Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Black Diamond Half Ironman Race Report

I put the Black Diamond Half Ironman on my race schedule this fall for a couple reasons: 1) it’s local and low-key, 2) I haven’t had a chance to race it since 2008, and 3) it would fit nicely as a training race to get back in the swing of things after a mid-season break post-IMCdA. July and August were spent relaxing, visiting friends and family, taking time to be support or be a spectator at races, and enjoying parts of summer that are sometimes neglected when I try to fit in too many “A” races (*for this triathlete) in too little time. That said, my workouts have been pretty light over the past couple months and my fitness on race day was going to be a big old question mark.

Black Diamond is about 90 minutes southeast of Seattle, tucked behind some farm country with, if it’s clear, views of Mt. Rainier on the drive down. The swim is in Deep Lake and start/finish lines and transition area are located in Nolte State Park. In my opinion, it’s a great setting for a small race (Saturday had 168 HIM racers, Sunday had about 230 sprint and Olympic racers). If I had little kids and a husband, I’m sure they’d find it very family friendly. The start time is a reasonable 9am, so I could get up at my normal 5:05am and hit the road just after 6, and still have plenty of time to talk to a few friends at the start, set up my transition area in an okay spot, and get in a good warm-up jog and swim before it was go time.

Swim – 33:10 I swam well for the first three quarters of the race and then I felt just tired, like my lack of fitness was catching up with me. With about 500m to go, I took a few strokes to calm down and swam steady to the swim finish. The women start with the relays, 5 minutes behind the elites, and 4 minutes behind the rest of the men’s field. (I found out there was an elite wave 10 minutes prior to the race. It ended up being 5 men. I’m glad I didn’t start with them.) This meant there were some slower guys to swim through for the majority of the swim. But for the most part, it’s a pretty honest swim – clear markings, and because the lake is small and tree-lined, calm water.

T1 and bike – I ran out of the water semi-pleased with my swim, but was truly grasping for air and didn’t have the spring in my step that I normally do to try to fly through transition. Even getting my arms out of my wetsuit felt like a chore. T1 was a slow 2:52 (it’s a small transition area) and then I was out on the bike with what felt like a really high heart rate. For the first 8 miles I felt slow and powerless. I tried to eat, but chewing my delicious chocolate powerbar seemed like work and I had to spit it out. I coughed up some lake water and thought it was going to be a REALLY long day, like one of those days you almost hope something goes so wrong that you have to stop (seriously, bad self-talk going on at first). Then, I got passed by two girls. That’s when things started to feel a little better and I was riding a more normal speed. I certainly wasn’t crushing it and my legs felt flat versus rested, strong, and peppy, but I stayed in good position and came into T2 in a somewhat respectable 2:43.

Run – the woman who finished the bike 30 seconds in front of me stopped to eat a ham sandwich in transition (not really, but she was not fast out of T2), so I passed her and by the time I was out on the road I thought I might be in first place. My run legs felt okay, not great, but strong enough, and I was just hoping to keep it in the low 7s to finish out my training race. At mile 2.5 I saw a girl who was a good 10+ minutes ahead of me. My thought was “dang! She had a monster swim-bike!” At mile 6 she was four minutes ahead, and at mile 7 three minutes. At that point, I stopped worrying about my pace and focused on the chase. I glanced at my watch a few times and was running steady 7:10s-7:20s. The run course is actually pretty tough; there are a lot of out and backs that go up and over hills and the last mile and half is a lap around the lake, which is cool, but also hilly and rocky. On the last out and back, I was about 20 seconds down and an older guy racing told me, “you’re going to catch her.” I love the old dudes who race. By mile 10, I made the pass and was on my way to the finish. At that point, since it was pretty much a training day and there were no girls hot on my heels, I could cruise in and leave the deep digging in the well for another day. My final run split was 1:37 for a finish time of 4:58:00. I later chatted with the woman I passed on the run only to find out she was part of a relay and her boyfriend/husband (?) had the monster bike. She was really nice and said that she was going to tell me she was part of a relay, but by the last time I saw her, she knew I’d pass her anyway. Besides, it was really fun to have someone to try to catch.
From Left: Swim course in Deep Lake, typical countryside views, beer tent at the finish.
Finish times were a bit slower this year (I think my time would have put me in 3rd last year), but it was still nice to show up as the fastest female on that day. It was a reminder that I have a lot of work to do for the rest of the season. My bike and run aren’t quite where they need to be [my swim is a work in progress] to race as fast as I’m able, nor is my overall fitness. But that was really no surprise. I’ve had very few rides over 3 hours or runs over 90 minutes in the last couple months and that’s been entirely by design. Without any big races from July to now (just fun stuff), I was able to afford some rest and give my body a break. That break is now over and just like my training schedule shows, it’s business time until the end of October.

Thank you to the folks at AA Sports who put on an excellent event! There was a tasty lunch with my favorite dessert – strawberry shortcake, and lots of fresh fruit, and a beer garden serving up Deschutes beer, 2 per racer; this lightweight limited herself to 1 (post-exercise and a long drive home...I had to be responsible). As a bonus, the overall winners were given big beer steins, a 6-pack of Deschutes, a loaf of organic bread, and other fueling goodies. I’d recommend this race to anyone in the Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia area or anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. It’s good for experienced racers looking for a fast course or a training race and it’s great for new triathletes (sprint, Olympic, and tri-it races too).  Besides, it’s always nice to support the smaller, local races.

Back to work!

Monday, September 9, 2013


Well, I had one of the crappiest things happen to me as a cyclist two weeks ago – my bike was stolen. It wasn’t my race bike, and there was no trauma or injury involved, so I’m trying my damnedest to keep things in perspective. But as any cyclist or triathlete knows, we get pretty attached to these gentle steeds. And when something is taken from you against your will, you feel like the memories and miles logged on that bike or the future bike commuter days need to be mourned for at least a little while.
Walter Jr. (aka - Flynn) knows exactly how I feel
I bought my Trek 1500 SLR WSD in the summer of 2005 just a few short months before my first triathlon. I did a fair amount of research and invested in a good bike fit before finding and test riding this bike. At the time (other than my college education and Roth IRA), it was the biggest investment of my life and I knew it would bring me many happy miles and memories. I had no idea it’d be the gateway to the triathlon world that I am now so heavily vested in.

In comparison to the fancy TT bikes or road bikes that I see from many of my current training partners, my old Trek was nothing special. In fact, I often got a lot of flak for riding it: “when are you going to get a new road bike?” “You still ride that thing?” It was 8 years old this year, needed a tune, new bar tape, and I probably could have replaced the chain ring (it was a – gasp – triple, but I haven’t used that ring for years!). But it was the perfect rain bike or commuter bike. I brought it along on dozens of park tours and Tuesday Night Hill rides. It was there for my first crash, first concussion, first time I rode from Seattle to Portland, first World Championships, and most poignantly first triathlon.

And it pisses me off even more that it was stolen right out front of my office, about 20 meters from where our security guards sit. Why, oh why didn’t I lock it in the garage lockers that day? Maybe because there are dozens of other bikes in the broad daylight and I’ve locked it there several other mornings. I haven’t completely given up hope finding my bike. The day after it was stolen I found it on Craigslist and was setting up a sting operation with assistance of the UW Police (I work for the University of Washington).

This is the cracked out Craigslist ad:


And here’s the very vague text conversation I had trying to set something up:

notice the period question mark punctuation and
 very vague "we will meet somewhere"


I have a hard time believing someone else could have gotten in touch with the seller (he stopped returning my texts and the PD tried separately without luck). I also don’t think anyone could understand what he was trying to articulate with “i need to sell my bike ASAP cause i really have to pay for some verry important bills that they cant wait…” “in perfeckt condition, the bike is amazing i love it…” Funny, because Sydnie did some Internet sleuthing and found the guy’s phone number on Facebook. The phone number linked was most definitely a man’s name and likely not the “perfeckt” bike for a Women’s Specific Design. It’s also hard to believe that shimano ultegra and shimano 105 is the best combination. I do like Shimano, but everyone knows this isn’t their best line of components.

I was creeped out and started to cringe when I saw the photos online. The guy removed the handy coffee cup bottle cage and changed out my seat (someone else’s seat – gross!). And people keep telling me that the bright side is that I can start looking for a new bike. But I was hoping to invest in a new bike for training AND keep my old Trek for riding to work. Yes, it’s fun looking for a new bike, but when you’re trying to replace something that was perfectly acceptable to get you from point A (home) to point B (work) and back, the replacement process is just not that fun. It’s probably the same feeling of replacing an old pet, but in this case more practical and less cuddly. At this point, all I can do is keep an eye out on the Seattle PD Twitter feed @getyourbikeback and hope that my poor, beloved WSD Trek is found and eventually returned to me. For now, I’m just so bloody mad that I can’t ride my bike to work (there’s no way I’m taking my race bike). So good job thieves, you’ve ruined my day and added a car to the commute.
This is what it looked like, except I switched the pedals to some older blue Look pedals that were perfectly worn in for commuting

A few more things I learned:

Several people sent me this article about a girl who stole her bike back in Vancouver and was on the Today’s show. (This article kind of annoys me because she’s not wearing a helmet.) My friend Jenn, the same friend who also writes her goals on the back of a Starbucks wrapper, stole her bike back from a Craigslist ad a couple years ago (but was not on the Today’s show). She promptly sold it a few days later and still gets mad thinking about how the guy was never arrested. I realize that I could have tried this approach, but a) I didn’t want to get robbed and b) I was willing to wait in hopes that the police could make an arrest. It didn’t work, but my safety was also not threatened.
A friend of mine is a detective told me that only the cops who work in the jurisdiction can help you with the sting. For example, if I planned to meet the seller in Kirkland, I couldn’t call the Seattle police to help; I’d need to call the Kirkland police. The UW police, however, were willing to help me wherever.
If you ever get into a situation like this, don’t try and meet the seller alone. Always make sure it’s a public place and have someone with you. Unfortunately, what often happens is the buyer (victim) is robbed again.

This website entertains me: 
WRITE DOWN YOUR SERIAL NUMBERS for ALL your bikes. Go do that right now! It’s the easiest way to identify it if it’s later found or if you find it on Craigslist. And keep them up in a spot you can’t lose them. I have them taped on the wall in my laundry/bike gear room. I was 90% sure I had mine written down, but actually ended up having to call the bike shop who had it recorded for me. Thank you, Redmond Cycle.

If you have any leads on a Trek 1500SLR or are looking to unload a good commuter bike, please contact me via Twitter @cknutson82 or through the comments on this blog.

Thanks, ride safe, and love your bikes!