The last time I was at the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon was 2003 only four weeks removed from IM USA where it rained 12" in the 11 hours I raced and then drizzled until the clock struck midnight. This year it rained during the check in and the forecast was for the same Sunday. I planned to sleep in my own bed (one of the reasons I love this race) and get up only a fraction earlier to make the drive into Kenosha County.
Sunday morning, about 3:15 am, a very loud clap of thunder right outside my window. Well...I'm up now I might as well start early and not try and sleep another 15 minutes, I thought. I ate a bit more than usual for an Olympic race - some oatmeal. I was preparing for a wait before the start (if we'd start). I showered and went downstairs and did some swim bench in the basement. After all, the last time I swam a stroke "in anger" as Phil Liggett would say, was on 7/22 at the Spirit of Racine 1/2 IM - almost six weeks ago. Well...that's not entirely true. I did swim when I wiped out water skiing the last week of July. I drove to the race and you know it is raining hard when you are listening to some new techno (thank you for the CD Julian in London) and your wipers are moving just as fast as the music! It was raining cats and dogs! I told Lorrie via phone that I had arrived safely and I gave it a 20/80 chance that we would race.
I parked in a field: read mud pit (more on this later) and walked to the bus. Once there I saw all kinds of friends; Ron (who has lost about 135 lbs since I first met him - Ron - you are an inspiration to everyone you meet), Steve, Patrick, Greg and Stephanie right off the bat. This was going to be a fun day regardless of racing. I figured worst case scenario we'd be at a coffee house by 7:30 am catching up. Once at the race site we split and started to set up our transition areas when we learned the official race decision would be made at 6:30 am (the original official start time). There was some lightning still in the area but fewer and fewer bolts. Encouraging! About 1,000 people took their bikes out of transition and went home. It was coming down hard and still thunder. About this time I found Dean Hewson. Dean and I decided to grab our bikes and get out of the rain; this way if the race was cancelled we wouldn't have to wait for everyone else taking bikes out too. We sat in the vestibule of the RecPlex and chatted, awaiting the official decision. More racers left. About 6:20 the word came in - we're racing!
Dean and I moved back into transition leading the others who were in the gym back out to race and by 6:45 am the rain had completely stopped. I stretched a bit and went to get a swim warm up. What happens when you haven't swam in six weeks? That's right...your club swimming coach and his wife show up (Joyce was racing)! Hi Ed! Pressures on now!
Dean and I seeded ourselves in the second row in the center. Honestly, my goal was to stay with Dean through the swim as he is always in good shape. After the first 50 yards, I was in second but Dean was drafting my feet. Later in the swim, I'd see Dean smiling next to me as we swam stroke for stroke on the last 1/3rd of the course. Dean's gray beard was unmistakable. We got separated and Dean put some time into me at the end of the swim but I still came out 8th - respectable for no training.
T1: FAST and smooth - best one of the season
Rain soaked roads made for an interesting ride. I was only passed by a few folks who were taking some big chances on turns and in crowds. Most of the ride was very strong. I was playing cat and mouse with a MSM guy and a Team Wisconsin guy. They rode well and were safe. On one turn a guy in the sprint race was right on the MSM guy's wheel thru a very wet turn which forced me to drop back farther than the draft distance to ensure safety. My heart rate on my Polar RS 400 was low until I saw that move and the HR shot up 15 bpm immediately. As soon as it was safe, I was going to smoke the person who made that unsafe move. On the straight away, I dropped them all. My only complaint about this race is the merging of sprint triathletes in with Olympic at the second half of the Olympic bike. There are a lot of new folks in the sprint and they were riding in the middle of the road - some dangerous situations but it wasn't dangerous long as I zipped through the crowd quickly. MSM guy was starting to come back and I could feel him back there. At the end of the bike, I was out of my shoes on the last downhill. T2 was going to be quick!
T2: In and out...forget what I said about T1 being the best in 2007...T2 now had that crown.
I just started off easy and smooth. I've been running a lot for the Chicago Marathon and I'm tired so I wanted to start around 7:10. (7:09.89 first mile). I saw Dean about mile two for him and I was just passed one so I felt I was going reasonably well. I saw Meredith about mile 4 for me and made it my goal to hold her off by 3 minutes and did. (She is a really fast runner.) At mile 5, a slap happy feeling came over me and I started holding my hand out to runners headed "out" and high fiving everyone - smiling through my pain (RS 4oo now reading 85%). Every person would smile back and we'd slap hands. Nothing was said - just a smile (or cringe) and we'd soldier on. At the end of the race I spotted four people and on "stretch" person to try and catch by the line. I got them all! ...unfortunately...a M25-29 had marked me and just nipped me at the line! ARRRGHH! I hate getting "touched out"! Dean finished 8th overall and was 3rd in our age group. I was 21st in the AG and 81st of the 500 who dared to start the race in threatening weather.
I wrung out my stuff and started to get out of there talking to MSM guy and Team Wisconsin guy. I also profusely thanked every volunteer and police officer who was out there for standing in the rain while I was able to splash around in puddles for a couple of hours.
Back at the car...mud everywhere! I did get out without a tow truck which was just about as good a feeling as racing today. I was going nowhere fast and speedometer in the car read 65 and 4500 rpms...but I didn't get stuck! The people headed south on I-294 must have wondered what the heck they were following that was spitting out so much mud!
To warm up (and celebrate) I stopped in Mundelein, IL at Franks for the Memories http://local.yahoo.com/details?id=17171038 and had a bunch of of the best hot wings this side of Buffalo, NY to warm up from the inside out. I came in cold and left sweating! I stopped for an iced coffee, the barista looked at me like I was nuts. 60 degrees and raining ...iced coffee? Really?
It has been a great triathlon season considering everything I've gone thru at work. I had fun. Raced reasonably well and was in touch with a lot of friends. I've decided not to go to the Halfmax 1/2 Ironman -USAT Long Course Champs (sorry Mark) in order to focus on the Chicago Marathon more. I just want to put in some bigger mileage weeks with my folks training for Kona and concentrate on one big finish at the marathon.