The OcTel San Jose International Triathlon
June 25, 1995
by Patrick Goebel
Team Anaerobic Threshold
I hadn't heard from John Barman for over a year when I got his
e-mail. "Hey Patrick, I've been talking to my brother about possibly
doing the San Jose International Triathlon as part of a relay team.
Jeff (my bro') could do the swim, you could do the bike, and I could
do the run. Given that team, I'd say we have a better than average
chance of placing in if not winning the relay division (you are a
cycling stud, Jeff swam at Stanford, and I know how to run). The race
is Sunday morning, June 25 at Lake Almaden in San Jose. The distances
(in order) are 1.0K swim, 40K bike (mostly flat they claim -- yeah,
right), and a 10K run."
My first reaction was to panic. Yikes! I can't race. I can
barely keep up with the faster recreational riders in the area. John
and Jeff will fly through their legs and I'll choke, or run off the
road or simply pass out from anxiety. So before I could think about
it too long I called John to say "O.K. I'm in. But don't expect much!"
With two weeks before the race, I knew I had to focus on one
thing -- raise my anaerobic threshold. I spent the first half of '95
riding centuries and double centuries and had done very little work on
On Saturday the 10th I did an easy 80 mile coast ride with Tom
Larry, Dan and Richard as a warm up for the next day. On Sunday I
pedaled easy for 20 minutes then did a few sprints. I then rode a
40k course up Canada and around the Loop. When I stopped the clock I
had gone 24.8 miles in 1:07 for an average speed of 22.0 mph. Given
the headwind on Canada, about 800 feet of (rolling) climbing and 8
stop signs, I figured I could do better under ideal conditions. My
average heart rate was 163 bpm. So I guessed my AT was at least 163.
The following Tuesday I time-trialed Old la Honda in my weaniest
gear (39x26T). Given my Sunday results, I tried to keep my heart rate
around 165 bpm but it felt better around 170 so I let it rise. At the
top my computer indicated a time of 21:50 with an average HR of 170
bpm. Since I felt no leg burn the whole way up, I concluded I was not
pushing hard enough. My AT must be 170 or above.
I spent the rest of the week commuting to work and throwing in
some sprints and short intervals along the way. On Saturday I did
another 80-mile coast ride with Bob but pushed it *** the hills.
Sunday I went all-out for a 10k distance on Canada but blew up near
the end. Unfortunately I screwed up my HR monitor and didn't get a
I didn't ride the next two days (except commuting) and focused on
upper body weights and crunches. On Wednesday I TT'd Kings and
crested the top in 27:49 for an average HR of 166 bpm. I then spun
easy out 84W and back up West Alpine.
Thursday I did an easy 15 mile spin on the flats. Friday and
Saturday I did nothing but chew my finger nails and eat lots of rice
and spaghetti. I also drank several gallons of water and hung out
near the bathroom...
My alarm goes off at 5:15am. I scarf a huge bowl of cereal,
toast and orange juice. I pack three bottles of Cytomax, one for the
drive down to San Jose, one for my warm up and one for the race
I pick up John at 6:30 and we head south from Menlo Park. When
we arrive at Lake Almaden, hundreds of athletes flow from the parking
lot into the transition area. The air is charged with expectations
and pent up energy. Jeff meets us in the transition area and we claim
a spot before heading over to the tents to check in. Volunteers write
our team number on our arms and legs with black markers. Way cool. In
fact, I'd do a triathlon on my own just to have those numbers painted
on my body. In addition, an R is inscribed on our left calves to
indicate our "relay" status.
Race start is 8:00 with swimmers leaving in five waves, 5 minutes
apart. The pro-elite are in the first wave, the relay teams start
I set up my trainer around 7:30 and begin to spin. The
temperature is already in the high 70s and within five minutes of easy
pedaling I am dripping with sweat. I am surrounded by a sea of
high-tech bicycles as far as the eye can see. Disk wheels, trispokes,
suspension top tubes, Zipp frames, forward bending seat posts.
Sitting atop my old Trek 500 sport touring frame with bolt-on Scott
aerobars and standard 32-spoke wheels, I feel way out of my league.
After a 20 minute warm up I bring my heart rate up to 170 and
keep it there about a minute. I then pedal easy for 5 minutes before
bringing it up again. I'm surprised at how rapidly my heart rate
rises and falls. I pedal easy for a final 5 minutes and then get off
the bike and stretch. The loudspeaker announces that the elite wave
is in the water. Jeff will be swimming in about 20 minutes! A swarm
of butterflies bounces off the walls of my stomach. What if I flat on
the course? What if I blow up halfway? What if I run into another
rider? The hair on the back of my neck stands on end. Shots of
adrenalin shoot along my legs and feet like little bolts of lightning.
Everything starts happening in fast motion. The elite men are
out of the water running along the ramp toward the transition area.
The fans are cheering wildly. Wet suits are peeled off, helmets and
Oakleys donned. Now they are on the bikes, flying out the shoot onto
the expressway. Sinewy bodies rippling under the relentless sun.
The next wave envelops the transition area. Now there are
hundreds of competitors everywhere. The snap of clipless pedals
reverberates all around me. Cyclists swerve to avoid each other along
the corridor between bike racks.
I scan the line of swimmers as they run from the water. Jeff,
Jeff, Jeff. I keep reminding myself who I am looking for. He's
there! My heart nearly jumps out of my chest. I can't mount my bike
until I am tagged. Jeff sprints around the last corner toward me and
we slap hands.
Snap! Snap! I'm into my pedals. An animal drive takes control of
my legs as I surge through the line of slower moving cyclists in my
53x23T. I yell my number as I pass through the shoot and literally
explode out the other side. Immediately there is a sharp right turn.
A wavering cyclist steals my line. I brake then accelerate to the
inside, then blast up a freeway overpass. Cresting the rise I reach
out for the aerobars and begin cranking for my life. I check my heart
rate. 185! Slow it down. Slow it down. O.K. I'm down to 177 bpm.
Still too high. But it feels good so I stay there. I look down and I
am in my 53x15T -- just like in my dry run two weeks ago.
The course is not closed to traffic but the intersections are
strictly controlled by the San Jose police so we don't have to slow or
stop. I'm cruising at about 28 mph. Since I started near the end of
the pack, I have the advantage of overtaking a large number of slower
moving cyclists. This gives me added incentive and I bump it up to 30
mph. Heart rate is 180. I can't possibly hold this for an hour so I
back off again. Just then, Rob Satterthwaite pulls alongside. Rob is
here doing the race solo -- his first triathlon. He's going to
conserve on the ride so he has something for the run. Otherwise he
would have left me standing still. We chat for 30 seconds, then he
The course is flat for the first 13 miles. I take the corners at
full speed, lucky not to be blocked by other riders. The sun is
blazing from above. My arms and legs are drenched with rivulets of
sweat. Ahead is the "hill" on Bailey Rd. -- three hundred feet in
about 3/4 of a mile -- about 7.5% grade. Two riders go by me. The
one on the red Kestrel has an R on his calf, the other does not. We
hit the base of the hill. It's as if someone threw out an anchor as
the riders bunch up and are all over the road. I drop into my 39x23T
and rise out of the saddle. I blast by the one solo rider who passed
me and fix my sights on the red Kestrel. I stay about 30 feet back
from him as we blaze by the rest of the group. Just when I wonder if
my heart is about to explode, the top comes into view. I give it
everything I've got and crest the hill at my max heart rate (189).
The back side is short and moderately steep so I take an active rest
in my 53x12T and try to suck my lungs back into my chest. I stay
within 100 feet of the red Kestrel but realize I can't let him set my
Less than 10 miles to go. A slight head wind. Head down. Heart
rate 175. Steady. With two miles to go I will turn on the after
burners and drain the tanks. But I've got to make it another 8 miles
without blowing up. Bang! I jump. What was that? A gun shot? A
rider swerves to the side of the road and comes to a stop. Rear tire
blowout. My worst nightmare. Bummer.
Computer reads 20.5 miles. Almost there. Feeling strong. Head
down. Riders streaming backward on my right. I remember the movie
Gallipoli..."What are these legs? Still springs! What are they going
to do? Hurl me down the road! How fast can I ride? Fast as a
leopard! How fast WILL I ride? FAST AS A LEOPARD!" A blur of red on
my right. I drop Mr. Kestrel.
Left turn onto Almaden Expressway. The last long stretch. 21.5
miles down. Get ready to ignite the rockets. But what's this? The
lake. It can't be. It's too soon. This means I'm only a mile from
the finish. Christ! The course is shorter than advertised! Somewhat
peeved, I slam into my 53x13T and give it all I have left. I go by
one rider so fast he sits up and yells out "Go dude go!". Hard right
turn onto Coleman. Out of the saddle, full out sprint. Heart rate
pegged at max. Hot air searing the back of my throat. Another hard
right into the park. Screaming toward the funnel. Brake hard. Sail
into the ...
read more »