I Tried

Posted on June 28, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Jumping_Gator

Believe it or not, I survived last Saturday’s Gator Bait sprint tri at Lake Boerne, Texas.  Better yet, I actually enjoyed it.  Once I got there.

My day did not go quite as planned. But they never do.

Prerace

For once, I don’t wake up before my alarm.  When it sounds at 4 am, I’m startled from a dead sleep and am so disoriented that I contemplate sleeping for another hour.  But then I remember the race.

I packed up my gear the night before, pinned my bib to my shirt, loosened my shoes.  You know, all that prerace stuff. All I have to do is drink lots of coffee, force my pre-run breakfast down (buckwheat, banana, honey, chocolate almond milk, and blueberries), shower (Yes, I know, I’m just going to get all gunky with lake water and sweat and dirt, so why bother? Because it wakes me up and helps me focus. Showering is my second most powerful think time.), and load my bike onto my car.

My plan is to leave at 5, but secretly I know I can leave at 5:15 and still be way on time.  Start time isn’t until 7, and it’s about a 45 minute drive.  I’m one of those people who get anxious if I’m not at least 45 minutes early to a race (10 minutes early for everything else), so I factor in plenty of time.

So I think.

Even though my plan is simply to enjoy the day and not stress about my time or drowning or anything else, an unusual prerace anxiety kicks in. To make a long and unpleasant story short, I don’t leave until almost 5:30.

I drive 70ish mph (the speed limit) with one eye in my rearview mirror. My bike rack, you see, is almost older than I am, and I rarely use it.  It’s one of those models with lots of straps and buckles and only one brace.  My worst nightmare is that my bike will fly off the back of my car and onto someone else’s hood.

(I’ve been procrastinating getting a new rack, simply because I don’t use it that often. For the most part, I bike from home. Although that would probably change if I had a bike rack I felt comfortable with, right?)

So.  Ten miles out from my exit, one eye in the rearview mirror, and I realize I can’t see my bike’s front tire anymore.  That can’t be a good sign.  I pull over at the next exit.  Sure enough, a strap has loosened and the rack has slipped.  My front tire is only inches from the road. I tighten up the straps, readjust my bike, and decide to take the frontage road the rest of the way.  I swear once or twice (maybe three times), and vow to throw my bike in my car on the way home, ditch the stupid rack, and get a new one.

I drive 55ish mph (the speed limit) with one eye still in my rearview mirror.  Before I know it, I’m in the middle of lovely downtown Boerne, where the speed limit is 25, there are lots of stop lights, and the road is under construction.  Apparently, the frontage road doesn’t front I-10 for the whole stretch.  I swear once or twice (maybe three times), turn around, and try to figure out how to get back to the highway.  Eventually, I do.  My heart rate is slightly elevated.

I arrive at the park at 6:30. Just enough time to pick up my chip, get body marked, and spread out my stuff in the cramped little corner area that’s left in transition.  Barely enough time to stand in the massive porta-potty line, where I meet a nice woman who says her husband told her she should just pee in the water while she’s swimming.  We agree that this is not an art either one of us has yet mastered, but if they teach it in triathlon courses, we may just take one after all.

The Swim

I decide that if I’m going to enjoy the race, I should be one of the last people in the water.  I haven’t been in the water as much as I’ve liked, and I really don’t want to deal with elbows and feet slapping me around.  I stand toward the end with a dozen or so first-timers.  We joke and laugh and I loosen up enough to have fun.

It’s a windy day and the water is choppy.  I try to swim slow and steady. Every time I turn my head for a breath, a wave slaps me in the face and I inhale water.  A couple of strokes in I revert to the breaststroke, which is my strong suit, but not what I have been practicing for nearly a month. I try at every turn to swim freestyle, but quickly switch to breaststroke so that I can breathe easy and see in front of me.

I feel like I’m moving in slow motion, but I don’t really care. I swim at a pace I can comfortably sustain, with my eye on the guy in front of me, who I secretly want to pass.  I do, finally, and am later stunned to find that my time is less than 20 minutes.

500m swim time:             12:17 = 2:27/100m

TI

What can I say about a transition?  I don’t practice them. I was wet.  It was hard to pull on my shirt.  But I remembered to stick a piece of gum in my mouth.

T1 time:                                2:37       

 

The Bike

I love my bike.  It’s about 7 years old, bottom of the line.  It’s a hybrid, with slightly thicker tires than pretty much everyone else’s, has mountain bike handlebars, and is relatively heavy.  I don’t care.  It’s my bike, and it gets me where I want to go.

The 13 mile ride is an out and back, with a turnaround on the top of aptly named Heartbreak Hill. We head into the wind.  A half mile out, three miles of road has been freshly graveled and tarred.  The out is slow-going, but breezy, and at least I dry off relatively fast.

I pass a guy as the sun peeks out from behind some clouds and shines on his backside.  He is wearing gray spandex, and as soon as the sun hits him, his shorts become less opaque than he is probably aware. I gasp and wonder if I should tell him later.  A guy passes both of us.  He is wearing black spandex.  The sun has the same effect on his shorts.  I make a mental note that they are both wearing regular old spandex and not tri shorts.  I chuckle, but then realize that so am I. This is no longer funny.

(Later that morning, I drag my boyfriend outside into the sun, bend over, and ask him if he can see through my shorts.  He cannot.  I am relieved beyond words.)

I start my way up Heartbreak Hill, giving myself a pep talk. I rode all the way up last year, dang it, so I’ll be danged if I’m going to walk it this year.  Two-thirds up my quads are burning, I am traveling at a speed of 2 mph, and I realize I still have to run.  I swallow my pride, dismount, and run my bike up the hill at over 4 mph.  At least I’m gaining speed.

The most beautiful thing about Heartbreak Hill is that you get to go down.  I do, feeling like that stupid pig in the insurance commercial as I squeal “Wheeee!!” all the way down. Seriously. It was fun. Plus no one was around.

Because I was one of the last in the water, much of the bike route has cleared and during most of my ride I am alone.   I hit a stretch of road with a breathtaking view of misty, rolling hills; birds sailing; flowers blooming; fingers of sun touching here and there.  I dawdle along, gaping, thanking God that I am here, until the little voice in my head screams that this is a race, dang it, not a joy ride, and I better step it up.

I do, and truly enjoy the entire ride, minus the gravel and tar.  Later, however, I will be disappointed in my bike time. It’s the nature of the racing beast, I guess.

                13 mile bike time:            54:32 = 14.3 mph

T2

I approach the transition area with a little boy who’s maybe 10.  He’s in my way and I want to run him over, but decide that might look bad, as the spectators hanging around the area ooh and aah about a kid in the race.  I give him a wide berth and run to my space.  He pulls up next to me.  (Go figure.) I start to feel bad about the urge to run him down, so I make small talk.

“How was it?” I ask as I change shoes.  “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah,” he says. “It was fun.  But not that bad.  I rode 56 miles last Sunday.”

The pummeling urge resurfaces, so I quickly look for the exit.

T2 time:                                1:54

The Run

I am a runner.  Have I mentioned that? This is the leg I am looking most forward to.

The run is several out and backs on 3.5 miles of trail. The trail is rockier than I remember, with steeper hills.  I feel like I’m running through molasses at first, and consciously make myself run faster.  I fix my eyes on the trail ahead of me, repeat a mantra in my head:  Slow and steady, slow and steady.  I level at a pace I could maintain for hours.

There are no mile markers on the route, and I have no idea how far I’ve run or exactly how much farther there is to go.  The wind picks up, and my hat flies off twice. I run clutching it in my hand until I can finally keep it in place on the last stretch.

I feel good, and when we turn the last corner I am surprised to see the finish.  Surely we can’t be done already?  I turn to cross the field toward the line, and a runner comes up behind me, yells at me to pick it up.  Her encouragement lights a fire under me, and we sprint together to the finish line.

                3.5 mile run time:            29:19 = 8:22 min/mile

Post Race

I did it. I finished the sprint tri without drowning, twisting an ankle, lobbing my bike onto someone’s windshield.  I even came in under my goal time of 1:45.

                Overall tri time:                                1:40:40

I guess the bottom line is this.  I am a runner. But I love the heck out of training for tris.  I have my eye on an Olympic distance in August.  It will be my first.  At least it will prompt me to finally get a new bike rack.

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2 Responses to “I Tried”

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Nice. Remember, it doesn’t get easier, you just go harder! farther! faster!

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The spandex. Oh, the spandex. That is hilarious!

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