Capital of Texas Triathlon
1500m Swim/24 mile Bike/6.2 mile Run
I woke up at 5am having rested pretty well the night before. I did have the “shredded tire” nightmare where I go to get on my bike for the ride portion and my tire is completely shredded and, therefore, rendered useless. I woke up feeling a little uneasy about the potential karma of that dream, but I just tried to put it out of my mind and remember that my new bike has been very good to me thus far. The good thing about training so early in the morning is that the race day wake-up call didn’t seem that bad. Shawn and I had coffee and our usual bread with peanut butter before heading down to the race site. Fortunately, the race site is right across the street from where I work so we were able to park in my work’s garage.
It was still dark outside when we walked up to the body marking tent. I was happy it was still dark so that the young strapping lad who was writing my race number on my arms and thighs couldn’t see my cellulite. It was bad enough that I was in spandex this early in the morning! As the sun was rising over Town Lake, thousands of athletes converged on the shores to our bikes that had been placed the day before. Setting up your transition area is a tedious ritual unto itself. We have such a small amount of room to place a towel underneath our bike and place our biking equipment and running gear without forgetting something. I mentally went through the transitions, filled my (thankfully) non-shredded tires, grabbed my wetsuit and swim gear and headed over to where Shawn was setting up to wish him “good luck.”
I saw several friends out there this morning including Scott, Corey, Jill, Nosh and others, which again reminded me of why I love the Austin athletic community so much. We’re all so supportive of each other. Discussing our respective nerves helped put me at ease (a little).
It was a cloudy morning, but incredibly humid. It was hard to say what the day had in store from a weather standpoint. It felt like it could rain at any moment, but the clouds continued to hold onto the moisture, making it even more humid as the morning proceeded.
The Big Race—The Swim
The race started at 7am and Shawn’s wave started at 7:10am. Unfortunately, my age group wave didn’t get underway until 7:40am so I had almost too much time to sit, stew and dwell on the race ahead. I continued to get more and more anxious as the time drew near. I watched Shawn’s wave start and tried to pick him out of a group of 100 or so neon green swim caps. Before I knew it, my neon pink cap wave was being corralled to the dock. Like cattle, they herded us into one large group, but unlike cattle, they forced us to jump in the lake and tread water for 2 to 3 minutes before we even started swimming. It’s 2 to 3 minutes of finding a position in the back of the pack and saying a few silent prayers. Also, in my case, it was 2 to 3 minutes to pee in the lake before we began. There, I said it. I purposely decided not to wear a watch on the swim portion. I just really wanted to find a comfort zone and work on the skills I’ve gained the last month with T3. I had my Garmin mounted on my bike so I could keep track of my ride and run, but the swim was going to be a mystery to me until the official results were posted.
The airhorn sounded and we began the swim. Town Lake has a reputation for being..well..let’s just say “not clean.” The fact that they have to literally flush it out the night before the race pretty much sums it up. I was paranoid at first, but after about the 3rd or 4th swallow of lake water, I was over the trepidation. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to find a comfortable swimming zone. There wasn’t as much thrashing and kicking as I suspected. That’s one advantage to starting near the back. You don’t get pummeled nearly as bad. So, I established a comfort level on the swim and just tried to keep as steady a rhythm as possible. As we turned a buoy, I quickly glanced behind me and was pleasantly surprised to see several pink caps still back there in the water. Have a passed some people? Wow…As the swim proceeded, I just tried to keep my heart rate at a medium high level. Adrenaline was doing the rest. I actually started passing some people from the wave ahead of me. AND, no one from the wave behind me had passed yet. Usually, about 10 minutes into the swim, I’m being buried by the fast swimmers from the wave behind me. For what feels like forever, it’s just you, the water bubbles and your breath. It’s amazingly quiet under the water. Every now and then, I would look up to the bridge and vaguely hear people cheering from the bridge above. I just kept my head down and ploughed ahead. I was admittedly relieved to see the final buoy and then the “swim finish” ramp. Several fabulous volunteers were on the dock pulling people out of the water. It was over and I felt good about it. I had no earthly clue what my time was, but at that point I didn’t care. I was out of the water in one piece and had not grown a third ear from the toxic lake chemicals.
I can’t tell you how great it felt to run up the swim ramp and be greeted by Gilbert my running coach and Maurice my swimming coach. They were there cheering on their athletes and they both yelled my name as I buzzed by. I was beaming with relief and hoped to make my coaches proud of me. Almost immediately my good friend and first running coach Monica spotted me and handed me a cup of water. She was there as a volunteer and it was great to see familiar faces so early in the race.
The Big Race—T1 and The Bike
T1 went fairly smooth for all intensive purposes. I was pleasantly surprised to still see several other bikes still on the rack. The meant that I wasn’t one of the last people out of the water! It was a good clue that my swim wasn’t all that bad. Seriously, when I enter the 1st transition, I’m usually one of the last bikes. My wetsuit came off with relative ease except for the left leg that was stuck in my timing chip for a brief moment. After that was dislodged and the wetsuit was off, I continued the T1 ritual. Helmet on. Socks and bike shoes on. Power Gel and CO2 filler in my pocket. Sunglasses on. Grab the bike and go. The “bike out” gate was pretty far away, or so it seemed. Once I got on the bike, it was time to roll. The 24 mile bike consisted of four 6 mile loops around the streets of downtown Austin. It’s a fun course that’s relatively flat with several hairpin turns. It took a while to settle down from the swim and gain some momentum, but fortunately, I was able to do so about 1/2 way into the first loop. It started misting a little which made the roads a little slick. My goal was to average 20 mph on the bike. Not knowing if that was really feasible, I just gave it all I had. Drafting is illegal in the sport of triathlon, but this course is tight and crowded, making it almost impossible NOT to draft behind riders at times. It seemed like when I would try to pass someone, there would be another rider coming on my left. If nothing else, it was a lesson in bike courtesy. Luckily, most riders were courteous and gave visual and audible signals as they passed. The two short hills that are on the course have a way of sucking the wind and momentum out of you momentarily. Of course, you hit these two hills a total of four times on the course. Otherwise, it was fun ducking into the aero position and picking up speed on the straight-a-ways. I saw my running buddies, Thon and Richard, who had promised to come out and cheer on the athletes. I also spotted Jay from the Gazelles and shouted out his name as I rode by! It was so good and uplifting to see familiar faces. Last year, I did this course in 1 hr 17 minutes. I can’t tell you how shocking it was to look at my Garmin and see 1 hr 12 minutes as I pulled back into the Transition area.
So, I had what felt like a decent swim for me, a smooth T1 and a great bike. All I had left was T2 and the 10k ahead of me. Barring a major bonk, it was going to be a good day.
The Big Race—T2 and The Run
Transition 2 isn’t nearly as complicated as T1. Helmet off. Bike shoes off. Running Shoes on. Race Belt with number on. Baseball cap on. Grab Power Gel and GO!
It’s hard to describe the sensation of running after biking at full speed for over an hour. My legs always feel like bricks for the first mile or so. I feel like I’m running so slow, but am always shocked at how fast the splits tend to be. Even though my turnover felt awkward, other people were making different comments. Tracy and the gang at Jack and Adam’s Water Stop commented that my form looked good and I was running fast. Of course, they say that to everybody, but every ounce of encouragement helps. My first mile split was a 7:10. Holy cow…slow down a tad. There’s no way I could keep that up for 5 more miles, although it still felt like I was running at a snail’s pace. That’s what happens when your heart rate is already sky high and the legs are warmed up. Somewhere around Mile2, my Garmin glitched and the mileage went goofy. I looked down at one point and it said that I had run 1.8 miles. I looked down a few minutes later and it said 1.34 miles. I know I wasn’t running backwards so I’m not exactly sure what happened. In any event, I sill had the overall time to view. Once again, it was great hearing my name being called from people I could see and others I couldn’t. Amy from T3…Shelley and Kurt Egli are tapering for Ironman Couer D’Alene and were out there cheering people on to a great race. I also saw several Gazelle friends including Kelly and Kim. I was wearing my T3 jersey and it was so cool to see others out there on the course wearing the same uniform. We would shout words of encouragement to each other or simply nod in recognition of being on the same team. This is the first year I trained with and wore a team jersey and I loved it. Even though I don’t know many of the people, it still boosted my confidence to be part of such a wonderful group. As I rounded mile 3 and headed south on Congress, a spectator who was on a bike rode up beside me and joked, “Are you sure you didn’t skip a bike loop because you’re running fast girl.” He spooked me for a second. Did I skip a loop? Is he a referee? Nope…just keep running and take the compliment. The sun had come out and the humidity was pretty awful at this point. I was taking water and basically dumping it on myself to stay cool. I felt good and strong as I started the 2nd loop. Since my splits were kinda screwed up, I just gave it all I had. By mile 4.5, I was wishing I had another power gel, but knew I was home free even though I was beginning to get tired. I dug deep and continued to pass as many people as I could, especially when I saw women in my age group! 🙂 It’s a little selfish, but I suppose that’s why they put your age on the back of your calf. It keeps me distracted during the race if nothing else! I rounded that final corner onto Riverside drive and kicked it up a notch. Two men caught me and passed me going into the Finish chute. I didn’t care because they weren’t females aged 30-34. I could see the finish and it felt good. I finished strong with gas in the tank. Granted, I was running on fumes, but I still had energy. I crossed the finish line and hit my Garmin. I did the 10K in 44:17 for an average pace of 7:08 per mile. I found out later that that split was good enough for 5th in my age group. I owe it all to the Gazelle training this past year.
Shawn was waiting for me at the finish line. Although I had seen him a couple of times out on the course, it was hard to tell where he was at since he started about 30 minutes ahead of me. I got my finish line kiss and we proceeded to the nearest shaded tent and downed a popsicle and two bottles of water like it was nothing! Neither one of us knew what our overall times were, but were anxious to find out. We grazed the food a little bit, but neither of us were really that hungry immediately after the race. For the most part, we were both still trying to catch our breath and get our heart rates back to normal. They had a TON of Papa John’s pizza, but we could only share a piece. How sad. How often do you get free pizza and actually snub it? I attempted to drink a new fruit smoothie by Starburst (yes, the same chewy candy). I took one sip and it almost sent me into a sugar coma. No go…Water is about all I wanted and could handle. We walked around and stretched for a bit, took a couple of photos and then glanced at the results that were finally posted. There, in black and white, was the unconceivable to me. I had come in at 2:36:07. It was 11 minutes faster than last year and good enough for 10th overall female aged 30-34. For a sport that I’ve always considered myself just plain ol’ mediocre at best, I was staring at a Top 10 finish in my age group in a highly competitive race in a highly competitive age group.
Shawn came in at 2:59, after struggling a bit on the run. He likes to remind me that he did beat me on the swim (who doesn’t?!). I tried to catch him at the end and got to within two minutes until I ran out of course! We’re such a power couple. ha ha
It wasn’t until later this evening that they posted my individual splits. Since then, I actually moved up to 9th in my age group. My swim time is still average, but so much improved from year to year. Put it this way. Last year, the swim course was short and I swam it in 35 minutes. This year, the distance was correct (if not long) and I swam it two minutes faster and that is only with 2 complete months of T3 training in February and May. I took March and April off because of Boston. Needless to say, I’m ecstatic over the fast results, even though it’s still not a blazing pace comparatively. I’ll still take it and smile.
After an hour or so, we were finally able to get our bikes out of transition. We met friends Cathy, Susan, Steve, Jill and Genny for some much-deserved breakfast tacos and diet coke. I almost got a mimosa, but my tummy wasn’t ready just yet!
I only took a couple of pre-race photos which I’ll post soon. I’m also anxious to see the official photos which will take a few days I’m sure. Until then, I’m going to bed early and enjoying my day off tomorrow. Actually, I’ll probably get up and do some core and stretching before work to stay loose. It’s hard to imagine, but the Eagleman Half-Ironman is a mere two weeks away!
Age Group Place #9
Overall Place #294
Bike: 1:12:17 (20.6 mph)
Run: 44:14 (7:08 pace)
Final Time: 2:36:07