Saturday, March 9, 2013

Which Way Did He Go, George? - a race report

THIS was the theme of the day.

Today I did my first olympic distance tri.  I struggled with this race from start to finish.  Honestly, I struggled with this race starting the day before and will still be struggling with it all night on my ladder.

I worked Thursday night, getting off Friday morning.  I took a two and a half hour nap and got up to head three hours north to Orlando.  I was pretty much exhausted and running on fumes when I got there.  Before I left, I double checked my hotel reservation and found out they had lost it.  With a fair amount of negotiating, I managed to get the pre-paid reservation sorted out (or so I thought).  I picked up the bike from the shop where it had gotten some much needed love and headed out.  But I got there without further incident, picked up my pack with time to spare.

There was a quick conversation with DD about the temps.  It was predicted to be 48 in the morning and I have very little cold weather gear. It was decided that I should wear my windbreaker on the bike, socks, and gloves, plus tape over the vents in my aero helmet.  I headed to walmart to pick up a few supplies.. gloves in particular, then on to the venue to check out the course.  Packet pickup was an hour from the venue and the hotel was on the way.  Something told me to go check in first, so I did.

Never forget to match your nails to your bike.

At Walmart, I hit a wall... no pun intended.  I hadn't eaten and my lack of sleep was catching up to me.  In the space of a few minutes, I was crashing.  BADLY.  I figured I could eat at the hotel before I headed over to the venue.  I also snacked a bit in the car.  I got to the hotel and of course, reservation issues again.  By the time that got sorted out, it was after 8 pm and I was totally cooked.  The venue was still over an hour round trip with traffic and I realized I wasn't going to make it.  Adam, who is also trained by DD agreed to fill me in since he was there checking at the time.  I realized I was going to have to just wing it.  I decided I was OK with that.
Adam to the rescue.
I'll miss knowing someone at the races.
This is the last race before we both head home from Florida.

Morning of the race, the temps were bad but a couple of degrees warmer than projected.  The water was 68* and I immediately relaxed.  A couple of the spring fed pools in Austin are 68* and I have swum in them many times and this time I had a wetsuit.  I warmed up a bit in the water and then waited while the men's wave went off.  The sun was glaring off the water so visibility to the first buoy was terrible.  Also, the water wasn't dark... it was black.  You couldn't see your own arm.
Goofy pre-race mirror shot.  I was COLD!!

While I waited the three minutes, during which time my goggles fogged up over and over and over.  I cleared them the last time in the last five seconds before the start and they managed to fog over again before the gun.  The first time I sighted into the sun with my foggy goggles, I knew I was screwed.  I wasn't vision impaired.  I was totally blind.  I couldn't see the first wave, the buoy, the swimmer next to me.  I ended up having to tread water several times in the first few hundred yards and clear my goggles.  That got me to the first turn.

After that, I don't quite know what happened.  Between poor visibility and being largely alone in the water, I got totally disoriented.  I ended up WAAAAAY off course.  After the race someone told me that they saw this one person swim all the way off into the middle of the lake.  She looked at my face and said "OH! That was YOU!"


Once I corrected, I must have been swimming halfway well because I caught the men's wave before the second buoy.  After that, I was fine.  I had swimmers around me and I stayed on course for the second loop.

There was a really long sand run to T1.  That went fine except that I might have missed the chute into T1.  There were no excuses there.  Just tunnel vision.

After a painfully slow transition with jackets and socks and stuff, I headed off on the bike wet, cold, demoralized.  I had a tough time getting warm and getting my legs to come to the party.  The first loop of the bike course was far under what I normally produce in a ride.  I didn't see the turn off for the bike finish the first time around so I was hyper aware coming through the second time.  All of a sudden I pass a dude... for the third time.  Then I realized that I was doing the loop designated only for loop one... again.  I had somehow managed to miss the turn off.  I shouted to the volunteer "where is the finish?"  Actually I shouted that to four different volunteers at four different intersections.  Three said they had no idea, the fourth said "I don't know.  Back there somewhere."  My brain exploded.  I almost cried I was so frustrated.  I considered retiring if I couldn't find my way off that course.  I can't even tell you how many thoughts went through my head but one thing I did was funnel it all into my legs.  If I was stuck doing a third loop, it was going to be a fast one.  Fortunately, the course turned back on itself and I got myself sorted out.  I really don't know what went wrong or how I got back, but suddenly I was back on course where I started and headed for the finish.

T2 went fine and before I knew it, I was out on the run.  I was actually relieved that I was out on the run which is a first for me.  My legs felt good in spite of what ended up being a strong effort on the bike and I was able to let all the stress go.  I was almost home.  I was going to do this!  In about five minutes, my feet went numb.  After that, every step felt like I was getting hit with a hammer.  Not too long after that, my foot cramped and then later my calf.  I was not far into this run and I was in a lot of pain.  The pain built slowly throughout the run and the only thing I could do with my brain was shut it down.  I cleared my mind, blotted out the pain, focused only on keeping my back straight and my cadence high.

About 2/3 of the way through, I was battling some serious demons.  I knew that I was not going to die.  I was pretty sure I was not even injured.  It was just pain.  I dug in and kept doing.  I separated the battle in my brain from the rhythm of my feet.  No matter what I was thinking, I kept that cadence up, kept that back straight.  I finished the run totally spent.  I also finished the run in a pace only slightly slower than the open 5K PR I set last summer and faster than any other tri run before.  I hit and exceeded my pace goals.

There was, however, a brief moment when I thought I had gotten off course.... again... but I hadn't.

I also did not give up.  That was the biggest part.  A year ago, I would have rationalized giving up and backing waaaay off.  I didn't do that and it paid off.  I was really, really pleased.  I found the grit and tenacity that has been missing in some of my races.  I was proud of that more than anything.

I have had a lot of races where I felt like I didn't quite give all I had.  This was not one of them.  If the way I was hobbling around was an indicator, I got all the way to the bottom of the tank.

I figured I was out of the running for awards so I was on the massage table when my age group was announced.  Ooops.  Guess what?  My first Olympic distance was also my first trip to the top of the podium.  I won.  After all of that, I won.
Wow.  Add the podium and we are the same height.
Woman in third no-showed for awards.

I headed back to transition to pick up my stuff and found out that the race wasn't quite done with me.  My entire transition area was crawling with fire ants.  Ugh!!  I asked if anyone had ant spray.  Nope.  We shook everything out and I made sure I loaded the gear in the far rear of the Expedition.  I headed off, taking a few of Moss Park's finest with me.

I was back in time for a shower and a nap.  Too bad I couldn't sleep.  I chugged some coffee and headed back to Wellington.  I stopped at one of the travel centers and when I got out of the car, I was walking like a centenarian.  I was privately delighted that I could barely make it to the bathroom.  I did what I have so often failed to do.  I left it ALL out on course.

Of course, the downside is that I still haven't slept and I will be spending tonight braiding.  I will be thinking about that race with each step up and down.  I think the race is not quite done with me yet.
A little hint of gold.  Betcha it won't pass a bite test.

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