Sunday, July 27, 2008
I love a race with a medal.
This morning, I woke up sluggishly at 4:15 am. I was already packed up and had my suit laid out... I made my PB & J english muffin on total autopilot.
Amy showed up and had to put my bike on her car all by herself because my elbow was hurting like crazy. Maybe putting the Ikea furniture together on Friday jacked with my overly sensitive tendons and whatnot? I was worried about it, but would hardly notice it the whole rest of the day. We drove out to the race site (over an hour) with me yammering just about the whole time.
We got to Texas Ski Ranch (water ski ranch, apparently... the name really confused me the first time I saw it) by 6:15 with plenty of time to score totally sweet spots for our bikes and transition areas. The key is to get an end and to be positioned near Bike Out...
Amy has a compact and tidy transition set up.
I prefer "highly visible" to "efficient."
Our waves didn't start until nearly 8:30, so we had plenty of time to get our timing chips, stand in line for hours for a porta-potty, and swim around a bit in the water. A saw a ton of women from my awesome training group. The water, by the way, was about the nastiest-tasting water I have ever submerged myself into... A little salty, a little oily, and with just a hint of goat.
I have aged out of Amy's group (ah the days of 30-34), so I went out before her. The start was much more civilized than any other tri I have done so far. I rocked it for probably the first 50 meters (coach Holly has been trying to help me with my arms, but my body has the most stubborn memory for bad form), then got flustered, frustrated and winded. Spent the next 75 meters trying to avoid other bodies and doing a bit of side stroke. No major collisions, and I managed to pull it together for the last 100 meters or so. Overall, I would give my swim a thumb's down on the "satisfaction with my performance" scale, but time wise, I think it was fine.
I jogged all the way to transition (a testament to my fitness for sure, at my first race I was so wobbly after swimming it was all I could do to just walk to my bike). I like having a bucket to sit on while I deal with socks and shoes. It may not be the fastest way, but it gives me a breather.
Then I was on the bike. I do not love riding my bike, but the first 3 miles were brisk and (excepting the first hill right out of transition) relatively flat. I did Jack's Generic Tri at the Texas Ski Ranch in 2006. I remembered a series of rolling hills and one KILLER half mile long one at about mile 13. This course was 3 miles shorter, but I couldn't really tell by the map where it had been cut out. The middle 6 miles consisted of about 3 short but wide hills with some straights between. I was doing better than last year, for sure... but I won't know how much better until I have the official times. My bike odometer shows an average 13.9 mph (compared to 13.1 at Jack's in 2006 -- a personal best that year -- and 13.5 at last year's Danskin). There was a lot of headwind on the rolling hills, which was a drag, but I kept my speed up pretty well on through the tops. Thanks, coach Liz!
When we turned right onto the I-35 service road, with under 2 miles to go, I suddenly realized where the extra 3 miles had gone: we turned toward the freeway sooner, so the big ass hill was GONE! O happy day! I rallied pretty well and smoked past a couple of women who I had been leapfrogging the whole ride. They didn't know what I did: that the last half mile was a steep, fast downhill. I barreled across the flat and took the hill strong. I maxed out on the downhill at 37.9 mph!
At the exact bottom of the hill is the dismount line. The set up was a bit confusing, as they had two columns of cones set up for a bit before the line, with two volunteers on either side. Women were slowing down when they crossed into the "cone corridor" even though the dismount line was still a few seconds away. When I passed the two volunteers, I slowed down like everyone else and one of the volunteers said "keep going! keep it up to the end!" I didn't see the line yet, so I sped back up. Just in time to have to break HARD. You can't cross the dismount line on your bike or you get a penalty. All of a sudden, 3 volunteers were screaming "Stop! Stop! Stop!" and I was yelling "Shiiiiiiit" trying to will my bike still with brain power. Just as the front wheel crossed the line, I dropped my feet and sort of fell off the back of the bike. I still had one hand on the insolent back break and the other was on the seat. My feet were ON the dismount line. There was a lot of commotion, and one of the volunteers asked if what had just happened was ok or not... If I don't cross the dismount line, but my bike does, does that count? The lead volunteer was laughing by now at the spectacle of my runaway bike and my gymnastic dismount. She declared that it was ok AND I should get a "couple more stars" for it.
My walk back to my transition area was a little wobbly after all that, but I was still speedy about dropping my helmet and water and grabbing my hat. I walked to Run Out and then started my slow jog.
I did my first real bike/run brick yesterday. It was short, but a good reminder of how HEAVY my legs feel after a bike ride. I knew from yesterday that it would take a few minutes for the blood to get circulating in a different direction. I kept a slow steady jog from the transition area, over the grass to the road. On the way I saw Coaches Liz and Lorrie and they cheered me on enthusiastically.
Words can't quite convey how cool it is to feel the support of so many folks at an event like this. I had never been particularly athletic before the last two years. Even now, I am ridiculously slow and inefficient if compared to one of the "elites." And there is no way that I have any of the resources to BECOME an elite (the most important being an interest in it), though I may continue to improve year over year for a while still. Groups like Rogue make it fun to go out there and enjoy myself ANYWAY. We cheer each other like superstars and celebrate every personal success like it was a first place finish. My enthusiasm for these events is sometimes met with confusion by the types of folks who don't try things they can't win at, as though going out there as an ultra amateur would be embarrassing for me at worst and a waste of time at best. To those folks today I would say "What were YOU doing at 8:30 this morning?"
So back to the run. It was hot. As usual, I forgot to take my gu* when I got off the bike (one of these days I will remember and maybe the run won't be so tough).
This was a short one, only 2 miles. My only personal goal for this race was to run the whole run portion. Every other tri I have mostly walked the last leg. Did I mention it was hot? We weren't near the high (it would be 103°), but it was still uncomfortable. I kept my shuffly jog up all the way to the one mile marker and the water stop. They had Gatorade (apple, GROSS) which I really needed after missing my energy gel. I walked a few steps, enough to drink the Gatorade and not accessorize with it, then got right back to my bouncy shuffle. The last mile is more down than up, which, along with the other women cheering and joking around, put me into great spirits. We could hear the emcee entreating us with breakfast tacos and mimosas, and one woman yelled out "I'm runnin for that taco!" A group behind me was discussing whether to go for a mimosa, a breakfast taco, or an ice cream cone. I turned around and said, "Hey, this is a TRI-athlon... go for all three!" I had to walk a couple more steps when my race belt almost fell off, but I grabbed it and got right back to my slow run. I arrived at the spectator area to lots of cheering and I totally SPRINTED the last few yards across the finish line.
Afterwards there were the aforementioned delectables, along with ice foot baths and sports massages. Amy and I took our sweet ass time and missed the rush out of transition, out of the parking lot, and back to Austin.
When I got back, my good friends Shannon and Rob had dinner with me at Shady Grove where I savored my traditional after-race meal of Chicken-fried Chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes. And a margarita. All in all, a pretty good fucking day, if I say so myself.
And now, I am going to kick back with some knitting...
*Um, I just eat the regular gu, but now that I see there is a ROCTANE (said the way a WWE announcer would introduce The Rock) I may have to branch out.