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Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Skinnyman Results

I competed in the Skinnyman Sprint Triathlon in Skaneateles, New York yesterday along with my brother-in-law Tom Vecchi (old guys age group) and my nephew Colin Vecchi (whippersnapper age group.) Tom, in a remarkable display of consistency finished seven seconds faster than last year, while Colin, who is twenty-five pounds lighter than a year ago, finished the race in one hour and thirty-three minutes, a twenty-three minute improvement over last year. If he loses another twenty-five pounds he can win the race next year.

Even though this is a shorter race than I’ve been running this year, I had some concerns. I didn’t finish my last race in Tuscaloosa due to leg cramps and that was the first competition where I failed to finish. One DNF is an aberration, but two in row, that would be a trend. Moreover, after the abysmal swim time at Tuscaloosa, I wanted to do well in the swim. My coach, Craig Strong, told me I should swim hard “buoy to buoy” at a “comfortable level of discomfort.” I have a tendency to relax on the swim portion because I have this fear if I push too hard I’ll find myself a mile from shore and out of gas. Craig promised that wouldn’t happen. At least it sounded like a promise.

I achieved the goal of making the swim leg uncomfortable. The problem this time was my strategy. A year ago I tried to stay close to the buoys (it’s an out, over, and back course) and I was squeezed by dozens of faster swimmers, which really messed up my stroke. So this time I started out wide, as though I were a wide receiver. My plan was to run a flag pattern to the turn buoy, but instead I ran sort of a deep square-in and ended up swimming about a hundred yards more than I needed to. The end result was that even though I swam faster than last year, my time improved by only seventeen seconds.

I had other concerns on the bike segment. This was my first time racing with the new Guru Tri bike. The bike course was moderately difficult with lots of rolling hills. I didn’t use aero position at all on the ride because I didn’t have enough confidence. I could have and probably should have, and I am certain by next year I’ll be ready. The bike was great and I pushed hard on the bike course, even though I could feel some tightening in my hamstrings. I finished the bike portion with an average speed of 19.1 mph up from 17.9 mph last year.

I knew that the run would be a problem for me. I should be able to run the 5k in 22 minutes, but I haven’t been comfortable running hard since the hamstring injury. When I started on the run, my legs and back were tight, so I took it easy to start out hoping I could speed up as I got into the race, but every time I tried to accelerate I felt a twinge in the right hamstring so I didn’t push it. I jogged the 5k in twenty-five minutes and finished the race in one hour and thirty two minutes – a two minute improvement over last year, mostly due to the improved bike leg.

I was, however, still two minutes ahead of Colin even though he beat me by four minutes on the swim. Of course he walked the first mile of the run. If he shows up next year at 175 pounds I won’t stand a chance.

I almost forgot to mention this. Most of the races I don't have any friends and family cheering for me, but at this race, Suzanne, my Mom and my sisters Carol and Kendra were all there to support us. I was preparing to flash my winning smile as I crossed the finish line to the cheers of loved ones, but apparently the excitement of seeing nephew Colin finishing a couple of minutes ahead of me (he was in the first wave with all the youngsters) created such excitement that they all forgot to watch for me and I crossed the finish line unnnoticed except for the race announcer who said, "Nice race, yellow-hat guy."

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