by Alan Liu
I accomplished my goal: I placed 5th overall at the race. The winner was this really really really fast guy (in my age group) who came up from SoCal cuz he heard that the winner's trophy was worth the trip. He ran about a 5:15/mile pace! I think that the 2nd place finisher was a former pro, out of my age group. 3rd and 4th places were in my age group, but I'll take 5th o/a even if it translates to 4th in the age group!
Here's the story:
So, the race was fun. I left home at 4am, picked up my high-school friend Laura Schoenrock in Pleasanton at 5am, and got to Angels Camp at 7am. We got ready at a leisurely pace as the race started late. We headed down to the lake, which was a nice 75 degrees but down a steep 500yd cement boatramp! See the pictures, courtesy of photocrazy.com. When standing at the bike racks, the people in the water looked like ants. Anyway, I focused more on my goal of placing in the Top 5.
The swim was a straight out-&-back with just one buoy. On the way out, I ran into a lifeguard's paddleboard - get out of the way!!! (I now have a bump on my head.) I was drafting a couple folks as we were headed into the sun. Then they suddenly disappeared. I stopped. I looked around. I saw nothing but flat water. I looked behind me. I saw the buoy 10 yards back and the lead swimmers going the other way. Panic set in, and I caught them immediately. We proceeded to try and swim through the massive crowd of sun-blinded swimmers on our way back to the boat ramp. I stayed behind the 2nd-place swimmer as he was pummeled by head-on collisions. I was 3rd out of the water as we headed up the boat ramp. 2 days later, we reached the top...
The 1st person out of the water was a 15 year old girl. Yeah, well, she was fast! 2nd out of the water was a 48 yr old guy. Yeah, well, he was fast too! The girl was on a relay, so she was done. The old guy, well, more to tell about him...
So, 2nd, 3rd (me), and 4th place swimmers all had their bikes racked side-by-side. So much for elbow room. As I put on my bike shoes, some bastard flew through the transition and onto the bike course. That was fast. Turns out that it was Kyle Welch, who I think is a former pro. Anyway, I got onto the bike course OK and smiled at the cameraman. 2 guys had passed me in the transition, but I was ahead of the old guy, which put me in 4th place. It was a smooth road of small rolling hills. I was playing leapfrog with the old guy. He'd pass me, I'd pass him, and so on.
Then, we got to the steep hill. When driving in that morning, I realized that I had been driving downhill for quite a while, and that the arrows indicated I'd be biking back up that beast during the race. I held my momentum as I cycled to the base of the hill, and I shifted my front chainring into low gear...
The chain fell off.
Being on a steep incline, I came to an immediate stop. Being clipped into my pedals, I was stuck. I tried to clip out, but I couldn't do it. I had to lay the bike down. The old guy flew by me as I was lying on the ground wrapped in a carbon-fiber bike frame. I got the chain back on, put it in granny gear, and started up the hill in 5th place.
The old guy was way far ahead, but I could still see him from time to time. I hit the turnaround point and headed back. There was a BIG gap between me and the rider behind me. Good thing, I thought. I got to the steep hill and zoomed down as fast as was comfortable, about 35mph. I completed the last 2 miles of rollers and had the transition area within my sights. Then, some guy on a Bianchi zoomed by me. He must've jammed down that hill! I noticed the number on his right calf. He was in my age group. And now, I was in 6th place. I was going to have to pass someone on the run.
It was getting warm when I reached the 2nd transition. I put my running shoes on and headed through the parking lot for the hills. I turned onto the run course and faces a very steep hill. I could see two guys ahead of me: Mr. Bianchi and the old guy. I started up the hill. I started breathing really hard. I started realizing that I could probably walk as fast as I was running. Thankfully, the course turned off the hill and onto a mountain bike single-track trail. The trail weaved through oak trees and went up and down and up and down endlessly. I rounded a small hill and saw Mr. Bianchi pass the old guy. I rounded another hill, and Mr. Bianchi was gone. But, the old guy was in sight. 5th place, I thought, 5th place. Near the 1-mile mark, I passed him. He had huge cyclists legs, and I thought that they must feel really heavy on this run. Before long, I was on my own with no one in sight.
Laura was having fun on the bike. She borrowed an old Trek composite for the race and decided to bike in her running shoes. I guess the laces got caught up in the chain at least once. And we set the seat too low. Laura had a strong swim, but many people passed her up on the bike. No worries - she's used to running on trails under the hot sun.
It got hotter, and I started hurting badly. I took 2 shots from the athsma
inhaler and kept going. I passed the water station at the 2 mile mark, and
looked behind me. Nobody. I ran around the second loop under what was now
a blazing hot sun, and I returned to the water station. Still, nobody behind
me. The volunteers pointed to the finish line. I could see it! I could not
see any of the runners ahead of me, but the end was in sight. I sprinted
down the hill and through the parking lot toward the finish line. There
were a few spectators who cheered me on. As I reached the finish line, Laura
was starting her run. We high-fived when we passed each other.
I finished the race and shook hands with finishers 1-4 at the water cooler.
After the race, we had a great BBQ in Utica park downtown. There was a raffle too. Laura won some sweet bike shorts, and I won a bottle of zin. Score!
It was really fun, even though the race hurt. I think I'll go back next year...