Monday, September 9, 2013

Being a D*ck

I've twice now bragged on myself under the guise of being surprised at how the bike leg of a triathlon went.  Needing a new excuse, here's braggadocio disguised as a confession of d*ckiness.

Nation's Triathlon is a huge olympic-distance race held entirely in the urban core of DC.  As many as 4000 participants all find themselves riding their bikes over a 40K course at roughly the same time.  The number was closer to 3000 this year, but the course had two loops -- thus, there could have been as many as 1500 per loop, or 100+ cyclists per mile of road.  The numbers don't stack up that badly, because there is a drawn out time trial start.  Although I did not start until 90 minutes after the first wave, some swimmers did not exit the water until I had finished riding.  Nonetheless, it's a crowded mess.  Most of the participants are just out to have a good time -- riding along, chatting with friends, sitting up straight and enjoying the sun, what-have-you.

Even worse, each loop had two stretches of no-pass-zone that ran for ~1/4 mile.  For a mile or better in total I cruised in a line behind whoever decided "no pass" meant "no exertion" and held the rest of us up.

Combine that with my newfound taste for treating the crank-arms on my ride as if they had kicked my cat and you have a recipe for unpleasantness.  Riding a triathlon bike leg has become an exercise in seeing pavement ahead of me and being really, really pissed that it isn't yet behind me.

The good is that with one exception, a really nice guy from Alexandria who finished one place ahead of me in the 40-44 age group, nobody passed me.  I've been running triathlon since 1986 and that's never happened.  The bad is that nearly everybody I passed, which seemingly amounted to most of the 3000 strong race field, suffered verbal abuse I'd like to think one might reserve for Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, or Kim Jong Il.  And the ugly:  "Get the f*ck out out of the left lane" might have been one of my gentler warnings.

I'd like to be of two minds about this.  On the one hand, we frequently celebrate competitors who are so vigorous that they are perceived as jerks by the competition.  Trash talk has its place and can be effective.  So I'm vaguely pleased that I can get over the inclination to be laid back and supportive in order to be competitive.  It is a new thing for me.

But the justification doesn't work.  The victims ended up being Joe and Sally who were out enjoying their day in the sun.  My competition, it turned out, was comprised primarily of participants in the elite wave who were off the bike and running before I even entered the water.  The one guy in my age group who passed me?  When I got him back on the run, we chatted amiably before he fell off pace.  Trash talk isn't helping my competitive circumstance.  It's just unloading my suffering on the world.

I'm enjoying kicking a little a*s in this year's races.  But I'm not sure it's worth the cost.


sam said...

True duckiness would have required quacking at your competitors, and might have been best used during the swim leg.

Congratulations on the result -- truly remarkable. At (or nearly) at) the top 1% both in division and overall.. . I'm curious if any of your training has been tailored to this distance, or if this is largely carry-over from training for (much) longer distance?

You sound sufficiently introspective about being a duck; I don't know that I have any comments to offer there. Though I wonder if it's possible, even if you find yourself among your true competition, to be the "nice competitor"? A holistic approach to the event might put a good-natured tenth place above a more, er, web-footed third.

Unknown said...

Meh. I've adopted this attitude to the bike leg for years and my conscience is clear. You're feeling guilty for the cycling equivalent of yelling at a grandmother driving 30 mph in the left lane of an interstate. It's illegal and dangerous. If your yells caused them to move right and stay there, that's better for them and anyone else who needs to pass them later on.

It's completely fine for TnT nation, comprising Joes and Sallys, to enjoy the day. Just ride to the right. It's not as if you're yelling at them gratuitously.

Having said that, I sometimes motivate myself by mentally ridiculing everyone I see, but I don't feel too bad about that unless the Psychic Hotline Tri Team is racing that day.

sam said...

I wonder if one could accomplish the same thing with the added benefit of whimsy by mounting a pink bicycle bell at the end of the aerobars. On a suitably kick-ass bike (I'm picturing all black, save for the pink bell), it would be an awesome accessory, a conversation starter, and perhaps send a more recognizable message to those triathletes more accustomed to a multi-use path than a racecourse?

And, if one needs a better justification, just think of it as letting you use your oxygen to fuel the ride.

While it's true that we all mentally curse the grandma in the fast lane on the highway, it's a big leap from that to riding her bumper and flashing one's brights at her.

Max said...

Well, a few thoughts. Unfortunately, this is Nation's, where anybody in the know knows the race is going to be an unholy mess. It always has been and it always will be. *I* certainly know that, so can I complain when it is as predicted? Too, I had the option of signing up for the elite wave; I didn't; and I guess I suffered for it. Once again, my fault, not that of the naive schmucks around me.

That said, I agree with Damon's general proposition that "if you want to run triathlon, follow triathlon rules." If there was a way meaningfully to call blocking fouls at that race, most of the field would suffer yellow card penalties on the bike course.

And thanks for observing the underlying point that my finish was out of my ordinary experience! I would say this was consistent with the results in Timberman and Columbia. (As a point of comparison, the guy one ahead of me in my age group, who beat me by 1:40, was ~2:30 ahead of me at Columbia.) Because part of long course training is interval work, I suppose there is some fair carry-over, but a lot of this is just translating long riding and running weeks into a functional sprint. After 150 miles at 19 mph, 25 at 23.5 isn't that hard.

Unknown said...

Screw the pink bell. I long ago resolved to mount one of these to my fork the next time I race at Nations.