Monday, May 19, 2008

I Can't Fight This Feeling

This was a great weekend. Dinner with fellow Outlaws Mark, Naomi, Cody and his family at Orlando's. My favorite race on the SWCS schedule, and I still got the grass cut on Sunday after the race.

I was standing in the transition area before the race looking at the swim course for this weekend's Buffman and Squeaky triathlon. This race is at the same location as the Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon 70.3 (the race formerly know as the Buffalo Springs Half Ironman). The swim for both is in Buffalo Springs Lake (go figure). It's not a huge lake, and the race organizers (Mike and Marti Greer, who really do a super job with their races) have to squeeze to get a 1.2-mile swim course laid out within the confines of the lake. The Buff&Squeak (named after the Greer's two dogs) is an "intermediate" distance race, so they only need a 1500 meter course. I've done Buff&Squeak every year since they started doing it, including 2004 when it was the M&M tri. I've done the Buff Springs half twice by myself, and I've been there as part of a relay team (or for the Tri-Raider sprint that is held on the same day as the Half Ironman) four other times. Anyway, the placement of the buoys for this year's 1500 meter course looked a lot like the placement for the 1.2-mile course. Now, everyone has to swim the same course, so it really doesn't matter if it's a little long or short. But I'm one of those people who views any swim as the necessary evil that needs to be taken care of before you are allowed to bike and run.

I started the swim pretty conservatively, not wanting a repeat of the panic attack that gripped me at Ransom Canyon two weeks ago. No problems this time. You swim eastbound (thank goodness the sun was already pretty far above the horizon) for a few hundred meters, then north for a few hundred meters, and then you set out on the long westbound leg that skirts the north shore of the lake. This leg always seems long to me, and yesterday it really seemed long. I should probably concentrate on my stroke or something while I'm swimming, but mostly my mind just wanders. I was thinking, "Good grief, this swim is taking forever. It's time to bring this ship into the shore, and throw away the oars forever."

Ah, 1985, REO Speedwagon. 24 years on, and this song still sounds good.

And how about that hair!

Maybe I would race faster if I could get a different kind of song stuck in my head. But REO Speedwagon seemed to do the trick yesterday. It was my slowest "1500 meter" wetsuit swim ever, but I did manage to match my Buff Springs 1.2-mile time. (Hmmmm....) I had my fastest bike ever at this race, and I was only a few seconds off my fastest run time there.

In addition to Mark, Naomi, and Cody, fellow Outlaws Amy and Helen also did the race. Mark finished 20th overall. Amy almost caught up to Cody and me, and she finished as the 4th place overall woman. She and Naomi were second in their age groups, I was third, and Mark, Cody, and Helen were just off the podium in their super competitive age groups. Overall, a great race and a great time.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Power of Suggestion

Last weekend (May 4th) I did the Ransom Canyon triathlon. This is one of those small local races that attracts about 120 people each year. I have done this race every year since 2002. In fact, 2002 was the first year they held the race, and it was the first time I did a triathlon (other than being part of a relay team in a couple of other races). Mike and Marti Greer put the Ransom Canyon tri together. They also put on the Buffman and Squeaky Oly distance race and the Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3. I think Mike was doing triathlons before Dave Scott was even born, and their races are super well organized and very athlete friendly. All of these races are just outside Lubbock, Texas. Now Lubbock isn't exactly Orlando, Florida, (or Branson, Missouri) when it comes to tourist attractions, but it's only a two hour drive from my house. I really like these races.

The swim is in Ransom Canyon Lake. They have a small "party island" connected to the shore by a narrow causeway. It's supposed to be a 500 meter swim, but the geography of the island dictates the minimum distance. I think they may have had the buoys in very close to the shoreline a few years ago, but the last three years they have had the buoys farther out in the water and I'm guessing the swim is about 600 meters. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the longer swim. Obviously everyone swims the same distance, and it seems to give more balance to the swim leg of this "sprint distance" race.

The lake is spring fed, and it never gets really warm. This year, we've had a pretty cool spring, and the lake was colder than I ever remember. Mike said it was 62 degrees, but that was a bit of wishful thinking. I grew up in western New York state, and I can still remember swimming in the Finger Lakes. 62 degrees was not too bad there, and 70 degrees was positively balmy. Anyway, most of us didn't get into the water until just prior to the start of the race. The ones who had gotten in earlier were shivering and chattering their teeth. I was standing next to Mark Balsiger and Flip Lyle (who have done a few thousand races between the two of them). Flip said something to the effect, "You know, when the water is this cold, a lot of people will have panic attacks." I'm thinking, sure Flip, a lot of these newbies will probably struggle. But this isn't my first time at the dance, and I've done the Harvest Moon swim. That was cold! This can't be any worse.

So the gun goes off, and I'm swimming reasonably hard to the first buoy that is 50-100 meters from the dock. You have to make a 90-degree turn at this buoy, and with 120 people in a fairly small area, it can get pretty crowded. I felt OK, but a 15-20 mph wind was blowing a small chop into my face. That messed up a couple of my breaths. Just as I reached the buoy, I was kicked in the head by another swimmer. It wasn't enough to knock me out, but it was as hard a kick as I've ever had. I paddled around the buoy, trying to get back into a rhythm, and then I thought about what Flip had said. Sure enough, as soon as I put my face into the water, panic attack! Whoa, how can this be? I can swim, I've been in colder water before, and I'm only 100 meters into this swim. But I couldn't breathe. I ended up sculling water on my back for about a minute in order to get myself under control. I noticed about 20 other swimmers doing the same thing (or doing breast stroke). For a few seconds, I wondered if I would ever finish the swim. And then, everything was back to normal and off I went. I ended up taking about two minutes more to finish the swim this year compared to last year (when I had a really good swim), and about one minute more compared to two years ago. Now, if Flip had never mentioned "panic attack".......

My bike leg went really well considering the wind. It was really fun coming back with a tailwind and hitting 45 mph going down Yellow House Canyon. I had a good run too, and ended up first in my age group. Next time I do a swim in cold water, I'm getting in to do some warm up swimming and I won't even think about Flip and panic attacks. Don't think about panic attacks. Don't think about them! Stop thinking about them!!! Quit thinking about panic attacks right now!!!!!