Monday, March 30, 2015

Roaches, flying bugs & roadkill - a race report.

Top that for a race report title! Ha!

I just participated in the 4th annual No Label Triathlon in Katy, TX. The race director and organizers did an awesome job.  It was a very well run event. The title has less to do with the actual race and more with my personal experience. 

When I told my husband the sequence of events for the morning, he shook his head so many times, I thought maybe he thought I was messing with him. Or maybe he thinks this story solidifies that I (and participating in this type activity) is just nuts. Three sports in one shot is not enough but having to endure the extra "fun" stuff? He's all smh. Ha!

This is officially my second ever triathlon.  My first was the Spa Tri in Bastrop, TX last fall (2014). The blog was in the abandonment stage at that point so it didn't even cross my mind  to write about it (or even look at my results) until now.  I'll have to back track and do a recap on that one but I've slept some (not much) since then.

Back to the No Label Tri this weekend...yes, this one was a little more nerve racking for a few reasons.  For starters, I was going at it completely SOLO.  No one there with me before, during or after.  Secondly, two separate transition areas.  The second of which, you would arrive to from the bike, sight unseen.  Third, a pool swim snaking lanes (no clue what that was going to be like) plus the added anxiety of swim altogether.

Pre-race, I felt a little nervous but mostly ok.  There are many things to think about and remember and having picked up my race packet on a Wednesday, I had extra days of questions swimming in my head to deal with.  What do I wear?  Two transitions?  Shuttle?  Where do I leave my flip flops and keys? And finally when looking closely at the weather...what do I wear on the bike?  I'm going to be freezing cold and wet!  (Wussy)

To my first tri, I wore a one piece swim suit with my tri shorts over it.  I had no issues and was glad to not have to change or pull any pieces on or off.  I thought about doing the same but wanted to try two pieces this time to see if I like that better.  I found a great tri kit top (on sale!!) and decided to give that a shot with existing tri shorts.  I brought a run jacket to throw on for the bike to cut down on the cool wind and an extra towel to try to get excess water off.
My T1 set up
I got there very early (VERY) because I was still unsure about the shuttle, double transition situation. It turns out, you drive to the high school (where the natatorium is), set up your TI and hop into your car and go to the brewery (the finish) to park and drop off your T2 bag.  No T2 set up in sight...just a guy and a pick up truck collecting bags.  I decided to keep my phone and keys with me (because visions of my keys falling out amongst a sea of white bags in the dark were haunting.)  The shuttle bus takes you back to the pool and access to  T1 was still available until 6:45 (I think I arrived at 5:15?) so I had plenty of time to check things out.

It was a cool 50 degrees so I kept my jacket on as long as possible.  I went to check out the pool and learned that we'd be lining up by time.  This meant that the super fast people knew exactly where to be and everyone else just winged it.  Every 5 seconds, a swimmer would jump in and go.  You'd swim 25 meters up the first lane then under the rope and 50 meter laps each in the next 5 lanes and 25 meters in the last lane and out of the pool.  It seemed logical and very civilized.

Calm before the madness began.
Right before 6:45, I dropped my jacket and flipflops off at TI, stopped at the potty (I have little kids okay?  This is what we call it right now) and walked to the back of the pack where I logically thought I belonged.  One of the advantages of being back there was the ability to observe exactly how this all plays out and visualize your personal performance.  I had visions of an easy warm up of 25 and then focusing on breathing and calmly zipping (not racing, although it's a race) through the other lanes and having a mad sprint for the last 25.  Ya.  Right.  I'll get back to the reality of that in a sec.

But first, the disadvantages of being a slower swimmer.  More time to stand around.  More time to realize you're hungry again.  More time to watch how the fast swimmers do exactly how you visualized and then how the middle packers got all mixed up and were crashing, swimming over each other and bumping one another.  More time to worry about that.  Also, another fun thing...with all the splashing in the pool, the water started to fill the drains surrounding the pool which apparently is where the roaches live?  Ugh.   Those suckers were not too thrilled about getting pushed out.  If you know anything about me, you know I can deal with just about anything except THEM.  Ick, ick, ick. I've had a horrid CreepShow type event occur to me and in I've become less jumpy and more calm about how to deal but I am also extra vigilant to keeping my distance.  Ick again.  Those f&%#$ers were everywhere!  All shapes and sizes too. Ick, ick, ick!!  I was at the edge of the pool.  I'll spare you too much detail just know that a ninja like roach managed to make it half way up MY THIGH.  I didn't jump in the pool or scream. I just swatted it away with cat like reflexes and kept my cool.  I think I should get a special medal just for that.  Gah.  So gross.  See what you missed out on fast swimmers?

The Swim: An hour of waiting, observing, getting hungry and then losing appetite altogether and it was finally my turn.  The first 25 went as I imagined.  Nice and smooth and no panicky breathing like I worried about.  Then under the ropes for the first 50 and I get to a dude who I need to pass. However, he is taking more than half the lane and oncoming traffic is taking the rest.  I try to swim as close as possible to him but am afraid of getting kicked in the face.  I tread water and stick my head out waiting for the opportunity.  Before I know it, I'm at the wall.  Time to go under the rope and do this silly dance again.  Maybe 5 strokes and doggie paddle, tread, stall.  Swim a little and do it again and again and again.  I could never get into a rhythm which meant every time I did swim correctly, I was gasping.  My legs were burning from all the treading so I had to go on my back.   What a hot mess of a swim.  I got from one end to the other by NO athletic merit.  It wasn't until the end of the last 50 (at the wall) where I was finally able to pass.  The last 25, free and clear and I booked it out of there.
T1 before the race

T1: I had no watch with me so I had NO CLUE what time I actually went in and came out of the pool. Ditto with transition.  I wasn't racing for time so I didn't bother with worrying about how to track my performance.  On a last minute whim, I brought my old Garmin 305 and had it set up on my bike so at least I could see if I'd get close to beating my "time trial" from the previous weekend. I know I didn't hustle as fast as I could but I didn't think I took THAT long.  Drying off took a little longer because I wanted to put that jacket on.  I think that's what hurt me the most.

The Bike: The bike was pretty good.  Uneventful for the most part.  It was very flat but windy at times.   During a headwind, I was pushing pretty hard and a bug flew in my mouth. Lovely!  Another hit my sunglasses a few minutes later and I couldn't help but think of my dad's advice to never ride without eye protection for that very reason.  I passed about a dozen or so people and got passed twice. On one of my pass attempts, I had picked up quite a bit of speed.  I was approaching a rider who was in the middle of the lane and I called out that I was going to be "on his left".  He moved over and right went he did, I noticed a poor possum that didn't make it on his trek across the road.  My immediate decision dilemma after cursing:  Avoid roadkill and potentially lose control on gravel and wipe out or brace myself and go for it and hope to not lose control and wipe out.  Ugh.  I chose the latter.  I may or may not have closed my eyes for a few seconds as I ran over the roadkill.  I got out my saddle because I felt maybe I'd feel less?  Ugh. Anyway, I made it and it didn't hurt it one bit, I assure you. Ha.  But ick.

T2
T2: I made it to T2 in one solid piece and was ready to get my run on.  But first, finding my bag.  Since I had a late start at the swim, there were many bikes already in T2.  They were set up by numbers so I had to squeeze my bike in to a spot and find my bag tangled up with those from the people who had already been through there.  This made it a slower process plus I made the mistake of undoing my lose wet bun for a ponytail under my visor.  I should have just left it and thrown the visor on.  Oh well, live and learn.

The Run: The run was an easy, flat out and back.  I was trying to run as fast as I could right out of the transition but I learned quickly that my legs decided to go back to bed.  From the knees down, I was worthless.  Foot pain and sore ankles made it feel like my feet were flopping onto the pavement. Then, my shins started getting really tight.  I mean VERY tight.  So tight they were burning and felt like the muscle would pop through the skin.  Shin splints or maybe my previous injury returning?  Not too sure.
I should have stopped to stretch everything out but I was SO mad that a simple 5K was keeping me from finishing strong that I pushed through. To add insult to injury, I never started or stopped my Garmin at the right times or forgot altogether. Eesh.  I guess because I am not using consistently, I didn't think of it.  Again, at the time, I wasn't all that concerned about it.  I just wanted to finish.  I was hoping that after the first mile, this ridiculous pain and discomfort would subside. But nope.  It hung out with me until the end.  I began rooting for those on the other side of the route "you look great!" "almost done! stick with it" "you got this!" and thanking all the volunteers and police along the route.  It helped distract me from my pain and I know it helped them.

I refocused and thought about some emotional events of the week and about the families that had to lay their loved ones to rest.  Their stories so different but yet completely tragic and heartbreaking.   It hurt so much to think of that and the loss their families have to endure that I forgot about my legs. My legs seemed so trivial.  I internally expressed my gratitude for all my blessings. My family, my health, my life.  Every day is a gift and here I was about to cross the finish line when I snapped out it just in time to raise my arms for that photo finish.  As I write this, I'm sad again thinking of Louis' and Rafi's families.  Heros in their own rite who are gone but will never be forgotten.   Strong, brave and kind both them and their families.

I had loosely thrown an approximate finish time of 1:40 as an estimate when talking to my husband the night before.  In case, he was able to come out with the babies to the finish, it would help him gauge time.  They closed the brewery parking area at 7:30 so I texted him before the race and told him to not bother coming.  It'd be a mad rush for him to get there by then and then have to wait too.  I wasn't even in the pool by 7:30!

Here are my results, finishing at 1:35:59, it was better than my rough estimate.  Coming in 13 out 14 in my age group made me look at the results of this (and the last race) a little closer however.   I was surprised to see how well I did on that first race without preparation or trepidation! On this race, LOTS of room for improvement.  Getting my transition act in order alone could have bumped me a good 5-6 spots!  The swim I expected much worse considering how I felt.  The bike I expected a little better but not having an accurate start time to track didn't help.  And the run...shocked it wasn't more like 13/14 minute miles!
All in all, a good race to take notes and give me a game plan on what to work on going forward.   Next up, an indoor tri at the Lifetime gym in Katy in April and in May, the Springs Back Tri and possibly the RockinR Tri in Gruene, Texas.

I'm looking forward to more adventuresome races and experiences just hope they involve less creepy crawlies!

Happy Monday all!!

Valerie