Sunday, August 29, 2010

2 minutes.

How many times have you said that in your life? "Give me two minutes, I'll be ready". Yeah, we've all said it before, heard our kids say it, "Ah, Dad, come on. Two minutes more to watch TV?" Or, "Dinner will be ready in two minutes". It didn't really strike as a catch phrase, something to remember, or ponder. Well, I will remember two minutes, for the rest of my life!

Sometimes I cringe at the thought, other times I laugh. My wife and I joke about it, and I make fun of myself to my friends about it (now). And I got mad about it, felt sad about it, felt sorry for myself (not for long). I felt like quitting. I felt like I had wasted a great moment. An epic failure, never before had I not finished an even I had signed up for. Never.

But, then I got motivated by it.

So, I'm still no triathlete. No, not yet. On to why that is.

Here I am, pre swim. Note the red buoy WAY out over my left shoulder, in the distance, that was the 1st turn, where we made a hard right and swam south almost all the way to the North Pier:
Suited up, almost time...
How does the two minutes come into play? Well, two minutes was the time in which I missed the swim cut off time for IM Racine. Here is a pic of me all suited up, just prior to the swim start for my wave. One of the logistical problems, at least for me, was the fact I was starting the race in the 2nd to last wave. The last wave started 4 minutes behind my wave, and to make the cut off for an IM sanctioned 70.3, you have 70 minutes from the last wave start to finish. I had 74 minutes to swim 1.2 miles. I swam it in 76.

Here are some more pics from the start, a good crowd was on the beach that morning, hundreds of racers, several hundred friends and family walked down to cheer us on at the start, to the north:
Looking back south towards the North beach swim finish:
My wave, wading out into the chilly 64 degree Lake Michigan water:
My wave, heading out past the yellow marker, to the 1st turn:
Heading back to our tent/cheering section, my race day done!
The remainder of my "race" was spent here, sipping an Amstel, or a water:
Who came wandering down by us, to say "Hi" and cheer on the mere mortals? 
None other that Craig "Crowie" Alexander, the reigning IM World Champion and overall winner (big time) of the Inaugural IM Racine 70.3, here he is with Kim, my buddy's wife: 

Alexander the Great(2nd in pic) and the other male pros, running to the bike area:

Needless to say, I was disappointed beyond words. I felt pretty good once out of the water, at least until the official said I was the 1st one to miss the cut. In looking back at the swim, I started off terribly. I swam to the 1st red buoy (where we made the turn), and I felt the need to stop and rest. I continued on, making it from buoy to buoy along the route. At least a few times, I found myself swimming off course WAY farther out than I needed to be-I'm talking 75 yards or more out west of the north to south swim lane, costing me more precious time and energy. I felt a bit of panic early on-I won't lie about this. I remember thinking to myself at about the 2nd red buoy marker after the turn, "What the fuck did I get myself into here". I saw several other racers from my wave, and the last wave (based on swim cap colors) getting plucked from the water. One girl looked really, really scared and water logged as they pulled her up into a boat.

I wasn't alone; one of the pros in the swim kept going due south, missing the last buoy marker to turn into shore (another racer and I started in the last two waves, we had enough time to watch the mens pros come out of the water before we even walked the mile down the beach to the swim start). The officials on the back of a personal water craft were blowing their whistles at him, trying to get his attention, for several minutes before he finally held up and got turned, but he lost some ground to the other pros.

The final kicker for this OWS-my first this far out in Lake Michigan without my jet ski with for support-was that by the time my wave started, the winds had kicked up from the south/southeast. The chop builds very fast on Michigan, it's not a body of water to fool with. So for the last half of the swim, the chop and swells built to 1-2 footers. It was rolling so good, and right at us swimmers, that it knocked one of the life guards off her surf board twice while I was close to her. She was saying, "Holy shit, did this get rough out here". Onto the sand again, walk to the shore, struggle to grab hold of the lanyard on the wetsuit to start pulling it off. The official coming up telling me, sorry, but we need your timing chip. You missed the swim cut by two minutes. What? Shock set in.

I can honestly say, this was the hardest swim I had ever done in my life, by far. But stopping and not racing, I felt like I was going to puke all over.

The Good: I finished the swim. Albeit too slow for IM cut off times, but I did the entire 1.2 mile swim. One other racer that hung out with us along the run route, she is a sponsored duathlete and is very much in shape. She came up later and was telling us she was the 1st out of the water-hell, we all thought she was out of the water with the pros, that she was that fast. No, she clarified, she made it to the 1st red buoy marker, and called for the support boat to pull her out of the water. I felt a little better after hearing this. After all, I did the entire swim. And damn, was I close to making the cut, only two minutes over.

The really good thing was, I felt good after the swim. I felt like I grew stronger in the last 1/3 of the swim, even though this was during the worst of the conditions out there. I swam longer at the end too, taking far fewer stops to catch my breath. I felt like I was ready to get on the TT bike and tear it up.

The Bad: I thought long and hard about the reason I ended with a big old fat DNF. I looked back on my training logs, and it is as plain as the nose on my face: I did not train enough for the swim. I didn't do nearly enough long swims, not enough time in the pool, not enough prep time in becoming a better swimmer. Was it a bad choice by myself, picking a 70.3 IM sanctioned event for my 1st triathlon? Maybe. But then again, maybe not. I know I can do the distance (even though I swim slow!). And even though I went way over what I thought I'd swim it in, the thought comes back, two minutes too slow...

And so, this gave me motivation to move on, to start looking ahead.

What's next? At least three more races are on my calendar this year. 
1) Sept 4th, the Lake Country 1/2 Marathon, out in the Lakes area west of me.
2) Sept 11th, Lake Geneva Extreme Sports 1/2 Extreme 70.3 triathlon.
3) Oct 3rd, Milwaukee Marathon.

The Lake Geneva Tri has no stringent cut off times, so that will ease some of the pressure. I need to do this race, one of the last 70.3 events in this area for the year. It is like a mental weight on me now-if I don't complete what I started out to do in July, it's going to bother me, eat at me, all winter long. I just have to get this goal done, just for me. 

I've been swimming more-I got back in the pool almost right away to work on my weakness in this great sport. I've since cut down my 2,100 yard time to about 55 minutes-almost 21 minutes faster than the (in)famous IM Racine swim time. I've also done numerous 2,500 yard, 50 lap swims. I've worked on my stroke a bit, and can feel the improvement in the pool. I rest a lot less than I did in pre race swims. I feel I have improved a fair amount since mid July. I guess we will see about that...

The Lake Country 1/2 Mary is more of a training run, to set me up for the 70.3 a week later. I'm shooting for about 2 hours, no PR quest this year (I ran it in 2008 in 1hr 47m and change). Just an organized long run this year.

The Milwaukee Marathon, well, that will be interesting too. I've had to "lose" some of my running time and fitness in order to swim and bike more evenly. More on this one later, after I finish #s 1 and 2.

More on training to come, like my 8 miler in the blazing heat today and some pics of my new CO2 air set up on my TT bike. Stay tuned for some other things that have been going on since the last time I checked in...Oh, and check the "new" banner (almost the same as the old banner) at the top of the page, notice the new date? New race goals for 2011 have been set and will be coming to the blog soon...


  1. The one tip I can give you that I think you've already picked up on is to increase how much time you're spending in the water. Swimming is more like running than biking, in that you absolutely have to put in the miles to get the results you want. When I started swimming I couldnt do 400 yards without resting a ton.

    Second, and I can't say this enough, is to do at least one open water swim a week during the warm season, regardless if it's just a small local lake or Lake Michigan. The only way to get more comfortable with sighting is to practice. Even when theres no race, just swim out a ways and then pick a spot and shore and swim back to it.

    My swim time for Timberman 70.3 is 1:02. That was a bad time for me, because I was swimming way off course, I should have been 5-10 faster. On bad days it can happen to anyone. If you find you're having a bad day during the swim, the trick is to switch to breast stroke. It has a couple of advantages. It allows you to sight simply as part of your swim stroke, and while it is a little slower than crawl, it allows you to get your breathing under control and to keep moving rather than resting.

    Plus the open water practice helps with the panic. But now that youve done your first big swim start it should be easier from here on in.

    Im sure youre going to do great in your next race and i applaud your courage in doing a 70.3 as your first tri. I definitely couldn't have done that with any confidence at all of finishing.

  2. Thanks, Ben. I appreciate the advice, I am learning about the nuances of this sport as I'm going along! I'm hoping to have a bit longer race report after the 9/11 race (like a bike and run leg to post about!).