Saturday, May 16, 2015

Texas State Tri

Texas State Tri

It’s that time of year!  Triathlon season is underway, and I had a great time at the Texas State Tri a couple of weeks ago.
I was lucky enough to be able to catch a ride to San Marcos for this one.  My coach and his girlfriend were heading up, so I didn’t have to drive.  Yay!  (It’s the little things, folks.)

The day started early, as race days do, and I had packed everything the night before. (Packing for a tri is almost as complicated as packing for a week long trip.)  Regular readers will know that I expect disaster in the lead up to races, but I have to say that this time the prep went smoothly.  No car breakdowns, no injuries, no sick babysitters, no harrowing packet pickup.  It was very unnerving.

Cat Photo Bomb
I squeezed my bike into the transition area.  It was a little tight, but the athletes around me were friendly and accommodating.  This was going to be my first race in a wetsuit and I spent a good amount of time deciding when, exactly, I wanted to struggle into the thing.  Putting those rubbery devices on is really no joke.  Think trying to get compression socks up to your neck.  Fortunately, the heater at our city pool has been out, so I’ve been getting lots of wetsuit practice.

I lined up with all of the other similarly wetsuited people (a few were braving the water temperatures without) and listened to the instructions.  I was nervous, of course, and the instructions were lengthy.  They sounded something like, “Welcome to the…something…annual Texas State Tri…which….blah…blah…blah Turn right…blah…blah.  Stay left….blah… and up the gravel…blah…blah… NO DRAFTING…blah…blah Straight ahead… blah…blah… neighborhood….blah…blah… finish line.”

I laughed and commented to a random person standing next to me, “Good thing I can just follow the person in front of me.”  “Ha, ha, me too!” she replied.  This turned out to be very NOT funny later.

I held waaaaayyyyy back to start the swim.  I was nearly dead last.  I’m not sure why.  I didn’t plan to try to push my way to the front- I dislike getting run over in the water- but I had sort of thought a mid-packish start would be fine.  Didn’t happen.  I just went with it.  After all, when I start has nothing to do with where I place at the finish.

And into the water.  Oh.My.Goodness.  There was stuff in the water.  Freakish plants growing straight up from the bottom of the Aquarena Springs.  They looked like something that belonged on a Star Wars planet.  The water was really clear, and if open water swimming didn’t terrify me so much, I probably would have thought it was beautiful.  As it was, I just kept trying to dodge the plants.  That was a terrible plan, of course, because I had no idea if swimming to the right or the left would actually get me around the plants.  The dodging was just adding meters to my swim.  Around 300 meters in, I finally realized that swimming straight through no matter what made far more sense, and I finished the 500 meters about two minutes slower than my “pool swim” time.

And onto the bike.  I really wanted to give it my all on the bike for this race.  That’s been my weakest link in other races and I was determined to improve on that.  I figured I would go as hard as I could for the 12 miles and then just do what I could after that on the run.  And I passed people!  A good number of people, actually.  That, my dear friends, is a big deal for me.  We will conveniently overlook the fact that some of those people were 20 years older than I and some were 12 year old kids.  A pass is a pass.  My training has increased both my strength and my confidence.  I started to waver around the 9 mile point, but I pushed through and averaged 16.5 mph.  (No snickering.  That’s fast for me.)

And then the run.  There’s no way to sugarcoat it.  The run leg of a tri feels awful, especially at first.  Every muscle is saying, “Hey, wasn’t that the finish line you just left behind?  Let’s walk this.  Or go get coffee.  Yes, coffee!”  I pushed through and my pace was pretty good.  It was only a 5K and I’ve been running shorter distances faster, especially after all of that half marathon training I did over the winter.  I felt relatively strong and knew I could push myself.

And...for contrast...Here is what a REAL triathlete, in this case my coach, Travis, looks like leaving transition.

I passed a lot of walkers and slower runners.  (Side note: Yes, people walk in triathlon races.  There are all levels and types and athletes of different strengths.)  And then I headed off into the woods. 

Wait, woods?  I didn’t hear anything about woods.  Nice, though.  I like running in the woods. 

Was I on the right path?  I didn’t miss a turn, did I?  Oh, good, I’m coming up to Spiderman Jersey Guy.  I’ll just run with him.

Why did he quit running????  Spiderman should NOT walk.  Web through the trees, maybe, but not walk.  Okay, I’ll just keep going. 

Nobody.  There is nobody around here and now I can’t even see Spiderman behind me.  Shouldn’t I be hitting an aid station? 

And then I stopped.  I wandered around.  I was totally convinced I was lost.  How else had I gotten all by myself? 

By this time, although my muscles still had juice, my brain was getting a little fuzzy.  In a race, I pay very little attention to where I’m going because I figure there will be markers.  My mind was trying to convince me that I had probably missed a turn off.

I finally pulled myself together and just started running.  The sad thing was, I was actually on the right path the whole time!  All those minutes.  Precious minutes.  Sigh.

The woods opened up and I ended up in a neighborhood.  There was one fork in the road with a cone but no arrow, but I ended up managing to stay on the path, and I FINALLY started to see other runners.

Or limpers.  A guy was limping up a hill in front of me.  When I asked if he was okay, he said he had an injured hamstring.  I wished him luck and passed him.

I was running along and I heard someone coming up behind me.  Darn it!  Hamstring Guy is going to pass me.  I cannot let Hamstring Guy pass me.  I ran faster.  Finally, I couldn’t keep ahead anymore and the runner pulled up alongside me.  It wasn’t Hamstring Guy.  What a relief!  It was Dude in All Black- black jersey, black shorts.  

We ran together toward the finish line and he started to pull just a little ahead of me.  I let him go.  Guys hate to be chicked and it’s not like I needed to beat him.  Had I known at that moment that I was going to be beaten out of placing in my age group by FIVE SECONDS, I would have taken him down.  Live and learn.  This is how people become obnoxious.

It was a fun day.  Not my best effort overall (1 hr. 31 min...thank you, lack of directional confidence) but I could really see that my training is paying off.  (Thanks, Coach Travis!)  Looking forward to the next one!   

Oh, and did I mention Coach Travis won the race?  Minor detail.  He’s fast.  And also does not suffer from crazy hair after a race.  (Thanks, Katlyn, for the pictures and the ride.)

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