Along the lines of "best laid plans" comes my first triathlon of the season, which took place yesterday.
I was so psyched for this one. First of all, instead of starting at the crack of dawn, like so many tris do, it started at 4:00 pm! And, instead of getting yet another floppy, too-big-for-me t-shirt, they gave out socks! I love socks.
I got there way too early, around 12:40 pm and had picked up my race packet and set up my transition area well before 2:00 pm. There were a lot of people doing their first triathlon in my rack and I talked to them and encouraged them just like people had done to me last year. It was so much fun to be the experienced one.
Everyone was saying the water was 55 F and I was down to only one silicon ear plug so I went off to buy some more. I picked up lots of samples at the Expo and finally found one of those finger lap counters, too. I wandered around some more, bought a bottle of water, did all my pre-race routines and even went for a short jog to warm up.
I'd been a bit nervous about doing that with my calf issues, but taking out the bike for a ride seemed too problematic for various reasons. But it was fine. I could feel my knee getting stiff but no real pain. I got back just in time for one last port-a-potty break and the pre-race meeting -- where they told us the water was 68 F! I guess I bought those extra ear plugs for nothing. I put them away along with my squid lid and went back to warm up in the water. Which was not 68 F but it wasn't bad -- maybe in the low 60s.
For once, the "old lady wave" wasn't the last one. In fact, I was in the second wave. This is good because I don't think I could have stood the suspense if I'd had to wait much longer. The guys in the first wave took off. I went back in the water for one last acclimation and then our wave was off.
I started out in the front and soon was being beaten on by a million bodies. But I didn't get whacked in the nose or kicked in the head and I figured it was good practice for IMAZ and that mass start. I did my best to hold my ground (my tendency is to let other swimmers go ahead of me as if they have the right of way) when the wheels started coming off my race.
First, I could feel my timing chip coming loose! I was convinced it would fall off in the water and I tried to re-attach it more firmly while being swum over by the other million bodies who were still behind me. That worked about as well as you might expect. I swam on a bit more, but it just kept moving around on my leg and I was convinced I'd lose it, so eventually I took it off and swam the rest of the way with it in my hand.
Of course, all this fiddling around and swimming with a strap in my hand cost me time. I also wasn't able to hold my line once I was holding onto the strap and kept veering right. Instead of finishing in the middle of the pack, like I'd planned, I was one of the last in my wave out of the water. And then I had to stop and put my chip back on my leg before I could cross the timing mat.
I raced back to T1 and I thought I made good time there. I made sure my sock went over my timing chip so I wouldn't have to worry about it for the rest of the race and took off on my bike. The bike exit at Showdown is weird. You have to run your bike up this enormous hill and I was huffing and puffing and walking by the end.
Then I hopped on at the bike mount point and couldn't clip in. So I was racing down this big hill not clipped in, but I calmed myself down a bit and was able to get clipped in before anything bad happened.
At the bottom of the hill, we turned right to go out of the park and were immediately going up hill again. It caught me by surprise and I went to gear down (up?) late. Just like at Wildflower Training Weekend, it didn't work too well. My pedals didn't freeze this time, but my front gear would NOT shift. I knew I had to stop and, of course, I couldn't clip out. I decided to fall to the left this time and that worked out much better as leaning left let me clip out (leaning right doesn't ease up the tension on the cleat, I guess). So no fall at least.
But I was stuck on the side of a big hill. I was able to shift manually eventually and then I keep trying to get started again but the hill was too steep. Eventually I just ran up it with my bike, cursing and feeling like an idiot.
At the top of the hill, I ended up back in my big gear again -- I guess I shouldn't have bothered shifting. Then the road started going up again so I shifted back to the little gear and dropped my chain!!! After a few well-placed f-bombs, I was actually able to get the chain to go back on without having to get off the bike. Yeah me!
At this point, I figured I'd lost about 5 min. over where I expected to be with all this screwing around and most of my wave was well past me. I set out to catch up to them. I was able to pass a bunch of woman and even a few guys from wave 1 but not nearly as many I wanted to. Then the fast young studs on their tricked out tri bikes from the wave after me started to pass me, race wheels screaming. Bummer!
The interesting thing about being in the first woman's wave and second wave overall is that you have a much clearer idea of where you are in the race compared to being at the back. I knew every woman I passed had started at the same time as me and every guy had started 10 min. before. You don't get a sense that you are coming in last when you have a front of the pack finish as happens when you are in the last wave and so many people are done racing when you are still out on the course.
Having a better sense of where I was in the race and knowing all the issues I'd had in the first 20 minutes, I figured that any chance of a podium finish was long gone, but, I also realized that I was having a blast anyway. I just loved that bike course. It was all rollers and lots of curves and I was swooping down as fast as I could, practicing holding my line, and then practicing standing up on in the saddle and making the bike move while I kept my body still on the ups. I felt very studly.
I finished the bike with only one woman having passed me. I had passed her and then gotten passed by her several times and when she passed me for the last time on the bike, I knew I wasn't going to be able to catch her again on the bike. So I vowed to catch her the run (assuming my leg didn't give out).
Getting back to T2 was a bit tough. That big hill we had to run up was now a big hill we had to run down -- without losing our bikes. Some people took their shoes off. Another guy was running with his bike on the asphalt, but his feet on the dirt shoulder. I tried that and it worked pretty well until we got to a super steep part. So I tried taking off my shoes. Only there were too many people behind me to really stop so I ended up with one off. So I was running downhill with one shoe off and one shoe on like Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John. But it worked well enough. And it amused the spectators and volunteers, not to mention myself.
Then, back in in the transition area, I ran right by my rack because some twit put her bike in my spot. (Why do people do stuff like that?) I still got out of there pretty fast, I thought. I also didn't have that period of rubbery legs that I usually have between bike and run. I assume it was the long run down to transition though there was a really fit young guy in front of me that was all rubbery. Or at least he was going really slow and I got to pass him. (I just love passing young studs; it make me feel like I'm invincible.)
The run went up some stairs, which I always think is weird. (Wildflower course does that too.) I decided to take it easy on the stairs and the up out of the park. I didn't exactly walk, but I wasn't really running either. Then I got to the downhill out of the park and I took off.
Even though I knew I wouldn't be having a stellar run because of my leg, I pretended that the run was where I'd pick people off and make up lots of ground like it normally is. It seemed to have worked because I was able to pass a bunch of people including that one chicky who foiled me on the bike (ha! I told you I'd get you on the run). I did get passed more than I liked by the young studs from wave 3 and one other woman from my wave who I'd passed on the bike (I wonder if she had vowed to get me on the run too?), but that was it. I even passed another couple of guys from the wave in front of me.
The run was interesting, not just because of my leg, but also because I grabbed two cups of water at the aid station because I felt extra parched from not having drunk enough on the bike. This turned out to be a mistake because I ended up with a lump in my throat. I tried to swallow it down but it stayed for the rest of the race. Plus, one time when I was trying to swallow, I almost threw up! I wasn't really nauseous or anything. It was like I'd eaten something and drank too soon after and got the foamies. Except I hadn't eaten anything but a gel before the swim start and I didn't have the foamies. Weird.
Oh, and the best part? I wasn't really in a lot of pain. I could feel the calf and it did slow me down a bit, but nothing like it has in the past. I found out later I'd been able to average a 9:25 min. per mile pace, when I'd be planning on a 10 min. per mile pace because of pain.
Unfortunately, my bike split was about 10 min. longer than I'd predicted. My chain/gear issues cost me there. My swim was under 8 minutes! The chip issues did cost me (most of my wave finished in under 7 minutes), but I was still well under my predicted finish time. (Which means there is no way that was a full quarter mile swim, but I'll take it.)
Even with the long, long run out to the bike matt, my T1 time was about what it normally, so I must have blazed through that part. T2 time was slightly longer than planned, but not unexpected considering how long it took to get down that hill.
The end result was a respectable, if not what I'm capable of, middle of the pack finish:
Age group: 5 / 9, Female Overall: 87 / 172, Overall: 294 / 442