Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Back In The Saddle: Redman Triathlon

I’m a month out from my knee surgery and things are on the mend. I have started running a little but not enough to race. I was originally planning to go to Portland, OR and do the Age Group National Championships this weekend but injuries and knee surgery nixed those plans quite some time ago.

About a week ago, I started to feel better on the bike and I felt the urge to test my fitness. I wrote to the folks at the Redman Triathlon in Oklahoma City to see if I could get into the half ironman aqua bike.

Redman is Oklahoma’s only iron and half-iron distance race. I have done it several times before, using the iron aqua bike as my simulation prep for IM Florida in 2005 and Kona in 2006. This year they made the iron distance aqua bike an official event. For the athletes prepping for Ironman Florida and Kona the timing is perfect

This weekend the race, for me, wasn’t prep for anything other than getting some baseline data to work from to build upon for next year’s program. I haven’t ridden longer than about an hour and forty-five minutes recently so it would be interesting to see what would happen. There wasn’t much pressure to perform and I was glad that I wouldn’t have to get off and run. Dana challenged me to break 3 hours. That was a doable goal and I was up for it.

We had to check in our bikes the day before the race so I had to drive down there after work on Friday. The morning of the race was perfect. There wasn’t any wind and Hefner Lake was like glass.

The iron distance and iron aqua bikers went off in the first heat, following them, 15 min later, the under 40 male half iron athletes, then 3 min later, me and the over 40 male half iron and aqua bikers.

My swimming has been coming along great lately so I quickly swam away from my group and within a few minutes, I was swimming through the bulk of the younger half iron males. At the turnaround, I had clean smooth water and I began to pass some of the leaders of the first heat as I continued to move through the field.

My goal, though cocky, was to be with the overall leaders of the first heat of half iron younger guys by the time we hit T1. I figured a 25 or 26 minute swim would get me there. My Xterra Vendetta wetsuit provided me with the best ammunition to get the job done. I ended up with the fastest swim split of the day, a 26:38. The course might have been a tad long.

I had a sub 1 min T1 and was on the bike in third overall not including the 3 min head start I allowed on those guys. By 4 miles, I had moved into second overall and I was setting my sights on catching the overall leader. Folks on the roadside were telling me the leader was just 3 min up the road, so in reality we were about even. Without the burden of the run hanging over me, I was going after him. There wasn’t a lead police vehicle with lights flashing on it so I couldn’t see him up the road.

The race starts in an urban populated portion of Oklahoma City, and then you quickly find yourself out on desolate farm roads with fields, grain elevators, potholes, and chip seal roads as rough as gravel. Out there, alone it’s easy to lose concentration. I just looked down at my SRM and tried to keep a steady wattage level of around 230 and my cadence above 100. My heart rate was high in the 150’s but I didn’t care because I didn’t have to run. At around 1:30 into the bike I started feel the fatigue. That seemed about right, because that was about the extent of my long rides recently. My quads and calves started to cramp so I soft peddled and worked them out.

I was pretty pumped coming into town, as it appeared that I was going to achieve my goal of going under the 3-hour mark. I was motoring at an even wattage and cadence and I was getting ready to turn it on to the finish.

The traffic is a little dodgy coming into town so you have to keep your wits about you. Redman does a great job of policing intersections and fast food entrances but some people don’t follow their directions and are quite irate with athletes taking up their road space. I saw a few honking and shaking their fists.

I was approaching the last major intersection before I made the turn for the final loop around Lake Hefner to complete my race. I had my hands on the hoods and fingers on the brakes as I cruised through. I just don’t trust drivers at busy intersections like this. At the very last minute, a silver car pulled out right in front of me. I tightly gripped my brakes and fishtailed slamming directly into the side of the car. “Smack!! Ugh! It reminded me of the type of hit I would take when I was playing football. It sounded the same too. The right side of my body and head took the majority of the impact. According to my SRM, I was going 27mph and on impact, I had slowed to 16.5 mph. That’s one tidbit of data that you can garner from your power files that the book “Training with Power” doesn’t tell you.

I laid on the ground for a bit, stunned and angry. My right leg cramped and it was bleeding. The policeman who was supposedly directing the traffic asked me if I needed an ambulance. I looked up at one of the other police officers picking up my bike and the wheels seemed to be turning well but the handlebars were bent. I looked over at the driver of the car. It appeared to be a gray haired elderly lady. I told the police officer to get all her information. I was going to finish the race.

I gave them my race number my name and birth date and told them that I would be in touch. I was banged up, sore but I could ride another five miles, and I was already so far out in the lead already. I hadn’t come this far not to finish.

I cruised in third overall in the half and won the aqua bike but my time was 3:02. The accident cost me my sub 3 hour goal and my bike time was 2:34, far from the sub 2:30 pace which I was on. My anger soon changed to relief. I realized that this accident could have been more serious. I could have had a much more severe injuries or even been killed.

The race director, co race director, and folks in the medical tent were all wonderful. I was treated like a king. Everyone was flocking around me giving me drinks, pretzels, bandaging my wounds. Those folks all work so hard to make this race a success and I appreciated all their efforts to take care of me and devote their free time to help make events like this a possibility.

I have to admit, the traffic situation at Redman is a problem though. I heard of other athletes having narrow escapes and in my past races here, I have had close calls too. People just don’t follow the traffic direction. Other than closing the course to traffic, I don’t see any other way to solve this problem. The folks at Redman have done everything in their power to make this course safe.

Currently, I have a sore neck from the whiplash and a swollen lower right leg, but I will recover to race again. My friend, Brian Flournoy, D.C. fixed my neck up today and the headaches that I was having have diminished. I feel fortunate just to only have these injuries.

I haven’t had an accident in years. I was due. My plans for the future see me on the Computrainer…a lot.

If anyone out there is looking to do an Ironman race and want to try a race other than an Mdot, Redman should be considered. It is set to be the Half Max USAT Long Course National Championship next year.

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