Wednesday, August 20, 2008

LC du worlds, or Accomplishing the Preposterous

a month ago i was moaning to fatmammycat about the preposterous conceit of running 16miles at worlds when i could barely manage 3 on the treadmill. preposterous is just another fancy arsed word for ludicrous - she responded - and we KNOW ludicrous is easily bitch slapped senseless when up against reservoir deep. she was right.

long course du worlds
18k run – 78k bike – 9k run

if you're a cyclist, you can't do much better than belgium. there are usually smooth, glass-free dedicated bike lanes and when there aren't, drivers yield to you instead of firing invective and anything else they can find behind the passenger seat.

and the belgians know how to put on a race. the day before worlds, the local organisers treated us to an escorted pre-ride of a bike course that zigged and zagged through downtown geel before shooting back and forth between a couple roundabouts. we were in a rolling enclosure the entire time, protected by motos that would stop traffic along sidestreets, drop back behind and then zoom to the next intersection in a finely-coordinated dance. i felt like i was in the Tour. and nobody crashed or made any bone-headed moves. if we'd been triathletes there'd have been bodies all over the road.

one thing the race organisers couldn't do was control the weather, and when i woke before dawn on race-day morning a fine mist was falling from the sky, and it continued to fall off & on over the next 6 hours, just enough to keep the roads wet and the corners & cobbles slightly treacherous. but at least it wasn't hot!

after a short warmup i hit the loo for one final time and had a panic moment when i emerged to find transition empty and the start not where i thought it was. but it's not a proper race unless you almost miss the start, and once i was there standing behind the line cares and anxieties vanished. racing is the reward for all the BTW workouts, the packing, the visualising of bike in's and run out's, the 8th nervous poo; and once you're on the start line, you can relax because the hard stuff's done. fisch and the Oracle had laid out my race strategy so i didn't even have to think, just execute.

the first run was 4 laps of a 4.5k course that offered a couple out & backs so you could track how many people were in front of you -- and there were a LOT. the women's field wasn't big – about 50 – and half of them were ahead of me after the first 5k. the 40+ men had started 2 minutes ahead, and the fields began to mix halfway in. oh great - my pal bob had lamented before the race - i've got 2 minutes before all the estrogen in the world comes up my ass.

i ran with a couple other Team USA women for the first 2 laps because they were running a relaxed, loose pace. whatever you give up on the first run will more than come back to you on the second – the Oracle said – long course is very forgiving of a slow start. every couple k's i did a reality check to make sure i wasn't running 10min miles and looked for my teammate rich from NC, because his big happy grin reminded me how very cool it was just to be here in the first place.

i ran up on a german dude in a skinsuit and pulled alongside to pass. he was having none of this, however, and sped up a little. klaus the german was tall, and we were turning into a windy section, so i slotted behind and nestled in his draft. klaus was awesome. everytime i thought we were going a little too slow i'd run abreast of him and he'd speed up again. klaus was very accommodating, and he pulled me almost all the way to a clump of women just ahead. hooray for klaus.

in T1 i sacrificed some time stretching a couple talkative ITBs and then took off on the bike. the course was never boring: there was always something to do, like corner on cobblestones, wend your way through the feedzone and exploding waterbottles, and finesse a 180 on a 2-lane highway. at race pace, that 180 was an entirely different animal from the pre-ride, and on the first of the 4 laps i had to unclip and tap my way around it. oopsie! - i sang to a course marshal who seemed disappointed by the lack of drama. the second time around that 180 i was more bold, but the 3rd time i creeeeeeeeept around it like the bike and i were made of fine china. there was someone hot on my wheel as i came into the turn, someone who had to stutter to a crawl when i slowed down to minus-70mph inching around the barricade. when we straightened out the suffering soul shot by on my left – none other than klaus! oh, how he must hate my very bones.

the bike felt good, however, and i passed some women out there so i knew i was making up time. in my head were many voices: fisch, the Oracle, slick rik, fatmammycat and eileen the YMCA lifeguard who oversaw my snail-toils in the deep-end with the AquaJogger. you're going to do great, i just know it – she'd declared, as though all my bones were properly knit together. this host of voices nearly drowned out the irish washerwoman jig on the mental jukebox but not quite.

in T2 i nearly toppled over because my legs were so racked from the bike, but i decided to go with my flats instead of the trainers i took out for the first run. might as well give that mending metatarsal a test! i craved sugar too, so i rifled through my transition rucksack for a bag of jelly beans (Brachs, brah), stuffed them in my singlet pocket and shuffled into the second run. my feet felt like inanimate blocks, and i ran like frankenstein... but at least i had jelly beans. i rummaged in my pocket, cellophane snapping so loudly that a dude ahead of me flinched. i stuffed a handful in my mouth, oh the licorice ones are the BEST, just as the man turned around to see what all the commotion was about. i grinned at him, a big black goofy grin, and he shuddered and turned back around. jelly beans are great, see, because you can mash them to the roof of your mouth where they'll stay until the engine room calls for a little more gas, and you swirl your tongue up there and get some.

after a couple minutes the things at the ends of my legs started to feel like feet again... and look, here's klaus! hello klaus, how happy you must be to see me. would you like some jelly beans? no?? klaus did not have a good second run. i hope this is not because i bullied him too much in the first, being a chick and all.

i caught a couple more women and from the out & backs determined there were about 5 more ahead of me as i neared the finish. what i didn't know was that i was first in my age group until i crossed the line and the PA announced me a world champion. way to go, delaware! - deepak called from the stands and high-fived me as i headed toward the post-race eats, difficult to get down because of the shit-eating grin on my face.

and thus began a 10 or 12hr "recovery" period which FMC has already described. 'tis good to have friends.


fatmammycat said...

I feel like clapping again reading that. You nailed that race to the wall.

Mayrasmom said...

Wow, just wow.
Way to go Delaware indeed.

Twenty Major said...


You took those broken wings and learned to fly again.

finn said...

wow, a 3-day earworm.
I think that's a record.

Subhangi said...

Sorry. Been under a rock. Congratulations and applause!