Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tiny Texan

This past Sunday was the Tiny Texan Triathlon!  Here's my race recap:

I had done this race last year.  It was, in fact, my very first sprint triathlon.  When I got home, I set my bike up on the trainer in my room and didn't touch it again until 10 months later.  I did a little better with my swimming and running, but those became pretty erratic after November as well.  Even though I knew I had let myself slip over the winter, I was still hoping that my summer training would pay off at least a teensy bit by the time the Tiny Texan rolled around again.

My race prep went really smoothly.  Too smoothly, I began to superstitiously tell myself.  I've only done four races in my life, and the lead up to those included having the van- with all the kids in it- break down on the way to packet pick up, realizing the night before that I had zero race "fuel," and nearly abandoning a race completely because of extreme kid meltdown.  Not this time.  This time packet pickup went off without a hitch and I had everything packed and ready to go by 8 PM on Saturday evening.  Too smoothly.  Then, at 9 PM, I whacked my head really hard on the corner of the freezer and felt better.  No need to worry about impending doom anymore- I had a lump on my head.

The Tiny (sprint) and Small (Olympic) Triathlon takes place at Boerne Lake every July.  The sprint distance is considered a slightly "long" sprint: 800 m open water swim, 25K bike over "hill country terrain" and a 5K run.  The views are really beautiful and it's a race I'd wholeheartedly recommend to others. (Just remember:  It's Texas.  It's July.  It's hot.  It's hilly.  It's- mostly- a trail run.  You should totally go for it!)

I got my bike racked and my transition stuff set up.

Thanks, Mike, for the picture!

Transition, Before.  See Below for "After."

And then the waiting.  Lots of waiting.  I chatted with some of the other racers, recognized a few from last year and from the Rockin’ R, and just bounced around trying to burn off my nervous energy.  It’s actually fun to see so many people of so many ages and backgrounds coming together for the same crazy reason.

As the start time got closer, everyone grabbed swim caps and goggles and headed down to the lake to wait there.  The Small Texans took off first to swim their 1500 m.  The speedy ones were finished before the Tiny Texans even got in.  The fast women climbed out of the lake congratulating and encouraging each other.  The fast men climbed out, checked their watches, and shook their heads in frustration.  (I’m glad I’m not a 20-40 year old male.  Their competitiveness must just suck the joy out of everything.  It gave the rest of us something to nervously laugh about while we waited, though.)

Then came the call for the "Tiny Men" to get in the water.  They did, while inwardly swearing never again to do a race with "Tiny" in the name.  And then, the Tiny Women.  

I felt more confident about my swimming this time around, but I was still a little freaked out by the open water.  Try as I might, I couldn't keep a straight line!  For the first 300 meters, I was swimming ALL over the place.  I was getting really thrown off by some of the other swimmers who were swimming off to the right and the left.  One lady actually was swimming TOWARD me.  "Other way!"  "Thank you!"  I think she may have beaten me in the end.  About halfway, I finally started to get into a flow that allowed me to actually swim and not just try to figure out which direction I was going.  (Note to self:  Do not wear goggles that fog on race day.)  The stretch to the shore was a little tough.  There weren't any brightly colored landmarks to aim for. (I thought there was, but turns out it was a picnic area off to the left.  Thank you, fellow swimmer, for setting me straight.)  Fortunately, a spectator with a bright yellow polo had noticed the problem and stationed himself right at the exit point.  Thank you, Yellow Polo Man!

And then it was onto the bike!  My bike was my worst leg last time around, so I was determined to give this a good effort.  It's a pretty hilly ride, but it has some beautiful views.  I had done some training rides on the route so that I'd be better prepared, mentally and physically, for the race.  (That, of course, is when I took these pictures.  I would be in sad shape if I tried to snap pictures while riding.)

 The great thing about these long rides is that there are so many supportive spectators to cheer you on.

I was able to pass a few people along the way, and not too many women passed me.  A few men did.  Very fast men.  People shouted encouragements along the way.  On the way back, I fell in behind a man who was keeping a good pace for me.  (Drafting is illegal- I wasn't close, just behind him.)  As we hit the last big hill, I could see him deflate and slow down some.  "This is the LAST HILL and the view from the top is awesome!" I told him as I passed.  A woman nearby said, "Really?"  I don't know whether she believed me.  This picture doesn't do it justice, especially since the camera flattens everything out, but that's the lake in the distance, and it's breathtaking.  Worth the climb.

Then, it was time to run!  Normally, in my training, my legs would feel heavy running off the bike, but this time, I was having some serious pain in my hips.  Yikes.  I ran up the hill anyway and hoped it would work itself out.  And then came the Dam Run.

Hot. Hot. Hot.  The key for me is not to look down and see this:

Beautiful, cool, lake water does not make me feel better about running while I'm frying.  I tried to keep an even pace- something that I didn't do last year- and an awful lot of people were walking.  Only one woman passed me on the run, and she had an Ironman tattoo- so, you know, whatever.

After much deliberation, I had decided to carry my own water on the run instead of relying on the aid station.  I'm not too great at drinking out of those bitty cups and on a run this short, I don't need an excuse to walk.  I ran the whole way, and on the way back, I still felt like I was running in slow motion, but I couldn't really force myself to go any faster.  I kept telling myself it wasn't as hot as last year.  (That may or may not have been true.  Some of my fellow racers were very skeptical when I said that later.)  And the blisters!  Normally I don't have a problem running short distances without socks, but my new(ish) shoes apparently had razor blades installed on the sides that I wasn't aware of.  I plodded on and swore that next time, I'd take the 4 second hit and put on socks.

And then, the finish line!  I did, apparently, have some extra reserves I hadn't tapped because I did speed up to cross the line.  And then it was on to the after party.  Lots of very sweaty, happy people swapping war stories, and eating the BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD.  (Hunger is, indeed, the best cook.)

Transition, After.
Final Stats:
800 m Swim: 23:57 (I nearly screamed aloud in frustration when I saw that.  The same to the SECOND as last year.)
T1: 1:37
25K Bike: 1:03:26 (6 minutes faster than last year!)
T2: 1:24
5K Run: 35:53 (About a minute faster than last year.  Like last year, the 5K was "long" 3.4 miles.  Maybe one of these days they'll invent something that will help race directors use some sort of satellite to set up the distances properly.)
Overall Time: 2:06:19 (7 minutes faster than last year.  Progress!)
18th of 53 women, 6th in my age group.

I think the training did pay off a teensy bit, and this year, there won't be any dusty bike sitting in my room.

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