Desert Tri is known in SoCal as the season kickoff for Triathlon. Notably I haven’t been training like I used to but having competed in this race for the last 5 years it felt wrong not to make the 2.5 hour drive Saturday (5+ hours if I had left Friday) and “participate” in the Aquabike. Now it’s very easy to set expectations when you have been in the groove, doing what you know, and performing well. In prior years I would have been through 10 weeks of solid training including 5 bikes a week (interval, muscular endurance, long, recovery and brick), 4 runs and 3 swims with 2 days in the gym. This year I replaced most workouts with 6 sessions (10 hours) in the gym, and alternating swim/bikes each morning (3 sessions each) a week. My goals were to go have fun, get some good race pics and grab a podium spot, even with the modest preparation. Here’s some of my take aways –
Pre-Race gab at the Aquabike rack
For anyone who’s had the unfortunate circumstance of needing to Aquabike (because why wouldn’t you do the full race unless you were injured, right??) you’ve probably experienced the verbal competition of who is the most deserving not to have to run –
“Ohh, I’m just coming back from a hamstring injury”
“2 replaced hips and a bad back”
“With this knee doctor says I’ll never run again”
People generally seemed dumbfounded to see a relatively young healthy guy only doing the Aquabike?!? But, this just reinforces my justification to leave running. I never want to be the person so disabled by their sport that they’re merely holding onto the pieces at the cost of my mobility and well-being. I’m starting to see the big picture where I either MAINTAIN, compete at a high level for 10 more years before my body inevitably gives in or out, ADJUST skipping the high impact detriment of running while maintaining an hour and a half of 180+bpm ass kicking on race day, or better yet EVOLVE trying new things and finding other ways to push myself athletically and mentally to maintain options for high level competition throughout my life.
Desert Tri Wind and Swim
Craziest swim of my life but have to admit I left the water with a massive smile on my face. All the training we do and races having participated in I can’t think of much that would intimidate me out there but for newbies it must have been a nightmare. The race consists of 3 buoys, a quick turn right at the start, a turnaround about 600 yards away and a final turn left before the swim exit.
The race started beautifully but the wind picked up fast and by the time it was my turn to swim the first buoy had drifted and the remaining 2 blown away, resting on the stairs at the far end of the lake. I race the swim all by land markers, aim for the farthest right palm tree then the second peak from the right before heading in, so finding where the second buoy should have been was not a problem. The fun part each athlete had to decide for themselves is where do I swim from there?!? Back to the shore, around the perimeter of the lake, to where the final buoy should be, or straight to the race exit?
My Garmin measured me at 2000 yards which was a popular distance (intending to swim 1500 for an Olympic), though I’ve heard stories of athletes doing double that.
The Bike (Madone vs P3)
I like my Madone, it’s sexy and fun with newly integrated TT bars, but it’s not a TT bike. I wanted to race it to see what it could do, and also because it is different from my Cervelo and without power to take the pressure off performing as well as previous seasons. That was my mentality going into race morning but the second I exited T1 all I wanted to do was go faster than before (25.2mph last year), despite the strong wind. This is the disadvantage of doing something so familiar and competitive, once you set the bar high it’s hard to relax and be satisfied with less.
There was one wetsuit on the rack which meant I was 2nd in my heat out of the water. In my mind everyone was number 23, with a black Cervelo P5. I kept chasing, getting passed by only one guy, and ultimately found who I was looking for at the finish line 5 seconds ahead of me.
I figured I would win the Aquabike just because. That was a mistake. You never know who is racing and setting your hopes on an outcome which isn’t in your control is a recipe for disaster.
Perhaps chasing #1 down was an advantage, it gave me a carrot to go after when my HR kept screaming back down. Funny though how getting passed by one person hit me so hard. That person ended up being the fastest biker by 1mph.
I can’t lie, I left Palm Desert a little discouraged, not knowing how to evaluate my performance. Later I checked out results and discovered I had the fastest bike split (speed) of all elites and AG’s, of all races (AB, Olympic and Sprint) other than the monster that had passed me.
I’m still making sense of everything to see if these races give me more pleasure then resentment. Being fit is most important and triathlon is a great motivator, I only hope to maintain a well enough perspective to ensure I keep a level head and don’t disappear too far back down the rabbit hole.