Wait, Who Set My Hair On Fire?

Clearlake OneOOne Race Report
6.10.2007, Clearlake, CA

Dan Empfield calling the race: “I just love devil may care, three sheets to the wind, bike riding, don’t you? Both Jordan Rapp and Karen Holloway seem to be riding angry. I like this existential approach — this, “the run will take care of itself” posture. That’s easy for me to say, I don’t have to face 18.6mi of payback from a set of tired legs and lungs.”

Since every race morning and day leading up to the race is pretty much the same, I will spare you the boring details of me getting up early in the AM and heading over the race site. The only two details I will pass along are:

  • The burrito is the king of pre-race lunches. I love finding a good burrito the day before a race. It is lots of fuel in a convenient package. Thank you to the folks at the Cactus Grill for a stupendous pre-race lunch. Chicken, black beans, guacamole, rice, and much more. It was awesome.
  • Long swim warm-ups rule. My new mantra is to make sure that I spend 15-20 minutes swimming before racing, if at all possible, even if it means cutting short (or eliminating) other parts of my warm-up. I can’t fake my way through the swim, unlike some lucky devils, so I made sure I got a good warm-up. I felt really good swimming as a result, which is finally starting to sink in after having a couple long-swim-warm-up:good-race results over the past couple years. Not sure how this will impact my duathlon racing strategy…

So after said long warm-up, National Anthem, etc., the gun went off. The pros had a 5′ headstart, so there wasn’t going to be too much traffic, but the first buoy was about 75m from the start, meaning you had to get out of Dodge quickly. I lined up next to David Thomson, my marked man for the race, and hit the first buoy right with him and Brian Lavelle, roughly in about 4th place, right where I wanted to be. Brian Lavelle pulled into the lead, and David was able to hop right on his feet. I hopped right onto David’s feet, but unfortunately, the pace proved too quick for me to feel confident in matching it for 3k. I thought I might get a reprieve when Leanda Cave pulled through, but the pace was still too high, and I was nervous about burning too many matches early on, so I grudgingly settled into a pace I knew I could hold. Fortunately, Nate Khortuem rolled through about 500m in, and I jumped on his feet. I was suprised to see him, but I figured maybe he had a bad start and got bounced back in line (Nate is a VERY fast swimmer). But I knew swimming on his feet was a great opportunity. So I settled in. The pace was quite good, which made me a bit nervous, since I knew this meant Nate was not swimming at his best. But I also knew that drafting him was better than going it alone. So I sat right on his feet and swam very comfortably. After the first lap, though, it was clear why he’d been swimming so slowly, since he stopped and took off his wetsuit. He was pretty quick out of it, and then he actually caught back up to me. I pulled him for a bit, trying to offer my thanks for his pull, and then he went back in front of me, swimming a strong pace without his wetsuit, so I sat back on his feet, going at what felt like the same effort.

As the swim finished up, I had good news and bad news. The good news was that I had managed to hang onto feet the whole swim and felt good the whole way and was ready to rip it up on the bike. The bad news was that a group of two guys, with one of them swimming no-wetsuit was no match for the pace of a comfortable Brian Lavelle, who had pulled David Thomson to a 4:00 lead on me. So, that was a lot of time to make up. Sans wetsuit, Nate had a very fast T1, which gave me a nice early mark. I set out on the bike and, after a bit of rough pavement, settled into a good rhythm. Actually, a really good rhythm. I felt great. I was actually nervous, because I was thinking, “wow, I feel great. But three hours is a long time. And will feeling great now come back to bite me.” This moment lasted for about three seconds, and then I decided to drill it and see how my legs would do. I stayed under my usual wattage cap, but definitely pushed the pace. When I first saw Mark Montgomery, I got a bit of bad news, I was over 5:00 down on Thomson, who had quickly moved to the front. Note to self: work on transitions. Thomson was killing me in transition. And I thought I had actually done ok… But I was ready to give him a run for his money on the bike. Does that actually make it a bike for his money? I don’t know. That sounds a bit like I’m selling him a bike… Anyway, back to the race.

Coming down the long 14 mile “fast” section that was Scotts Valley Rd., I was in my element. I love rolling courses like that where I can fly, but where it is not so flat that you can just kind of cruise. I was drilling it. I picked off a bunch of the riders at the front, and on the “back” section of the out-and-back, I moved into third place. Everything was going great. Then, on the small, but steep, hill back onto the main loop of the course, I shifted too hard down into the small ring and dropped my chain. With the total loss of momentum, I couldn’t nudge it back on, so I had to get off my bike, losing somewhere around 40 seconds or so. The good news, however, was that I had actually made up 10 seconds on Thomson, even with the chain drop. The remainder of the course was pretty technical, so I figured that I’d do my damage each loop on that out and back, riding strong, but really putting it down on the area where I thought I’d get the most out of my power. I stayed in third for a LONG time, repeating my pattern of hitting it on Scotts Valley, and taking time out there. Each checkpoint confirmed that I was indeed making progress. Finally, on the third time around, I caught Brian Lavelle, and moved into second, about 1:30 down on Thomson. Brian stayed right on my heels, and came into T2 right with me.

I managed a quicker T2 than Brian, though, and got out of there with about 100m lead over him. But, again, Thomson KILLED me on the transition. And then, at the first checkpoint, I learned that he’d killed me over the first 2 miles or so, as I was now like 5′ down. 1:30 to 5:00? How did that happen? But 18.6 miles of VERY, VERY hilly terrain (did I mention it was hilly?) is a long way. And it was hilly. Really hilly. Am I overemphasizing the hills? I hope not. But I want to put some perspective on the run. I was gonna run my run. I knew that I could go backwards really fast if I went too hard. I also knew that David could come back to me very quickly if he had gone out too hard. So I decided to let the course dictate the race. If it was close in the last few miles, I wanted to know that I hadn’t killed myself, so that I could either close in on first, or run away from third, assuming that the big lead I had on fourth was enough that I could stay on the podium if I was smart. I drank a lot. Took my salt. And just ticked off the miles. Running small steps on the uphills, and trying to run in the dirt shoulder on the downhills when I could to keep from pounding my quads too much. I managed a pretty good pace through the first lap, and I felt that I had paced well, knowing that the second lap would really decide the race. After the first lap, I was 6′ down on Thomson, and this is where it would stay as I moved through the hardest miles of the course – miles 12-15, where I really struggled. This was a long steady grind uphill, and I really thought Brian Lavelle was going to close on me. But, then just as I really felt I slowed, the course peaked, and I started downhill, regaining my stride. And then I started to run well. I knew I was close. And I thought if David was going to pay for his early effort, it would be now. I started to push the pace, and I actually closed time over the last few miles, but it would not be enough, as I finished 4:00 back, reemphasizing the importance of the swim (and transitions). But I felt great. I aeroplaned down the finishing chute, slapped some hands, and crossed the finishline to give my mom, and then Dan Empfield, a big hug. And then, I hopped in the lake, for one of the best swims of my life.

Tale of the Tape:
SWIM: 39:07 (8th, losing 4:00 to the leaders)
T1: 1:12 (lost 20 seconds to the leaders here!!)
BIKE: 3:18:44 (Fastest bike split by 2:37)
T2: 1:07 (lost 39 seconds to the fastest transitioner here, though in my defense, it took me a bit to get my T2 bag)
RUN: 2:07:25 (3rd fastest run, 2:03 slower than the winner, and 4:16 slower than the fastest run split of the day)

2 thoughts on “Wait, Who Set My Hair On Fire?

  1. congrats on the #2 You are animal on the bike, and also a great run to back it up. I am not sure if you let this info out to the public but I was woundering what your average Watts where I am guesing around 310, well keep up the good work!!cheersmanny

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  2. Yeah, it doesn’t matter to me about who knows the numbers. Average power was 306, normalized power was 314. So your guesses are pretty good! 🙂Cheers,Jordan

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