Monday, July 04, 2005

Triathlon story in graphical form

This is my story of the tri in graphical form. My race is the red line. Time runs from left to right. This is the 35-39 year old men. The winner, Australian George Lawson, is represented by the line that is the leftmost at the top. The line that starts out with a fast swim is Goh Seng Peng, who was reported to have a swim time of 18:09!

Officially, my swim was 43:42. I remember it being 46. Officially, my bike time was 1:09:31, but I thought it was more like 1:04, not counting the transitions. Unfortunately, it looks like the transition I spent stumbling around without my glasses counted against my bike time. (And I think three minutes of my swim is counting against my bike time, too!) My official run time was 1:01:59, which I can't argue with, and the overall time of 2:55:11 seems reasonable since I did not look at my watch while crossing the finish, because there was a camera and attractive young women handing out medals to smile for.

The median time was 2:53:40. So I was 5:05 (13%) slower than average on the swim, 7:54 (10%) faster than average on the bike, and 5:00 (9%) slower than average on the run.

I ranked 88th of the 163 finishers in my category. (I thought there were supposed to be over 200 starters.) Last year, the top American came in at 89th, so I did do better than that, but this year, my fellow Americans William Zee and Bernard Distel came in at 31st and 32nd, and Kenneth Katz still beat me at 58th.

When did Mac and IBM switch colors?

When did the colors for the Mac and the PC platforms switch colors? Wasn't there a time when IBM was known as "Big Blue" for its blue logo? Sort of a connection to blue blood as in old money? Isn't a McIntosh a red kind of apple, and isn't that a natural color for an apple anyway? Wasn't the Apple logo red during the dark days of the Gil Amelio era?

This question occured to me before I ran across the StuffIt website. I noticed I was using my red Ethernet cable for my PC and my blue Ethernet cable for my Mac, and this makes sense to me, even though it is the opposite of how I would have assigned the cable colors when those machines were new a few years ago.

Does this have anything to do with Bush vs. Kerry? Are Mac users Democrats and PC users Republicans? Is this another way in which the United States has become more and more polarized lately?

Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Under Three Could

To begin at the beginning: It is still almost night when I head out, bike spotless and blue and black, the city streets silent on the way to Andrew's, whence we will head down to the bike track/running track/salty warm swimming sea.

Like me, my teammate Andrew uses his cell phone for an alarm clock. But I guess the sound when he receives an SMS is louder, because it wasn't until he got my message that I was waiting downstairs for him that he woke up.

He got ready quite quickly, and gets bonus points for eating cereal in the elevator. He even drove calmly, unusual among my bike racer friends, who tend to start the race tactics early. We got there at just about the right time. Any later would have been rushed. Any earlier would have meant standing around. Andrew's wife Janice has excellent tri-marker calligraphy.

The announcer was cheery and Australian, but I heard just enough of him. If you have been hired to be the announcer for a triathlon, it would be good to know things like who the sponsors are and the name of the body of water the competitors are swimming in. It's unprofessional to ask the crowd. Not to mention ineffective. Singaporeans are shy and never respond to anything more adventurous than invitations to clap, so it was kind of amusing for his request to fall on deaf ears, even after he repeated it a few times.

My first mistake was not realizing how bad my uncorrected eyesight is. I have no problem in the confines of a pool, but trying to read lane numbers in the transition area was impossible. That was minor compared to finding the buoys and dark blue finish markers and avoiding my competitors. I know the event color is dark blue, but dark blue doesn't really stand out against water and trees. Even people with good eyesight--or prescription goggles--were drifting all over the place with me, and later complained about it. Last year there were lane dividers from what I heard. Anyway, not being able to see very well meant I put my head up a lot.

My goggles started leaking twice in the first 100 meters of the swim, stinging my eyes with salt water. Stopping to adjust them put me in back right away.

It took me 500 meters of swimming to find a rhythm. This was the only part of the event that made me question why I was doing this. There is a reason that half the participants in most triathlons are newbies, I was thinking: extremely high dropout rates from the sport! They need to keep suckering in the newcomers for the entry fees. Then I went back to concentrating on my stroke.

I had a surreal moment during the second and final time around when I thought I had turned the second corner of the triangular course, but then I saw another buoy. I guess it was just wishful thinking that made me think I was about to see the beach.

Getting ready to go out for a bike ride in a hurry is no problem, and I was really looking forward to it after the swim, so the transition was smooth.

It's fun to pass hundreds of people on your bike, and get passed by only one of them, who you know to be a member of the National Team. Not that I would have been able to stay with him, but Junadi was on his second lap and at full speed just as I was getting up to speed at the start of my ride. I never saw him again. But I will try to remember this confidence-building experience for future races.

There are triathlon rules that seem funny to a bike racer, especially one that can do math.

If you have 2,000 participants on a 10 km course, and they need to keep 5 m of distance, then that means you can only enforce a no drafting rule if everybody remains perfectly spaced for the duration of the race. Kind of hard when there are turns.

I was kind of hoping to be disqualified for breaking the "no passing in front of the grandstand" rule, for a story for my track friends. Apparently, there were some crashes the day before which was attributed to racers playing to the crowd. I was yelled at for it, but you can't race track as much as I have and not develop a strong instinct to play for the crowd.

It was hard to feel like I was racing; most of the people I was passing were not in my category, and I didn't know what lap they were on. Since I didn't really memorize how the race numbers were assigned, I couldn't tell you who was in my category. Finally, nobody was successful in passing me in retaliation and making it stick, which would have made it seem more race-like. Certainly that would make it more like other bike races I have entered!

I was passed in the swim, of course, but it became more a matter of survival where I wasn't very competitive. Running was more like going for a jog with a few thousand friends, and so also not very race-like.

Five minutes into the run, I was apparently having problems with the transition from cycling, and my legs cramped up. I walked for a bit. A fellow triathlete yelled out to me to try running backwards. "Good idea!" I said gratefully.

"Oh, sure," he said five minutes later when I caught him. I told him not to worry and that I'd have more cramps, but I didn't. There were folks to spray us with water and offer us water and H-Two-O, a sparkling isotonic drink. That must have helped.

Other than the first cramp, slowing for water, and 20 seconds of walking near the end (like standing on a bike just to do something different), I managed to run--well, jog--the whole thing.

I also tried lengthening my stride, which I guess would make use of my hamstrings. I believe my hamstrings got strong a couple weeks ago when I spent hours on tiptoe painting a friend's ceiling trim. I did not move my bike saddle at all for the triathlon, so it was still 2 mm short of being all the way back. They say tri bikes have the seat forward to save your hamstrings for the run. My hamstrings felt fine. I know my run wasn't very fast, so it's probably not fair to dismiss this as a myth spread by ignorant triathlon coaches based only on the absence of pain in my hamstrings. It may be as simple as it slows you down on the bike so your splits are not as ridiculous as mine.

My bike time was about 1:04, the swim a disappointing 46 minutes, and the run about an hour, for a total of 2:55. Going in, I thought a time to be thrilled about would have been 2:45.

It was a much better experience than my first road race, where nobody said anything to me, except for the cussing guy on the purple Cannondale. This time, I had teammates, and people calling my name as I went by. There are photos and medals and certificates of participation, lest anybody's self-esteem be injured.

Next time, I'll try to get more than two hours of sleep the night before. What would we do without coffee?