mooseman, a novel

so, both warren and bill have drafted epic-style race reviews and i would be a slacker if i didn’t offer up the same [seeing as how i'm in the hotel pub on a sunday afternoon with no sports on the telly]. so, here goes…
sing, o goddess, the anger of bonk, son of bullwinkle, that brought countless ills upon the moosemen. many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures…
the day dawned early after a restless night sleep. it seems even warren received a better night sleep that i, and he was in a bag on the floor of the b&b. despite the poor night sleep, i felt fairly alert and ready to race. the week leading up to the race had been touch and go. i had been experiencing a very tight lower back [due, mostly in part, to the stress of all the plans for the month of june, no doubt]. i had run on it successfully a couple times since it started bothering me. when i crawled out of bed on race morning and didn’t feel the familiar tightness, i knew i’d have a good day.
i had slept like a baby at flipperhead’s place the night before, so even with a poor night on race night, i knew that i’d rested well on the important day. pre-race nutrition and hydration were mostly intact and aside from forgetting a transition towel and goggles[!!! thanks for saving me there, warren], things were going smoothly. warren and i grabbed some quick food from the b&b and headed out to the start.
transition setup went quite smoothly and i was set to go quickly. i headed over to where bill and warren were racking to find out i’d just missed the heart-attack and drama of warren finding out he was missing a pedal. once again, the guys from mc cycle pulled through [that was the shop i'd shipped my bike through - great service and great guys]. by the time i made contact with the guys, all three of us were ready to head to the start. looking like a tootsie roll brigade, we headed out.
the first wave was off almost as soon as we showed up so we quickly waded into the lake for a water start. i did my part to warm up the lake [so glad i didn't have to go while swimming, that's such a weird sensation], although the water didn’t bother me as much as it seems to have affected warren and bill. we got the “go, go, go!” and we were off.
i immediately had my face in the water and focusing on my stroke and breathing. about 100-150 yards in, i noticed my heart rate was through the roof and also that i was near the front of our wave. how did that happen? i backed off on my stroke and settled into a comfortably strong pull. i loved the swim course. the spacing of the buoys, not needing to sight into the sun, the calm lake [there was some chop, but not like ocean swimming], it was a perfect course. i rounded the last turn before expected and the finishing buoy came up quickly. i came out of the water in 35 minutes [4 min faster that wildflower, ifrc] and made a beeline for t1.
i grabbed everything i needed and boogied out of transition. as i was trotting my bike to the exit, i spotted warren in t1 and shouted a word of encouragement. i was pumped and feeling good. i’d nailed the swim and that is always the leg that concerns me the most. onto the bike, i started hammering along the course. we had driven the route the day before and that had eased my concerns quite a bit. there were two climbs of note on the route [to be done twice]. the first was short and steep, not unlike the hill that i live on and the second was long and gradual, not unlike the the climb up jamboree back home. both were manageable and in reality, when i hit them, they didn’t pose much challenge.
i really felt like i was being somewhat competitive on the bike. i’d get passed on the downhills, hold my own on the flats and pass most people on the climbs. i’m confident that no-one on a tri bike passed me on a climb. that made me happy to have not spent money on a tri bike, but instead opted to rely on my trusty felt. i must have pushed a little hard on the first loop, because when the second came around, i was posting positive splits. somewhere around the 40 mile mark, i tried stretching out my hamstrings on a downhill. i noticed a distinct tightness and pain in my left lower back. uh-oh. i hadn’t thought about how the bike would affect my back. on the rest of the downhills, i decided to try to stretch out instead of spinning. i wasn’t too concerned yet, but i knew there was a possibility of having some difficulty when i headed into t2.
by the time i hit mile 50, my legs were gone. my longest ride up to that point had been two 40 mile loops through santiago canyon [one of which was a 40/10 brick]. i was finding it hard to get up even the easy climbs, but i was so close to t2, the smell of the barn pushed me on. wellington state park came quicker than i expected and before i knew it, i was rounding the turn into t2. i looked at the watch and was happy to see 2:54 and a 19mph average. i came to a stop at the dismount line, unclipped and stepped off the bike.
and i couldn’t stand.
my lower back was so tight and in so much pain, all i could do was shuffle into transition bent over like a crone. i was having such a GREAT race, and now i’d been thrown this ugly curve-ball. what to do? could i run? could i run 13 miles like this? should i dnf? i moved through t2 slowly and shuffled my way onto the run. i’d try a little bit and see how it felt. from the runs earlier in the week, i remembered how the more i ran, the better my back had felt. i stood up straight after i crossed the run mat and took a couple steps.
it hurt.
i stopped, did some quick stretches and started off again. i received some words of encouragement from volunteers and those propelled me into a proper run. slowly, i worked on my pace. it hurt, but the pain was manageable. i just kept moving, hoping that my theory was correct. by mile four, i was able to run a fairly normal stride and had sped up to somewhere in the mid 7 min mile area. that pace and the pain really took it’s toll, though. by the time i headed out on the second six mile loop, i had to back off the pace and was relegated to somewhere in the high 8 min pace and eventually the 9′s. i estimate that i lost about 15 minutes on the run, based off of what i was able to do in all of my brick workouts.
by the time i hit mile 11, though, i could smell the barn again and any pain and fatigue be damned, i was going to power into the finish. i stretched out my stride and did my best to put in a good finishing kick. about this time i spotted bill heading out on his second run loop. he waved and shouted and all i could do back was give him the thumbs up.
i hit the final turn, made the run along the beach and then turned into the finishing chute. i flexed and waved as i raced down to the finish, my name was called, i crossed the line and i was done. i staggered through the finishing area, grabbed a ton of watermelon, ate crackers, drank and just basked in the realization that i didn’t have to exert myself anymore. after a while, i remembered that i was DONE and turned around to look at the finish line clock. it said 5:37. how long had i been eating? i wasn’t sure. dropping four minutes from the time gave me 5:33 and i was sure i’d been done for more than three minutes. had i broken 5:30?
my goals for the day had been broken up into my traditional bronze, silver, gold. bronze being “finish upright”, silver had been sub 6 hour [pretty much tying my performance at wildflower] and gold had been to break 5:30. i thought that was a lofty goal, seeing as how i hadn’t trained as hard as wildflower. seeing that time on the clock, confident that i had indeed broken 5:30, despite the back pain and dropping some significant time on the run, was the salve that soothed the poor run performance and gave me the feeling of success.
i walked out of the finishers area, stretched a bit, went and stood in the lake for a while and just continued to bask in the joy of being done. soon enough, bill came through the finishers chute and then shortly after, warren. it was great to have the two of them there to celebrate with. both of them had experienced great races and based on their reports, had a fantastic experience with the race. the race had been fun, challenging and exciting, but the thing that really made the day was the stellar company. our bond of friendship re-forged through fatigue and common struggle. we had emerged, heroes triumphant.

8 thoughts on “mooseman, a novel

  1. if it were easy, everyone would do it. it’s when the going gets tough that you show your true colours. well done!

  2. You got the gold!!! What a race. I thought for sure you were gonna tell us you had to DNF because of your back pain. Now, let’s hope it goes away for good.

  3. Kudos on an outstanding race.
    More importantly, it was great to see and hang out with you again. Until the next grand adventure!

  4. WTG, jeff, but uh … did you never give your actual, official finishing time?
    You can’t leave me like this! I need release! And I’m too tired to do it myself!
    I’ll just assume it was 5:29.
    So … congrats!
    And to warren and bill too.

  5. Why do we train? Why do we race? We do it because it reminds us that we have way more fortitude than we thought we did. You gave it your best, jeff, and well deserve that Gold result.
    Great race, great report, great inspiration!

Leave a Reply