One thing I've noticed in the difference between training with a coach and training on your own is that a coach comes up with training ideas that you'd never try on your own, because normally you think those ideas are crazy. Like running the Saguaro East loop, for example. I feel the loop should always be done on a bike, but there it was on the plan...run the loop. So I ran the loop, and survived despite wanting to steal people's bikes as they rode by. The downhills are way more fun on a bike.
So I pulled up my training plan for the week to see "Picacho Peak TT? Let me know if you want to do this" on my plan for Sunday the 20th of June. A time trial? Me? On the ROAD?!? Wait a sec how is this supposed to help for XTERRA training? "Good baseline for fitness." Well, I had just picked up that aerohelmet at Deuces Wild. I should probably put the thing to use. Besides, other Tri Girls had done the previous race, so maybe I'd see some of them there. *sigh* Fine. I'll do it. If it involves a bike, I'll try it at least once.
I got up crazy early on race morning and drove to California. Well, actually Arizona City which may as well be in California when you're coming from NE Tucson. Arizona City, by the way, is just south of the Casa Grande outlets for those wondering. Yes, I had to look it up on the map.
I arrived at the race, wondering how this was going to go down. Each aspect of cycling has it's own culture. The downhill mountain bikers usually have one-word sentences involving a lot of "Dude", "Whoa!", and "Awesome!" and they are all about the beer and sometimes the "herbal supplements." They do a run on their bikes and then it's all about the partying. Sometimes the partying hinders the riding. Then there's the cross country mountain bikers, also very concerned about beer and parties and, most importantly, schwag. Free socks? They're in. Roadies I can't comment on as I've never done one of their races. But the triathlon crowd I know a lot about. Most think they are the uptight ones. They are all about body mass, body image, complex carbohydrates, peeing on the bike, and where to put the M-dot tattoo. On the XTERRA side of triathlon I can say the mountain bike influence takes over and they are much more laid back. But the TT crowd made triathletes look like the downhill crowd.
As I drove through the parking lot looking for a parking space, I began to take it all in. People were setting up their own little areas by their cars. They pulled out EZ ups, trainers or rollers, and starting riding nowhere. For 40-60 minutes they rode nowhere in a parking lot in Arizona City. My trainer was at home, where it belonged because it was no longer winter and dark out. I parked my car, signed up for the race, paid my $30, and wandered around. I actually ran into people that I knew from work or, oddly enough, triathlon message boards. I said hello and that it was my first race, but holding a conversation was tough. Everyone was very focused on getting ready for the race and riding nowhere, so I felt like I shouldn't bother them and cut the conversation short. Except for Andy, who I know from the aforementioned triathlon message board, and he was willing to chat a bit. I overheard others in the parking lot discussing the wind. Apparently the wind was a big factor. I looked and the trees in the parking lot were dead still. I went back to the car and fiddled with my bike and was relieved when the TriSports rig pulled up and Shari hopped out. Oh thank goodness! Someone to talk to!!! Otherwise I would have spent 30 minutes awkwardly fiddling with my bike for no reason.
I have no idea how they determined the order riders were going in, but I was at the back of the 40K group. We had the choice of 20K or 40K, but I didn't drive all the way to the other side of the world for 20K. I tooled around up and down the road in the opposite direction from the race course, then lined up. The people around me were dressed in their outfits, which are meant to maximize aerodynamics. Everyone was in a onesie, because you know, the seam between your shorts and jersey would be too much drag. Everything was skin tight. Sperm head aero helmets were everywhere. And people were wearing booties, but not to keep their feet warm. Nope, the velcro on your shoes could be too much drag, so you have to put an aerodynamic bootie over it. I was lucky to be wearing my TTG cycling jersey, only because Joyce had warned that it's against the rules to be in a sleeveless jersey as her husband found out. I had also stayed up late the night before doing important pre-race prep of putting pirate girl stickers all over my new aerohelmet. If you're going to look goofy in a sperm head helmet, you may as well rock it with some awesome stickers.
I rolled up to the starting line where there were 2 officials. One guy was there to count down and wave his hand in front of you "5...4...3...2...1" and then you go. Reminds me of Wayne's World..."you didn't say 2 or 1." And the other guy awkwardly holds the back of your bike so that you can be clipped in and ready to roll when the finger guy drops the "1" finger. I say awkwardly, because it's weird to have someone hold your bike from behind when you're over the age of 5. I have pretty good bike handling skills and can roll really slow and trackstand for short periods of time (not the minutes like Zac can) and not fall over. But this guy grabbed my bike and it had a slight tilt to the right, so that I was leaning to the right. I couldn't wait for the hand to drop just so I could start rolling. The finger guy did his thing and I was off.
What I can say is that the next hour and some odd minutes were the most boring of my life. The 5 or so people that were behind me passed me in the first 5 minutes, so I was alone. You go in 30 second intervals, so for someone slower like me, you don't really see anyone. I saw a few people going the other direction and finishing up their race. Other than that, it's a lot of staring at the white line. I had also not ridden my tri bike in awhile, or been in the aerobars, so the seating position wasn't the most comfortable. I had the roughness of the road to keep me entertained, dodging potholes and rough spots. There were wildflowers still in bloom which was nice. And all the cars that passed me were nice and left lots of room. I reached the turnaround where the officials were, then headed back. There was a slight tailwind pushing me back, but nothing like the winds I've had on other bike rides. This was windy??? Oh well. I was the last person out there, so it was hard to stay motivated and keep pushing. I sat up for a bit, just to take the painful pressure off. I passed the 5K sign, so I got back in the aerobars so that I looked like I knew what I was doing and was part of the crowd for the group waiting around at the finish. But wait, where was the finish? I rolled past a guy in a gardening hat and past where the start tent had been, which was now taken down. "Oh well, there's the entrance to the parking lot, I guess I'm done" I thought to myself.
The place was a ghost town. Only Shari was there at the finish waiting for me, just to make sure I was ok. I appreciated it, since I had come up there alone. Always nice to know someone is looking out for you at a race. Everyone had packed up and gone home after their run was over. No party, no schwag, no beer, NO SNACKS. That's right. There were no snacks at the end. How can there be an athletic event with no snacks at the end? Not only that, but no water either. Humph. What did my $30 cover? Surely some of that could go to some bagels and orange slices. Heck, the weekly aquathlons in the park have a better spread.
So, with all of that, I could hardly call the event "fun." It just isn't my bag. I like the social aspect of races. Heck, half the time that's where I see some people the most. And staring at a white line for over an hour is mind numbing. Kind of like riding the trainer.
My stickered helmet: