Monday, June 16, 2008

Pat Griskus Olympic Triathlon Race Report.

There are several reasons why I decided to do Connecticut's hardest Olympic Distance Tri, a week after Eagleman. The first is it's a tradition, every year since 2006 I have used this race as my "season opener", it was my first Olympic race so it holds a lot of nostalgia. The second or rather third reason is it is Connecticut's best of the US qualifier so it attracts a massively competitive field. The 2008 edition also held another more practical reason why I was racing, it was my trial run, for Hell week, how would my body hold up after a half ironman, when I would try to ask it for all it had again. I was about to find out.

I arrived in transition after picking up my bags the night before ( and flashing the Ironman New Zealand T-shirt.) I set up next to a new HEATster. I met Gary, Raf, and a few other guys and Ken " Mr. Invincible" Davidson, from Shoreline. Now for those that don't know Ken D. he is BADASS! 4 years ago Ken broke his collar bone and 3 vertebrae in a horrific bike crash, he came back a year later, and last year conquered the course where he was nearly killed. we had swam masters together for a year, and sort of have a competition within a competition between each other, when ever we're racing. Irregardless, I got my stuff ready because I was in the first swim wave, and unlike some towns that come to a stand still when there is a race in town, Middlebury, CT had complained about our PA system, so until 9 AM there would be no PA and the loudest Volunteer had to use his vocal chords to corral us to the swim start. Tom Wilkas and crew went through their normal pre race spiel on how they've put this race on for 7 years and haven't had to Emergency Evac any one. The first wave took their spots for the start. I set up far wide hoping to avoid the crushing masses at the start.

The Swim: That's the way uh-uh I like it uh-uh!

An air horn went off to signal the start and after a quick dash, I was in water deep enough to swim. I began to pull away with a group of 5 guys and by the first buoy we established ourselves as the main contenders for the first leg. One guy broke away at the turn while the rest of us drafted and paced off of one another. Unlike Eagleman there was no wrestling. I stood a little wider, and the other competitors gave a little more room. There were no Kona slots at stake, just bragging rights and a a cushion on the bike, so there was no need to get dirty and break out the brass knuckles. The second bouy went well, 2nd and third place broke away a little so as I rounded the corner I noticed glare on the water. I tried to keep 2nd place directly infront of me. I noticed as soon as I got out of the glare zone we were on a direct line to the last bouy. I noticed the pack was starting to thin out. 1st place was gone 2nd was pulling away, 3rd was to my left and 5th was tucked in on his feet. The approach to the beach seemed to take for ever, I would take 5 strokes sight and the bouy on the dock didn't seem to get any closer. The third place swimmer caught up to second and finally after what seemed like and eternity I hit the beach. A volunteer in the water called out my split as being 24:54...I was a little slow on the run up to transition as I hit the mat at 27:09 40 seconds slower than last year.

T-1: You ever just have one of those days.....

When I hit T-1 I pulled off my wetsuit. Once again I was a little slow getting it off the ankles. I lost about two slots then got on my bike. My plan was to do the bare foot slip in like I did in Maryland, but as I mounted and began to pedal away, one shoe flipped upside down and snapped off. " Shit!" I muttered to my self I got off the bike ready to toss it to the ground so I could grab my shoe. " I'll hold it I'm an official." Tom Wilkas, the race director said to me as he took hold of the Stomper and I grabbed my shoe and put it on. I thnaked him grabbed my bike and slid my foot into the other shoe as I rode away. I had lost at least 10 spots and had added at least 2 min. to my bike time, since I had already crossed the timing mat. T-1 time: 1:19.
The Bike: See elevation Profile below.

Yes that is a really steep hill at about the 15 mile mark, but I'll get to that. As I left the Amusement park/Transtion area the road was going gently down hill. The asphalt was smooth as glass, and I was able to kick it in the big ring and really hammer, granted I got passed by Heaster Wolfgang ( or I think it was Wolfgang, all I know is he was wearing a tri fitness jersey and had incredible bike handling skills.) and a member of Team Timex on his pimped out Trek TTX. Then we turned to the side roads I was determined to try to take as much of and advantage on these flat/down hills as possible. I was getting passed by maybe 2 or 3 people but not the endless parade of cycles that had streamed by in years past. At least not until mile 3. As seen in the profile mile 3 goes down hill in a hurry and it also has some of the most treacherous corners on course. I'm usually on the binders so I can make the corner ( although one year in the sprint race I wiped out half way down the hill in the wet.) My brakes squeeled some GU2O must have spilt on the front caliper they squeeked half way down the hill as I tried to burn whatever was on them off. I made the first sweeping left hand corner and let off the brakes then feathered them for a sharp right hander then let go in the turn and coasted spinning my legs forward and getting no tension on the chain. I got passed by only 2 riders better than last year. We made our way down the back roads before shooting across route 6 and up route 47. At this point the road was starting to roll just a bit but not too bad. As we approached the Route 47 Route 132 junction we took a right and went on to Route 132 and toward the merciless hills of Bethlehem ( Claire and I have ridden 47 toward Washington). Not the suffer fest began. The first couple of climbs weren't too steep. I managed to take them in my 23 on the rear cog ( yes sadly I did not throw down on a climbing cassette so I man handled these hills with a 12-23 if anyone wants to get me an early X-mas gift a 10 speed Ultegra 12-27 would be greatly appreciated) I spun most of the way up getting out of the saddle occasionally. Each hill took more and more out of me. I magaged to get around one of the guys who passed me but now noticed the stronger cyclists were showing up. The riders started their parade past this crazy swimmer type. At the 10 mile mark Ken D. showed up and got around he could tell I was suffering as we made our way up the deciever. On 132 there are 3 major climbs, 2 back to back past a dairy farm and a few bed and breakfasts, I like to call these the sisters, the third hill is the deciever, when you start descending thinking the worst is over you are suddenly hit with this wall that you have to spin up, and then the descending begins. When I got to the top Ken was already kicking it into the big ring and cruising at full tilt. I had gotten passed by 2 others and kicked it into my big gear and began to coast down trying to follow Ken's line. I was aero for a little bit then got into the bull horns, there was a tight right hander coming up. I wowed way up for it and turned on to Weekeepeemee Rd. the most pox scarred piece of pavement in Litchfield County. Seriously, this thing looked like it had just survived a meteor shower, artillery barage and some 10 year old's failed mining attempt. I was going down in the bull horns, as I coasted a long two morons in their rice burners decided to visit some friends on this road forcing me to stay wide right, needless to say I hit a pretty big divet and nearly popped a front tire, if I can't have kids in 5-10 years I'll know why. As soon as the cars passed I was abel to go back to traversing the mine field, staying as close to the right as I could to let other faster/more daring/ skilled/insane riders past. We made a sharp left on to some pretty senic side road. I swear, it looks like a scene out of the Tour or the Giro, the road curves up and you're riding past this farmer's field and decrpid yet scenic little house. I got passed by the women's leader at this stretch. The road continued to curve up then it leveled off as you took a left on to Flanders Road. Now Flanders is decieving, the road looks flat but it is gradually going up hill. As you near the sumit you pass the Bendictine Abbey of Regina Laudis ( if you see any cars with hot chicks turning in there scream at the top of your lungs " Don't do it. Not Yet!")I think that this part of the course was added for a reason, at this point of the ride you are so hypoxic or so sick of hills you are either having a religious experience or are bargining with the almighty that you will donate you zipp wheel fund to the starving kids in Africa as long as you don't have to climb another hill.Finally you reach the top and are rewarded with a bottle from the aid station ( I didn't take) and turn right on to Route 61, the road goes down in a hurry and you find yourself reaching speeds you never thought possible on a bicycle, then it rolls a little bit and then it goes down hill with several curves, I mixed between the aero bars and bull horns as I sped through some of the more technical turns then shot accross route 6 on to the last stretch of heavy climbing. The women's second place rider went by as did some dude on a trek as I tired desperately to climb. Finally we crossed onto Middle Road Turnpike and the grade lessened as we took on the last part of the sprint course. One small hill, a speedy descent and I got around the trek. Another hill and the trek got around and once again I passed on the descent, finally the last hill the half mile grade with that damned smiley face. I got into the smallest gears I could muster determined to stay seated the entire climb, I got around the trek again and one dude on a Specialized with aero wheels, the second place woman was still about 200 meters up the road. I got out of the saddle to summit it Then quickly kicked into the power gears for the descent, I was passed by the Specialized, as we screamed toward the turn back on to route 64. There was a little bump on which the dude on his trek got back around as I slipped my feet out of my shoes and prepared for the descent back to transitition. I slowed up for the right hander back into the park and got passed by 2 other riders. I dismounted and ran into transition. I threw on my flats and race belt along with a visor and took off for the run. Bike and T-2 time: 1:25.06. 2 min. slower than last year.

The Run: The base is strong but the legs are weak.

As I headed off on to the run I passed a few of the cyclists that had beat me in at the same time I was passed by 3 or 4 faster runners. My legs felt like lead the Half Iron the week before combined with the Mountain Stage bike course had taken a huge toll, yet despite all this my breathing was fine, my lungs felt great but my legs just couldn't turn over. We started down the hill and I passed 2 guys one of whom stopped to "water the grass". At the aid station I took water and gatorade, the water went over my head and the gatorade went to fuel my tiring legs. One guy in a heat jersey got around me. I kicked it up, I wanted the honors of being the first HEATster across the line ( although I lost that to Wolfgang....I doff, my timex visor in respect.) I surged on the hill where I lost an age group podium in the sprint last year. We got back to flat land and the turn around at the park and I was caught by Gary, we decided to pace each other and reel in some of the runners from the Shoreline Sharks. My sights were set on Ken, he usually got me on the bike but I would often re pass on the bike, sadly that would not happen today. Gary and I kept a good pace, I made the comment about my shorts chafing, ( they don't have a normal cycling pad, like most zoot products, but rather a recessed soft fleece pad, they're great to ride in but the raised seams can hurt like the devil in the run.) We got down the hill again and down to the flat turn around. We started back and at the aid staion Gary accelrated we passed a few guys including one dude from Shoreline, but my tired legs could not keep up with Gary, as he acclerated up the hill like a house on fire. I kept him in sight as we summited but he continued to break away. Then reality hit as the shoreliner I had just passed made an attempt at a come back, I kicked it up a knotch and got around him as we turned down the finish chute, thankfully it wasn't long because I don't know if I had the legs to beat him in a 100 meter dash. I finished in 2:36.19 about 20 sec. faster than last year. My 10k split was 42:49 almost 45 seconds faster than last year.

I didn't medal in the age group as most of the studs came to play. 1st was a 2:15 low 2nd a 2:15 high 3rd a 2:16 4th a 2:26 and my self at 2:36. the most inspirational athlete in this race was John from Milford. John lost both of his legs to a bacterial infection 4 years ago at age 17, since then he has been racing in a hand cycle, and experimenting with prostetics. He had swum on a relay last year and this year was doing the whole enchilada. He was leaving T-2 shortly after I finished, he became the first person to finish any of the Griskus races using a hand cycle and push chair, quite an accomplishment considering the brutality of the race. He finished in about 3:30, which I found out after the race that he is using for a trial run to his first Half Iron in Providence on July 13, also he still managed to beat some of us more able bodied competitors, can you say BADASS! I could go on about the post race, but nothing really special happended I met a fellow Zoot Gu guy, another Blazeman Warrior, caught up with the HEATsters, guzzled some brew and met up with a CENTri guy, and oh yes, like every year dropped $5 on raffle tickets and still didn't win crap. I'm begining to think that I'll win the Sprint race before I win anything in that darn raffle.Well that was Saturday in Middlebury. This week will be devoted to long training miles, and hopefully reversing my Middlebury Curse on July 9 in the sprint after seeing how I stack up with some of New England's elites on July 5th at the Patriot.

The Latic Acid Filled Warrior



Big ass sitter said...

Great R R you just get better all of the time. I guess that is what it's all about. Keep it up:)

Gary said...

Nice report Rob...good reading. See you at some of the upcoming local races later this summer. Good luck in RI.