Seriously, I have gotten so very out of shape since November that racing of any type should have been the furthest thing from my mind. But, I knew I needed something to get me back in the game, and that something was the Rockin' R Triathlon in Gruene, Texas.
This photo of Gruene Mansion Inn Bed & Breakfast is courtesy of TripAdvisor
It's a beautiful course along (and in) the Guadalupe River, with huge trees arching above the road along the water. The weather was gorgeous too!
After the Tiny Texan Tri last year, I felt pretty confident that I'd keep exercising and stay focused on getting back in shape. And while I will admit that I didn't touch my bike at all after that race, I did keep running and swimming through the first part of the school year. In November, I started toying with the idea of training for a half marathon (it seemed like training for one sport might be a little easier during the school year). Then, life smacked me upside the head, the stress of everything I was (trying to) balance caught up with me and I cut way back on any sort of exercise. I ran some here and there, but it was very inconsistent.
As the end of the school year got closer and I started to see light at the end of the tunnel, I started running a few times a week. I ditched the treadmill and ran outside ONLY. The sunshine and fresh air did me so much good. And, all that fresh air might have gone to my head a little after my long winter of deprivation, because I decided in April that I should do the Rockin R, even though it was coming up in just a few weeks.
I got back in the pool and didn't drown. I dusted off (literally) my bike and didn't die (though my legs thought they might). I ran with a little more purpose- not very fast, but with a focus on consistency.
And then I signed up for the race. I told myself that I was going to be slow. That it was going to be hard. That I was going to do it for the fun and the fitness and not focus on my times.
When my alarm went off at 4, I thought to myself, "It's a good thing they make you pay for races in advance, because I wouldn't be getting out of bed if I didn't have money on the line."
I got my transition spot set up, and started to worry a little about the water temperature. It's been unseasonably cool and we'd had some rain, so the Guadalupe was a chilly 72. About half the racers were wearing wet suits. Oh well. It was only 400 meters. I wasn't going to freeze.
I was also a little concerned about my lack of full preparation. The race was the Sunday after our last day of school. I had spent the weekend grading finals. I hadn't had my bike tuned up. I hadn't even taken the time to get bars or anything to eat. I had a banana and some electrolyte water. That should do it.
And then the race started! I watched the first swimmers start off across the river and I wondered why they were swimming with their heads up. When I got in, I figured it out: Rocks! There were massive rocks just below the surface. I half swam, half pushed myself across the rocks and then, when the water got deep enough to really swim, at first, I had a hard time finding my rhythm. I was still a little concerned about the rocks and the water was so MURKY! I couldn't see a thing. (Note to self: Do not watch episodes of River Monsters before open water swims.) I got into a rhythm eventually and finished the swim without a problem.
(400 m. in 9:40, for those who care about such things. Not too bad for me right now.)
Next up, bike. My transition time was forever long. (2:36) My laid back attitude about the race was starting to work against me, but I was having a good time! The ride was a beautiful one with "rolling hills." That means there's nothing too strenuous, but it's definitely not flat. I was SO slow. That one ride I had taken really hadn't done much to give me any bike power. No surprise there, but really, it was bad! I did enjoy the ride (who doesn't love having police officers to stop traffic at every intersection!) but I felt pretty much like I was crawling along. (13 miles in 57:56; 13.8 mph)
I had told myself when I signed up for the race that I could walk the run if I had to. I knew that I might not have the endurance that I needed to finish otherwise. Plus, there was a killer hill right at the start! They promised the run was pretty flat after that, and some of the racers said it was "okay to walk the hill after the bike." The second I hit that hill, I suddenly told myself there was NO WAY I was going to walk- not even a single step- on the run. I don't know why that suddenly became so important. I think I was a little frustrated by my slow bike and I didn't want to compound it by strolling along for the run. I found a pace I could sustain and I kept it up. I was feeling pretty good!
And then I saw the one mile marker. "What the heck?" I actually said out loud. I definitely felt like I had been running much longer than that. But I told myself that the first mile is always the toughest and it was only a 5K. I stuck to my "run slowly, but run" strategy and finished the race feeling strong. (5K in 32:59; 9:59 min/mile. Total time: 1:44:51)
Sorry for the lack of pictures on this one! I was going it solo and didn't really take any myself. But what a great day! It was just the summer jump start that I needed. It was a much-needed lesson in the value of jumping in and finishing- not perfectly, not even well- but finishing anyway.
Oh, and was I sore the next day? You bet. Totally worth it.