Monday, May 5, 2008

Wildflower Triathlon 2008, Olympic distance, post-mortem

2008 Wildflower Olympic Triathlon

Sunday May 4th, 2008

Swim 1650yds / 0.93 mi / 1.5 K

Bike 24.8 mi / 40 K (major hills)

Run 6.2 mi / 10 K (major major hills)

Daniel Rucci, Bib #5598


The whole day was a bit clou

ded by the sore throat I had. It was kind of there in the background and went quite well with the overcast sky and general grayness of everything. I think it helped to calm me, in fact I was oddly calm, oddly prepared as opposed to previous races where I fe

lt very nervous the morning of, over-thinking every 

last de


This time in transition I had to really just shove away any crap I didn't need and think to myself "What do I need to swim.... okay, what do I need to go

 biking with... and what do I need to go for a quick 6 mile jog?" All of these questions had simple answers that reminded me of training, just throw on my shoes and go... minus the ipod, and suddenly I had my whole towel laid out with everything. Th

e only addition this time was the nutrition. I don't goo in training so I had to add t

hat into the mix. I went for a short jog too, across the front of transition, and had to pee but the line was too long.

With 20 minutes left before my swim I snapped to attention and wa

lked down to the ramp and started to look for Rob. He showed up in his wetsuit, as he changed his mind at the last minute. I often wondered if the buoyancy of the wetsuit is worth the inflexibility in your arms and most of the long course people I asked said yes, and that's why there are

 sleeveless suits. Rob and I chatted a bit and enco

uraged each other a bit before our wave start, and I was again oddly calm.


Race start! HOOORN! About 50 yards into the swim i realized I had forgotten to goo before the swim. I was at ease with it, but I think it would have kicked in mid-swim and helped me move a little faster. No worries though.

The swim was quite pleasant. I think most of my age group passed me by and I was either heading up the slow folks, or I was at the tail of the fast pack (turns out i was about halfway 121/248), turning the corner on the first buoy the next turnaround seemed to be so far away, and intimidatingly so. I never saw my 33-pool laps all stretched out end-to-end, but what ran through my head was the fact that I'd done open water before, and I'd c

ompleted this distance in the pool. Preparation sure does ease the anxiety. I had a few people swimming at my pace nearby and I traded taking the lead with another g

uy a few times before a yellow or silver cap super speedy guy from the wave following ours came roaring through and embarrassed us all. I tried to stay out of his line. I felt like I was going pretty slowly, and had to sight the buoys VERY frequently. I was clearly not focused and was very asymmetrical with my stroke 

because I kept veering to the right. I probably only lasted about 20 strokes without looking up or stopping completely to look back. I did back balance about 2 times for 10-15 seconds each, just to rebuild from the oxygen deficit. But I was very calm and knew I could keep going. I kept zig zagging all the hell over the place because the buoys were pretty far from each other, in my opinion, and my stroke was a bit distracted by the fun

. The water temperature, advertised at 63-65 degrees depending on which rumor you heard, was really totally manageable, and this is coming from someone who only trained in 80-degree pools the entire time. It really was not that bad for me

, but others felt differently.

Incidentally, this is a good time to mention that there were a smorgasbord of opinions about every aspect of triathlon 

heard thruought the weekend. Between the newbies asking the vets for their opinion

 on stuff, and some of us thinking we know everything, the whole weekend was chalk-full of theorizing. Fun!

When I turned the last corner towards the boat ramp, I felt great. I knew that just a few more repeats of putting my hea

d down and getting out of the awareness and into the rhythm and I'd be at the finish of the swim, and that reassurance was as good as being at the end of the swim.


I was really feeling happy at the end of the swim and since I didn't have my watch I didn't know what I had achieved at all. I had a feeling that I went slow when I was in the water but I never really stopped like I do in the pool. Before I knew it I was sort of doing this pathetic baby-steps trot up the ramp 

and undoing my wetsuit top. It was surreal being in the water, the dark green murky water, and hearing those swimming sounds, and then all of a sudden being in the sun to the sound of a couple thousand cheering voices, cowbells, and announcers. Very strange. This same shuffle glided me into the transition area and I heard Beth's voice "Go Dan!", I mustered a thumbs up for her (ironically hers is one

 of the voices I hear when I'm competing a lot, her pearls of wisdom at 

Catalina '07, which she won for the females)

I shuffled to my spot, after one mis-location and a bump into a volunteer. I found my spot, it was very close to the bike out. I kept focused and peeled off the wetsuit, and realized the sun had sort of come out and then tossed on the glasses and helmet and sat and put my shoes on. I got the hell out of there and i think I did well on my T1 time (64/248!)


The bike was great. There were people cheering at the top of lynch hill, including three cute col

lege girls with their asses hanging out reading "harder" "faster" "stronger" (a campfire joke was later made about a girl writing "HARDER" on another girl's ass, but that's a beer story...) I was feeling quite tired already, my legs were in pain and my first goo on the bike hadn't kicked in yet. Yet this bike ride was oddly similar to Barrington Hills, 

Illinois training, but the hills were longer in distance, and none quite as steep as Barrington's dreaded "Bull Valley" that jason and I attacked twice together before the rac

e weekend. I'm really glad he took me out there to train, it was a major help.

The whole ride was gorgeous. Surrounded by California Wine country whizzing by (sometimes crawling by). At 

one point the riders in front of me pointed to their right, signaling danger, and I looked down at a snake coiled by the side of the road! Freakin cool! As the water bottles started to be shown, strewn around the course I thought to myself that 24.8 miles on the bike is a totally manageable distance, and I could definitely compete on the bike in my half ironman course later this summer. (Ironically I came in 193/248, for my worst division rank of all three events). That goes to show how fun riding out there can be. I am psyched up for my MS150 miler at the end of June now, even more, just for how fun it is to ride.

At about mile 11 on the bike I passed a female athlete with a prosthetic leg named Sara Reinertsen, 

who is quite famous in Triathlon. She was the first woman with a leg amputation to finish Ironman Kona on a prosthesis. Pretty weird to be seeing a semi celebrity on a racecourse, but I didn't even know it until after the race.

What happened on the bike course kind of reminded me of my life. I kept asking people with flats on the side of the road if they were okay. I probably should have just kept passing but I think it's in my nature now to want to be available for those people and help them if they need it. It reminds me of all the weird accidents I've witnessed and really makes me question my calling in life, to maybe be an EMT, I dunno. I kept asking, and everyone was OK with just flats, and finally a girl asked me if I could help with her chain, so I stopped for her and re-hung her chain, this probably cost me about 30 seconds. Later on in the race I had to do the same for myself. This probably added a few minutes to my bike time but I felt good about what I had done, and I felt good about making others feel taken care of. That's not what Triathlon is about, but it made me feel good to help people. As did boisterously thanking the volunteers at every aid station

I was tempted to ask oncoming riders when the hell the turnaround was coming because I hadn't reset my bike computer. I think in the future I will wear my watch because I think it helps me. I stopped to pee in the porta-john at the 13 mile turnaround. This probably cost me another 45 seconds.

Along the course out me and another biker were trading leads which was fun. On the way back I heard a few comments about that "last hill was a nut buster" and then I had a full-on conversation with another guy who used to live in St. Louis. I really enjoyed this camaraderie. As I was loosing steam 3/4 of the way back, a far more talented rider rode up to me and encouraged me to follow him, and said the worst was behind us. I gave it some more gas to stay with him but I couldn't hang on and I wanted to save some for the run.


I felt very strong in transition on this race. Everything went smoothly and keeping it simple was the best idea. The biggest problem I had in T2 was the fact that these shoes I had were heavy and stiff as boards. They were quite difficult to pry open and I knew this was going to be a problem, but realigning the elastic laces the night before only added anxiety so I stopped and just let them be.

So bike racked, biking shoes off, helmet off, running cap on (bought it at the expo), race belt on, goo down the hatch, then sit down and put running shoes on in weird crab-stance on the ground. I should have had a spare water bottle here but there were volunteers everywhere with water, thankfully. No socks.


I felt SO slow on the run. My engine was running and burning fuel, but my legs were so tired; I had to remember to keep feeding oxygen to my metabolism. Looking back I should have bike-run bricked a few more times in training.

I kept the goo up every 30 or 45 minutes thru the biking so I felt fueled well. It took the first two miles or so to get int

a good rhythm, which I had expected, but there were rolling hills for the first few miles, then three or so miles UP HILL, and the last mile on a severe downhill slope. There was no rest on this course! I found myself going very slow on the uphill climbs, getting passed by older men mostly, which was good because I wasn't being passed by many of my own age groupers. I ra

n slower than walking at certain points, I walked a few times for about 10-15 seconds, and I cranked out an averag

e of 10-minute miles, as opposed to my usual 8.5 minute miles on the flat course. The run was very trying and up hill most of the way, but now I know how to train for that mofo. Very very hard run and very very slow.

At 6k I started  to feel a rock in my left foot arch, I couldn't find it with two or three stops and finger down into the shoe. It later turned out to be a double blister, which I look forward to popping with delight next week. It's time to retire these New Balance 504's. 

At 7k I had my left hamstring freeze up. I stopped and bent over forwards and slowly rolled a massage thumb over it from top to bottom and I think it then faded over the rest of the course

At 8k I hit the wall. It happens, but luckily that was pretty much the end of the uphill and it was easy after that. It couldn't have been more better timed.

The insult to the injury was the downhill gazelleing I had to do for the last mile of the run, back down lynch hill, with bikers passing at 45-50mph. The good news is that I found myself passing people on the downhills thruout the run so I feel 

like I have some more natural talent for that than most. No saving the knees here in competition, I was in full on-shock absorbent mode and prioritized safety and speed to a short descent that could be damaging over the long term.

Running down the chute at the end Robert Wallsgrove was there to greet me, he had finished about 15 minutes before me, and I was quite impressed with that. All I could muster for Rob was "you son of a... :)" but in all reality I enjoyed the positive camaraderie we had for the race. I was really impressed how far he'd come since his first triathlon at Catalina '07. I sprinted the last 100 feet when an older female attempted to pass me in the chute.


Bananas, endless water and gatorade, utterly delicious oranges, and a chocolate reward power bar recovery meal. 

After I finished I mulled around the finish line and watched a few people coming in. I talked breifly with Mary Miller (, who seemed to be quite happy with her finish. She told me she was considering going pro but didn't give me a definitive answer on it. She is also a total freakin babe, and I got a really nice vibe from her.

I met up with Rob and slowly we met up with others over the course of the following hours.

What a day!

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