TBF Racing added this USAT sanctioned international distance (1.5k – 40k – 10k) triathlon to its early season schedule, providing a nice warm-up race four weeks out from Black Butte.  The race is held at the same venue as Granite Bay, but the bike course leaves the park while the run course uses the same challenging system of trails.

Tammie and I drove down race morning and met up with Shawn, Joanne, and Jason who had driven down the night before.  The weather was perfect for racing, mid 60s to start with no noticeable wind.  The water temp was in the upper 60s, also just about perfect for a wetsuit swim.

I started in the third wave with all the other grey beards (45+ men), five minutes back of Shawn and Jason and ten minutes back of the youngsters (34 and under).  I sprinted in from the land start and was quickly in the first two or three positions.  One guy (a 51 year old MDot vet I would see again and again) hammered the first bit of the swim like it was a 50 free, but I quickly brought him back, found his feet, and debated about staying there for a while.  It was just the two of us at the front of the wave, but I wasn’t happy with his pace or navigation skills, so I gradually moved around and past him.  He of course grabbed my feet and stayed there for most of the rest of the swim.  Once in the clear, I relaxed and focused on long, smooth, gliding strokes, breathing four times to each side with a quick sighting during the crossover.  Fortunately, the swimmers from the previous waves spread themselves all over the course, so I had little trouble navigating through them.  I caught a peek at Jason as I went by the second turn buoy, but never did see Shawn, who I also passed sometime during the swim.  I hit the beach in 22:33, best in my AG and 5th best in the field.

After a smooth T1, I was quickly out on the bike for an entertaining second leg of the race.  Unlike Granite Bay, the bike course leaves the park for the surrounding roads.  The course is a diverse mix of busy and quiet roads, great and marginal pavement, rollers, short choppy climbs, technical descents, and even a short stretch of gravel.  I moved through a handful of riders from the previous waves, was feeling good, and was really enjoying the diversity of the course.  Right before a climb, I was passed by MDot man.  He was a big, strong rider and was slightly better than me on the flats, but he was carrying at least 25 pounds more than me.  I upped the tempo a bit and immediately caught and passed him before the end of the climb.  He immediately caught and passed me on the descent.  I stayed within about five bike lengths until re-passing him on the next hill, only to be re-passed on the descent.  I decided to sit in for a while, matched his pace from four to five bike lengths back, and waited for a significant climb where I might shake him for good.

At about 18 miles, I was sweeping fast through a left hander and heard some bad news from my drivetrain.  I wasn’t shifting, but for some unknown reason, the chain jumped off the big ring to the drive side.  This is normally no big deal, so I just soft pedaled, moved the front derailleur to the left, and tried to re-mount the chain without stopping, something I’ve done countless times in the past.  It lifted over the big ring, and the small ring, and this time fell to the inside.  I still had a little forward momentum and tried once more, but this time the chain jammed in the rear derailleur as I tried to pull it over the big ring.  I was really close to mounting, so I gave just a little push on the pedal to encourage it, which turned out to be a big mistake.  It refused to mount, so I finally stopped, got off the bike and reset it by hand.  MDot man was long gone, but I just relaxed and calmly re-mounted with thoughts of catching him on the run, thoughts that were quickly interrupted by the unmistakable sound a bent, mis-adjusted rear derailleur.

Fortunately, when I recabled the bike just a month ago, I installed an in-line barrel adjuster in the rear derailleur cable housing just under my aerobars.  This allows you to adjust the rear derailleur without dismounting, something that can come in handy during a race.  I turned the barrel and mostly quieted the derailleur, then got back to racing, only to have more noise and skips when I shifted to the other end of the rear cluster.  After a good bit of experimenting with skips and noise, I was able to make reasonable use of seven cogs in the back, avoiding the two largest and one smallest.  This meant powering climbs in a much lower cadence than I wanted, and losing some speed on the descents.  I also had to move to the small ring on some gentle rollers that I could have otherwise taken in the big ring.  I fully expected Shawn and Jason to come by during all of this, but I wasn’t passed the rest of the way, easily handled the short gravel section and was relieved to finally roll into T2.  I was also happy to see only a handful of bikes already racked.  My bike split (plus both transitions) was 1:11:25, best in my AG and 4th best in the field.  I ended up averaging 21.4 mph, which I was pretty happy with considering the hills and mechanical issues.

Out on the run, a volunteer told me I was 8th, which considering I started in the third wave, I was happy with.  I didn’t feel great, and my legs were pretty beat from the bike course, but I was running low 7 minute pace the first couple of miles and wasn’t taxing myself too much.  The course at Granite Bay is 95% trail and mostly rollers, but it has some seriously steep pitches on it, especially the one that’s about 1.5 miles from the finish.  It was getting hot so I made sure to drink at all the aid stations and kept an eye on my heart rate, which can be an indicator of dehydration if it’s higher than it should be for your RPE (rated perceived exertion).  The course was mostly empty, and I cruised along until I caught a glimpse of MDot man in the distance.  I was a bit invigorated by that, and caught and passed him easily.  I reeled in a few more runners from the earlier waves, privately hoping they were dismayed by the 49 on my calf as I went by.  I felt strong the entire way, was able to run the full ascent of the big hill without walking or putting my hand down (that one needs a name, by the way), and rolled to the finish with what I thought to be a slow run split for a 10k of 45:09 (7:17 pace).  Turns out my run split was best in my AG and 2nd best in the entire field, a really encouraging result considering the run is typically the first thing to go with advancing age.

I was fourth across the line and ended up placing third overall, a fair distance behind the thirty-somethings that finished 1st and 2nd, but at least I out split them both on the run.  I won my AG, which turned out to be the fastest in the entire field based on the time of the fifth place finisher, a measure of the difficulty of getting on the podium.  Old Guys Rock!

The five of us finished off the race with a great lunch at a Brewpub in Roseville. The only other snags for the day were Tammie’s flat on the bike and the fact that CTC was split between this race and the Tri Shasta sprint held on the same day, and the TBF Mother’s day race the next day.  I don’t know what next year’s schedule may hold, but this is a great tune-up for Black Butte on a very similar course, a race I would highly recommend.