Gloria and I are back into regular training these days and we really had the itch to race again. We opted for last Sunday’s Sacramento International Triathlon in Discovery Park, which is as local as a race can get for us.
This was also my first race since beginning the USA Triathlon race official program. I attended the Category 4 clinic on Friday and officiated at the California Sprint Triathlon on Saturday. I blogged about giving back to your sport a few weeks ago and I mean it. Since moving to Sacramento, I have been looking for another way to give back to triathlon and, as an attorney, this is a natural fit, although writing down time penalties on the back of a motorcycle is something I have to get used to. There are about 40 officials in the Southwest region, which encompasses California, Nevada, and Arizona, and it should be no surprise that several of them happen to be lawyers.
The official’s program is giving me a different perspective on races and what you get for your entry fee. Not all races are required to have certified officials. Only championship races (like Age Group Nationals) and regional qualifiers are required to have race officials, but every director of a sanctioned race must enforce the competitive rules. Race officials not only enforce the competitive rules as to athletes; they also observe how well the race director complies with sanctioning requirements. Sanctioning requirements are not just arbitrary. They are necessary to obtain insurance coverage through USAT. They include things like having a sufficient ratio of lifeguards to athletes, a sufficient number of water safety craft, securing the transition area, making bar-end plugs available, and having volunteers enforcing the mount and dismount lines. Few of us, especially those of use who have been in the sport for a while, would be surprised that many triathletes are ignorant of the rules and many choose to ignore the rules. While the wheel-sucking drafter may be the stereotype for the latter athlete, I was surprised at the number of athletes who chose to ignore certain rules, even after we explained them. These were primarily newer athletes who were there for fun and cared little about their time or placing or whether they got a time penalty for running with earphones. As the only face of USAT that many athletes may see, it is important to respond to such athletes and make them aware of the rules in a friendly manner.
I got up Sunday morning with my athlete’s hat back on, ready for the Sacramento International Triathlon. We arrived about an hour early, took the bikes off the roof rack, and got our race wheels out of our wheel bags, only to find our rear tires were both flat. Since our race wheels had been in their bags since Ironman Texas, it would have been a good idea to check them the day before. However, I was so tired when I came home the day before, that it just hadn’t occurred to me. A couple quick flat changes and we were off to check in, but I prefer a little calmer mojo on race morning and really wanted to make sure I had time to warm up.
Even though I had my athlete’s hat on that morning, I still went to the race with a different perspective. I much more easily noticed whether the transition area was secure or whether an athletes racked “correctly” by setting up on alternative sides of the racks and placing their transition area near their front wheel. I also noticed announcements stating that drafting and headphones were prohibited when. To the contrary, you can draft or use headphones, at least in the sense that you won’t immediately get disqualified and pulled off the course. You just get a time penalty. Some USAT official actually provide the RD a rules summary to ensure that statements made about the competitive rules, if made, are accurate.
The swim starts in the American River, with an out and back upstream and then downstream swim (the upstream portion is longer). We warmed up with a swim across the river and downstream to the start. I started with the second wave and sprinted out ahead of the pack. A couple other guys seemed close, but I soon lost track of them. It seemed like it took a while to reach the turn-around. It was long enough that I started wondering if I missed the turn around. I finally reached the turn around and reached the swim exit, finishing the downstream segment much faster than the upstream segment. I finished the swim with a 26 minute swim split, which is about 6-7 minutes slower than is usual for me. Gloria had a much slower swim as well, so the current must have been a lot stronger than I thought.
As I ran back into T1, I pulled the leash up to my neck. Normally the back pops right open, but this time the zipper stuck. I stopped at my bike, struggling with the zipper. I continued to struggle with the zipper until a volunteer finally came over and eventually worked it loose. With the competitive rules in mind, I didn’t want to ask for help and get a time penalty for unauthorized assistance, but there was no way I could have gotten out of the wetsuit either. The zipper probably cost me a few minutes, but once it was open I quickly stripped out of my suit. Zipper mishap aside, I am always amazed at how easily I can get out of the Blue Seventy Helix. The ankle cuffs are especially flexible and easy to pull down to my ankles and over my feet. Once out my wetsuit, I got my helmet on, ran to the mount line, and rode off.
The bike course is a four-loop course, with a good number of turns, including two out and back sections. Expecting triple digit temperatures, for the day, I had PowerBar Perform and two gels in my frame bottle, and my Speefil A2 for . I pushed through the bike course a little harder than usual, at least harder than my half-Ironman pace. I got off the bike in 1:o3 – definitely one of my better Olympic distance bike splits. I dismounted at what looked like a dismount line, even though, contrary to the USAT rules, a volunteer told my I could continue riding.
I transitioned quickly, pulling on my K-Swiss K-Ruuz 1.5. Usually there is an aid station with gels right at the start of the run, but today all they had was water and Fluid sports drink. My running has been off since Ironman Texas, with persistent foot soreness and almost zero speed. After struggling with it, I had decided that, after this race, it might be best to just take a couple weeks off of running to really let it get better. I set off at a decent pace and without pain. I passed more aid stations and got water and Fluid, but there were still no gels. At local races like this one, the aid stations sometimes have gels and sometimes do not. I made a mental note to always carry my own gels at these local races, just to be on the safe side. I saw Gloria on the way back, excited to see that she was probably the fourth woman back. Gloria is a strong runner and she loves the run. She had a good shot at catching the other women. My legs started fading in the last two miles, but I kept pushing as much as I could. I finished with about a 44-minute run split, for a total time of 2:18. Not a great time, but every race is different and there was the matter with my wetsuit zipper. Still, it was good enough for a second place age group finish (the wetsuit zipper very well could have cost me 1st AG).
Gloria, by comparison, finished as second woman and first in her age group.
There was also a group from myTeam Triumph. myTEAM TRIUMPH is an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races. The goal shared by every team member is to extend the same opportunities that Dick Hoyt has provided for his son, Rick. The participants with disabilities are known as “Captains,” and the athletes who have the honor of pushing and pulling the Captains on the course are called their “Angels.” Captains and athletes race in 5Ks, 10Ks, triathlons, marathons, and half-marathons. There were four of them and it was great seeing them on the run course.