Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Renaissance Man Triathlon

The inaugural Renaissance Man Olympic Triathlon in Florence, Alabama was set to debut multisport into The Shoals, which happens to be my home turf.  I have to admit, I wasn't very fired up about this event, originally.  My weakest discipline is the swim, and the Olympic distance spends a greater percentage of total race time in the water than any other standard distance.  Generally speaking I am slowest at Olympics, so I avoid them altogether.  To further limit my chances of success, the swim was to be too warm for a wetsuit and feature 750 meters getting upstream.  Three big whammies to start my day.  I knew I would have to race my local race, after all if we don't support our community who will, right? But, I also knew this race presented a real opportunity for me to get stomped, right here on my own doorstep. Still, you've got to defend your city limits.

The morning started with derailleur gremlins playing the 1-up&2-down dance while warming up on the bike.  After a bit of tinkering, I was racked, loaded, and ready to fire off at swim start.  It was pretty dang cool realizing I had friends in every kayak, canoe, and paddle board marking the swim course. 

Bib #16 meant that I was queued up for the time trail start 15 swimmers back from the starting line.  A TT start means the swim is easier to support for rescue personal and the bike course is less congested since swimmers trickle in less volume than mass start races.  Unfortunately, it also means the racers don't start at the same time; its entirely possible to show up to the finish first and still get beaten.  While 99% of the field benefits from a TT swim start, 1% whines about it.  I am a whiner.

Cool pic, right?
Photo Credit: Ashton Lance of the Times Daily
After all my hatin' on the swim details, it was amazing.  The Tennessee River was glass.  It was a pool swim with a view of the cliffs of Sheffield's shore.  I immediately started moving through the few folks ahead and found my way onto a set of toes that were just fast enough to keep me comfy, so I settled in and relaxed.  When we made the turn around in the barge slew, I saw two other swimmers were just ahead of us.  Heading back to swim out, we passed the McFarland Park river walk overlook that gives spectators a chance to spot their swimmers just before they pass back under Oneal Bridge and hit the beach.  After a bit of jockeying for who would be third out of the water, I was 24 minutes into the race, grabbing sand and shimmy'ing my way to the bike rack.

The bane of learning to swim is having trouble finding a ride out of T1.
On the way to a 26mph avg speed bike split
on just ~260 watt AP
Out on the bike, I immediately got a split from one of the local Shoals Cycle Clubbers, Joe Duhon, that I was 3 minutes down on the leader.  Thanks to the rolling hills of the first few miles, I could spy the leader's motor patrol escort just ahead.  My bike plan is usually about hitting my power numbers, but this time I knew there was an evil run course awaiting us.  Instead, I chose to save my mojo and concentrate on riding smooth, small, and slippery.  I went harder where the course was slow and easier when it was fast. 

By mile 8, I'd passed into 2nd and at mile 10 I was shadowing the leader.  I made a strong pass to discourage any aspirations of pacing my wheel and settled into doing my thing once I'd broken away.

Lauderdale county maintains some of the best, buttery smooth asphalt a cyclist will ever see.  It's actually a challenge to keep our local rides marked because they repave so often.  Combine the silky road surface with great traffic control, wide sweeping turns, and this course can be taken full tilt. 

The thing just rolls so sweet.  I'm not sure how TJ managed to witch so
much voodoo into a frame, but diggity dang its a bad-mother-bicycle., but you're too late for #9.
 That is until the next to last turn leading back onto Savanna Hwy, when a motorist decided to jump in between the escort and me, just before a stop sign on a long sweeping downhill.  The intersection was being controlled by a police officer, I had a motorcycle cop managing traffic, another motorcycle escorting me around the course, and this guy just trying to get where he is going.  The intersection was a parking lot when I arrived, but since its my home field, I knew that I could make the turn onto a very wide shoulder without missing a pedal stroke.  Everyone there thought they were about to get to see a spectacular crash as I swung out wide before bending into the turn and sticking the Dimond up the inside of the whole fluster cluck that was shaking out.
Strava Bike Course
Never rack a bike in anger.
Arriving back into transition, I had the place to myself.  Which meant everyone got a great view of me butchering each step of getting onto the run.  After racking my bike, it slipped off the saddle hook and hit the lawn.  Next, I struggled to get on my snazzy bright Zoots only to hear the ankle pull tab pop a few stitches.  I then quickly scampered away from run-out, and just out of transition, dropped my shades.  My instinct was to leave them, but doubled back after a few meters when I realized I could be penalized for abandoning equipment. 

running out of transition along the McFarland Marina.
Finally onto the run course, I settled into trying to run comfortably up the first mile.  The run is a long steady climb to the University of North Alabama campus, down the back side, then ascending back up to the campus before the rolling descent back to the river.  The course was covered with volunteers, and there were plenty of opportunities to nab water and calories all along the way.

I'm so diggin' the Zoot gear.  .
The course features four nice water shows with big fountains and trickling falls as we run along a mix of river front paths, through historic downtown Florence, around the lion exhibit of UNA's campus, and offers a rare chance to see a Frank Lloyd Wright house, before dumping runners back into McFarland Park. 
UNA's chemistry professor, Dr. Diaz, rolled out on the run course for crowd control. 
The biggest problem with the Zoot Suit is keeping the honey's from pawing at me.

2:03:18 officially
The run course from Strava
It was pretty easy to cruise the run course and enjoy the cheers of all the volunteers, soaking up the experience of being at the front for the hometown crowd. 

Most of the time, I show up on the soft side of the finish line wishing I could wring just a few more drops of fulfillment out of the day.  At least for the Renaissance Man, I felt content with the accomplishment.  It was certainly a good day to be triathlete in The Shoals.

Another local, Dr. Glenn Rudolph scored some prime real estate on the overall podium too. 
The overall awards were pretty obnoxious trucker hats with golden leafs on the brim.
I had my doubts, but the following day I saw a WSB rider hop on the top step of podium sporting the same hat minus the RMT logo.  We all should get our styling cues from eurotrash moto riders, right?

Carol Bishop straight up showed out for her debut into triathlon by snagging 2nd Overall female.

L2R: Jessica Diaz, Todd Allen, E!&Me, Stacey Nelms, Carol's Friend, Carol Bishop
Front: Robert Rausch, THE most interesting man in Lauderdale County

Mikayala is going to make sure I don't get away with that timing chip,
whether I pass out or not.
I'm guessing my blood gets lost, but virtually every race I come off the gas to find the world gets real dark for a few seconds.

Greg and Matt wrapped up the swim volunteer gig just in time to escort me in for the finish.

The RD, Bradely Dean, hit a homerun for this inaugural event.  I was shocked at just how well he managed the race.  Despite my worries, the swim was a lake because he had the dam shut down for 2 days.  The bike course had every turn manned and traffic controlled.  The run was marked and staffed so well you could spot a volunteer from virtually any point on the course. Great job, man.  'at a boy.
I'm a really big fan of these two. 

You just got to embrace the ridiculousness of it.