Portland Triathlon…this has been a race that I have wanted to do for a few years. Big city, big race, big fields. Finally I was able to step up to the line this year at its new location. The start was on the Willamette riverbank right below St. John’s bridge. The same bridge you run over in the Portland Marathon. I have to say that when you look from the transition area, located under the bridge, it seems like an awful lot of vertical feet you have to climb. And it was.
After driving over the night before with Greg and Natalie, we stayed at the Swansons. It sounds like a resort, and in a way, it was. Tim and Andi treated us to phenomenal hospitality, a phenomenal dinner, and phenomenal accommodations in their phenomenal new home. Tim likes it when I use the word ‘phenomenal.’ Staying with the Swanson family was a lot of fun and afforded us an opportunity to catch up and step out of “race mode.”
But, race morning came and we were up before the sun and at the race venue before the sun as well. The morning was cool, and forecasted temps were in the mid 70s. A typical early fall day.
The swim was in the Willamette, which is a river with minimal current. But based on the swim times, there must have been more current that I suspected. We went off in waves and I was the 3rd of the 4 waves for the men. I didn’t mind because I like racing from behind. Though the swim is a little chaotic, it’s nice to see people on the bike and run. At the start, I was able to catch up with some athletes I had not seen for a bit, who would also be likely the most competitive people as well. A couple of the guys were super cyclist David Gettle, and all rounder Craig Dean (who also writes for racecenter.com). Gettle was finishing his long season here in Portland, and Craig was just coming off a first time Ironman finish up in Canada in a smoking time of 9:50. I knew there would be others that I didn’t know that would pop up as well. Gettle started 2 minutes ahead in wave 2. So I could use him as a marker for my race.
The swim was interesting. Right when the horn sounded, I took one step and dove in. On my first stroke, I felt a hand/arm hit my face and my goggles immediately shifted to a 45 degree angle on my face. I understand that you can easily adjust your goggles when swimming, but trying to do that in the first 100 meters of a race would be stupid. So I swam by feel a bit for the first 300 yards to a point where I felt there was a little separation. I rolled over on my back, did a quick flip of my B70 goggles, and was on my way. We swam directly into the sun, and with the multiple waves ahead, there was really nothing to spot off of. I just kept plodding along, not really “working” too hard. I eventually made the turn at the far end and was heading back. I have found that when you cannot really see where you are going, it is better to relax and swim smart rather than going hard in the wrong direction. I used people as my guide as well as the shoreline.
I exited the water and felt relatively good. I was running quite well up the ramp and to T1. I could hear some cheers for me and figured they were from the Swansons. Nice to hear that. When I race away from home, and my family isn’t with me, I miss those cheers from Jessi and the tiny, yet enormous, voice of Emma. Owen might chime in too by setting off the car alarm with the remote. T1 wasn’t a short run, but not too long either. I peeled off my B70 Helix and was able to get on my shoes quickly. I decided to put on my cycling shoes in T1 since the start of the bike was immediately up hill…like a 15% hill. If I were to wait until I was on my bike, it may not happen. All was going to plan. My QR CD0.1 was running smooth as always producing the power I needed. At the top of the hill, about 1k in, I passed Gettle, and he knew it. I could hear him pick it up to match my pace. I decided to ride a little harder than I normally do for the first bit, but no later than 2 minutes, Gettle came by me. I decided to see what kind of ‘relative’ watts he was pushing to see how far off I was. It seemed he was lower than what I was doing, but decided to stay behind for a bit. After a mile or so, I made the pass. After 4 more miles, I saw that I had about 10-15 seconds on him. Hmmm…not too much. But after another 4 miles the gap grew to about 30 seconds. I think I was starting to put some time into him now. I kept it steady and rolled into T2 feeling ready for the run and the…gulp…hill.
This run was all over the place. Steep ups, downs, paths, roads, sidewalks, bridges…you name it. It never got boring. Right when I left T2, Greg said, “It’s steep at the start.” Darn, it must be bad. But I just settled in and kept on moving forward. The top came and I was back up to full speed. I was told that I was in 2nd. Hmmm…in all reality I knew he did not really know my “place” but he did know that there was one person ahead of me. I eventually had him in my sight, and I could see the lead bike for him as well. I passed him near 2.5 and was now the ‘leader.’ I kept telling myself to relax and settle in. No reason to reach for anything right now. Get to 5 miles. I was running across the St. John’s bridge and was feeling good. It was nice to see all the others out there too. I gave people I came up on a little pat on the back, and a ‘nice work,’ when I went by. The last kilometer is pretty much downhill and I tried not to kill myself. I came into the finish and saw the Swansons, and Gallaghers. Again, friendly faces. I gave the lead bike rider a high 5, and made the turn to the finish. I snuck in under 2 hours on a good course. Nice!
The rest of the day was spent eating post race food and waiting to awards. This is always a nice time to catch up with people and hear about the day’s events. I was able to talk with the director who wanted to know what changes could be made, which is always nice to hear. But in the big picture, they did very well. Just under 1000 people at a new race site in a city. That alone is a tough one. They did amazingly. I walked away with a cool trophy and some prizes. Fruits of a hard 2 hours work.
Thanks to all the amazing staff at TIMEX, and TIMEX Multisport, for outfitting the team, and giving us the support we need to perform at our best.
Craig Dean, racecenter.com writer, did a race report for this event too. I, personally, like it a lot. If you read it, you will see why. It can be found HERE.