Saturday, 27 September 2014

Weather Porn

Any day is a great day for a ride.  It might be raining over there, but maybe it won't rain over here.

Contrariwise, I might be bathed in sunshine, while getting rained on.  I have had both this year.  Any day this summer could suddenly produce a rainstorm. 

My racing bike has no lights, so I have to be careful on evening rides after work so that I make it back by nightfall.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Barrelman - Race Report

Tyr declared that there shall be wind and storm.  Bravely we strove forward into the tumult and conquered the distance.

No race pictures.  I was busy.

"We won't have to worry about sunscreen." I said, as I laid out four piles of items in the motel room.  Swim gear. Bike gear. Run gear. Street clothes.  The street clothes included my tri shorts and top.  It's what I was putting on when I got up in the morning.  I will lay out the bike gear in T1 when we get to Welland.  The run gear goes into the bag that the volunteers will place by my spot on the bike rack in T2. Swim gear plus the wetsuit is how I start the race. The forecast was for full overcast, rain, thundershowers, and wind. All they got right was the wind.  The race would be sunny with barely a passing cloud.  My neck and shoulders are all burned.  

Saturday morning I was so on edge that after the stop at the bank and variety store, I went back to the house for more items. Jen reminded me that I've planned it out.  i have everything.  I let Jen drive so I could worry without watching for traffic.  The undertaking of triathlon requires all these little things be put together, everything in its place.  I reviewed my lists, and knew I had all of the essentials, but there were some variables unaccounted for, mostly due to the weather. I wanted to have all of the "just in case" items on hand.  Being so well prepared made me worried.  We had everything, so we must be forgetting something. 

I forgot the tire pump.  I will add that to the list. 

The drive was about an hour and a half. First stop was registration in Welland.  Leave the bikes there.  Then to Tim Hortons for lunch.  Over to Niagara Falls and T2 for the athlete briefing.  Lastly, the motel. I cheaped out and got the $60 motel on Lundy's Lane instead of the $90 motel across the street from T2. Dinner was next door at Magnolia for Chinese food with lots of rice.  I always have rice the day before.

The athlete meeting dragged on and on.  Dude, you don't have to give us a turn-by-turn account of the bike course.  We all saw the map.  Just make sure there's signage on course.  You just need to tell us of any unusual turns or obstacles.  He said that the chance of a train using the crossing was minuscule.  Then he conceded that a couple years ago they had a train.  They get trains, and planned for it, and would record and clear the pause time from our stats.  Oh, and surprise! due to construction, they added 2.5 km to the bike course for a detour. T2 isn't staged yet, so we can't go find our spots in the bike racks. It's good to know where to go. 

We were up at 5.  No alarm clocks required.  This was the day.  To gauge the weather, we went out into the early morning gloaming and looked for stars.  Was it overcast or not?  It certainly was warm.  That was fine then. Rain isn't a problem if it's warm enough. We included long sleeves in the kit prep, if needed.  The rain started just as we left the motel. It was a light rain with full overcast.  It looked like it could go on all day. We put on the tattoos with our race number and age.  Jen read the directions, and it emphasized applying them dry.  She held it to her arm for a minute, and nothing happened.  It was still on the paper.  Lets read the directions farther. Do not soak. Apply dry, then wet it.  we got water, and okay, that's better.  Her age and number, 22 are the same.  She told me that my age, 49, was on the wrong leg. I put it on the left instead of the right.

We drove past the buses to the far end of the parking lot so it would be shorter to walk when bringing our bikes back at the end of the day.  It was a long walk up the parkway from T2 to the parking lot, and it's a big lot. Carrying the heavy bags across the parking lot to the bus, we almost forgot the wetsuits. Maybe we should have put them in the bags too.  The bus ride was through rain to Welland, where it was raining. We staged our bike gear in T1.  An hour and a half to go.  

I was wearing my new Ironman Wisconsin tri top.  I did a test bike and run, and it feels great.  It's my big upcoming race, which is going to consume the bulk of my free time over the next year, so I want it right there in front of me, as a statement of what I'm about.  The rain threat was going to mean wearing a long shirt for warmth.  I settled on my Welland 2010 shirt.  It fits snug, and looks good in bright red to match my shoes.  It was in my run bag in case I needed it.  

We went down and checked out the water, used the washrooms in the arena, and sat in there waiting.  Some kids were on the ice in the arena for hockey practice.  That would be funny with 700 triathletes in the stands getting out of the rain.  It didn't happen though.  Everyone has their stuff to do, and we put on the wetsuits.  I lost Jen in the crowd on the way to the water.  Her wave was first, right at 9, so she was straight away into the water, in her light blue cap. The rain let up and the sky brightened to the south. They're off!  I was next at 9:05.  My cap was white. 

By second turn I caught a couple blue caps, and had the later wave, in gray caps going by me.  The water was clean, with perhaps 6 - 10 ft of visibility.  It was completely black below in the dim morning light.  We went north under the bridge, made a rectangle across the canal, then back under the bridge. I could hear people cheering from the bridge, but I didn't slow to look at them. I need to concentrate on my breathing, rhythm, and sighting. I wondered how Jen was doing, and ended up near shore in the rocks.  Have to keep mind on task.  Just do the swim, and see her after the race.  

At the southern turn, I headed across the canal again, sighted, and not only couldn't see the buoy, but there were no people, just a couple guys following me.  This was the wrong way. They didn't set up a rectangle at this end, just a V and back to the start. He might have mentioned that at the athlete briefing.  He went on about how pleased he was with the swim-in, and how the counterclockwise course allowed us to avoid the rocks near shore.  He could have told us they changed the shape. Maybe it's a mistake, and the buoy was out of position.  The map clearly shows a rectangle at this end.

Swim exit is always a chaotic time. There's my wife at the railing. She said hi, and told me that Jen was long gone. I peeled the wetsuit off, trying not to lose my nose clamp this time.  Then I needed to pee, and found a porta potty conveniently located on the run up.  Ah! That's better.  My Speedplay pedal clips make running in the shoes even worse than the Look pedal clips were.  The pavement was wet, so I wasn't going to run to the mount line in my socks.  I awkwardly skipped along out to the road.

We biked over the bridge which we had just swum under, and headed south towards Lake Erie.  The wind was a strong 30 - 40 km/h which back in Wisconsin I said would be murder to bike through.  I hunkered down low, and chugged slowly through it. It was murder.  About 20 minutes out, there was Jen!  We said hi, and I carried on ahead fighting the wind.

There's a short stretch where the route returns along itself, and the race leaders were just coming by on their way east to Niagara Falls.  I'm almost an hour behind them.

I came upon a great big painted turtle, right in the middle of my lane.  He was the length of a football, tucked in hiding from all of us going past.  I went past a guy changing a flat.  
Lake Erie was all choppy whitecaps glistening in the sunlight.  Triathlon needs to be done inland like where we swam. The sun was out now. I realized that skipping the sunscreen was a mistake.  It needed to be in the run kit along with the long sleeves.

Heading north away from the lake, the wind was at my back.  Yay! The next turn was a shock.  Left, into the wind. At the turn, a woman had gone off the road and tumbled into the ditch.  The volunteers stationed there were helping her up. It was open fields, and the wind was strong and gusty.  I was reduced to 17 km/h, my slowest yet.  There were plenty of trees earlier, keeping the wind off us, but this spot was awful.  I stayed as low as I could, my face a few inches above the handlebars.  My neck was aching already, and we still had hours to go.  

Soon we were heading north and east.  With the wind helping, I was doing 35 - 40 km/h.  Whee! that's fast riding.  This was the fun part.  My regular steady pace was low enough that when passing I could get up on the pedals to pump my speed up and pass with some authority.  "On your left".  What's a good thing to say going by? Some people thanked me when I said "on your left".  I didn't get why.  In the wind, some people passed me and yelled things, but the wind was loud and I couldn't hear them.  I mostly went with "good luck", or even, "go get em" when they passed me.

There was a patch where they had cut up the pavement, leaving gravel for all of 1 ft.  No problem. Yet they stationed a volunteer with a sign to caution us. Much worse were the deep potholes just down the road from there, or the train tracks.  

I spent very little time on the areobars.  Into the wind it was too gusty, and I worried of being sent into the ditch.  The roads were in okay condition. There's a few sections of tar and chip, and some with nice new pavement.  It's mostly older back roads, with occasional cracks and potholes. Traffic is random and light. The tunnel under the canal is lots of fun.  I was ringing my bell all the way through there.  It's not too steep coming out.  The only hills to speak of on the course are the ramp up from the tunnel, and the overpass over the QEW expressway.  Otherwise it's a very flat area. 

I came to the Niagara River, and the 90 km marker, and more wind, from the north this time.  There's 2 extra km and you finish into the wind.  The river was beautiful blue and all sparkly in the sunshine. 

Pavement was dry, so I took off my shoes heading into T2.  I couldn't figure out the rack numbering. A volunteer asked my number.  Isn't it still there on my head?  The sticker is on the front of my helmet.  My bag was there at my spot.  I dumped it out and sorted into what I needed and didn't.  Gu - in my pockets.  Shirt - back in the bag. Shoes - swap these. The old ones into the bag to make sure they stay safe. Socks - What I'm wearing is still good.  Hat - it says Ironman.  

The weather was warm and sunny.  The run course has two steep hills; going up through the Dufferin Islands park, going down Murray St near the Casino. Coming down Murray street showcases the American Falls directly in front of you.  I barely noticed.  It's lovely, but I'm busy doing my thing.  I'm not nearly fast enough to be bothered by downhills the way some people are.  For me the big downhill was a good time. The faster runners would have a problem because it is very steep, and it's long. The sidewalks by the road were full of tourists, all very supportive.  Drivers not so much.  

A few people asked when I did Ironman Wisconsin.  Next year! Can't wait.  I volunteered there last week, so I could be there on site to get my ticket. One guy said he is doing Ironman Chattanooga next year.  Good for you!  It's a great sport.

I came to a guy with age 49 (like me), and he's got it on the wrong (left) leg like me.  I teased him about that.  

After coming down the hill, the path back to T2 is along the parkway road.  Pedestrians are warned not to cross in front of the runners.  "Excuse me," I called to them.  

I was really worried about Jen.  I got to T2 at 1:15 pm.  I estimated her at 30 seconds a kilometer slower than me, which put her really close to cut off at 2 pm.  That wind was a tough struggle. It was going to be close. If she was taken off the course, she would be there to wave when I went by.  Along I came to T2, and there was nobody I knew.  She'd made it. Hurray!  I powered on through my second lap, maintaining about the same run speed as my first.  Could I catch her perhaps?  No.  She's way ahead.  

The race was well organized.  Even towards the end, all of the aid stations had what I asked for.  I would ask for coke, and they had coke. I kept to my regular Gu schedule of one every half hour.  A minute later, a burst of energy comes, as if I've changed the batteries.  There were lots of people walking.  I know what that's like.  That's going to be me the second lap of IM Wisconsin, as it was in Mont Tremblant.  ...but not today.  

I carried on strong and hard as I could.  A kilometer out from the finish, there's Jen! coming out for lap two.  We high fived.  She made all her cut offs.  It was a tough course today.  I am spectacularly proud of her.

I finished at 6:28:42.  I couldn't find a food table. I got a chocolate milk, and did some stretching.  The sunburn didn't look too bad.  I opted to walk back along the course to wait for Jen.  I ended up at the first aid station chatting with the volunteers, as the last runners struggled by.  That's how I got my post-race banana.  From there I ran Jen in.  She still had power to do her run intervals. She finished at 7:45:01. 

Jen located the food.  It was in the pavilion. I didn't look there.  We weren't hungry, and yes, they had no bananas. We got the bikes and bags and walked them the kilometer to the car.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Ironman Wisconsin - Race Day

We were up at 6:30 am, just as the race was getting started.  After the Friday bike ride, my chest was burning. It was still growing the hair back after A Midsummer Night's Run.  The stubble was just a quarter inch, and hurt with the shirt rubbing on it.  I bought a razor Saturday and shaved it clear again.  It felt so much better now!

Bike Special Needs
We were away by 7:30, arriving in Verona at 8.  We were working the 9 am shift at Special Needs area for bike.  The first pros were expected around 10:30, so I thought we would begin by arranging the bags in order.  That was already finished when we got there.  The 7 am crew had done that, and were leaving for the day.  

Hand me my stuff while I coast a bit
The captain gave us our assignment.  It was a volunteer duty like no other!  Hold peoples' bikes while they use the porta potty.  It would be poop jokes all day.  and piss.  Lots of piss.  Piss in the potty, piss on the grass behind the potty, piss in the cornfield.  
Porta potty is at the end of the station.  
We were forbidden from giving out the water.  There was enough for our personal use only.  Riders began passing by on towards 9, beginning loop 1 of 2.  The bike holding began straight away.  Plenty of nice new carbon bikes.  One had the new hollow frame into which you pour drinking water.  As the day morning went on, came road bikes, many without aerobars.  

There was one crash.   I don't know if the guy was coming or going to our station, but someone behind ran into him and went down.  On towards 12 o'clock, there were six of us, holding two bikes apiece.  That thinned to a trickle of riders.  We had a couple abandonments.  The day was sunny and nice, with little wind.  A perfect day for riding.

After seeing the last of the riders off, was clean-up.  Lots of Gu packets.  Plenty of Chamois Butt'r.  The porta potty was a preferred stop to apply more of that. I washed my hands well after the cleanup chore.  

I don't intend to use special needs, but I feel I must stop here next year for old times sake.
Out of the water, then up the ramp to your bike

Jen and I drove into town and parked near transition.  We were just in time to see the men's winner come in.  

They have just conquered Observatory Hill
We strolled around the capital square and decided to head over to the University area at turn around.  Jen went into the University bookstore and bought us poster board and markers.  My sign was, "Enjoy the downhill".  Hers was "Kick the hill's asphalt".  
The last of the downhill.  Observatory is the only notable hill on the run course.

We stayed through arrived for many runners' first loop, and most everyone's second loop.  Waving, ringing cow bell, talking them up, cracking jokes; "Bye bye.  See you again in two hours".  "Aid station at the corner, with food! chicken broth! non-alcoholic beverages!"  

The full moon rose behind us.  Not a cloud.  It was a great day. About 9 they got a lot slower.  Most everyone walking, some poorly.  I respect that. This will be me, struggling just to get there.

Monday.  We packed up the tent and cleared out early.  We mad the line-up by 8 am, with a couple hundred there already.  This is what I came for.  In 2010, I sat at my computer to sign up for 2011, and was froze out, with the race selling out in minutes.  Finally I bought my entry for 2015. 363 days until my race here.  It's going to be awesome.

The volunteers in line Monday

Monday, 15 September 2014

Ironman Wisconsin 2014 -- The course

The curves of Garfoot Road
Jen and I ran the entire run course Thursday afternoon. After lunch of plain white rice from the nearby sushi restaurant, we started with the loop around the capital. Straight away came a brisk rain shower during which we paused under the nearest awning, but it turned into sunshine an hour later.  There was no wind to be felt in the streets of town.  The run starts by circling the imposing capital building, and proceeds west through the University of Wisconsin campus.  It was just letting out for the day when we passed through, and the sidewalks were full of students.  The marching band was holding practice.  
We parked at the not parking sign
After a brutal climb up Observatory hill, the road is pointed towards the capital.  You can see it tantalizingly close, just a couple blocks away when you arrive at turn-around.  It's an out-and-back. It's 10 km to get here, then 10 km back. It took us 3 hours altogether, with variety stores for fluid refills, and lots of heated discussion over what the map meant.  We made more than a couple of wrong turns, getting completely off course near the stadium, and taking the lakeside leg early. For dinner we went back to Red Sushi, the one fancy restaurant which we went to the entire trip.

I hope they sweep up the storm debris
Friday we went biking.  We drove to the town of Verona where our volunteer station was located and parked.  We did one lap of the bike loop.  It's a very tough course, not just from the incessant up and down of the hills, but the poor condition of the roads.  Most of it was tar and chip surfacing.  That means they spread tar over the asphalt, then pack it down with fine stone chips.  Where we come from that's done to extend the life of the road for a couple years before proper resurfacing.  Here it seemed to be a standard practice in lieu of proper pavement. It was years old, with plenty of cracks.  

Lots of tar and chip
The storms had blown some debris on the roads from the tree canopy.  They better send a sweeper around or there's going to be some flat tires. 

Let's throw some dirt out there
The surrounding countryside of corn fields made us feel right at home, except that the hills are really long and steep. At times the road would seem to just disappear into the woods in front of us.  The worst was shortly after the aptly named Windy Lane, where a steep downhill was interrupted by a right turn halfway down the hill.  That was followed by a winding passage downhill with a hairpin right turn immediately at the bottom.  There goes all your speed. This must be the one I've heard of with the hay bales at the curve. The next downhill section was really a lot of fun (Garfoot Road).  Fast, with plenty of turns, but not too steep and dangerous. 

The road just drops away to nowhere
Along came a horrible railway crossing with huge gaps.  Then, stagecoach road where the cracks had left the side of the road split like cobblestones.
When you let the lawyer write the road signs
Now comes the dreaded climb up Old Sauk Pass.  Just steep enough that if you stop, it will be tough to get moving again, and it goes on for ages.   Once again, the road just seems to drop off into nowhere. It's one of the steepest hills I can remember and it's downhill and super fast.  

It's a great course that I'm really looking forward to racing. 

The railway crossing
Friday afternoon, Lake Monona had calmed considerably from the whitecaps the day before, and they had placed the markers, so we put on the wetsuits and went swimming.  I had a moment of panic seeing how far away the furthest buoys were.  I can't swim two laps of this in 2 hours!  It's one lap, they changed it, someone told me.  Oh good.  Whew.  Jen was tired from the long bike, so we sent to the first turn marker and came back.  It was her longest swim ever.  

Ooh! pine cones! The road needs pine cones!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Ironman Wisconsin 2014 -- The trip

Border crossing to Port Huron. I wonder where he's going
Jen and I headed out at 5 pm Wednesday towards the sunset.  The CD player is busted, so we had to listen to the radio.  Through Michigan it was the metal station.  Not something we would play much, but really different from the middle-of-the-road generic pop that all the Canadian stations gravitate to.  Through Grand Rapids we found the alternative station amusing.  They played weird bongos, techno, jazz... an odd mix, and a long way from the ordinary.  Our choice in Indiana was one of the Christian stations.  They had upbeat spirited rock songs that we had never heard before.  
We got there on Thursday

It seemed like all of the freeways through Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin were under construction. Lane closures, construction, crappy roads, and more construction.  Fortunately we passed through Chicago at 2 am, so traffic was light.  During the day it would be a mess.

The badger within the capital

The weather forecast was frightful.  Rain, thundershowers, high winds and hail overnight, turning into thundershowers in the morning.  By afternoon on Thursday , partly cloudy with more rain and some thundershowers. Plus a chance of thundershowers. We napped in the Walmart parking lot Northeast of Chicago for a few hours overnight before heading on to Madison. Thursday morning is no parking day in downtown Madison.  It's trash pickup day, si it's to ensure room for the trucks.

Casting the "locate" spell

The website for the Dade County campground wouldn't let me make a reservation within 5 days ahead.  When we got there it finally made sense.  Drive-up campers could take charge of a spot for 4 days simply by plopping a tent on it.  We did that and paid through Monday. The website doesn't know that's happened, so it simply locks you out for days that close.  Lake Park was already full, so we went to the second choice, Babcock Park.  It had a convenience store in the gas station across the road.  The evening attendant became our concierge, giving directions, restaurant information, and tips on their selection of liquor. 

It makes you want to stand on one foot

Thursday was mostly sunny.  Lake Monona, where the swim is held, had whitecaps from the 40 km/hr wind.  The bike would be a nightmare on a day like this.  We didn't see anyone brave the water.  We toured the capital building.  The main hall is dominated by the badger figures at opposite ends.  They love their badgers.  We came across a couple badger statues in the streets.  We both bought official IM Wisconsin biking apparel at the expo.  I also picked up a bottle of their recommended wetsuit lube.  

It's like the bridge of the Enterprise
 Saturday we held rest day.  We drove to Milwaukee and toured the art gallery and the sculpture garden.  Jen took the full set of high-school art classes, so she can provide good commentary.

Lynden Sculpture Garden

We were to bed at dusk Saturday for our 7 am wake-up on race day.