Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Trek Women's Triathlon Race Report

I registered for the Trek Women's Triathlon in February.  At the time, the race was scheduled for May.  I knew there was no way I would be in decent triathlon shape by May, but I wanted to get back into triathlons, and I prefer to do races that involve my triathlon hero, Sally Edwards.  I registered anyway.  Just days later, I got an e-mail indicating that the race was postponed until October 3 - DIVINE INTERVENTION!  I could be ready by October.  WOOOOHOOOO!

After learning that we had 5 extra months to train, I pinged several friends who had either done other races or expressed an interest in doing races and asked them to join me in October.  Several said no right away, a few said yes, and a few said maybe.  As the months progressed, everyone but my good friend and fellow Mustang Band sister Jennifer Yelton Henry bailed - you'll remember Jennifer from my Tri-Rock post.  This would be my 6th race, Jen's 5th race, and our 3rd race together.

Just over a week before the race, I got a message from Jennifer that Kyle's grandfather had passed away, and the memorial service was scheduled for Saturday, October 2 in Charleston, SC.  But, Jen was undaunted buy this little wrinkle.  She planned her trip to SC and included a return trip to Austin Saturday night.  She confirmed that she could get her packet Sunday morning, and we made arrangements with a friend from San Antonio who was going to the SMU game to transport her bike from Dallas to Round Rock the weekend before the race.  We were still a go.

The race was originally scheduled to be at Decker Lake - the site of the Danskin Triathlon - the first course I ever raced.  I'm not exactly sure when it changed, but some time between when I registered in February and when I was checking out the website the Tuesday before the race, the location of the race was changed to Pace Bend Park.  I was pretty bummed.  I know the Decker course well.  I've ridden the Decker course several times.  I was looking forward to my 2nd race on the same course so I could compare my time from my first triathlon to this one.  Decker is about 30 minutes from my house.  Pace Bend Park is about an hour from my house.  Great.  Double the travel time for an early morning race.

Despite all this, I was still bound and determined to make my way to Pace Bend Park with Jennifer and have a great race.

So, after 8 months and 105 pounds, packet pick-up day arrived.  I headed to Bicycle Sport Shop on South Lamar.  Packet pickup went off without a hitch, and I was in time to sneak into the end of Sally's race overview and "pep talk."  As this wasn't my first triathlon, and I was feeling pretty good about my preparation, I didn't really "need" the pep talk, but I was interested in the unfamiliar course, and I'll pretty much never miss the opportunity to hear Sally speak and hopefully score a photo op with my triathlon hero.  I was able to briefly speak to Sally and get my picture taken with her.  YEA!

After securing my packet and buying a little triathlon gear, I headed over to the greatest bike shop in the world - Jack and Adams - to have a quick 100-mile inspection of my bike before race day.  I picked up a few bike supplies then headed home. 

We got a sitter and headed to Alamo Drafthouse for dinner and a movie.  It's been a long time since we had a "date night."  We had a nice time - I even refrained from checking the SMU/rice score on my phone every 30 seconds. 

Just as the movie ended, I got a text message from Jennifer that she had managed to get on an earlier flight and would be flying in at 10pm instead of 11pm.  Not only would we get to bed an hour earlier than originally planned, but the timing was also such that we needed to leave from the movies and head straight to the airport.  A little over an hour after we got out of the movies, we had Jennifer from the airport and were headed back home.

Jen and I reasoned that we needed to try to leave between 5:15 and 5:30.  UGH!  We hit the sack as soon as we got home with our alarms set to wake us up in a pretty short time.  I slept pretty well.  I was pretty confident, prepared, and relaxed.  I did not have the pre-race jitters that normally make the night before a race pretty restless.  I also managed to roll out of bed shortly before 5am without much trouble.  I got myself ready, made sure Jen was up and moving and headed downstairs for breakfast.

We ate a quick bite, made sure we had all our gear and hopped in the car for our hour-long excursion to the (new) race site.  I had that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something.  I even stopped just before we got out of the neighborhood to double check that my running shoes were in my race backpack.  They were.  About halfway there I realized that I had forgotten my heart rate monitor band.  Oh well.  I was disappointed that I wouldn't gather heart rate data for the race, but at least I was forgetting something that wasn't crucial to swimming, biking or running.  We charged on.

The drive was every bit of an hour, but we made it to the park by our target time of 6:30 without a problem.It was obviously still dark and pretty chilly when we got to the race site.  The temperature was in the low 60s.  Jen and I just had our tri suits on.  We didn't have any other clothes with us to wear before or after the race.  Everyone we saw had on jackets and/or long pants.  We kept reminding ourselves that the sun would be out soon to warm us up, and that we would be loving the cooler temperatures by the time we finished the race.

We made our way to transition, Jen secured her packet, we set up all our gear, got our numbers and ages marked on our arms and legs, and even had time to pose for a pre-race photo before heading down to the water to get ready for the swim.

The swim set-up was a little weird.  It was about 0.3 miles down a steep hill from the bike transition to the water.  They set up a mini-transition just out of the water so we could put on our shoes before running up the hill to transition to the bike.  The good news was that that 0.3 miles was deducted from the 5K run at the end.  The bad news was that the set-up was just weird, and the hill we were going to have to run up was STEEP (and part of it was gravel).  Oh well, everyone would have to do it, we would suck it up and be fine.

Since Jen and I are both Athenas and both in the same age group, I'm not exactly sure how this came to be, but we were in different swim waves.  Jen was in the 3rd wave.  I was in the 4th.  After a little waiting, some pre-race fanfare, and the national anthem, the Elites were off.  They only waited 30 seconds between the Elites and the next wave.  After that, there were approximately 2 minutes between waves.  This part always amazes me - by the time my wave started, the Elites were getting out of the water.

When it was time for my wave, I took off.  This was my 5th open water swim.  I did 2 full triathlons in 2008 that were open water swims and the swim leg of 2 triathlon relays in 2009 that were in open water.  The wave wasn't even exceptionally large.  Despite my previous experience and the size of the wave, I had the toughest time I've ever had starting an open water swim.  The shore from which we started was pretty rocky.  Everyone stayed clustered together for a while.  I got hit and kicked A LOT.  I even got kicked pretty hard once square in the face - knocking off my goggles.  It took me what seemed a long time to get out of the crowd. 

Unlike my very first triathlon, I did not panic when the swim started.  I felt good and had fewer race nerves than ever.  I tried to go a little faster than my normal slow, steady workout pace, but I wasn't sprinting or going terribly fast.  I just kept swimming, thinking about my stroke, thinking about keeping my head down, thinking about spotting the buoy and not getting off track.  I certainly wasn't the fasted orange-capped swimmer, but I was by no means the slowest either.  About halfway through the swim, I started noticing a few yellow caps.  Despite my comfort with being a "slow fat triathlete," it's still disheartening to see the faster swimmers from the wave behind me start catching up and passing me.  I just kept swimming.  I did pass a few blue and green caps (from waves who started before I did) along the way.

The swim was in a river - in kind of a triangle - that meant that we had to swim upstream at some point.  The current wasn't too bad, but there was current.  The upstream part was at the end of the swim and wasn't all that long.  It wasn't terrible, but there was a point where I felt as if I was swimming and swimming, but the swim finish didn't really appear to be getting closer. But, eventually, I got to the finish and tried to make my way out of the water.

Getting out of the water proved to be the trickiest part.  There were LOTS of rocks of all shapes and sizes.  I had a really hard time getting up, maintaining my balance and walking out of the water.  I fell a couple of times before I finally made it out of the river.

Then to the weird mini-transition.  I put on my socks and running shoes and headed up the steep hill to the bike transition.  The hill seemed even steeper at this point.  I got a great mental boost of confidence at one point when I looked over and noticed a 60-something year old couple of spectators who were running up the hill cheering on one of the other athletes.  They were faster than I was going up the hill.  Nice.

I got to transition, changed into my bike shoes, put on my helmet and made my way out of transition.  I got passed the mount line and tried to get going on my bike.  This has become a problem for me and is now a mental as well as a physical obstacle.  I had problems getting started at the Tri-Rock Triathlon and in front of my boss's house when we rode the Dam Loop.  The bike start was on a small incline.  I have a total mental block about starting, getting going, and getting clipped in if I have to go uphill even the slightest bit on a start.  I estimate I spent a good 2 or 3 minutes trying to get going on the bike.  I finally pushed my bike over to a curb and managed to get myself going.

Then off to the bike course.  It was a 6 mile loop.  We had to make the loop twice.  I really prefer one big loop to multiple loops or an out and back.  The course was advertised as having "rolling hills."  I had no knowledge of the course at all.  I pretty much assumed it wouldn't be as hard as the bike course at Decker.  I'm not so sure of that.  There were a few decent downhills, but the uphills were nothing to sneeze at.  There was one particularly nasty hill at the end - of course.  I noticed a bunch of riders walking up that hill - even riders on road bikes - even riders that weren't Athenas.  Of course a lot of my fellow triathletes who don't exactly fit into the typical triathlete body type and pretty much everyone riding a mountain bike or a hybrid was walking up the hill.  I was determined to ride up the hill or fall over in the process.  I made it up the hill (as did Jennifer, I might add - though I didn't ever see her on the bike course since we were in different swim waves).  Here's where doing a loop multiple times comes into play.  The entire time I was riding the loop the 2nd time, I was thinking about the prospect of having to ride up that last hill AGAIN.  I made it up that last hill the 2nd time then headed back to transition for the part I dread - the run.

I've been thinking about the run quite a bit over the last weeks.  After my epiphany during the Pan-Can 5K that my whining about running is really pathetic considering all the other obstacles and health problems I could be forced to overcome, I was particularly determined to really run the whole 5K - even if I was super slow.

Right out of the gate I was hating the run.  My legs felt like jelly.  My heart was pumping from the bike ride (though since I forgot my HRM, I don't know exactly how much my heart was pumping).  I was tired and wanted to walk.  I kept running. 2 things kept me running - 1. My goal to run the whole thing. 2. I had caught a glimpse of Jen leaving the bike transition and knew she was just ahead - I wanted to catch her. I'm not "racing" though.....really......

The course wasn't exactly an out and back, but it was set up such that I saw many runners who were heading for the finish on my way out to start the run.  At the first water stop, the runners who were heading back were giving encouragement about how we were almost to the turnaround.  They were lying.  I grabbed some water and rounded the corner.  That's when I saw a long, steep hill that I was to run down.  That's all fine and good except that I knew I was eventually going to have to run back UP that hill.  That nagged at me for the whole run.  I was slow and not doing so well with the positive affirmations.  Rather than thinking, "I love to run.  I'm light on my feet," I was thinking "Oh crap, I'm going to have to run back up that hill.  Where is that damn turn around anyway"  I kept running.

I caught up to Jennifer on the way down that big hill.  We ran together and talked a while.  She shared with me that she had "pulled a Kellie" on the swim.  She had gone a little off course and swam a little more than she had to.  I did that at our first triathlon together - the Iron Girl in Dallas in 2008.  At some point, while we were running together, I realized that I was running and talking.  I usually train by myself - especially my run training.  The few times I have trained with someone, there was NO WAY I could talk while running.  I was always panting and struggling and couldn't talk.  It occurred to me that if I could talk, I wasn't going as hard as I could.  It also occurred to me that I really must be getting better at this run thing since I could talk.  I sped up a little.

There were lots of ladies of all ages, shapes, sizes and levels of fitness on the road.  I gave high-fives to some of them as we met on the road.  Some ladies passed me.  I passed some.  I even passed a few who were "running."

I finally made it to the turnaround.  Then it was time to run up that hill.  I kept running.  I knew there was a water stop waiting for me at the top.  I was actually starting to feel a little better. My legs were a little less like jelly.  My heart was pounding a little less than usual.  My lungs weren't on fire.  Wow.  Maybe I am getting better at this even though I am still slow.  I made it to the top of the hill, grabbed some water and kept going.

After the hill, the run was GREAT.  It was mostly downhill to the finish.  I was coming to the realization that I was feeling better.  I knew I was almost done, and I really was going to make it - RUNNING the whole 5K.  As I ran, the smile on my face got bigger and bigger.  Just before the finish there was a pretty steep downhill.  The grade was such that I naturally sped up.  I kept running, kept smiling, and kept picking up speed.

I actually finished strong - not exactly a sprint kick to the finish, but I did pick up the pace slightly.  I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face and a volunteer slipped a medal over my head and told me I was a triathlete. Then another volunteer handed me a cool Shiner Bock water bottle filled with ice cold water.  Awesome!

I walked around a little then made my way back to the finish line to cheer Jen into the finish.  She came in just after I did.  We got bananas and cookies and walked around the finish line area a little.  I was a little disappointed by the pre-race amenities.  No breakfast tacos.  No muffins.  No bagels. Just bananas and packages of Chips Ahoy cookies.  The Shiner Bock water bottle was cool though. 

Then we went right to the finish to have the Brightroom photographers take our picture.  They obliged.  And, the best part, Sally Edwards herself walked up as we were posing for the picture and said, "Can I get in this picture."  That MADE MY DAY!  I can't wait until the race day photos are posted online.  I will SOOOOO be buying that one.

We wandered around a little then made the trek back up the hill to transition to get our gear and head home.  Sally was there again.  She was there to cheer on and run/walk the 5K with the last athletes to finish.  She graciously posed for yet another picture with us.

We were tired and hungry and decided to head on home rather than wait to cheer on the final athlete to cross the finish line.  This is where post-race dummy head syndrome set in.  We were totally oblivious to what we'd done until we got all the way back home.  We pulled into the driveway and opened the back of the van.  That's when we discovered that Jen's bag wasn't in the van.  Neither of us is really sure how this happened, but we managed to leave Jen's bag on the ground outside the van and drove away.  Remember, the site is an hour from my house.

We called the office to the conference center near where we had parked, and they actually found her bag and were holding it for us.  YEA!

Here's the problem.  Jen was going to rent a car to go home.  She needed her ID to pick up her car.  Her ID was in her bag.  It was 12:45.  The rental car place closed at 3.  We had to drive back to Pace Bend Park, get the bag and drive back to Round Rock to pick up the rental car in just over 2 hours.  We loaded up the kids and quickly headed back to the park.  No time for showers.  No time for food.

Kevin drove like a maniac.  We made it to the park.  We got to the office and got the bag with no trouble.  Kevin drove like a maniac back to the rental car office.  Despite the long drive, traffic, lights, and many opportunities for things to go wrong, the drive went off pretty much without a hitch.  We made it back to the rental car place at 2:50.  Whew.  Jen got her car then we finally made it to Rudy's for our long awaited post-race victory meal.

I love barbecue.  I love Rudy's.  I've also been doing this HMR Diet thing for a LONG time.  I haven't splurged very many times within the last 8 months.  All those factors plus the fact that our meal was delayed 2 hours by post-race dummy head syndrome made for the most delicious barbecue meal I've ever had.  It was GLORIOUS.

After Rudy's, we went to a new Cupcake place in Austin and topped it off with cupcakes.  YUM!  After all our running around and eating, Jen headed for home.  It's a long way from Austin to Dallas after a triathlon - especially after post-race dummy head syndrome prevents you from getting to take a nap...

It was a great day.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous.  The water temperature was in the 80s.  The air temperature was in the 70s.  It was perfect racing weather.  I had a great race.  I still want to improve my times.  I'm going to keep doing the Decker and the Pace Bend courses until I can easily complete a Sprint Triathlon at both locations in under 2 hours. 

I'm also officially mentally ready for an Olympic Distance Triathlon.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to do the CapTex Tri on Memorial Day 2011.  A friend recently reminded me that Lady Bird Lake will still probably be pretty cold in May, but if I don't do that one, I will do some other Olympic Triathlon at some point in 2011.  I'm ready to take it up a notch.

I'm so happy Jennifer came to do the race with me.  She's ready to move on to Olympic too.  We had a good time and look forward to more races together.