First of all, I threw caution to the wind a little bit when huz and I were invited to a pool party yesterday. I drank four beers and ate potato chips and sat in the sun all afternoon, followed by a pretty healthy dinner at an Asian bistro and, in the aftermath of beer/sun/food, passing out on the couch by 9 pm.
I woke up a few times in the middle of the night for water, probably because I dehydrated myself a bit, and I was a little worried about race performance. In the aftermath, though, I never really felt like I was under-hydrated or under-fueled. I may just be a bit lucky there.
Woke up at 5 am, coffee, breakfast, normal routine. Mentally, I didn't feel nearly as nervous as I did for Tri for Joe, but I still felt like I'd been suckerpunched in the gut and like I could (sorry for the grossness) either pee, poop, or vomit all over myself at any given moment. So, therapist that I am, I spend the entire 40 minute ride analyzing my nervousness. I have all the cognitive tricks down and I KNEW, mentally, that there was no reason for nerves at all, but my gut never did really get the message. Luckily, breakfast stayed inside. My fear of dehydration was still hanging on, so I had three water bottles with me - one gatorade and one water for the bike, and one water for the drive up, during which I was so nervous I forgot to sip on said water until I was about 5 minutes down the road.
The race was really well organized (HFP FTW again); they were sharpie-ing people's numbers onto their arms and I noticed that everyone had a different number on their calf. As it turns out, that was for your age. I'm not sure why, although during the bike and run, I did appreciate knowing whether someone passing me was in my age bracket or not, so I suppose that's why. I'm not a super competitive person, but I guess we all have it in our nature sometimes. Also amusing - the woman with the sharpie asked me for my age and I blurted out "30" like it was nothing, even though I'm actually not yet 30. Guess I'm getting used to the idea, and the fact that in the tri world, I am 30. Then I clarified it by saying, "Well, I'm not yet. But I will be. Later this year. That's what you want, right?" Nerves only exacerbate my usual verbal diarrhea. She gave me a funny look, branded me with a nice big "30", gave me a chip to strap on my ankle, and sent me off to transition.
I was a little annoyed that I didn't get a great spot in transition, which would make me have to take a few extra steps to get there, but I got my stuff all beautifully organized. (That morning, I had double-checked every single thing in my bag, from helmet down to lucky stuffed turtle, no less than 3 times each.) Found a bench so I could do some of my PT prescribed stretches and was happy that my hip seemed much more compliant than it has recently. The one thing I was missing was a step for calf stretches, which I was happy to find in the kiddie pool. This gave me the extra bonus of simultaneously stretching and testing the water, which was really, really warm. A little dragon pose as extra encouragement for the hip, and then I noticed people swimming laps in the lap pool. YES! Warm-up time. It was a little chilly still, and I HATE cold water, so I was pleasantly surprised that the lap pool also felt like bathwater. Did a nice, slow 100 in the pool, got out, waited.
They lined people up by speed, starting with under 5:00. (HOLY EFFING CRAP.) I waited...waited some more...then they announced 9-9:30. On a good day, I've been doing 400 in about 9:20 at the gym, but that's been a recent development. By the time I stopped debating with myself and went to join the line, they were announcing 9:30-10:00 and I hurried up and joined in. Good thing, too, because the last group was 10 and over. I hate being in the "...and over" group. Happened during the thanksgiving 10k too. Nothing to make you feel like a slow kid than being told, "Yeah, and the rest of you, get in behind everyone else here!" :)
The pool swim was really, really organized. I wondered how it would work out in reality, if people needed to pass or be passed or whatnot, but it stayed pretty organized. They let us go one at a time (so I was waiting FOREVER), then when the last person reached about the middle of the pool, the next could go. Swim the length of the pool, come back down the other half of the lane, duck under the rope into the next lane, repeat times 8. The girl in front of me mentioned that she always swims 10:00 400's. I never caught up with her but I think we stayed about the same distance apart the whole time. I mostly tried to match the speed of whoever was next to me and tried (and mostly failed) to keep track of how many laps I had to go. Before I hit my last lap, I felt someone touch my ankle and realized the girl behind me (who hadn't actually been the one right behind me in line) was catching up to me, so I stopped for a few seconds at the wall and let her pass.
Swim was mostly uneventful. I tried to focus on my zen, my form (which went to crap at times until I reminded myself of things like reaching and rolling), and making it as strong as I possibly could. The photographer was positioned beside the last lane and as he zoomed in on me, all I could think of was, "Great, just what I need, a pic of myself with my mouth wide open like some retarded fish"...but it did help me really clear up my form for a few seconds!
Got out of the pool, fighting the woozy feeling that always hits me after swimming. The volunteers at transition were awesome. One was yelling at me, "She's smiling! She's breathing!" I didn't feel like I was smiling but I did after she said that, and I gave her the verbal agreement that I was, indeed, breathing!
Time to bike!! I think I transitioned pretty quickly, especially with no clothing changes like at Tri for Joe. (Swam in a tankini top and tri shorts.) Almost forgot my sunglasses, but putting them on my bike seat was a fantastic idea. Mounted the bike, and my right foot did NOT want to clip in. It took me several tries and some pleading with it out loud before I heard the satisfying click. Sucked down a gel and looked around for somewhere to put the empty. Settled on my sports bra. Cleavage is good for something.
The bike leg seemed pretty empty, which felt weird. I passed a few people right off the bat and then.....nobody. After a while I saw the frontrunners coming back, but even that took a little while. The course was way hillier than I thought. I remembered mapping it out and noting some gradual inclines that didn't look too bad; I didn't realize the first leg was pretty rolling. Then we had to turn, do a loop, and come back the same way we went out. The loop was a bit miserable. It was one of those deceptive gradual inclines that don't really LOOK like an incline, but make the ride a lot tougher. I had to slow down and at one point got some mucus in my throat that WOULD NOT GO AWAY. I tried some gatorade and that just stuck in my throat, too. I was still passing people, but hacking like a lifetime smoker. I finally felt better when I remembered seeing the incline on this part of the course when I mapped it out. THAT was why I was kinda sucking. And I remembered the other side of the loop was mostly downhill.
The hills were still a bit rough. Down the road, I saw a HUGE incline. One of those that looks like it magically goes straight up toward the sky. The voice in my head started cursing. As I got closer, I saw a police car and an officer. He was pointing to the left!! This was where the loop turns around - right BEFORE that hill!!! OH, THANK GOD!!!
The rolling hills sucked a little more on the way back, but I kept plugging along. I was very happy to only be passed by three people during the bike leg, while I probably passed at least 10. Everyone looked a bit stunned by the hills! Saw some of the runners starting down the run path, along with some of the obviously very fast, fit, athletic men starting the bike leg, and a group of men running. Took me a second to realize that was the men's duathlon. So that put me at about an hour into the women's tri, judging by my late swim start.
Transition time again. The downside was that you had to dismount, then walk/run your bike through grass allll the way around the transition area. My legs felt rubbery and running in my bike shoes is tough anyway. That was a long walk/half-jog. As I did, I realized that I was starting to bake. Oh, this run may be a bit of a pain. Had to take off the chip to put on the calf sleeves, which was annoying as all get out but necessary. Put on running shoes, ditched the helmet, drank some gatorade, nearly forgot to put my timing chip back on but grabbed it at the last second.
I skipped the water station right outside transition, but I did give the gel pack to a volunteer before blurting out, "Sorry, that was in my bra!" They all cracked up. The rubber legs sensation SUCKS, but I also know from experience that it goes away and that I'm usually running faster than I FEEL, so I kept at it. A lot of people were taking walk breaks. It. Was. HOT. The road out of the park was loooooong. Passed some people, got passed a few times. Goal was to just survive the run. I got to feeling relatively comfy after a while and told myself that I was going faster than I thought. I became more and more aware of the heat, though. I was very aware that my armpits were incredibly sweaty and I hadn't thought to re-apply deodorant after the swim. Wouldn't be a half bad idea next time! Sometime after one mile, we had looped around the park and had to go back in. There was a short but steep hill. I was determined to run up it, but my legs decided to start walking without my consent. Dang it. I let them for a minute, then ran again. I really really regretted skipping the water. There was another water stop further up and I took a small sip from a cup before dumping it on my head. The water was cold enough to shock me for half a second and I had to catch my breath before I could run again.
The trail in the park was really pretty. I would've enjoyed it more had I not been frying. There were a few moments of blessed relief in some shady spots, but most of it was wide open. I had to force myself to keep running. I could hear the announcer and thought it was almost over, even though that felt a little fast, and then found out we had to pass the transition point and run in another loop. Then we passed it again - I could SEE the finish line - and there was ANOTHER big loop to run around!! There was a woman who was kind of running with me at that point - she was walk/running and I would pass her when she walked, and she would pass me when she ran. Every time we passed each other, we'd try to muster up something encouraging.
Aaaand the finish line!! All I could do when they handed me water and a medal was to blurt out, "THAT WAS HOT!!" and then grab for my ankles. I felt like I may never catch my breath again.
Post-race was a really nice spread. I went straight for the watermelon and thought of my running buddy. :) They also had frozen yogurt (SOOO AWESOME!) and a PT booth where a nice PT stretched out my legs as I ate my yogurt - after I gave him the laundry list of current issues, of course. And they had potato chips and pickle spears. OMG. Pickles make a great post-run food. I'm going to start keeping them in my fridge. They're juicy, they're salty, they're refreshing.
I waited around for the latest update of times. I can't say I wasn't a little disappointed. I was optimistic, because overall, the race felt good. It felt like I'd given it my best...and the time they posted for me was 1:42:11. It didn't even beat Tri for Joe, which had a longer swim (although it had a shorter bike) and where my run was awful. I was hoping that between the swim and the run, I could beat that time by at least 15 minutes.
BUT....I was in 94th place. I was told there were 600 participants in the tri and I'm guessing at least half those were in the women's tri. It's possible people who started and finished after me could have a faster time than me - which is one thing I love about tris, btw. If someone passes you or finishes with you, you could still totally be beating them. You never know! But with my late swim start, I doubt it. So I'm guessing I finished in the top third. Even the people at the top didn't have that great of times, and I'm guessing the hilly bike and hot run killed us all a bit.
So, despite the numbers, I'm determined to be happy with this one. I enjoyed it, and I did my freaking best. I didn't give up. It FELT like a good effort and I'm happy about it. And, comparatively, I really didn't do so bad. The numbers actually don't mean a lot when they don't take into account the conditions, right?
Can't wait until they post the actual splits. I'm a little worried about the Oly next weekend, because this took quite a bit of effort. I also think that if I make myself, I can sustain that effort. I also hope to GOD that the weather is better because a 6.2 in those conditions might have about killed me. It also may be kinda fun because I'm putting NO pressure on myself other than to just finish....but part of me knows that's also how I usually PR!
I also will say that this race was for a great cause - Ovarian Cancer awareness and prevention - and doing a women's tri was a fantastic experience. SO many women of all different shapes and sizes, but all of whom have trained to do something that's no small athletic feat - it was really, really, really cool. I wasn't going to spend the money, but I *may* have to sign up for Tri for a Cure now.
Also, the volunteers were all fantastic and enthusiastic and the officers who kept the course safe and nearly traffic-free did a wonderful job. And finally, the race shirt is awesome! It's my first ever sleeveless race shirt, which is a great idea, and it's adorable. Techincal fabric too. I was bemoaning my lack of sleeveless running gear in this heat.
I'll definitely be back to do this one next year!