Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Steve "Yoda" Hall Goes to Worlds!

Well, since I saw that the family was briefed on my race I thought I would include a race report. It is something people often do after a race. They reflect on the race and write a report about it.

The flight out to Germany was uneventful. I did not have a great seat and was uncomfortable but they showed fairly new movies and I watched a total of 6 going out and back. Jenni and I had a pretty good system of luggage so I thought we made a pretty good team.

When we got to New York, Jenni – being the intelligent half of our relationship – noticed that we did not have our camera and quickly went and bought one. Hell, that had not even crossed my mind, which is sad to say. So we got the camera and took a couple of practice shots at the restaurant we ate at while waiting for the plane.

We landed in Germany and took a bus to the hotel, Holiday Inn. Their version of a king size bed is two twins zip tied together. Germany is a very nice place. I really look forward to going there again one day. Thursday was supposed to be the parade of nations. Everyone says that the Parade of nations is worth the price of admission. The bus system that Team USA had was not very good. So, when they were supposed to bus us to the team photo shoot, fifty of us missed the team photo because of the bus drivers. Oh well, we showed up for the Parade to find out they were not having the parade. Instead they had a “presentation” of the nations, consisting of a guy announcing the countries in attendance. It was very much a let down. However, it was there where Jenni and I met some friends. John Close, Edie, Julia and Caroline were some good friends throughout the stay. John, Julia and I were all on Team USA with John and I in the same age group. But having friends is a great thing to bounce ideas off each other and to help with stuff. Jenni took a good picture of us.

Nothing eventful happened leading toward the race. We ate, drank (well, Jenni did) and found out that they have Starbucks and Subway in Germany. Everything was in race prep mode for me. Trying to keep food and drink with me the entire time. They ran a race for Hamburg the day before to workout the kinks. This provided us a chance at looking at the flow of the race. It is also where we learned how big the transitions were. We watched the women’s elite race, which was on Saturday. It was very exciting. They set up the race so that the professional athletes basically run laps, to create the most exposure for the fans to watch them. USA held the lead from the swim, but was passed in the last couple of laps by Portugual and Germany. So we took the bronze.

You can see me standing to the left down quite a bit. The guy down ¼ of the way is a guy riding a bike. The bike transition area took up over 3 large city blocks. It was huge.
The above is just one side of the transition, there was another “lane” to my left. And this line was only half of the swim to bike transition, if that. They were just enormous. If my check on was correct, the swim to bike transition was .51 miles. We also had to turn in our bikes that day (day before the race) as well.

All of the age groups were broken down and put into their own wave. Each wave was separated by ten minutes. This would allow for you to only race against your group and hopefully stop the drafting. When I saw my wave time, I quickly realized that my wave was the very last wave. The thoughts quickly start to go through your mind…Don’t be the last guy on the course. This is the World Championships so you know all the competitor’s there are good and fast.

The night before the race, they held a pasta dinner for all the participants and others involved (basically anyone willing to buy the $10 ticket). They estimated they served 7,000 people at the pasta dinner. They held it in the local newspaper building in the personnel cafeteria and opened up th 2 level concourse for people to sit and eat.

Race day.

This was not going to be my normal race day. Usually I am waking up at 3:00 am and driving to some city in NM. This one I got to sleep in late and did not have to hurry. I got to watch how the starting waves did and watched some fun racing. My voice did go hoarse from screaming go USA! As our start got closer, John, Julia and I were hanging out drinking coffee and watching everyone go. Julia went first. She got ready, into her wetsuit and was off. She is a good swimmer and when we saw her time coming off a couple of minutes longer than expected, my first thought was that the swim was long. But you figure that it is long for everyone but it really benefits the fish of the group more.

John and I followed order and were getting ready to swim. As I was watching the 40-44’s right in front of us, I kept noticing that they would jump in the water and then get right back out. We had swam in the lake a couple of days before and knew it was a little cold, but not that cold. However, a lot of people were doing it. I just thought, “warm bodied racers.”

The wave goes off and our wave has to wait a couple of minutes before being allowed in the water. We line up and jump in the water and WOW is that water colder than I remember. John and I jump out for a second. John cannonballs back into the water I jump in trying to keep my goggles on. We lined up and I struck up some conversations with a few other guys. I started my watch five minutes early and then they started us off. I was going to try and draft in the water to save some energy (legal to do). I saw John just taking off flying through the water. He was flying. I just tried to stay in a good draft because it is basically 30 minutes of swimming. It was pretty intense. There was a lot of hitting other people and a lot of getting hit. One guy even grabbed my ankle and pulled. Things normally are hectic in the few couple of hundred meters and then they tend to thin out. Not this race. It was non-stop action the entire race. I could not get into a groove because when you are running into other people and getting whacked, well it is hard to get into a groove.

I got out of the swim and started the half mile run called T1 (Transition one). I had my top off my wetsuit before I even got to the bike and I removed the second half pretty quick. But I noticed John’s bike, which was parked next to me was still there. I was surprised as I saw him take off pretty quick on the swim.

If you look at the Germany swim times and compare them to Portland (Nationals), you would notice most people were about 2 minutes slower in the water for this race. I was 1 minute slower. I did feel like I gained time with the correction of my stroke and stretchy cord exercises. I felt the swim was a good time and I feel like I was not in a groove. The swim was long and people’s time showed. My swim time was 24:30.

The bike….Ahhh the bike. I had worked the bike pretty hard before going to Germany and really all year. I think that showed in the results. I had the 18th fastest bike for the age group – not bad for a group of 135. My philosophy for the race was to try and hammer everything. I feel like I did that on the swim, since I lost only 1 minute over my Nationals time, compared to the average of 2 minutes by most other competitors… and then I had improved greatly on my bike. 1hour, 1 minute and 21 seconds (24.25 mph) for the bike was much faster than normal and a PR (personal record) by 3 minutes. Also the bike was long. I measured the race to be over 25 miles, and so did Julia who did the race with an Ergomo power meter. Julia had the bike at 25.21 miles. I had about 25.2 but thought it was me not subtracting the transitions correctly until I asked Julia. The transitions were long. Yes ½ mile long. They were the longest transitions I had encountered. Even Ironman Arizona’s were not as long as they stack wider and not longer. I was astounded at how far we had to run so to get the times I did, I am happy at transition.

I started the bike and there was a couple of us going at a pretty good clip (pace) trying to get into our shoes. Once in, a big German guy and I started to go hard. He was in front of me about 50 meters and I felt he would be a good rabbit for me. As we rode we turned up into the redlight district. Yes, Hamburg has a redlight district – apparently an original that Amsterdam emulated – and they are proud of it. They had the bike course go through there. That is how proud they are of it. The German guy for some reason stood up on the slight hill leading into the redlight district. You lose good time when doing that and I quickly bridged up to him and passed him pretty quickly. I then caught a large group of riders. They were literally pack riding. In triathlon world it is called drafting. It is not legal but there were marshals all over the course so I felt it would not last for long. I quickly went by them and felt strong. A little further down that same pack passed me by, all in a row. They were rotating at the front and a stronger rider had taken them past me. They went by and as a not so strong rider started their lead they quickly slowed up. I was surprised at the outright cheating of all those competitors. I again passed them and gapped them pretty good. At the first turn around coming back, I noticed that big German was on my heels but that dang pack was still together and coming on again. I just kept it going and before too long they were coming by me again. There was not much I could do but I heard a motorcycle behind me so I figured people were then going to be stuck. The pack passed me, followed by the motorcycle and the motorcycle (a race marshall) started breaking up the pack - finally.

As soon as they were broken up, they lost speed and I passed by. I passed the motorcycle, who was still tending to them and I was passing on the left. In a large group, all you can do is yell that you are coming. You are supposed to pass on the left so if someone is yelling coming up on your left you are supposed to drift right, let them by and fall back as to not draft. Well, right in front of the motorcycle a guy cuts me off and it sends me outside the cones into the lanes of the on coming bikers. I am over there for a couple of cones and I dart back around the guy. I hear the motorcycle people take some action. I’m not sure if it was on that guy or not but I would like to hope so. There they do a start and stop penalty – meaning if you are caught cheating they pull you over.

I am going along and I get cut off again by a guy from Mexico as we round a turn. I realize that I am actually passing a lot of people on the bike and feel like I am giving it my all. I keep going, hit the turn around to go back, and that dang pack is together again and charging. It was amazing that they would get back together again. Well, I keep going and they pass me right before the redlight district. As soon as they hit the hill, where it is harder to cycle and not so good of a draft benefit they quickly fall apart and I get to go by them right around the corner. Right at that time I can see some photographers who take a pretty good picture of me rounding the corner. They are not in the picture but there is a pretty good sized group behind me.
I keep going and hammering away and I soon get a side stitch from drinking too much sports drink. I still have time before the run, a few minutes anyway and I decide to stop drinking to let that side stitch go away. As I am going that group is still together but the motorcycle comes again and breaks them up. Another USA guy goes and passes me and on the way he said the marshal had finally broken up that group. I hit that last turn around and I am hammering to the end. I feel I have done well but I did not know the price I would pay. You go through a tunnel to get to the end and that to me signified taking my feet out of my shoes. I start to pull my right foot and my right hamstring knots up badly. It is to the point where I have to straighten my hamstring because the pain is pretty good. I am starting to get close to T2 and I decide to take my left foot out and that one knots up badly as well. I have to straighten that one and I feel like I am hurting. I decide to nut up and just take them out and deal with the knots. I get them out but I have to coast up to the dismount line with my feet out of the shoes and both my legs straight. I felt my run was in major jeopardy.

I make it through transition and I start the run. T2 was pretty quick and I get my shoes on and start a quick run. I had a side stitch on both sides. It was very hard to breathe and run. I felt that it would work its way through and I started to pick up the pace to where the hamstrings were very close to knotting up and shutting me down completely. At this time it was very hard to keep my breathing going with the pain from the cramps. I decided to try and hold the pace even though it was hurting. I started to pass guys from the 40-44 group and am holding an okay pace but not what I know I can do. I run up on a guy who is wearing the RSA (South Africa) jersey and he decides to stay with me. It is good because we kind of held a decent pace and we kind of surged on each other. I am thinking that I have to outrun this guy at the end because I don’t want to lose to him at the end. I take in water at the aid stations and it seems to be helping my side stitches. We really start to pick up the pace closer to the end of the run and the guy tells me that he can’t hang anymore because of his side stitch. I start to encourage him to hang with me and finish with me. He fights the urge and pulls up beside me and we keep going. Now, I start thinking that I can’t just outsprint the guy because it seems like we are now in this fighting together. We forged an unlikely team. As we get close I tell the guy that I will not sprint on him at the end. He then tells me, “That’s ok ‘mate, you got me by ten minutes.” He is in the age group that started ten minutes in front of me. I never knew that but we had a good run leading into the end and we finished together.
We finished together and we gave each other high fives because we did pull each other along.

So the run was not near what I wanted but it was not too bad. Run time for 6.2 miles was 40 minutes and 44 seconds. 6:35/mile pace.

The race was a good race. I gave everything I could until my dang stomach just jacked me up. I really want to figure that out because I know I could knock out at least a 37 in the run if not faster.

All things considered it was a PR in my three events. Put in a normal transition and I would have done a time that I thought I could do.



S. Baboo said...

Man Steve, that was an amazing race!

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

Steve, I'm so glad you posted this. Thanks for sharing your really awesome race.

Sluggo said...

Steve, you da man! Great race report.

SWTrigal said...

Wow-Steve-you really rocked that one. That is so inspiring!