Monday, May 4, 2009

See Mac Tri

See Mac Swim. See Mac Bike. See Mac Run. Go Mac Go.

Yes, I did repeat that to myself several times throughout my run. I'm such a dork! (And proud of it.)

Anyway, the morning of the race, I woke up feeling pretty good, though my calves were still tight from my run the day before. I kept to my schedule pretty much until I had to bike down Lynch Hill to the transition area. Everyone else was riding down, but I didn't feel comfortable doing that. My duffle bag tends to swing around and it was a very, very, very steep hill. I felt like an idiot, but I walked down. It took forever too and I was 20 minutes later than I planned getting to transition.

Not that it really mattered. I was still all set up by 8:30 am -- which was probably an hour earlier than I needed to be. Body marking was a breeze and I scored a free Gatorade water bottle at the pre-fill station. The lines for the porta-potties were long, but moved quickly. I spent the remaining time chatting with my rack-mates and fussing with my equipment.

At this event, everyone has an assigned spot and they are set up by waves. So all the 45+ women were in the back with me. It was kind of fun to be able to chat with my peers and compare notes. Some of them seemed very experienced though and that was a bit intimidating.

Our racks were on the far right so we were actually not that far from the Swim In and Run Out, but we were very far from the Bike In & Out -- only two racks were farther. I also noticed a lot of people brought chalk and were marking up the asphalt like crazy so they could find their racks again later. There were also balloons tied to racks and brightly colored flags and all sorts of junk all over. With the research I've done about how to transition, I'd never heard of doing that! So I just used their markings to help me.

By 9:30 am I was ready for my warm-up right on schedule. I decided I didn't want to run more because of my calves, but walking wasn't loosening them up enough so I ended up doing a 15 min. run, as originally planned, followed by some stretching. Then I put on my wet suit up to the waist and waited until 10:00 to go down to the start line. The sun had come up by now and it was getting hot in the suit so I didn't pull it up all the way until it was closer to time to get into the water. I learned my lesson on that one from last time.

I've worn this suit four times already, but it wasn't until this time that I figured out my zipper pull had a little flap that let it stick to the velcro on the neck. Then I got to help another woman who had her wet suit on backwards (I'm glad I'm not the only one who did that the first time!) and I showed her the velcro trick and she was impressed at my expertise! I was feeling pretty experienced -- until I realized I forgot to Body Glide my neck. Luckily, I had put it on my face because my sunblock had died (there is sunblock in the glide), so I just smeared some down and hoped for the best.

The wave in front of us was sent off and we got to get into the water to acclimate. They had said it was 64 degrees and, compared to all my past swims, the water felt positively tropical. Then we had to come back onto the boat ramp and get ready for our start.

At my last tri, I had followed the common first-timer advice to hang to the left and back and found myself having to work around a lot of people who were flailing around clearly out of their element. So this time I still stayed on the left, but I put myself right behind the people who were raring to go and ahead of the ones who looked hesitant. I was kind of raring to go myself, but figured all the people in front of me would run me over if I put myself in their midst.

When the timer went off, I pushed the stopwatch on my HRM and we all ran into the water. It was pretty packed, but I didn't get kicked, hit or punched and eventually we spread out a bit. I felt like I got in and started swimming faster than last time and I was happy with my new strategy.

Then I just kept repeating the plan... go easy, nice and easy, slow and steady wins the race! I didn't want to give it all up on the swim knowing I had so much farther to swim, bike and run than last time. It was hard sometimes not to want to speed up when people passed me, because "nice and easy" kept turning into "it's a race", but I mostly refrained by reminding myself to run my own race.

I did get kicked at one point and swallowed water. I came up sputtering and one of the kayak dudes asked me if I was okay. I assured him I was and got back to swimming. Then I got whacked in the nose! That hurt. I also had trouble staying on course. There were lots of buoys around and it was easy to aim for the wrong one. So I was zig-zagging quite a bit. But at least I didn't go totally off course like two other women did when we rounded the first buoy. (I wonder what happened to them.) Though not from lack of trying.

As we rounded the last buoy, someone in a light purple cap from the next wave had caught up to me, which I expected, but then I was getting passed right and left by green caps from the wave after that, which I had not. But then I remembered they were relay people -- picked for their swimming ability. Plus there were still yellow caps behind me and hardly any light purple ones so I felt like my time was probably acceptable even if I felt like I hadn't had the greatest execution on the swim.

So, as I came out of the water, I looked at my watch and saw ... 00:00:00. The damn button hadn't registered my press at the start! I pressed it now and guessed I'd done the swim in 45 minutes. I was a bit wobbly, but not too bad, so the decision to not to wear ear plugs turned out to be a good one. (I don't like them as it makes it hard to hear.) People were pretty slow up the ramp, lots of them walking or even standing still to tug on their wet suits, but I think of transition as my time to get ahead of people who are better than me so I just powered up the ramp and into T1.

When I got the bikes, most in my rack were gone, but most in the rack next to me were still there. That was reassuring, though I did feel I was slower in T1 than I am normally. In particular, I had trouble getting my bike gloves on. Maybe I should ditch them during events, but I worry about my hands hurting on the long rides.

I grabbed my bike and ran with it to the Bike Out shoot. I was able to pass a few people here too including when mounting. Yes! In fact, I got into my pedals perfectly, which isn't always the case.

Then.... Lynch Hill. Yikes! This is the very, very, very steep hill I'd walked down in the morning and it's a mile long. Up hill. People were walking their bikes already, while stronger bikers were passing me. I was unhappy about being passed so much and determined not to walk so I  just repeated "cadance, cadence, cadence" all the way up the hill. I made it, too!

Then, I just had the rest of the course to worry about. It was a decent course. Not a lot of turns, so it was kind of boring in parts, but very hilly so it was challenging in a different way. Most of it was out where people live  on ranches and some of them had come out to cheer us on, which was fun.

There were aide station along the way, which I don't think is usual for an Olympic course. But I grabbed the Gatorade Endurance bottles anyway as I drove by, mostly to make the volunteers happy, but also because it was fun grabbing things on the move. I felt bad throwing them away mostly undrunk, but I needed both hands for shifting.

At about mile 8, I started to feel the effects of the longer course. In particular [TMI alert] my crotch started hurting me like crazy. I wonder if this means I need an adjustment on my bike fit? Anyway, I couldn't do anything about it, so I just stood up in the saddle a lot on the flat parts of the course and did my best to ignore it.

I got the turn around and realized I was behind schedule for the bike. I had thought about taking a two minute break there, but didn't see a good place to stop and I was concerned about my time, so I just kept going.

I tried to push harder, but my legs were pretty wobbly at this point. I even found myself hopping off the bike on the first big hill because I was going slower and slower and I was afraid would fall over.

This turned out to be a big mistake because, after a very short time, I got my legs back but I couldn't get back on the bike because I still had way more hill to get up and staring on such a steep hill was not going to work. Plus pushing a bike up a steep hill takes a lot more energy than you'd think. So I got passed by about five people and didn't really save myself all that much energy. I decided to remember that when I got to the next hill.

At the next hill, the same thing started to happen. My legs were so rubbery and I was slowing down, but I was damned if I'd make the same mistake again. So I just pushed as hard as I could and made it up there. On the way down that hill, I started to get a second wind and was able to get up the last hill just fine. I even passed a 73 year old dude (who called me a young chick!). I hope I can still race at that age.

At about the 25 kilometer mark, I did feel my calves tightening up again, but nothing came of it, thank goodness. I just rode from marker to marker and tried not to think about how much farther there was to go.

When I got back to Lynch Hill, there was a guy was waving a sign saying "Go Bitches". I gave him a thumbs-up which made him laugh and prepared to swoop down the hill. But it was full of runners who would NOT move over no matter how much I yelled "left" as I passed them.

In fact, I crossed the yellow line a few times, but no one seemed to care and I was not DQed for it. I had to ride on the brakes the whole way down too because it was so steep and I didn't want to crash into a runner. I was slightly disappointed in that as I was only going about 25 mph and I'd gone faster than that downhill on the main course. Of course, I wasn't playing dodge bike with runners out there so I guess that makes a difference. But mostly it was just a scary hill and I let it get to me.

Then I got back to my spot and got ready for the run. Again, I felt a bit sluggish down there compared to my normal T2 performance. I also noticed that almost ALL the bikes in my rack were back. Shoot! I hadn't noticed that many people from my wave passing me.

Well, there was nothing I could do about it, so I staggered out for my run. And staggered was pretty much what I did for the first mile. As usual. Lots of people were employing a strategy of walking up the hills and running down even from the get-go, but the first four miles of the course was pretty much all up so I decided not to be tempted by their plan and stuck to mine.

At this point, I was wondering if I had maybe used up all my energy on the bike, but then I remembered that that first mile always feels like this and that helped. I did have one hill that I walked up the last two feet because my "running" was taking more energy than walking. But otherwise, I just kept putting one foot front of the other in a kind of shuffling run-walk. And, like it normally does, eventually everything felt better and by the end of mile one, I was actually really running, abet very slowly.

The only real problems I had after that was getting some bad gas both in the beginning and near the end. I have decided to blame it on the Gatorade Endurance as I broke a cardinal rule of "nothing new on race day" when I drank that. It was probably just everything put together though.

I got to the aide station at mile 4 and decided to keep going and not take the two minute break I had considered pre-race. Besides, everyone swore I was almost to the top and it would be all downhill from there. Let it be noted that, while this was generally true, it was not literally true. As I found out soon enough when I encountered another hill. But after that everyone we passed told us it was all downhill from there. I was onto them by now though and so wasn't quite as shocked when I got to the next little hill. But after that it really was all downhill including Lynch Hill.

I wasn't surprised to see people leaning way back to brake as they ran down that hill. But I was suprised to see people walking it. I was so glad we had practiced this during our Tues. club workout because I knew exactly what to do. I leaned forward like they taught us and just FLEW down that hill passing people right and felt with almost no work on my part.

When I got to the level part where you ran into the finish shoot, it was really tempting to slow down because I was just beat to a pulp, but I made myself speed up instead. They announced my name as I ran by (and said I was "52 years young". Um, dude, I'm only 51. Don't exaggerate!) and I was given a cup of water, my timing chip was taken off -- which was good because I don't think I had the energy to take it off myself -- and they put that finisher's medal around my neck.

I was so proud of myself and that medal. I checked my watch and, with what I thought was my crappy swim, I figured I'd done the whole thing in about 2 hours and 25 minutes. That was longer than I was hoping for, but still within my window of 4 to 4.5 hours. Later on, after eating a banana and having some "Avia Red Pomegranate" gelato, I wandered by the results booth and found out my swim time was only 37 min. and 52 seconds! So it wasn't crappy at all, but very close to my plan in spite of the sputtering and the zig-zagging.

That's also where I found out that there was some kind of glitch with the timing. My T2 time was listed as over two hours! It looked like it was actually my bike time, plus my T2 time. There was no run time at all. But I was assured it would all be straightened out by the time the results were put on the internet. I guestimated my finish time was four hours and 20 minutes minus whatever overlap there was between when I finally got my stopwatch going and I crossed into T1.

Then I dragged myself back to the campsite, changed into clean clothes, took down my tent and packed up my car, still wearing my finisher's medal the entire time. I wore it the whole way home too, even in McDonald's for my traditional post-race Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap. 

Because I'm a dork! (And proud of it.) I woud have worn it to work too but I try to pretend I'm not a dork at work. (I don't think I'm fooling anyone, but I think they appreciate the effort.)

My "final" stats (they keep changing the rankings as they fix people's timing problems) ended up as:

Time 04:19:40.840 at Finish Line

2378th out of 2602 overall
929th out of 1085 women
32nd out of 41 women aged 50-54

Swim 37:52.22040:38 min/mi 26th
Bike 02:06:19.83011.80 mi/hr33rd
Run 01:26:52.19013:59 min/mi37th

So you can see, as I have started to suspect, swimming is actually my best event, not the bike. I only swim one time a week, too. But running is really where I lose it compared to the rest of the field. I'm doing that two times a week, just like biking, but I think I need to up that to three times.

As far as pacing goes, I swam and ran at about the pace I had planned to, but my bike was definitely slower than I'm capable of. (I see more hill work in my future.) My T1 time was slightly high but my T2 was within plan. I think I can shave some time off both of them though as I get more experienced.

But what was particularly gratifying about the entire experience is that I went into the race not being sure I could do it. It's great to prepare for something and execute, but it's even better to make yourself do something you aren't sure you can do and succeed. There is no other feeling like that in the world.
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