Tear Free: The Onionman Race Report
Despite the trauma, it seems I have regained some sanity after 16 hours of driving with only five iPod songs. No rest for the weary though; lets get this race report rolling.
This race report wouldn’t be complete without touching on the epic journey to Washington. Early Saturday morning, I packed the truck up and headed out into the pouring rain. 400 miles, 7.5 hours of driving. Even with the dismal weather, the route was phenomenal, taking me through the mountains, National Forests, Couer d’Alene, Spokane, and the Palouse region of Washington.
Everything was going peachy until I hit Spokane. It was then, about 4.5 hours away from home, as I was mentally rehearsing the race, that I realized that I didn’t remember sticking my brand new wetsuit in the truck. I pulled over on the side of the road, did a search of the truck. Nope. Nada.
After screaming at my steering wheel for a good minute or five, I decided to Google my way out of the situation. A quick phone search of triathlon stores in Spokane came up with “Fitness Fanatics.” Dialed up, explained the situation, and glory hallelujah, they had wetsuit rentals! Even better, their store was only 5 minutes away. When I finally got there, turns out there shop was stocked big time. In fact, I’ve never seen a place with more Cervelos and Felts. Def check it out if you’re in the area.
“Wentalsuit” in hand and disaster averted, I resumed my trip. After about eight hours, I arrived at my hotel of choice: The Lewis and Clark Trail State Park.I’m not a big fan of staying in hotels, where hygiene is always a gamble. At least I know what and who has been in my tent. Made camp, built a fire, had some nice gouda sausage, and settled in for an evening under the stars.
Alright, to the meat of things. Remember that last 10k report when I got destroyed by morning coffee? No risking it this time. Skipped the coffee entirely. Went for a strawberry smoothie, a banana, and a cup of oatmeal from Starbucks. Downed it with some water. The weather cleared, but the wind also picked up.
Equipment wise, went as lightweight as possible. Just one aero bottle. No computer, just Garmin and Powertap. Sans socks for the first time.
Well, thank God I went back for the suit. There wasn’t an official temperature reading, but I’m certain it was sub 60. Probably around 57 if I had to guess. While it was cold, I was just glad to not be the second guy without a wetsuit. Yep, some crazy dude was out there in tri shorts only…I only saw him once the entire day. Plan for the swim was to just go with the flow. I wanted to maintain an even effort through the entire race. No spikes. It was a mass start, and I settled into the middle of the pack. Gun goes off, and were at it. I started by just trying to dodge everyone, taking sights about every third-fourth stroke. Took two elbows early on, but goggles stayed put. After about 200 yards, we evened out a little. The water was pretty murky, maybe about a foot of viewing distance, and this made drafting difficult. Nevertheless, I spent most of my time chasing feet. Barely breathing hard, I came out of the water in about 29:07 minutes.
In the past, I have attempted to blaze through transition and go rocketing out on the first portion of the bike. This really hasn’t worked out too well prior, so, after discussion with my EN teammates, I decided to try the smooth and fast approach. I jogged up to bike, sat down, ignoring the screaming volunteer telling me to go faster. Wental suit came off in a cinch. Shoes on. Glasses On. Helmet On. To the mounting line. Heart rate elevated but calm. Breathing in control. Off I went. Time was 2:28, 4th in my AG.
So, I had heard two things about this race prior. First, that there were a lot of speedbumps. Second, that the whole first half is uphill and into the wind.
A lot of speedbumps? It was more like speedbump heaven. And we’re not talking about those little bumps you can just roll over in reckless abandon. These were full on, bounce the tread off an M-1 tank bumps. And not all together. Like that first driving license test, the horror is spread out over a mile. I figured with all the stop and go, and would just wait to start racing until after I got through this section. Some guys were a little adventurous, with disastrous consequences. I had barely made it to the third bump when I spotted a bloodied walker heading back to transition, bent wheel in tow.
After the mogul run, I made it out into the straights. All windy and false flats. My two goals for this race were to keep the watts even at around 160 (based on my WKO 60minute peak) and to stay down in aero. Yes, I know 160 is low, but this is my weakest segment. I like to think of it as the area of most potential.
Anyhow, I stayed down and low, cutting through the wind. I got passed a few times, but nothing too drastic. Made it to the flip, and it was F1 racing time. With the gusting wind at my back, and a downhill course, it was a brilliant ride. Max speed was 31mph.
I slowly reeled back in 3 riders as we made it back to the mogul run. The speedbumps were far more annoying back in, as they were usually at the top of tiny hills.
I would say that I stayed in the aero bars about 90% of the time. In addition, pnorm watts for the entire leg was 158, right where I wanted to be. Finished up in 1:18:58. Not stellar, but decent for the effort I was giving. 6/12 in age group and 112 overall. After the fact, I think I could have given a little more on the way out with how fast coming back was. Next time…
Again, Endurance Nation smooth and easy mantra. Bike and helmet on rack. Shoes off. Newtons on. Hat and bib belt on while heading to the run exit. Time of 0:57, 5/12 in age group.
This is the leg I had been waiting for all day. Off the bike, legs felt solid surprisingly. No jelly. Did take a little more effort than I wish to get rolling, but I was moving. Immediately sucked up two people that had past me late on the bike. Settled in behind another guy from my age group. I decided to just pace with him during the first mile as my legs found themselves. First mile was a dirt trail; not my most favorite thing. After about a mile, I was settling into my stride. I just kept whispering, literally, to myself to concentrate on my form. Fast cadence, low arms, head looking about 20 feet ahead. I soon passed the guy I was pacing with right around the time when the course went back to concrete. My goal was to create a nice even pace around 7:40 or in the 40’s for the total run time. With this plan, I slowly but surely reeled some people in. The course was pancake flat except for some little blips here and there. I was running, but far from crossing over my AT. In the last two miles, I paced with a female runner, and we took it home. Run time was 48:37, 7:49 pace, 5/12 AG, 84 overall.
Total result is 6/12 age group. The guy that won the entire race was in my age group to boot. All in all, this was a good race as all of my goals were met. Swim pace was good, watts right on, and pace/mile was perfect. No GI distress. Felt like I had enough control to keep form and efficiency maxed. To boot, there was some yummy post race BBQ, and about a billion different wineries to visit down the road.
The only regret I have is deciding to drive back to Montana right after the race. Seven hours sitting in a car after an Olympic tri is something no man should ever have to endure! Hopefully, I will plan a more extensive stay…next year.
Things I learned:
No coffee race day.
Smooth and easy works for me.
Things to work on:
More bike intervals.
Walla Walla tasting rooms.