved shoulder, yet I was over pretty close to the right side – if I had been a foot further from the edge, the swerve wouldn’t have mattered at all.  So, I came up with a few ideas on lessons to be learned:
1.  Always pay attention to the road.  If there is no reason such as traffic (cars, trucks, other bikes, pedestrians) then always give yourself a margin of error by staying a couple feet away from the pavements edge, curbs, etc.
2.  Anytime that you are looking away from the road or don’t have both hands on the handle bars the risk is higher.  Plan these things for safe, easy stretches and really pay attention as you do it.
3.  Always have at least 2 spare tubes.  For the race, probably 4 would be good.  I am too bad at changing tubes to only carry one.
4.  If I see someone who needs help during the ironman, I’ll probably stop and give them a spare tube or let them borrow my tools.  I’d feel better if I finished in 12:35 after spending 5 minutes with someone who needed help than I would feel about ignoring them and finishing in 12:30.  Shorter races are totally different – if a flat tire ruins your sprint triathlon then you can just do another one the next weekend, but you might have to wait another year before getting another chance to finish an ironman.
After I got home, I decided that it was a good time to see if I could move the cleats further back on my biking shoes.  The basic idea is that if the center of your pedal is under your arch instead of under the ball of your foot then you don’t use your calf muscles to transfer the power coming from the bigger muscles higher up (glutes, quads, hamstrings).  This leaves your calves fresher for running, and can improve your power on the bike as well.  Analagous to doing push-ups on your fingertips, involving the smaller muscles doesn’t really add power but causes you to get fatigued sooner.  Anyway, I read about it a month ago, and wanted to try it out.
The Stubborn:  After I got my cleats repositioned, I moved my bike seat lower and further forward to compensate, and took a brief test ride.  It was interesting.  Now I had a definite reason to ride on Sunday – research!  So this morning I drove up to Lake Stevens to ride the half-ironman course there.  I was also researching whether a protein drink while riding would help or hurt me.  Unlike Saturday, which had beautiful, sunny weather, Sunday was cool and overcast, with thunderstorms.  For a while I toyed with the idea of doing the course twice, but getting caught in a thunderstorm about 2 hours into my ride had me convinced that 56 miles should be enough.  The course was pretty hilly, and it took me a lot longer than I expected.  I hoped to do it in about 3:10 or so, but it took almost exactly 3:30, which was disappointing.  I have so many excuses and possible reasons for being slow that I haven’t reached any definite conclusions about the cleat placement making me faster or slower – although it certainly didn’t turn me into a suoer biker.  My plan is to wait about a week and do a time trial on a familiar course (probably going around Lake Sammamish) and use that result to decide whether to keep the cleats and bike set up like they are right now or go back to the original way.
I am still trying to improve my swimming stroke a little bit, but my hardest training is definitely behind me at this point.  I am going to take it fairly easy and give my body a chance to rest and recover.  Tyler and I are going to drive down to California together, and he will stay with Laura’s mother while I am racing.
Well, thanks for reading! 

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