I know I'm going to have issues keeping up the pace on the bike because of the aforementioned bike choice/mechanical issues so my new plan is to go all out in the swim. Rumors had the water temperature from the 50's to low 60's, but in reality I don't think it was anywhere near that cold - wet suits were allowed, but not required. I lined up right beside Craig Evans and my plan was to stay with him as long as I could.
The race starts and 150+ people go from standing in cold water to laying flat. There is basic physics problem here in that there isn't enough space for everyone without some serious contact. I kept out of the mess, being in front, and trying to keep up with Craig Evans. I hang with him for probably .1 miles and then I think I'm going to die and have to drop off his pace. This guy is a freak in the water. I push myself to pull as hard as I can, not kicking, so as to save my legs for the bike/run. The water is dark brown and I can't see my hands in front of me, but I keep an eye on the Orange floats in the distance. The wet suit is constricting, but not nearly as much as I expected. I owe XTERRA for the great race suit!
At .25 miles I begin to question why I'm even doing this because it hurts and there is still a long way to go, I see Craig is now almost to shore, so fast. I get over the hump and before I know it I'm pulling my wet suit off and running into transition. By my count I was the 9th swimmer out of 150+ out of the water and the 15th to leave transition.
In transition I'm feeling fast. My wetsuit comes off easy and while I had to dry my leg to get my knee brace on I'm not too far behind the other early swimmers.
I leave transition, jump on the bike and start hammering to get up to speed when...the chain flies off. I'm 500ft out of transition. I'm still not over the emotional trauma of the 11 miles I spent on the bike Saturday, but here are some facts. The course was flat, fast, and my bike was not. Over 11 miles my chain came off 13 times. Yes, 13 times. Let's say it took me 1 minute every time I had to stop and put it back on, not including that when it was on I couldn't pedal with any speed. That's at least 13 minutes off my bike split. It was completely maddening.
I spent the last two miles of the bike mentally preparing myself to have the run of my life to stay in contention. Everyone was passing me like crazy and I knew I was far out of the top racers where I had started after the swim. Even worse mentally was that my legs were fresh because I was mostly coasting. All I could think about were all the hours spent training and now a stupid mechanical issue holding me back, My chain came off for the 13th time about a .25 mile from transition and I just picked the thing up and ran with it into transition rather than mess with the chain.
I came screaming out of transition on the run with fresh lungs and legs. I quickly started passing runners, but no one had their age on their calf so I was constantly wondering who was in my age group and who wasn't. I started having back spasms at mile 2 of 5 and was afraid I couldn't hold my pace, but a quick water station break up ahead gave me renewed strength and I kept pushing. In mile 4 there was a pack of guys about my age that I caught and one of them eventually made a move to up the pace. I left the pack with him, but over the next 1/2 mile he left me and I had nothing more than what I was already giving it. It was a relatively easy last 1/2 mile - the elation in almost being done, and no chance of catching the guy in front with no one gaining on me from behind. I cross the finish line to find plenty of people already finished and it is all I can do to keep from screaming because I was so upset about the bike portion. I walked my bike (couldn't bring myself to put the chain back on again) and the rest of my gear from transition back to the car and headed back to the staging area to await the results....