"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt
Gilford, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- The first event of my self-proclaimed "Slow-Twitch Decathlon" is in the book. This morning with temps hovering between -1 and 1 above I stepped to the line of first event of 2009 and my first ever winter triathlon. To be honest, I bet I wasn't alone. It may have actually been the first ever winter triathlon in NH. If anyone else can lay claim to that one go right ahead. My expectations coming into today were not surprisingly tempered by at least two things...the fact that it's only the end of January and I haven't spent more than an hour on my skis. You know what they say about the best laid plans. Now, before you rush to judge those comments as excuses, know this...I never make excuses for my performances. I own my performance today. Fact is, I learned a great deal about winter triathlon today and I had a fantastic time doing it. The first leg of this winter tri didn't include any swimming which I was actually happy about. It did start with a 5k trail run (two 2.5k loops) on the new Gunstock Nordic stadium course. Having pre-rode the loop prior to the race I knew to expect the first half as a climb and the 2nd half as a descent. I started conservatively and tried to just find a rhythm and warm up. I frankly was a little surprised to pass as many people as I did on the ascents on the first loop. Feeling good after the first 2.5k I decided to pick it up a little on lap #2 and by my support crews unofficial count I picked up 10 spots and arrived at the first TA in 18th place. Anticipating the mountain bike loops (3 of them on the same Stadium course) would become a little choppy and that I might spend quite a good bit of time with either my foot down (Moto-style) or walking the hills I made a last minute decision to stay with my Salomon screw shoes despite having my old-school Ritchey pedals still attached. It actually worked fine and I'm not sure it really made any difference. Most of effort on the 2nd trail run leg was lost on the mountain bike section as I lost a ton of spots to stronger, fitter, and more technical riders. Here's a lesson I learned: Riding the indoor trainer less than 10 times since November is neither winter mtb-specific enough nor close to sufficient to develop any appreciable riding fitness. If I go back in 2010 I'll correct that. I managed to slog through three laps with pretty consistent splits despite feeling like I was hike-a-biking as much as I was riding in laps 2 & 3. After a quick splash of HEED in transition I set out on what I anticipated would be my biggest technical challenge...XC skiing. My well documented 25+ year layoff from the sport became very obvious very early as I once again started losing spots to faster more technically superior skate-style Nordic skiers. While I'm no stranger to the faster more superior skate technique, for some reason (perhaps my own self-doubt) I stuck with what I knew...the old-school classic style. And just in case I needed yet one more self-imposed logistic handicap, I ignored the well known fact that in Nordic skiing it's common to wax your skis. Although I was slow enough for comfort on the descents (thanks to my snowplow) I really struggled with the flats without any glide whatsoever. Lesson #2: Spend more time getting comfortable with the skate-technique by spending time on your skis and pay the $6 to get a wax job (not that kind of wax job). After the first of two 3k loops I felt my right quad start to act a little squirrely and I made a quick pit stop to my crew and drank a little HEED. For me, Hammer Nutrition products are worth their weight in gold and as I expected the crampy feeling resolved and I finished the race without any health issues. I'm proud to say I didn't fall during any discipline today although I took the hills very conservatively...some may say too conservatively. The results aren't posted yet and I really wasn't interested in sticking around to find out. Plus, my faithful support crew had spent the morning standing out in the cold. With a finish time of just over 2 hours I'm sure I finished in the back 1/4 of the field but I'm really pleased with my effort today. I kept repeating my favorite racing mantra all morning, "Give nothing less than everything you have.". The 2009 racing season has begun and there are 9 more endurance sports on my "To Do" list.
"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction." - William James