[For those wondering about the name, one of the things Walla Walla, WA is known for is as a major source of sweet onions.]
I drove over to Walla Walla, WA on Saturday afternoon with a friend and a 240 mile ride took about 5 hours with a bad traffic backup (accident-related) on I-90 eastbound. It could have been worse, as it took others 6 hours on Friday evening. As a first race of the season it demonstrated that my bike training has gone very well and revealed a few flaws in race execution.
It was raining lightly Sunday (race-day) morning before the race and the forecast was for isolated thunderstorms, making me glad I had brought a rain jacket since I loathe riding in the rain. Turns out I didn't need it.
The bike course had been described as being mostly a gradual uphill on the way out and down on the way back. We drove the course the night before and it seemed more flat and rolling than gradually up. As it turned out, the description was right and we were wrong. It's a fun course to ride, in any case and the new Lucero was a joy to ride.
The swim start was chaotic. The audio system used by the announcer couldn't be heard by many people down in the water so we didn't know how long it was until the race start. Suddenly people around me start to swim so I started as well. What we weren't told was that an aquatic kickboxing event was about to take place in the very same lake :-). It was as bruising a mass start as I have been in - I was kicked in both eyes and kicked in the head several times, twice hard enough I had to stop to catch my breath and clear my head. It took 2/3 of the first lap for the pack to spread out enough that I didn't have to stop because of repeated walls of bodies in front of me. There's something asymmetric about my open water stroke - every time I attempted to push the pace I would swim to the left and since I wasn't doing a great job of sighting, I went off course a few times, costing me a few minutes. I finished the 1500 in 31 minutes.
I tried a few new things in T1 - no gloves, talcum power in the shoes instead of socks, and had sprayed vegetable oil on my ankles and wrists to make the wetsuit come off easier. This worked quite well. I made a rare mistake and completely forgot to take my electrolytes but did get a Hammer gel. My plan was to get a couple hundred additional calories and 24 oz of fluid on the bike.
I had just installed a new Profile Design aerodrink bottle on the bike, but my next mistake was not riding it in training first, but how badly can a water bottle go wrong? The lake access road at the start and end of the bike course had 6 pretty nasty speed bumps in about 3/4 mile. Since I was out of the water farther back than I expected I was pushing the pace at the start and hit the bumps pretty hard. The first one bounced out the yellow sponge and the next two bounced out most of the contents of the bottle. I frantically drank the remaining few ounces immediately since that was the only hydration / nutrition I would get until the run and I didn't want to lose it. Things would go badly later as a result of this. For almost the entire bike course things were going very well and at mile 22 I was feeling great and on track to go between 1:09 and 1:10 for the 40K. About then my mouth went dry and fatigue hit hard, as if I had just run out of gas. I wound up finishing in 1:15, which was about 50th of 200 bike splits. Not bad, but not the top 20 that a 1:09 would have given me.
I took the time in T2 to dig out some spare Hammer gel because I was feeling a bit empty and stopped at the first several run aid stations to drink water and gatorade. A slow 9:30 pace was the best I could manage until about mile 4.5 when I felt a bit better and managed to outsprint someone in the last few yards, finishing in 58 minutes, several minutes slower than I have done in training. I wound up 8th of 13 in my age group, finishing in 2:50 which is about 15 minutes faster than the Oly I did last August.