I'm back. I survived. In fact I did more than survive, I had fun! And I kicked ass! Race day went something like this.
Pre-Race: I didn't sleep at all the night before, but I knew I wouldn't and it doesn't really matter. I was already well rested and the race day energy makes it so you don't notice any lack of sleep. I got out of bed at 4:30 AM as planned, had my smoothie, started hydrating, my Sweetie loaded the bike and his camera. We got on the road by 5:40 AM, 10 minutes later than planned. Despite leaving behind schedule I was surprisingly calm. Really! I never once felt like puking. Once at the site my Sweetie topped off the air in my tires. We must have looked like we knew what we were doing because the girl parked to the left of us asked me if I could tell her where her helmet and bike numbers were supposed to go. And the girl parked to the right of us asked my Sweetie if he would pump up her tires also. I remembered that this is one of the reasons I like to do this - the camaraderie - suddenly you have 400 and something new best friends and you're all in this together, sort of. I got my body marked, the volunteer got a little artistic working the numbers in around my tattoos. It was open racking, and I was able to get a really sweet spot on the end of a rack. It pays to get there early. I got set up, walked the transition area, picked up my timing chip, ate a banana, stood in line for the porta-potty and spent the rest of the pre-race minutes on the beach. I did my warm-up swim. I told myself the big-fat lie that there wasn't any fish in the lake, and even though I knew it was a big fat lie I chose to believe it. I shared this with my Sweetie and a few other spectators. They were highly amused, and I remembered that this is why I do this, it's fun, and I love chattin' it up with strangers.
The Swim: The swim was a real bitch. I did everything I planned, I lined up in front and I swam out hard. Trouble is there was a small gaggle of other ladies with the exact same plan, and we were all pretty evenly matched. Somehow the 5 of us managed to swim the entire distance in a scrum. I got kicked in the face once, hard. I never found my little piece of water. The whole 300 meters was a scrum. I studied the swim results and there were 5 of us who came out of the water within 4 seconds of each other. Yep, it sucked, mostly. There is no way to improve on this, to train harder for that, it's just one of those race day variables that's out of your control. You deal with it. And the goats, did I mention there were three goats living on the island in the lake. Pre-race I thought they were kinda cute, at about the half way point of the swim I had the thought that the water I was swimming in was brackish, murky, and smelling of sulfur because of those goats. I put that thought right out of my mind. Official swim time: 7:55 - not as fast as I wanted, but I was ranked 9th in my age group and I caught some of the "green cap" people in the wave before mine. I'd write home about that. And I didn't freak out - this is why I do this, I am reminded that sometimes you have to just deal with the stuff that's out of your control.
T1: I got my cap and goggles off just as soon as I got out of the water. I knew right where my bike was. Everything going as planned. Except the stitch in my side. You could hardly call my movement from the water's edge, through the parking lot, and to my transition area a jog, it was more like a gimp, but with a few deep breaths the stitch surrendered. For some unknown reason I couldn't get my shoe on - I verbally abused the shoe. And it too surrendered. Perfect. Helmet, sunglasses, never mind the gloves, I'm off! Official T1 Time: 3:08 - A little slow but I remembered where to bike exit was and got there.
The Bike: The first hill. It wasn't really as steep as I had remembered from my scouting trip, it was long. Really really long. I had left my bike on the small chain ring, with room to move down to the granny gear. It worked, I was able to spin up that first hill. I didn't get off my bike and walk it up the hill, although I saw a few that did, and it's not a bad strategy, I would not have been above walking up that hill if I had needed to, but I didn't need to. Once I crested that hill I rode hard, and smart. I went fast. I remembered to drink my sport drink. I remembered to call out "on your left" and "thank you" to everyone I passed. I congratulated and encouraged everyone who passed me. Really, every single one, I'm competitive, but nice. I felt sincerely bad for the girl with a flat, and the ladies with the really heavy mountain bikes. The back half of the course wasn't that bad, it was rolling, gravity was indeed on my side. Those training rides paid off. The last mile is all downhill, and I did indeed fly. I glanced at my computer once and it said 32 mph. I don't think I've ever gone that fast on my bike. I felt fearless. I felt like a super hero. It was fun. Official bike time: 44:52 - right where I wanted to be. I made up some time and was back on track for my goal. That's a great feeling. Could I have gone faster...? Probably. Could I have been more aggressive...? Probably. And that encourages me for next time.
T2: Bike racked. Helmet off. No gloves to worry about. Drink some water. I'm off. Wait! My belt, turn around run back, get the damn belt. Go! Thank goodness I remembered, I'm not sure but I think that could have been a DQ. I'll have to check the USAT Rule Book. Official time: 1:06 - that's right, despite having almost forgotten my belt I was ahead of my goal.
The Run: Most of my favorite moments in the race happened during the run. First, the oldest athlete was a 70 year old woman who was doing her first triathlon with her daughter. I saw them early on in the run, the mom was race walking and daughter was a few paces ahead, telling her she "looked great" she was "doing a great job". Mom replied with "I've got this race in the bag, I can do this!" I loved her! And I thought hell yes! And I congratulated her on job well done. This course isn't a great one for spectators, except at the beach and the finish line. This means there are no fans to cheer you through the bulk of the run. But, it's an out and back course and so those on the way back encourage those on the way out. It's the camaraderie thing again, and I love that. It took a little longer then I wanted for my legs to stop feeling like rubber and the evil stitch was back so I took the first mile a little easy. I admit it seemed a little daunting. I took water at the turn around, and thanked all the volunteers. And then I decided I needed something to get me going - I challenged myself to pass the lady just in front of me, according to her body marking she was 52 years old. And then I went after the next one, her calf said she was 48 years old. And then the next one, and the next one, and I went after a few that were a little younger. I still got passed by some, and I still took the energy to encourage those on the way out, but I spent that second mile trying to pick off runners and make a note of their age as I did. Before I knew it there it was, the turn off the road up to the home stretch. This is where it gets really, really thrilling - this is where you can see the finish line, and you know in your heart that you've earned the finish. This is where there are lots of fans and spectators cheering you on and congratulating you on a strong finish and you know in your heart you deserve it. This is where I spotted the calf of the girl just ahead of me, she was 22 years old, and this is where I got competitive and made up my mind I could take her. And I did. And it was awesome. Official run time: 22:04.
I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face. I got my finisher's medal from a perfect volunteer. I got my ice towel and my bottle of water from two other perfect volunteers. Official total race time: 1:19:07. That's exactly in between my "It was a great day, I had fun, and I can be really proud of this time" Goal and my "I kicked ass!" Goal. I was 11th (out of 50) in my age group, and that seemed beyond my wildest dreams.
Post-Race: I did everything I said I would do, I found my Sweetie, I re-hydrated, I stretched, I consumed some calories. I basked in the glory of the day. I congratulated other finishers. I cheered for those still coming across the finish line. I ate up all the congratulations from complete strangers without hesitation. It was fun.
And I remembered why I do this. I do this for the camaraderie. I do this because it's thrilling. I do this because I can and I'm proud of that. I do this because it reminds me to take stuff as it comes. I do this because it feels good to be 40 years old and be healthy and strong enough, I'm grateful for that. I do this because anybody can, but most don't, and that sets me apart, just a little. But mostly I do this because it's fun.
What's next? Something completely new and different - The Rock N Roll San Antonio 1/2 Marathon. The training program has already started, I've sort of fudged the first three weeks of training to make it fit with the triathlon. It will be the thrill of doing something for the first time, which is an extra special kind of thrill. And next season I'll do another triathlon, in fact I'd love to travel to Minneapolis and do the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon again, but this time do the Olympic Distance. And later this week - the knit results of race week.