Malibu Triathlon

Posted by on September 15, 2008 in Training

I completed the Malibu Sprint Triathlon yesterday after a wild week of traveling, very little rest, tons of activities, and a bit of debauchery.  I think that I performed well despite all of the variables working against me, so I’m pleasantly surprised that this, my 8th season, could come to an end in a nice way.

The week preceding this race was fairly crazy.  I spent the early part of the week working on staining the moldings in my home and going on several interviews.  With playing football and basketball with the boys, and doing errands, I had little time (or desire frankly) to do much training.

I arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday and thanks to flight delays, got to my buddy Darren’s apartment very late.  As it turns out, I found out this summer that good friends Brad and Darren were going to the USC-Ohio State football game on Saturday and given the overlap of my trip, they invited me to go as well.  A few others in our crew joined us on this trip and we all decided to stay at Darren’s, slumber-party style.  I hadn’t quite considered what that really meant until I was presented with my sleeping arrangements: a couple of blankets on a thinly-carpeted floor between the TV and the coffee table.  I’m fairly easy-going, so it wasn’t a big deal for me.  The real issue is that with our fun each night, I only got 4 to 5 hours of sleep on Thursday and Friday nights.

The real stress came with Saturday.  We were up at 6 a.m., and out of the house shortly after 7 a.m. en route to the USC campus to begin a day-long tailgaiting party in advance of one of the biggest games of the season:  #1 ranked USC versus #5 ranked Ohio State.  As a huge Michigan fan, and with Ohio State being their biggest rival, I naturally became a USC fan for a day!  The tailgaiting was tough for me so early in the morning, but the fans all around were incredibly energetic and enthusiastic.  It was truly an amazing scene, one that I never appreciated or got to experience during my undergraduate days.

I had promised myself that I’d only have a few beers and cut things off by noon or so.  It was a good plan, generally, and I was fairly disciplined.  My saving grace was the water strategy; I drank a ton which was evidenced by the number of bathroom stops!  The nutrition was very poor though; few pre-race plans include hot dogs, carne asada, chips, cookies, etc.

I found that I was in this strange place where I wasn’t having as much fun as I would have wanted at the tailgating, and that I wasn’t nearly as relaxed as I would like to be before a race.  Ultimately, we made it to the game and watched USC simply destroy Ohio State.  By the 3rd quarter, things got admittedly boring and I found myself constantly checking my watch and calculating when I’d actually get to bed.  Luckily, our group was also bored and we decided to leave early in the 4th quarter.  By the time I got back to Darren’s to gather my stuff, it was around 9:30 p.m.  I drove to my sister’s place just a few miles away and had to first assemble my bike, which I had shipped via UPS, and put together my race gear since I knew I’d be super tired in the morning.  By the time I got to sleep, it was around 11:30.

I was up before 4:30 and was out of my sister’s apt. by 5 a.m.  Driving up to Malibu was a struggle; I found that it was nearly impossible to keep my eyes open.  I did the thing where I slapped my own face, opened the windows, blared the radio, etc.  When I finally arrived at Zuma Beach, I found a parking spot and seeing that it was around 6:15 and with an hour before the race start, I figured I could catch about 15 minutes of sleep safely.  Well, I overslept and things went south from there.

I didn’t realize that the transition area was about a mile from where I had parked, so I got onto my bike and cycled hard to get there.  Once there, I had no idea where to go to pick up my race packet and the volunteers weren’t terribly helpful.  I eventually got my race numbers, got body-marked, and got into the transition area only to hear over the loudspeakers that I had a mere 4 minutes to be out of transition or else risk being disqualified.  I needed to fill up my tires to the correct pressure, so with that task, as well as setting up my transition area, I was going to be tested in a very serious way.

As I walked through a sea of 3000 or so bikes on racks, I happened to see one set-up with a pump.  Feeling desperate, I grabbed it and connected it to my tires to begin pumping.  The apparatus however wasn’t fully appropriate for my very specialized wheels and rims, so instead of increasing tire pressure, I was losing it… and my sanity!  I managed to jury-rig it somehow to get things right and got on my way to find my specific transition area.  Once there, the announcement came over that I had exactly 2 minutes to get out of transition.  I don’t panic easily, but I came close.  I spent all this money, flew all these miles, and did everything I did for this race, and after the Chicago Triathlon debacle, it was important that I complete this event.

Fortunately for me, I’ve done so many races that getting set up is easy for me.  I had everything done in just two minutes and was out of transition quickly.  Thereafter, I’d have to wait another 45 minutes before my swim wave went off.  I met some nice people and we chatted the minutes away before our respective wave starts and just as I had hoped, I calmed down and got into the right mindset to be able to focus on what I needed to do to have a good day.  That meant visualizing the course as best I could, by remembering that bad events or feelings are temporary and to not let adversity convince me that all was lost, and by also remembering to appreciate why it is that I was there, to have fun and to fully embrace the luck that I have to be of good health, and to enjoy the freedom of being free and happy.

Each wave began on the sand and following the start cannon, athletes had to sprint to the water’s edge, then brave the 64 degree water temperature and choppy conditions.  Lifeguards in the water announced when a big wave was about to break.  I had to get through three sets of breaking waves and didn’t find it to be particularly difficult, but with the current working against us, each time I went under a breaking wave, I had to swim harder to get back to a proper trajectory to reach the first buoy which marked the first turn whereby the course becomes parallel to the shoreline.  Ultimately, my swim time wasn’t terribly fast, but I felt great throughout and found that I was able to navigate very well despite the unfavorable current.  I bodysurfed the final section well and though a bit dizzy getting out of the water, and with the deep sand ahead presenting another balance challenge, I made it to transition ready to ride hard.

The bike section featured a mile and a half stretch south before a turn-around that put us on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) going north for another 7.5 miles before a turn-around and reversed course.  I wasn’t sure how hard I should or could go, especially with not having trained well or frequently enough in recent weeks.  But, I went hard anyway including the hilly sections.  I counted only a dozen people who passed me and on some sections, I felt like I was in such a strong groove that despite going uphill, I blazed past other competitors.  When I looked down at my cyclometer and saw speeds of 24 mph going uphill, I knew things were going well.  All in all, I felt strong until the last 15 minutes or so where I began to wonder if going out so hard would result in a terrible run.  I backed off just a bit despite the strong desires to eat up more of the course.

My second transition was very fast and I got out onto the run course feeling surprisingly good.  Just as I exited transition, I heard people screaming out J-Lo’s name.  I quickly looked behind me and saw her in a white shirt and white cap along with a bodyguard.  I then saw scores of photographers get onto the very narrow run course to take her photo, so I made it a point to throw my face into the frame of potential shots.  So far, I’ve not seen any make it to press!  In any event, I felt generally good from an aerobic perspective, but my legs were tired.  I tried to find landmarks to use as markers on the return trip, e.g. “it took me 5 minutes to get to this shed, so I when I see it again on the way back, I’ll only be 5 minutes from finishing.”

Just before the turn-around point at mile 2, I began to wonder how my super-tired legs would respond.  At the the turn-around, I looked at my watch and simply made the decision that I would negative split.  It’s easy to make such declarations and quite another thing to execute them, but something inside me just told me that it was something I could achieve.  It meant going hard for an extended time and performing with both aerobic and anaerobic fatigue.  I passed some folks by going onto the sand, I passed others by crossing into the oncoming run course, and ultimately, I got faster and faster.  When I hit that 5 minute landmark, my watch said that I was 6.5 minutes left to the finish… which meant that I was 1.5 minutes faster from the turn-around versus the course to the turn-around.  In the final stretch, spectators were so supportive and I worked off that energy to run very, very hard straight through to the finish where I passed a few folks in my age group.  That felt great!  In the end, I was 2 minutes and 12 seconds faster in the final 2 miles.  As I’ve written in previous posts, this is a new phenomenon for me this season, that in nearly every race this season, I’ve negative split the run.  Naturally, I am ecstatic over this.

In the end, my finish time was 1:54:11.  My goal was 1:55:00, but it was a general goal and it didn’t mean all that much to me.  What meant more was that I’d feel good about the experience and not suffer too much thanks to the preceding weeks.  So, the victories for me were that my newly coined phrase, “residual fitness”, came through for me to carry me despite poor training in recent weeks, that despite only averaging 5 hours of sleep for 4 straight nights and with a full day of tailgating, I was able to overcome the fatigue, and of course, that I was able to complete a very fun event with my sister there to greet me and with lots of celebrities to watch.

This now completes my 8th season of multi-sport.  I can’t remember exactly, but I think that Malibu was my 61st triathlon.  Next season, I hope to do the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon as well as some local races before buckling down and training for the 2009 NYC Marathon.  It’s not clear how many more years of this stuff I’ll want to do or have time to do especially with me being on the cusp of a new chapter in my professional career and with the goal of settling down with a good woman.  Sometimes, I abhor training and want to just veg on the couch, but there is something so alluring about working hard physically and knowing that the benefits are solely mine, that there are no judgements to worry about as you work to achieve a difficult goal.  I sometimes refer to training as “my girlfriend” because she’s always waiting for me even if I need a break, she’s always willing to let me work hard or take it easy, and she gives me the ability to work through life’s problems and in turn, she allows me to be happy, stress-free, healthy, and very much at peace.  With that, how can I stop?

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