Yep, I went Olympic.
|Spoiler Alert...I finished.|
Thanks, Coach Travis!
I've done four or five Sprint distance tris in the past, but this year, I really want to do an Olympic distance. It's a big leap- it's double the distance. And I was determined.
But nervous, really nervous.
The fact that our Fourth of July festivities meant I would be racing after four (4!) hours of sleep didn't help calm my nerves any.
When I woke up at the unearthly hour of 3:45, I decided that I, first of all, would not think again about how little sleep I had gotten. Adrenaline would carry me through. Second, my theme for the day would be, "Race happy."
It's cheesy, I know, but, hey, four hours of sleep! One should not expect deep philosophical mantras after four hours of sleep. And there was a reason for the theme. Racing for me takes more of a mental toll than it does a physical one. I'm not trying to win, but I still get soooo very nervous! On the one hand, racing is a lot of fun, but on the other hand, there just seems to be so much riding on one event. All that training. All that prep work. All the hopes for a good day. I realized that if I focused more on being happy- not comfortable, by any means, but happy- I would do a lot better and give myself a reasonable shot at being the best I could be.
So "Race Happy" it was. 1500 m. swim, 23.5 mile bike, and 10K run- all happy.
As I set up in transition, I made instant Best Friends with several people (no idea of their names- that's how it goes in transition). The guy next to me- #99- was also doing his first Olympic and he was having similar, "What on earth was I thinking signing up for this?" thoughts. We assured ourselves that as long as we didn't drown, we'd be fine.
Coach Travis was there with me and several other Paragon Training athletes. (The rest of the group wisely chose the Sprint option.) He cautiously recommended a warm up run. Ummmm, no. Not today. I nibbled on my banana and eyed the endless line at the Porta Potties. So many athletes, so few toilets.
We all herded over to the swim start, and I listened intently to the directions. Sprinters: 3 orange buoys, then turn around. Olympics: Orange, orange, orange, green, green, green, then turn. Okay. I could do this. We were told to line up according to swim speed, slower swimmers toward the back. Another one of my instant best friends- Pink Cap Best Friend- said she swam a 2:30 100 and I said, "Great! I'll get right behind you." And at that very instant, I saw Coach Travis descending. Shoot. He'd spotted me. "Get up there and get in the water! You are not going to stay back here." So I did.
And into the water I went. The swim was actually a lot easier than I had imagined, particularly for the first half. I didn't push it too much, but I tried not to take it too easy. Orange, orange, orange, then green, (I started trying to do math to figure how many meters I'd covered...didn't work), green, green, and then I swam around the corner and started to head back. At this point, two things happened: I felt completely disoriented AND I got a cramp in my side. But I kept going, and I managed to stay on course. After passing green, green, green again, I saw the orange- I was almost there! I realized I had quite a bit of juice left, so I set my sights on a group of swimmers ahead of me and caught them and passed them. Then, I did that once more. Aaaaannnnddddd... the swim was over! I didn't drown! I didn't panic and back stroke! Coach Travis said it took me 35 minutes. A tiny bit better than I'd expected.
Orange Cap Best Friend came alongside me and said she was the one who kept hitting me on the swim. Good to know. She passed the entrance for transition and I hollered after her, "Wrong way!" She didn't hear, so I had a random person grab her. "Thanks!" she said, as we scrambled through transition. We both got on our bikes and headed out, but she dropped her sunglasses (or something) and I didn't see her again. The ride was beautiful: farmland and rolling hills (not flat- never believe the race flyer). Best Friend #99 passed me on the bike and we exchanged encouraging words. ("We didn't drown! We haven't fallen! Woohoo!") We rode up around Martindale, Texas, and I reached back several times to grab my phone out of my pocket to take a picture. Each time I remembered that I didn't HAVE my phone because I was RACING, not joy-riding, and I would tell myself to get my head in the game. The bike is my weakest event, but I'm getting stronger! Slowly but surely. I averaged 16.4 mph, definitely not fast by cycling standards, but a huge improvement for me.
When I got back from the bike, Travis was nowhere to be seen. I figured he was busy with the Sprinters. I pulled on my shoes and headed out on the run. Apart from melting down and panicking on the swim or flatting out on the bike course, falling apart on the run was my chief fear for this race. "Run happy, run happy," I told myself as I started running on my wobbly, lead-filled legs. THEN, I saw Travis. "I can't believe you're already done with the bike! You surprised me by at least 10 minutes!"
Great confidence boost to start off the run! Within about 1/4 of a mile, the side cramp was back with vengeance and I had a matching cramp on the other side. Lovely. But, "Run happy!" I took deep breaths and waited for the cramps to pass. Or the run to be over. Either one.
Fortunately, the cramps did pass and I began to find a pace- not too fast, but still running. I have to say that the weather couldn't have been better. I had been prepared for 90 plus temps with sun, but it was 10 degrees cooler and overcast. Not what anyone expected from Texas in July. I started to count the miles down every time my watch buzzed.
5 more miles. 4 more miles. 3 more miles. I only walked through the aid stations, and then I tried to walk quickly. I was doing pretty well, but I knew if stopped at all, I'd be in trouble. "Run happy." The run was a loop, so I circled back around for my second 5K. Coach Travis asked me how I was feeling. "Happy!" And I really was, even though I was working sooo hard.
I had thought that the 2 loop run might throw me off, but it actually proved helpful. I knew what was coming and where the aid stations were, so it kept me going for the last few miles. I kept counting down, and I told myself, as my feet started to both go numb and burn like fire, that the pavement was NOT in fact burning through the soles of my shoes, and that stopping wouldn't make it better. After mile 4, I realized my pace was dropping ever so slightly, so I determined to push harder. After another 1/2 mile, I asked myself if I could push any harder. Nope. I wasn't collapsing, but I was working about as hard as I could.
One mile left. I saw Best Friend #99 just ahead of me and he was walking. "Come on, only a mile left! Let's go!" "You go ahead. I'm done," he said. "Start running. I'll let you beat me," I told him. "Oh, I'm way past that working. I left my ego at home," he said, but he started running, a little ahead of me. (No guy is ever past that working, and no triathlete leaves ego at home.)
We ran toward Travis, who had a camera, and toward the FINISH. It was a crazy trail scramble for the last little bit, and the finish line was straight up a gravelly hill. I really was scrambling up it, but I crossed the finish line! My Garmin had me with a 9:47 pace on the (slightly short) 10K. (Official race time had me at a 9:07, but I think they listed the distance incorrectly. The course wasn't quite a full 10K.)
|So much steeper than it looks!|