Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Terry and the Amazing Technicolor Tires

From Terry McNatt:

A few of us can't get enough of the ski track and stayed local to race in the Massachusetts Winter Triathlon Saturday morning. The race consisted of a 5K run (2 laps), a 7.5K bike (3 laps same course) and a 6K ski (2 laps different course) all on the smoothly groomed Weston ski trails.

I was most leery of the snowy bike leg and looked into some traction options, studded tires (at $50-$75 per tire too $$), bike tire chains (looked like overkill), but decided to concoct my own. I thought why not glue some sand to my current tires? It won't last long, but I only need 7.5K. I had glue, but the only sand I could locate in the 11th hour was contained in a rainbow sand art butterfly my daughter had made. My wife was reluctant to part with such artistry, so we deferred to our daughter for a verdict. "Oh I hate that one. It's ugly and too dark". The bare honesty of youth is refreshing!, plus it means I scored the sand. After 20-30 minutes of dabbing glue here and there and dipping in rainbow grit, I have before me a pair of technicolor tires. Secret weapon or frivolous exercise, time would tell. Now I just have to wax my skis and screw some half inch spikes in my shoes.

It's 7:00 am and maybe 10 degrees and rising as I pull into Weston with my skis, ski boots, mt bike, pump, spare tube, running spikes .. jees! these triathlons require the gear. After 2 trips of gear schlepping (where's pit crew?) I'm ready to warm up. I thought my old Gary Fisher hardtail would be the be the most classic bike in the rack, but then Marshall rolls in his uber retro celeste green Bianchi. I'm guessing early 80's, pre-dating some of our fellow racers. Regardless, Marshall will surely take many scalps out there with his vintage mount. I get out for a quick ski loop, quick bike ride and quick jog with strides to cover all the bases. The course is excellent, hard packed powder and still set up solid after the chilly night. I'm wearing my usual old school CSU suit and cross country spikes covered by thin black biking booties so I don't freeze my tootsies. I'm certain I look ridiculous, sort of like a graffiti marked polar bear who just waded through a tar pit on his hind legs, but so does everyone else and there's no mirror in sight. We all take in the last minute instructions and line up. My plan is to get some cushion on the run, try not to lose sight of anyone on the bike and then hopefully eat up any leftovers on the ski leg. Of course with Weston veterans Dave Currie and Mark Jacobson it'ill be mano-a-mano on the ski, so no leftovers there.

The go command shortly after 8:00 am sends us sprinting down the first hill heading out towards the flats with the road on our left. Up the first rise and I'm sucking wind and running in around 20th place, ouch! Whether it's the too early start or Thursday's track workout, I'm less than sprightly. So much for plan A. I finally get some stride rolling up on the flats and gradually move into 4th. The leader Tony is in sight with 2 others dangling off the back and then me coming off the front of the pack. After the flats we drop down the left side of Mt Weston by the river, pop up the short steep climb by the touring center then head out on lap 2. I finally feel some life in my legs and starting bringing the gap down to the 2nd and 3rd place runners who have now teamed up and are slowly reeling in the leader. I latch on just heading down Mt. Weston, and they pick up the pace immediately after they realize I'm grabbing a draft. This is brutal, but it means we hit the transition together 2,3,4, anearobic, but a mere 20 seconds down on Tony.

I made the decision to keep my spikes on and keep the run to bike transition lickedy split. The leader did the same, but I'm guessing 2 and 3 didn't, because suddenly it's just Tony and I out on the bike course. I'm feeling quite good on the bike and try to coax up as much speed as the conditions will allow. Coming down Mt Weston I was really gaining and just told myself "Don't touch the brakes." I bogged down on the little steepy by the center and had to jump off and run the last bit cyclocross style. Finally, I made the pass just into lap 2 and then saw that Tony was riding a cross bike, so maybe those tires were just tad too slim for snow riding. At this point the riders were streaming onto the bike course, so you had to Super Mario around the many less speedy mountain bikers and avoid the ever multiplying tire ruts. The last 2 laps were ridden powered by the fear of being hunted and the adrenaline of trying to pass riders and not crash out. I was sooo looking forward to the ski.

Entering the transition zone I realized all that bare knuckle riding had left my fingers so numb I could hardly undo my helmet buckle. With no feeling in the ends of my fingers, I had too guide them by sight through the boot straps to pull on my ski boots. Then my glasses started fogging, aargh! I finally fumble through the transition and get skiing, still in the lead, but by how much? I was starting to feel good with no one on my heels, but wait! As I loop back at the end of the flats I see Dave Canuck Currie coming into view in his stealth black suit. No time for a victory lap today, so I went into Tuesday Night Lights hammer till you see stars mode for a lap. Looking across the flats again, there's Canuck Currie, gaining but I still have a cushion. Finally, I can ease up with 2 hairpins to go and enjoy the final straight to the finish line. Dave crosses in 2nd and Mark has skied himself into 3rd, so a Weston sprinter sweep over the tri gang. Plus, Marshall places 2nd in the over 45 division and 20th overall. Talk about a schoolin for the pushing 50 and other "youth" in the race.

All this thanks to my technicolor tires with the goldilocks air pressure, or was it all that "training hard in the summer and fall" that Coach Rob mentioned?

The race itself was a blast and excellently organized. Also, Weston again proved it can put on a logistically challenging event without a hitch.

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