Tuesday, June 12, 2007

WEEKEND AT THE RACES--Race 2, Race for Recovery, Sunday, June 10, 2007, Monroe Michigan
Swim: 1000 meters
Bike: 14 Miles
Run: 3.8 Miles
Finish Time: 2:14:09

You might remember how I ended up signed up for two races in two days, how when the first race was to be reduced to a duathlon due to water issues, my eagerness (impulsiveness?) to do a triathlon led me to find this race and sign up immediately. Almost simultaneously upon receiving my confirmation for one race, I received the e-mail about the other race, that the water issues were cleared up, and the race was back on.

That being said, after the first race then, it was necessary for me to stay focused. I hustled home, unpacked some of my things from the first race, changed, showered, ate a big lunch, washed clothes, did household chores, made phone calls (to kids and Don who was already on the road to the same race), repacked for the second race, and then headed out the door. First I had to stop off at a graduation party. :(
So, it was after 4 pm when I was ready to head to the second race, in Monroe, Michigan, an almost 3 hour drive from home, near Toledo actually. I had printed Mapquest directions, but they were confusing. I had forgotten to print the packet pickup instructions, etc., so basically was driving blindly toward a destination I wasn't sure of. Other than some low back discomfort, I felt surprisingly good. As is usual for me after a long or hard workout, I am not particularly sleepy for a LONG time, so that too was good for the long drive.
After about an hour into the drive, Don called and said they had picked up their packets and were headed to dinner already (about 5:15). I mentioned my confusion about the directions and he also reminded me that packet pickup closed at 7 pm. Would I make it? Oh sure, no problem! But you need to take I96 to I275 to I75, exit 15, to the race site. It is the most direct. Don't go to your hotel first. So okay, I was nearing 275, found that, breezed through the heavy traffic there, saw the 75 sign, and thought I was on 75, but when I reached exit 15, it said Detroit Metro Airport. From past memory, I knew that I was still on 275. How did that happen?? But I got off anyway, turned right, and then knew this was not right. So I called Don back and was frantically telling him the directions he gave me were wrong! I was a little shrill actually. I finally said I would figure it out and headed back to the highway. I'm pretty used to getting lost and getting myself back on course, so I knew I would be okay, but it was the time factor I was worried about. For some reason, this race said no race day packet pickup, which is why I had to drive down the night before instead of the morning of, like I originally had planned to do. And that was going to cost me hotel money besides. So I had better make it!

I drove all the way to exit 2 and then got off the highway again because it said "Monroe, Michigan." Okay, I'm off, now what? The directions I had did call for me to get off here, which was also US 24, but as is typical for Mapquest, first they had me going south, then the directions said to make a "slight turn" to the north. How was that possible?? The road either goes north or it goes south. There isn't a choice to turn slightly north. I went about 5 miles towards town before becoming totally confused and heading back to the highway. Somehow, I had to find highway 75 and start over there. I finally found someone to ask directions of and was told to go one more exit and I would run into 75. I did that but it didn't happen. At least I didn't think it happened. There was some sort of detour (of course!) so that made it more confusing to me. So I headed back north, down 275, in search of 75. I finally saw a sign after about 15 miles that took me to 75, and once I got on that, I still had to go the 15 miles back to get to exit 15!

The state park was very close to the highway, thankfully, but getting into the park required a state park day or yearly pass, so I had to scrounge around in my purse for money before I could finally get in. I had totally forgotten to check the time, so when I pulled up to the race site and tried to find packet pickup, I was told: oh, we're closed. I quickly looked at my watch: it was 7:12. I cannot lie when I say my heart sank. And then I got angry. "I just drove 3 plus hours to get here. I couldn't get here any sooner. Now what am I supposed to do??" "Oh, we're having race day packet pickup after all." Sigh. It would have been so much easier if that had been the plan in the first place!

So I headed to my hotel, ate the food I packed for dinner, and settled in for the night and it was lights out by 10:15.

Up the next day at 5 am to head to the park by 6 am. They said transition would close at 7. I'm pretty sure that that time frame was instituted for the half IM racers, with not much thought to those of us doing the sprint, but after the packet pickup near miss, I decided not to take a chance and mess with their timing. Besides, I was up and ready to go!
When I got to the park, it never occurred to me there would be a HUGE line of cars waiting to get in: everyone had to pay the daily or yearly fee to get in, so of course that would slow things up. I already had bought a year sticker the day before and wished they had an express line for this, but I really don't think they were organized for this many people this early at all. They had 2 people taking money at first and handing out passes, and then a third showed up after about 15 minutes. Knowing they would have a big jam up in the first part of the day, it seems likely they could have had a couple hundred day passes made up ahead of time to save time to and have someone walk up and down the line of cars telling people what the rates were instead of: go up to the car, tell people the rates, wait for people to scrounge for money, take the money, walk back to their booth, make out the day pass, walk back to the car, put the pass on the car. Repeat. Even those few steps would have saved a lot of minutes in the long run. But hey, who am I to tell someone how to do their job? By the time I finally got through the line it was 6:30. I did, however, recognize a woman in a car ahead as someone I worked with, whose daughter was doing the half IM, so at least we made a connection, something neither of us figured would happen.
So now we only have a half hour to get to transition, get set up, and get out. I am lucky and find a parking spot right next to transition. A lot of people parked farther away, assuming they couldn't get closer, but I am always the optimist and tried to get closer first.
Here is the beach when I arrived. You can see what a beautiful day it was going to be again, and it was: low 70s, low humidity.
Here is the swim area, in Lake Erie. The water was calm and warm--75 degrees.

Then I had to get my packet and get body marked. Here again is where some better organization would have made things less frustrating. Because I saw a long line near what I figured was transition, I decided I had better get my packet first, which I knew from yesterday was over by the beach. I already had my bike and stuff out so had to hoof it over there with the bike, etc. and find a place to prop it up to go get my packet. And did they give you chips here? Noooo. We still had to go to another line to get those! While that isn't that unusual, the fact that one line was 1/4 mile from the other line was a little annoying. So back I went to get my chip. I decided first to rack my bike, since I had to go through transition to get there. Our bike racks were assigned by number, which is nice, but of course the rack I was supposed to be on was already full, with no one around to move anything out of the way for me. So I just decided to go to the next rack, numbers be damned, and got an end spot for my bike, just as I like. There were only about 4 bikes on the rack by then anyway, so I just kept a low profile in the corner and didn't say a word, and no one questioned me.

I set things up, and then went to get my chip. I see they are doing body marking in the same area, so decide to get that done first.

Me, getting body marked.

Then I go to get the chip. I wait and wait and wait. It is nearly 7 am now. And wait some more. There is a woman? behind me talking to me, but I wasn't sure until I really looked that it wasn't a man. Deep voice, short short hair. A little disconcerting to not be sure! Finally I get to the chips and: "we need to see your race number." "Huh? I have my number already marked. See?" "Doesn't matter. We need to see your bib." Sigh. Back to my bike, get my bib number, and this time decide I'm not waiting in any line, walk right up, get my chip, and leave. I got some dirty looks, but oh well!

Organizationally, as I've already said, a lot of things could have been done to make things go faster, but they also didn't take into account the sprint athletes, expecting everyone to be out of transition by 7 am, when the soonest we would start would be 8 am. I suppose it made it easier for volunteers, but it was still something that might have been done differently. After all, a whole hour before a race we were supposed to be wearing our wetsuits or carrying stuff around and not have access to anything we brought? It might be okay if you have someone with you, but I went by myself and only had myself to rely on.

I did finally meet up with Don and Bruce, one of his friends, both doing the half. They were going through their final preparations for the day. We wished each other well, and then went back to tending to our own things.

Finally, we needed to head down to the swim start--800 meters away (according to race director). And it was a long hike, I'll tell you, barefoot. I hate walking barefoot, so I pretty much hobbled my way down there. As I walked to the swim start, it occurred to me that Saturday's race had been on the west side of the state and today's would be on the east side. That was something!

The pros (about 5 of them) started the half IM first, then the men, then the women. The plan was to give the women a chance to be on the last 1/2 mile before they let us start, which might be at 8 am or later. So most of us did not totally suit up until about 15 minutes before the start, to avoid overheating. But I also stood in the water to keep my legs cool. The women would start the sprint, with 11 minutes before the men started, hopefully a good enough lead to avoid getting clobbered.

Finally, we were off! It was very shallow. After the day before, I decided to do the wading thing too, and even when I tried to swim, it was just too shallow, so I went back to wading. We were almost to the first buouy before it was deep enough to get a good stroke. Once I rounded the first buouy, I realized I had forgotten to start my watch, so I hit the start then. I figured I had lost about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, but would keep that in mind. At this point, too, my goggles started leaking. Not just a drop or a drip, but a fullblown leak. So every time I turned my head to breathe, I got an eyeful of water. That in itself doesn't bother me--if I'm in a pool or not in a race--but I was afraid of losing a contact and not being able to see on the bike, and I hadn't put an extra contact in my transition stuff. So I had to stop and adjust them. Not once but 3 times. By the time I got to the third buouy, I finally got that problem under control, but had also lost a lot of time. I was now in a pack of no-nothing swimmers. I call them that because they were constantly swimming across and in front of you--in the wrong direction even--butting up against my feet, smacking my feet, stopping short in front of me, and just generally making it difficult to work around them. I realize a lot of people were newbies, but it was something that was going to cost me time had I not been in with that pack. Someone actually came up behind me as I was on a downstroke and hit my elbow so hard with their head I got that funny bone jolting feeling! It wasn't a good swim, and it only got worse towards the end, so I was very happy to get out of the water! I took a quick look at my watch as I got on the sand and it said 25 something, so I added some time to be sure. Comparatively, a better swim time than the day before, and the longer the swim, usually the better I do. Comparatively.

Up the beach to the bikes then. I'm happy to say that this transition went smoothly, and I was in and out in just a little over 2 minutes. The first part of the ride would take us out of the park, past the gates, and through all the traffic still coming in. There was a sign I couldn't help but laughing about: Snake Crossing. LOL! That's a new one, but I was glad there weren't any on the road right then.

Once out of the park and the nice smooth roads, we were on a bumpy, rutted, back road, so I was right back out of the aerobars. I got passed a lot here by the men now getting out of the water. Some of those Zip wheels sound like a car whooshing past you they go so fast!
The bumpy road crossed the main road and was smooth again, so back in the aerobars. I was getting passed by a lot of men but no women. I cranked away, but again, kept the cadence high to save my legs. The course was flat, flat, flat! I don't think I have ever ridden that many miles on a flat course, including Saturday's race. We have so many hills where I usually ride. That helps keep the speed up and helped keep me in the aerobars most of the way. My back and neck didn't bother me at all.

I didn't really even come close to passing anyone until after the first turnaround, even though I was keeping up a fairly good pace, better than Saturday even. Surprisingly, my legs felt good. I had stretched good and iced them down on Saturday, so I had no stiffness, and they didn't even feel dead. (or maybe I didn't work hard enough the day before??) Once I passed this woman after the turnaround, it was on to the end, so I decided to try to pick up my speed for the rest of the way. I pretty much kept the pace up, but didn't kill myself, until the bumpy road, when that slowed me down again. Shortly after re-entering the park, I saw a guy walking his bike, looking like Jimmy Neutron with one of those weird helmets, with a shredded back tire. Too bad dude!

Heading back to transition, here you could see runners going out AND finishing, but they did have this set up nicely so the bikers and runners did not intersect, like the day before. Get to the dismount line, hustle off the bike, into transition, and go to put my running shoes on and find they are soaked! I had hung my wetsuit on the fence right above my shoes! Oh well. On with the show. Got the shoes on, grabbed my visor and some water, and I was off again. This time, my feet didn't feel nearly as bad as the day before. They were giving out water on the run out, so I did stop a minute for another drink. I hadn't drank ANYTHING on the bike and didn't want to risk getting too thirsty.
The run course was on a walking path, and at the beginning it was totally sunny, so I worried about that. We came to another water stop, which was also a water stop for the half, so I decided another drink and a brief walk through wouldn't hurt. Drink, swallow, and start running. This was probably only 1/4 mile out, so I didn't want to waste a lot of time here. The path then became shady, so it was very comfortable from there on out.
The path wound through the park through the dunes, and next to two lagoons that were used for fishing apparently. They smelled horrible though! Eww. I was glad it wasn't hotter for that reason alone. It was quite sickening really. On and on I trotted, getting passed by only men. I passed the mile marker signs for the half: 8 miles; 5 miles; 4 miles; 2 miles. I started figuring they had to be doing loops with that sequence, but I never really knew where I was on my own run until I finally hit the first mile marker. Seemed like forever too! Grab some water, drink, swallow, run. That's what I decided to do. My legs really didn't feel bad, but I knew I was only moving at a snails' pace. Oh well, I knew for sure there are people behind me, and not just men, but at this point something that happened near the finish line didn't occur to me.

When I got to the second mile, I was starting to get a little crazed, thinking to myself, I am glad I am at least half way! I still was feeling okay, all things considered, and again, comparatively to what I thought I might feel like. I wasn't tired, I wasn't thirsty, I wasn't hot. I just wanted to stop moving and do something else! Just keep moving, I told myself. Another water stop and 3 miles was just ahead. From here, I could actually see the last part of the path leading to the finish area. I could also see a woman ahead of me, walking, who had passed me right around the 1 mile mark. I knew she was a lot younger, but I still decided it was worth trying to pick her off. At least I could pass someone! But she would walk, then run, then walk, etc. I still wasn't running fast enough to catch her, but I was getting closer. There was a bridge to cross, then the park road, then the path led to the parking area, and then a short way from there to the finish.

I was getting closer to her and actually got within about 20 feet when all of a sudden I sense someone coming from behind and actually feel air movement as they were passing. It took only a moment before I realized the woman who had just passed me was in my age group! What do you know? I wasn't the last one in the age group out there! But I had to act right then to try to catch her, so I actually sprinted to the finish, coming up short by 5 seconds behind her!
Normally, I wouldn't let it bother me, but this time I knew had I only worked a little harder the whole way, had I not assumed I was the last one out there in the age group, I might actually have taken third place! But alas, it was fourth again. Still a bridesmaid.
And here's what I missed out on!
At the finish line, they gave us ice cold dripping towels and medals! Finally, I get something for doing a triathlon!

Then I had to get right to my bike and things to pack up and go back to the hotel to check out. That worked very conveniently, since checkout was at noon, and it was 10:30 now, so it gave me plenty of time for a shower before I came back to watch the guys finish their race. Cath, the woman I work with, was also waiting for her daughter, and was kind enough to snap a couple more pictures of me:

Me, the pack mule, with my backpack, bike, and camp stool.

Me, after the race with my medal.

Then it was back to the hotel to change, shower, pack up, head back to the park to wait for the guys. I was really not wanting to hurry out of the shower this time. All in all, I did feel good, not beat up, and not particularly tired. The good weather was a big reason, I'm sure. I never got overheated and didn't feel sapped from the heat.

Back at the park, I waited near the finish line for the guys. It is always so much fun to just sit and observe and listen to all the great music they always play. The announcer was keeping a running tally of finishers: Michigan v. Ohio, so that was pretty funny (since they are such rivals in college athletics), with Indiana a distant third.

I was keeping track of the time, trying to figure the time they would start coming in. I figured at least 6 hours, and there was still an hour to go. It was so pleasant sitting out in the sun with the comfortable light breeze blowing. I had brought a lawn chair just for this purpose. Its always amazing too to watch the finishers. Even in the 5 hour time range they looked pretty good.

The daughter of my work friend came in, in her first half Ironman and first ever triathlon, in 5:50! That was pretty amazing. So her mom was thrilled, of course.

I was standing, congratulating her, and not yet back to my seat when I see Don coming! Woo hoo! Under 6 hours! Then Bruce, and a few minutes later Tom. So here's a picture of the 3 Amigos below, all age group winners: Tom, 1st in 55-59 AG; Don, 1st in 60-64 AG (5:55:38); Bruce, 2nd in 60-64 AG (5:56:10). All under 6 hours. Don said he just had to take Bruce on in the last mile when he came up behind him and went on to beat him by mere seconds. Tom said he made sure he ran the whole way to get in under 6 hours, and his time was 5:59:00. Cutting it close!

It was a beautiful day, a beautiful venue, and a fun race. I had another great day and am glad I did both races. I don't feel any worse for the wear, learned a lot, and had a great time too!


Phoenix said...

Whoo Hoo! After a rough beginning (that trying to get your race packet adventure sounds soooo stressful! I'm glad it worked out!), you had a great race.

I feel you on getting passed at the finish. You keep asking yourself - what if? Oh well, think of the ego boost you gave her when you let her pass! That's the real reason they beat us, because we were being altruistic.

Congrats on two great races! You are a machine!

Flo said...

Wow, 2 great races in a row. How awesome!! You really have to be feeling strong! I know I always feel invincible after something like that:)

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

It's cool you got a medal for the race.

You really did awesome, especially for the second race that weekend.

Useless trivia - I'm originally from Toledo, so apparently, you were racing in my old stomping grounds. Of course, I've never raced there (hardly ever go back...but still...). Makes me wonder if I shouldn't have gone to visit mom and joined you. Maybe next year...

TxTriSkatemom said...

great race report -- I love hearing all the details! Makes me feel like I was there. I had to laugh about the goggles leaking though -- I lost my right contact somewhere in the swim and did the whole bike course with just one good eye! I ended up taking the left one out in T2 and using my glasses for the run.

Nice medal!

Fe-lady said...

Yeah...next time you will get the "bling"! The three amigos are pretty studly looking and you are looking mahvelous yourself!
Looks like you had a pretty day too...!
Next time...DONT LET ANYONE PASS YOU!!! :-)

WADDLER26.2 said...

What an exciting week-end. You did great. That's a memorable 2 races

Cindy Jo said...

Great job! Talk about grace under pressure with all the registration b.s. ...

It was great meeting you Saturday! I look forward to seeing you at the races. I hope you plan on doing Reeds Lake in September!