Wonder Twin Powers: Activate! Form of: Super-Fast Triathletes
I make fun of Lubbock only because this is a 70.3 mile course that can chew you up and spit you out if you show up ill-prepared. In fact, it’s been three days and my body is still wondering why I put it through the ringer. When I first did this race in 2004 (my first Half-Ironman), I was told by so many people that if I could do Buffalo Springs, I could do a Full Ironman because of the hills, wind and heat that usually accompany this event. Of course, at that time, I had NO interest in ever doing an Ironman so the comparison was lost on me. I guess they just meant to say that it’s really really hard.
We lucked out BIG TIME in one aspect. The temps were supposed to be cool—highs only in the mid 80s. However, there was a 60% chance of scattered showers for race day. Upon our drive to the site on race morning, lightening was illuminating the dark sky at 4:45am. The storms seemed to be off in the distance, but it obviously wasn’t stopping many athletes as we were greeted with bumper to bumper traffic into the single-entrance parking area. Fortunately, we arrived early enough to get a decent parking spot at the top of the hill (a hill we would soon become VERY familiar with).
I kept expecting the Race Announcer to say something—ANYTHING–about the weather. Even in transition, the chatter around my area revolved around the weather radar on TV that morning that apparently showed inevitable thunderstorms in the area. However, as the sun slowly began to rise, the lightening gave way to cloudy, windy and otherwise benign cool race conditions. I’m not sure why I was somehow wishing they would call the race. I found myself feeling a dull sense of dread about the event…just one of those…”Why am I doing this again?!” kind of feelings. It’s nothing new as I almost always feel that same sense of dread until I’m off the bike. The race started about 20 minutes late due to parking lot traffic jams, but otherwise got off to a smooth start.
I never thought I would say this, but the swim was the most pleasant leg of this event. It’s a beach start (if you can call it that) and I’m so glad I got to watch the pros and other age groupers start before they started the entire wave of Women 44 and younger. Shawn was in the wave before me and we watched with anticipation as each wave above us took off in a mad dash. It was during this time that I met blogger Cindy for the first time who was incredibly excited about her first Half-Ironman. In fact, she’s got a great race report and pics on her site as well. I love the fact that she took time to brush her hair in transition!! Classic! I also ran into James and Rafael from Austin whom I’ve known for years from Austin Fit. The start of the swim was an event unto itself because you started in a sprint and the water remained incredibly shallow until you turned a corner of the point where I assumed the actual swimming portion began. It was at least 20 good yards of running in ankle-deep water! “Hey! This could be good for me!” I thought… I kissed Shawn goodbye, wished him luck and lost him in a sea of green male caps. Then, it was my turn.
I lined up in the middle and when the air horn sounded, I began running in the water along with everyone else. When we turned the corner, people were still running. “Hello! We’re supposed to be swimming people! I’m not Jesus for crying out loud. I can’t keep this up for the next 1.2 miles!!” When the water finally went above our waists, the swimming commenced. As per usual, the first several hundred meters were brutal and sufferable. However, once we turned the first buoy, I was able to find some space and actually had several stretches of what kinda felt like actual swimming instead of a new “American Gladiators” event. I had no idea where I was in the pack, but there were white capped swimmers around me at all times, which was encouraging. Hell, I was keeping up with someone and that’s good enough for me. About half-way through the swim, I actually started passing dudes in the age group before me. Shawn and I had joked that I would probably pass him on the swim. At one point, I thought I did see him, but I wasn’t about to tap the guy on the shoulder or blow him a kiss to find out if it was indeed my husband.
As always, the swim seemed to take longer than I thought it should and I was actually getting warm in my wetsuit. I’m pretty sure the lake temperature averaged 77.9999999 degrees—barely making it a wetsuit legal swim. I can’t tell you the excitement I felt when I climbed out of the water and quickly glanced at my watch to see 35min and some change. That’s almost a 10 minute PR for me!! By the time I had my wetsuit stripped by a wonderful volunteer and crossed the timing mat it was over 36 minutes, but it felt like I had broken a world record.
The bike course has eight challenging climbs, including one immediately upon leaving transition. You are barely clipped in and you have to start pushing the pedals. Thank goodness we knew this and had our bikes in an easy gear ready to go.
Smiling (or grimacing) as we pedal up that first hill out of transition!
So, at this point, I didn’t know where Shawn was, but I smugly assumed he was still in the water since I had just had the swim of my dreams (i.e. an average swim). Upon leaving the park on the bike, the head wind hit immediately. Uh oh…my legs weren’t moving. I was getting passed by men and women and doing very little of my own passing. This is going to suck.
This is a strange course because it’s either long steep hills or pancake flat stretches. That’s it. However, the flats are worse than the hills when the wind is blowing in your face. My attitude was abnormally negative from the get-go. I just couldn’t find a rhythm in the wind and tried to convince myself that I didn’t care. (ha) When we made a right hand turn towards a huge descent and subsequent climb, the cross winds were blowing me off balance to the point where I had to get out of aero to stabilize myself. Of course, it also started raining, so now I was faced with a major downhill with crosswinds in the rain. I simply didn’t have a lot of confidence and I simply didn’t want to die so I pumped my brakes the entire way down, which only served to make the climb out of the canyon that much more difficult without momentum.
At about Mile 15 I saw Shawn…IN FRONT OF ME! Actually, he was coming down the other side of the hill when I was still climbing up it. He didn’t see me, which is a good thing because I was like, “Son of a Bee-Otch! How in the hell is he this far ahead of me?!” In fact, it took me FIVE more miles to catch him and when I did, the first thing I said was, “Did you have a 20 minute swim or something??” He was just as shocked to see me passing him for the first time 20 miles into the bike. To this second, we’re still trying to figure out logistically how it took me so long to catch up with him. He started 5 minutes before me, and had a 39 minute swim. I had a 36 minute swim and we were both in transition for about 2 minutes. That means that for 20 miles, he was no more than three minutes ahead of me and I couldn’t catch him! I’m convinced I was sucked into a Lubbock vortex, but I can’t prove anything. Or—maybe Shawn was just kicking some butt… Or maybe he slipped some of those anesthesia drugs in my water bottles….hmmmm…I’m calling it a conspiracy. Either way, it remains a major mystery.
The rest of the bike was more of the same. We were in and out of rain and wind the entire time. I rode like a Grandma on the hills and *thought* I was pushing it on the flats. I felt like Miss Gulch from “The Wizard of Oz.”
I never saw a crash happen, but viewed the aftermath of many including people walking with road rash on their legs, waterbottles and hydration systems strewn across the road and an ambulance at the bottom of a descent with a beautiful Cervelo bike leaned up against it. Presumably the rider was INSIDE the ambulance at this point. I just didn’t want to risk any type of injury. During this point, I was barely hanging onto 15.5mph. pathetic…The last 12 miles were a different story. We FINALLY had the tailwind I so longed for on the way back to town and I rode it like a freight train hitting 25-26 mph with little effort. It was all I could do to get that damn speedometer up to 16.5 mph before I re-entered the park and lost my tailwind and gained the last two climbs of the day. I think I ended the ride with a dismal 16.3 overall average—which is slower than my Ironman ride at double the distance. All I know is that I was off the bike after a long epic 3hr 26min battle with Mother Nature. Originally, I thought she had won, but the fact that I didn’t quit or crash makes us at least even.
Check out the intensity! (and the rockin’ headband!)
Let the Run Assault begin
Ahh…the run. We couldn’t have asked for better running conditions (minus the squishy wet socks). The rain had stopped by this point, but it was still overcast. Those of you who know this course know what a blessing that is when you get out on Energy Lab Road with NO SHADE. I wanted to hover around 8:00 min miles for the run. Of course, my first few miles were in the 7:45-7:50 range. I knew I would need that extra time when I hit the three major hills that are on this course. I was amazed at how fast some of the women were. Many of these people started at the same time I did and they were on mile 10 of the run while I was on Mile 3. Un-freaking-believable freaks of nature, I tell ya! The first hill comes around Mile 3 (I’ll call it the Jackass). I had no lift in my knees whatsoever. I got about half-way up the hill and had to walk. 10 seconds…that’s all I was giving myself. I did the same thing on Hill #2 (I’ll call it the Bastard) The out and back portion allowed me to settle in and establish a decent pace and make up for some seconds I lost on the hills. The good news of the day? I was feeling great on the run and didn’t feel like I was pushing myself too hard. I definitely could’ve run faster on this stretch, but my goal was to hover around 8:00min miles and I was right there. Plus, this was only the half-way point of the run and I had another long hill to get up around Mile 10. I saw Shawn when I was around Mile 9 and he was close to Mile 4. He had a big smile and was running up the hill! Impressive!!!! At one point on the run, a guy from Austin I know from Gazelles told me I was running fast. I wanted to say, “If I was fast, I would be done by now!”
The last three miles are always a blur as my mind and body were simply trying to keep up with each other. Plus, is it me or do the last three miles always seem so much longer than the first three!?! I was amazed at how many people were just starting the run as I was finishing. It definitely made me feel grateful as I moved closer and closer to the Finish Line! At long last I crossed virtually spot-on with where I wanted to be for the run.
All in all, I can’t be disappointed with my time of 5:53:57 even though I’ve already run through the litany of, “Could I have gone harder on the bike?” moments. Part of me feels like it was a meltdown, but I also knew that I didn’t want to take unnecessary risks. I am proud of the strong swim, run and decent transition times. All in all, it was a well-executed race physically and nutritionally. Mentally, I was a little “off,” but that’s part of the game!!
I was able to get my bike loaded in the car and change clothes in time to watch Shawn coming across the Finish Line looking strong as hell! (yes, by this point, I had put some distance on him even though it took me 20 miles of the 70.3 to catch him!)
We Did It!!
Time to drive back to Austin! Who wants the first shift?!?
Hey Carrie–you can take your race number off now…It’s over.