Monday, September 27, 2010

Friends NEVER let friends GU before swimming...

2010 USAT Sprint National Championships

I spent the third week of September on the road with 30 students from the Air War College as part of the Navy-USMC elective I teach there... it was a great week as we were joined by the Commandant (MG Kane) for tours of ships, subs, squadrons, LCUs, and LCACs in Norfolk and then an entire day at Parris Island to see how they "make a marine"... great fun had by all but not a great way to prepare for the USAT National Sprint Championships. Fortunately we arrived back at Maxwell early on Friday morning which presented an opportunity for Sherri and I to have a nice lunch out... my plan prior to lunch was to just get my race packet on the morning of the race but after a discussion at lunch I decided I was going to drive up and back to Tuscaloosa on Friday afternoon to pick it up and have less to worry about race morning... a GREAT decision! The race packet and expo were great... the goodie bag was also very cool... a nice USAT transition bag, a running hat and shirt, Yankz speed laces, and various nutritional samples and LOTS of ads... along with all the other race day essentials... bib #215! The drive up and back was truly uneventful!

So how did I get here... well back in August I came up with the idea to drive up to Tuscaloosa, AL on Saturday, 25 September to watch the USAT Age Group and Elite National Championships. Then we realized that Colby had a soccer game in Tuscaloosa on Sunday and the USAT Sprint Championships were on Sunday morning... given there was not a qualification requirement for the Sprint race and registration was still open... I signed up for it... I wanted to race at least one more event before the season ended and this one seemed to fit the bill.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Following Colby's game on Saturday... a disappointing tie with an "own goal" late in the 2nd half.. we headed home for spaghetti dinner, the Auburn-South Carolina football game and packing. We hit the road for Tuscaloosa at about 1930... a 90 mile drive on mostly 2 lane country roads... we rolled into the hotel in time catch the last part of the 3rd quarter of the game... Auburn magically pulls it out in the end... everything is falling into place nicely except for one thing... FORECAST for Sunday... 70% chance of rain! After the game I mixed up my EnduroxR4 recovery drink in one bottle, a bike bottle of GU Electrolyte Brew Drink Mix (Lemon Lime) and a bike bottle with just water and put them in the fridge to cool over night... then hit the sack only to read just a few pages before calling it a night!

Sunday 26 September 2010

Surprisingly... I fell asleep really quickly and did not have that nervous feeling about the race... I set the alarm for 0530 expecting to watch the clock all night... yet I awoke at 0520 after a very restful night's sleep. In keeping with what is now part of my race tradition... yes, one event does make it a tradition... I got up to shower and shave... why change what seemed to work last time? If I had only followed that mantra later... After showering I got Sherri and Colby up to get their day of cheering me on started... plus I needed Sherri's help with the race number tattoos. I put on my new tri suit (Orca 226 tri tech shorts and tri top) and headed to the complimentary breakfast room for coffee... by the time I got back to the room Colby was dressed and looking for breakfast. He headed to the breakfast room where he apparently entertained all of the triathletes there while I got ready and gave away by all accounts some of the family secrets. Sherri helped me put on my 4 tattoos... #215... one on each bicep and one on each shin... I had spent Saturday morning putting my race day numbers on all of the other gear.. one sticker on the front of my bike helmet, one sticker on either side of my race cap, one on the seat post of my bike , one on my running belt and one on my transition bag and I am thankful I did not wait for race morning to to all that! I rechecked my transition bag to ensure I had everything... forgot to plug my Garmin 405 in the night prior... not a big deal but a detail I left out... then nearly left the room without my bottles from the fridge... glad I had Sherri there with me! We departed the hotel about 0620 for the University of Alabama campus... it was obvious that it had rained during the night and the skies did not look promising... as we drove to the campus there were a lot of flashes of lightning in the distance and an ominous black sky. We found the designated parking garage but I decided to park on the street... but the rain had just began to fall and I decided that the garage was a better option since I still need to pump the tires up one more time... and remember telling Sherri... "I REALLY wish I had come out and driven the bike course yesterday!"... so I found a spot in the garage and started to gather everything up... I pumped the tires up and checked again to make sure I had all the essentials... a car pulled up next to us and a nice couple got out... we began some small talk when she noticed my Cajun Man shirt on and commented... "Oh Cajun Man... we were just there a couple of weeks ago... MAN WAS IT HOT!"... I responded with "My Brother and I were there as well... and the run was brutal in that heat!"... we exchanged some niceties and were on our way!

A lesson I have learned... triathlons are an individual sport... and the folks you meet at these events are just as genuine and as friendly as you can be... they are all very encouraging and love to share in a positive manner!

Transition opens at 0630

We walk down to the transition area in the light rain...just shy of a 1/2 mile walk... we make our way onto the grounds and I head into the transition area to set up... Sherri and Colby find their way around the various tents and such to get a spot just outside the area where I am setting up... it is lightly raining and so I decide to wait a while before setting everything out to avoid everything getting soaked as it looks on my Blackberry WeatherBug page that the cell over us is going to clear out... all three of us walk around taking in the sights and walk down to look at the swim... 750 meters in the Black Warrior River... there are a bunch of boats putting out the buoys to mark the course.... it is amazing just how long the distance looks when it is not broken into 50 meter increments in a pool!  We walk down to the water... 84 degrees... at least it is warm... just wipe the dead fish on the banks out of your memory... we walk back up and I take a "nervous pee" in one of the porta potties... the race day jitters have officially arrived... but in a good way... that "get fired up" kind of jitter... and in the interim the skies have dried up and you can see some sun peaking through... all is good!

We head back up to the transition area and I begin the process of setting everything up... there are a lot of techniques out there and everyone has their own style.... I set mine up as I did before and run through my mind the process and really the art of transition... everything stacked in a particular order... one of my goals is to shorten my time in transition... I am ready! Time for my Gatorade Prime to get a jump start on hydration. I then walk the T1 route backwards to ensure I know where my bike will be... I use the flags lining the area as a reference point... first yellow flag on the left... about mid way in the transition area... perfect! The loud speaker is barking out directions... giving everyone the status updates... loud music in between.... lots of commotion... the anxiety level is increasing... focus on every competitors face... nervous banter as final preparations in transition are made... one last review... mental transition complete... "ALL COMPETITORS SHOULD BE MAKING THEIR WAY TO THE SWIM AREA... TRANSITION CLOSES IN 10 MINUTES!"

The Swim- 750 meters

I exit the area... find my fan club and we make our way to the terrace overlooking the river... a great vantage point to watch the race begin.... at this point I make a crucial mistake that will have an impact on my swim performance... I decide to take a Vanilla Bean GU... I let Colby try it and we agree it tastes great... I give Sherri and Colby a hug and kiss... and head over to the entry to the dock... I am in wave #2... the silver caps... there is a call for wave #1 to get in the water... this is going to be an in water start... no biggie... been there done that... I do some jumping jacks to get the heart rate up and blood flowing... people are stretching all around me... windmilling their arms... sprinting short distances... doing yoga poses... complaining about the USAT... wishing each other luck... "see you at the finish"... BBBBBBBBBBRRRRRRRRRRRHHHHH the horn goes off... wave #1 is on their way... our start is 7 minutes behind them... the silver caps make our way down the plank and onto the dock... I look down the railing and see Sherri and Colby about 300 yards down... we wave and I blow her a kiss... I look at the water and think of my Brother... "You Got This!"... it is going to be different not doing this event with him... so I sit on the edge of the dock with my feet in the water and the guy next to me says... "How much longer 'til we start?"... turns out he is the oldest male competitor in the event... Dean Davis from Ft. Myers, FL... 81 years old... in just a little over 2 hours he will have completed the race... I tell him "3 minutes"... he responds... "Well.... I guess we better get in then....".... and so we do! I do a few strokes then make my way out from the pier in line with the start buoy... BBBBBBRRRRRRRHHHHHHH... we are off...

Now... my strategy was to go all out in the first 100 yards to clear some water and then settle into my natural pace... I have clear water in front of me and by all accounts this is looking great... goal is less than 15 minutes... this is going great... and then Mr. GU makes his presence known... this is where that seasoned triathlete piece of advice comes to mind... "Don't every try something new on race day"... and much like throwing bones at the Craps table I have been winning and parlaying those wins to the next roll... but I just crapped out and now I am left with nothing... except indigestion.... now you know that feeling you get when you ate one too many slices of pizza or buffalo wings and you feel like you need to belch but can't... and it feels like there is an air bubble trapped in your chest wanted to be coaxed out? Usually with a little encouragement you can work it out but that is nearly impossible while swimming... and so the physiological struggle begins... I try to power through it and start to use mind tricks to divert my attention from the feeling in my chest but it is just NOT working... so I decide to swim some breast stroke in hopes of getting just one good burp... that only seems to make it worse as I am taking mouthfuls of river water in with each breath... and although I am not proud to admit this... I resort to doggie paddling... at this point I am about 400 meters into the 750 meter swim... I doggie paddle for want is only a few seconds but feels like an eternity and decide to go back to freestyle as I am more unhappy with watching people pass me... I make my way up to the first turn buoy and breast stroke my way in traffic around the buoy... back to freestyle... a quick 25 meters and another right turn... I again breast stroke around the buoy and get caught in the anchor line of the buoy which cuts across my chest and under one arm... crapped out again... I manage to free myself from the line and go back to swimming freestyle... quickly though the pain my chest gets unbearable and despite only being about 150 meters from the beach I can no longer take just how uncomfortable I am... I do a quick ORM in my head realizing I am in an dire situation and decide to flip over and execute the survival back stroke in hopes of that belch... no such luck after about 5 strokes so I flip back over and decide to just suck it up and push to the finish... I make it to the shore and the guy in front of me goes to stand up and doesn't have the legs under him to hold him vertical... he falls back on me and I brace him in the small of his back and push forward... he takes one wobbly step forward and then right back on me again... I again brace him and push forward and we exit the water together... John Leroy from Las Cruces, NM... 73 years old... as he runs up the ramp out of the water... "THANKS FOR THE ASSIST YOUNG MAN!"... he proceeds to beat me out of T1 by over a minute...

SWIM COMPLETE... 17 minutes of sheer agony and a clear reminder for the rest of my races to NOT trying something new on race day!


I slowly make my way into T1.... and to be perfectly blunt about it... I am worn out... that was a lot of effort... TOO MUCH in fact... both mentally and physically... I then sit down in T1 and put on my socks and cycling shoes... stand up and put on my helmet and glasses and stuff my back pockets with 3 GU packs... in the background I can clearly hear Colby... "GO DAD!!!"... I unrack my bike and hustle over to the mount line... I get onboard and I am off... 3 minutes 39 seconds... a minute and a half faster than Cajun Man despite sitting down...

Bike- 20KM

About a minute into the ride and I make sure I started my computer and reset my Gamin... BBBBUUUURRRRPPPPP... oh man... what a relief... BBBBUUUURRRPPPP... whew... I felt so much better... that relief gave me a chance to recoup mentally and focus on the bike ride. Now the goal for the bike was less than 45 minutes on what was a slightly hilly course and an average spin rate of 90... so I regroup and hunker down. At the 3 mile mark I break out a ROCTANE GU (Vanilla Orange)... now I know what you are thinking but this was not something new... and I had plenty of water (not of the river variety) to wash it down... and within minutes I am up on speed and cadence and passing people.. this is good. This course had 3 turn around points in it and several nice climbs on the 12.4 mile loop around T-town... one advantage I had was at the turns as compared to the tri bikes... I was on my Trek 2.1 road bike and able to make fast, sharp 180 degree turns without losing all my speed... the tri bikes had to slow way down... but most would eventually catch me on the straight aways down course. The bike was going great... it was hard to determine average speed with all the up and down hills but I was right on for cadence and taking whatever speed I could get. As I approached the 7 mile mark I took note of just how dark and ominous the skies had become again... and just as I reached the 10 mile mark the skies opened up and it started to rain.... and I mean RAIN! I quickly reached in my pocket to pull out another GU... Jet Blackberry... good but not what I was looking for... I swapped it out for the Chocolate Outrage... OH MAN was that good and the timing was perfect... as I reached the 11 mile mark we entered a long down hill descent into the finish and I put the hammer down in the driving rain... 35.6 mph... kicking one hell of a rooster tail... passed 6 tri bikes on the descent... feeling great at this point... hit the dismount line and got off the bike... 43 minutes 8 seconds (17.3 mph average)... bike goal met as I made my run down a slippery decline into T2...


I quickly find the first yellow flag on the left to spot my area... I rack my bike... off with the helmet and sunglasses... on with the running visor and race belt... then just as I flex my right foot to slide off my cycling shoe I get a jolt of pain up my leg from my calf muscle only to look at it and see what appears to be an alien the size of a golf ball trying to get out of my leg through the muscle... I quickly relax my leg... the pain stops... off with the shoes and on with the running shoes... again... I hear Colby in the background... "Looking good Dad... run fast!"... and I am off... 1 minute 18 seconds... a full 40 seconds faster that Cajun Man... reduction in Transition time goal met!

Run- 5K

I quickly settled into a nice pace that was both comfortable and believe it or not... relaxing! I was running my race despite being passed by some of the top female racers... just as my training has proven... about 3/4 of mile to get my running wind and a steady HR of 155 feels like a good balance... I take water at each aid station on the way out despite the pouring rain... a quick sip and the rest on my head... it feels really cold on my head so I know my temp is up but I feel like I am on cruise control... I pass several runners at my current pace of just under 9 mins... I hit the turn around point and start heading home by picking up the pace just a bit... at about the 2 mile mark I hear a voice come up from my right... "How you feeling today?"... "Great" I respond... and over the course of the next 3/4 of a mile we carry on a conversation and I pick up the pace to run with him... 8:02 pace... we hit the last aid station and I let him go... "Finish strong!"... "You too.. nice chatting with you and congratulations!" ~ Bill Gaertner from St. Francis, WI 66 years old and been doing triathlons for 30 years.. he finished just ahead of me and ran an 8:06 pace... as I round the corner in the park path along the river I can hear the announcer... we must be close... I enter into the chute and people are cheering us into the finish... I hear foot steps behind me and someone in the crowd behind yells... "C'mon... you can catch him!"... HEY... they are talking to the guy behind me... oh now he can't catch me... I sprint around the last corner and into the straight away to the finish line.. "Number 215 is Scott Askins from Prattville Alabama!"... YES... I did it... a quick look at the watch... 26 minutes and 49 seconds.... 8:36 pace... one minute and a half faster than Cajun Man... wow does that feel great!

Post Race

What a relief.. I felt great... I realized then that I really could have pushed myself on the run despite a good time... and given the start with the fiasco in the water I am tickled with my effort... I walk over to the results tent and I get an instant print out of my times... I do a quick scan on each to compare with the goals I had set for myself... they all look good other than the swim... but lesson learned there for sure! Then I quickly find my fan club... get a wet hug from Colby and a kiss with virtual hug from Sherri... I give Sherri the ticket to look at and as she is digesting it... I tell her to look at my Division place... #14... I finished #14 in my Age Group... 40-44 for you smart asses out there and you know who you are... that means I earned one of the 18 spots on Team USA and the opportunity to compete against 50 other countries in the 2011 ITU Sprint World Championship in Beijing, China next September... HOLY CRAP... that was one of my goals for next  year... I am stupefied... 14 of 36... that is just too cool! I make my way over to the massage line to get some work done on the right calf.... as we wait Colby takes advantage of the post race food and eats my share.. sausage biscuit, bagel and some Gatorade.

One of the post race gifts from USAT was a blanket that had a soft cotton side and a water repellent plastic side.... turns out this thing was really nice to have as the cold rain and my decreasing core temperature quickly had me shivering... while we are waiting for the massage they announce that the results are now official. A quick stop by the Results tent to check the final numbers and what do know... someone above me was penalized 2 minutes and I jumped up to #13 in my Age Group... even better!

Following the massage we headed back to the Transition area... everything I had brought with me was soaking wet from the rain... I gathered up everything and we headed back to the car and then the hotel for a hot shower... life is good!

Following the shower we checked out of the hotel and headed out for lunch... that Five Guys burger and fries never tasted so good... I then treated myself to a Starbucks iced vanilla coffee and we headed off to Colby's soccer game where he proceed to score 4 goals and 1 assist in an 8-5 win... what a great day!


- Never try something for the first time at a race
- Triathlons are an individual sport but having family support is crucial to success
- Triathletes, for the most part, are really, really nice people
- Setting and achieving goals is fun
- Your mind is your strongest weapon and with the right attitude you can convince your body to press on
- Without failing you will never really know just how far you can go
- Balance between triathlon training and family time is critical (Thanks Jonser!!)

This event concludes my triathlon season for 2010... I cannot put into words just how much getting involved in this sport has changed me... physically and mentally... I am already looking forward to 2011 when Maddison and Colby will complete their first triathlons!

Attitude trumps pain!!

1 comment:

  1. Scott, I am so very proud of you and your accomplishments so successfully! What a great story you tell, very entertaining and shows how much you put into this event!! The "Five Guys" meal was perfect for your treat and then your #13 finish!!! proud of you! MOM