Monday, June 18, 2007

The Tulsa Triathlon: A Race Report

The Tulsa Triathlon is a difficult Olympic distance race held north of Tulsa at Skiatook Lake. Lance Armstrong won this race when he was 16 on a different course. The course today, consists of a two loop swim and a bike that has a nice mixture of hills and flats. The run course also has a mixture of hills and long grades but it also has its share of sections which are flat and downhill. My watch altimeter reported 2500 ft of total climbing. It is a pretty difficult course and, in the past, nobody has broken 2 hrs until guys like Greg Rouault and Chuck Sloan came along. They are a pair of local rock stars. Greg is the world amateur 25-29 world champion, and Chuck most likely will win USAT nationals this year. Greg and Chuck's Team Link

I entered this race and chose to train through it and treat it as a hard workout. Nothing can boost the fitness level more than a race. I can’t push myself this hard when I am training by myself. Buffalo Springs 70.3 is coming up in 2 weeks and this would be my last really hard workout before I started my taper. I was out to have fun and see how I could perform with still a little fatigue on board.

My wife, Dana, and I got to the race course at around 6:45 or so for an 8:00 start. The weather looked pretty gloomy…. Clouds, strong winds, and rain. We had the local TV weather man there as a volunteer. He called the station and assured us that the storm was breaking up and would miss us. Within 30 minutes, the weather cleared the rain stopped, and the winds died down: the race was on. I filled my profile aero bottle with 300 calories of "Hammer Heed".

I popped a Hammer Anti fatigue and Race cap an hour before the start and went out to the lake and warmed up. I saw that Daniel Agnew was here. He is on the U23 Tri development team and, from looking at the state HS swimming results, is a pretty good swimmer. He would be my fast feet if I could hang on.

Just before the start the wind appeared to be taking the turn buoys out further into the lake. I was ok with that. The longer the swim course the better. “Keep going”

The swim started hard. I’m not used to going out this hard because I usually do longer course stuff. I was in Daniel’s wake and enjoying the ride. I looked back under my arm saw and it was just me and Danny. Then the guy starts doing the juke back and forth trying to shake me. “Aaw… come on dude. Don’t do that.” Someone has taught this boy how to open water swim. I knew when we got to the first buoy that he was going to accelerate hard off the turn. I was ready for it but he dropped me anyway. The hard pace had slowed and I still kept him in sight. I just kept the strokes long and strong and settled into a half ironman pace.

Some other guy bridged up to me and we swam along side then I tucked in behind him for a while. On the last buoy we caught some swimmers on their first loop. Apparently, Danny swam off course and missed the last buoy so I was back up to him on the home stretch to the finish. This race awarded cash primes for the fastest individual swim, bike and run. The thought entered my mind to sprint but that’s all it was: A thought. Swim time 20:25. The course was definitely long. This was in my favor.

My transition seemed slow, 48 seconds. When I got to the start of the bike Danny was off his bike throwing something that looked like a snake to the ground. He broke his chain. He was out. The other swimmer was a relay and I was now in the lead. Hey, this hasn’t happened in a while. I never thought when I was younger that at 45, I still would be able to lead a race. I thought those days were long gone. Sometimes when I’m out there racing I forget how old I am. I knew my little moment of glory wouldn’t last long. Chuck Sloan was coming and I knew it. I just stayed out there and enjoyed it as long as I could.

The hills are pretty violent at the start. This definitely hurts the weaker swimmer. I just kept the watts capped at fewer than 350 and stayed seated on the climbs as much as possible. By 3 or 4 miles I looked back and saw Chuck coming. He passed me on the last hill and after that I was able to keep him in sight up the road the entire ride. I looked back on the corners I saw no one. I thought “Hey, I might not have to run as hard to get second.” Nice.

On one of the corners, I took it pretty tight and my rear wheel fishtailed on the wet road. I managed to keep the bike upright and kept going without losing it. Whew…. That would have been embarrassing.

I hit T2 two minutes down. Bike time 1:05. I didn’t worry about catching Chuck because he would be in a different zip code at the end of the race. As I reached the top half mile hill out of the transition, the next group of cyclist were rolling in. Greg Rouault was at the top of the hill,as a spectator, and said I had second locked up. Look out for Greg on the pro circuit soon. He might very well make the French Olympic team too.

I treated the run as a tempo training run. I would run kind of hard when I saw the competitors coming in the opposite direction at the turn around just to give them the impression that I was running strong “don’t get any big ideas and try to run me down guys” I ended up going 41:00 for the run.

I sprinted down the last hill to the finish to see if I could break the 2:08 mark, but I just missed it by 30 seconds. Finish time 2:08.32. Anyway, I finished feeling pretty fresh. I ended up winning $200 for second place and missed the swim prime because Danny found a bike and went out and finished the course. He deserved it. He caught a bad break. Chuck went 1:56 and demolished me. He ran a phenomenal 32:11 on this course unchallenged …Wow!

Chuck now is part of the Train to Endure team coached by Dave LaTourette. Dana and I and Amanda Erwin are also coached by Dave. Look out for great things when Chuck decides to do an Ironman. He was asking me about doing Ironman following the race. I think Chuck has the potential to go sub 9 hrs the first time out.

My wife Dana, who just did Honu 70.3, last week, got third overall and picked up the primes for the fastest swim and the fastest bike. $250 total. The Chances cashed in at this race ;)

I have to thank the race director Renee, at Core Multisport, Dave Crow for all those amazing photos he took, Tulsa Area Triathletes, all the volunteers and sponsors for putting on this race and making the 25th anniversary a success.

It was fun and a good time was had by all. I feel pretty good about my chances (pun intended)now at Buffalo Springs. It’s Taper time ;)

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