Sunday, July 01, 2007


AND THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST.
At least in the age group! Block 58 triathlon, swim 1600 meters, bike 36:80, run 7.1. Finish time: 4:35. Place in age group: first (and only).
I think I've mentioned before that eventually the numbers will favor you: if you show up at enough events, eventually you will win something. I was going to say show up often enough and you will be rewarded for your efforts and hard work, but that happens every time, regardless of the outcome.
Summary, the swim was long, the bike was long, and the run seemed shorter in my mind.
The day started at 4:45 am to leave by 5:45 am. The house was filled with skunk smell, since we seem to have a huge population around my neighborhood. They seem to be getting agitated more often though, judging from the nearly every morning wakeup smell. I'm getting sick of it really.
I left before it was fully light yet, something I don't like doing, mainly because of all the night critters heading back to their dens, nests, or whatever they live after a night of foraging. Two baby racoons darted across the road in front of me, on my street, in the city. Last week it was a deer. Go figure. As I entered the highway, I was also thinking I was glad they hadn't passed the law yet to let bars stay open and serve until 4:30 am because that would mean those idiots would be out and about now too.
There were very few cars on the road, but about this time I could see in my rearview mirror a car speeding toward me and another car in the lane to the right and ahead of me. This part of the road is called the "S curve" because it is an S shaped road they built to avoid knocking down "historical" buildings back when they started the highway in the 60s. Its really a pain in the neck part of a daily commute, due to the fact that it is slippery in the bad weather, and while the speed limit drops here, no one ever slows down. At a normal speed, your car will get pulled through the curves by momentum I guess, something scientific I'm not up on. This car, however, because it was speeding--probably 75 mph in a 45 zone--started losing control as it entered the first curve. I had seen it coming and let my foot off the gas, slowing me down and back from what I figured might be an accident waiting to happen. Just then, he loses it, hits the wall, bounces off the wall, hits the other car ahead of me in his lane, pushes that car across the road in front of me, that car hits the opposite wall, and the other car then crashes into her. OMG, was about all I could say or think. Unlike others, car wrecks do not cause me to gawk. I just want to get away as soon as possible. I quickly got out my cell phone and called 911 and reported the accident. I had been able to slide by and finally stop, but I was unable to back up and do anything. I could see that the people were moving, but I was sure they were badly hurt. I waited until some other cars came on the scene before I left, shaking. I have no training to help with medical situations, but luckily they were less than a mile from the hospital. And the police were already arriving as I was leaving.
That unnerved me enough that I missed my exit to head to the race and had to backtrack a few miles because of construction. Once I got back on track, I realized I had already lost about 15 min. because of this, and at that point a lot of emotional stuff started surfacing, leaving me a wreck as I drove to the race. I couldn't help but think about my dad whom I recently lost, and my own accident, so a lot of stuff that had been buried now welled up in me.
I continued on to the race, but really didn't know how things would go. I was sick to my stomach from seeing the accident. Not only did I feel very badly for those people, but I was angry with the speeding driver who not only injured that other poor, unsuspecting woman, but caused me to have a reaction to the whole thing too. I couldn't help but relate to her situation in my own accident, being totally blindsided by someone being irresponsible, wreckless, and careless. I hope she is okay.
By the time I got to the race, they had already closed the parking lot off (no reason to do this though) and made people park about a mile away. I was still so weak from the whole experience, I couldn't pump up my tires, but another nice person did it for me. I hadn't been able to eat anything though, and felt weak from that too.
I set up my bike and stuff in transition, and suddenly realized it was freezing out. Our hot, humid weather broke over the last few days, and while the day promised to be perfect, it was cold right now with a north wind blowing off the lake. The water temp was 67 degrees (wetsuits optional--very funny), but it actually felt like bath water compared to the cold ground and air.
At 7:30, they were supposed to have a mandatory pre-race meeting, but it was after 7:45 before that even happened. Standing around chatting and trying to stay warm, I met a woman, Margie, from Boulder, CO, here for a wedding, and Judy, a woman from my area, who had won her age group in the half IM at the last tri I was at. Both finished well ahead of me and won their age groups today too.
I also met up with Tom my spin instructor, who is this fantasticly fast triathlete. I warned him jokingly (and seriously) that he would win the race (he did), but I would be the last finisher (I was).
SWIM: The swim was supposed to be 1500 meters, in Muskegon Lake. The lake is right in the middle of the Muskegon River on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. The area we had to enter the water was a boat launch, so there was probably 100 feet of that big chunky-type gravel to walk on, and when you entered the water it was the same thing. I could barely walk on the stuff and stumbled and fell to my knees so just stayed down. Because of the river current, that meant we were going to have to swim against it on the first 2/3 of the swim. It was also VERY difficult trying to see the buoys way across the lake. They used the small ones, so they were barely visible with the wave chop. I thought I had found a landmark across the lake to sight towards, which appeared to be behind the first buoy. Boy, was I wrong! We finally started the swim, 30 minutes late, and heading out at first it seemed fun. You could feel the current, and it seemed effortless to swim. After a while, though, I started realizing no one was around me, and the gravel pile across the lake was way to the left. Not only that, the buoy was left of that! So I was about 100 yards off the mark right there. There were about 5 others in the same mess. Still, I continued swimming and working toward the buoy. Like I said, it was very hard to see it, due to the waves, which weren't that bad, but it was choppy, probably due to the wind. I felt good though, and finally had someone close enough in front of me so I could follow his bobbing head. He wasn't always swimming, just bobbing along or side stroking, but it helped me see a lot better! One tip to remember: if you see boats or kayakers that are there to help out and they are waaaay off to another direction you are facing, you are probably swimming off course.
The next buoy made us swim directly against the current, and the chop was worse now too. Still, I continued feeling strong and capable of finishing, and being able to sight better actually cut down on the time for that stretch.
The last leg in was with the current. Yeah! Now this was fun again. I could really feel myself getting pushed along. I can still feel the current as I sit typing. Its a weird sensation. So I was really doing well here, still watching bobber head, making my way closer to the end, when I hit a huge patch of weeds. No big deal for me luckily, but as I got closer to the ramp, I kept getting annoyed by a piece of "seaweed." I say that lightly, because I finally grabbed at what was in my face, only to find out it was my goggle strap! So I pulled them completely off doing that and couldn't see a thing after that. I have no idea how that happened, or why. I just jammed them back on my face, closed my eyes, did a few strokes, looked up, closed my eyes, etc. until I was done. Then I had to deal with the dang rocks again. I was swearing about that, I'll tell you! I could barely get out of the water it hurt my feet to badly. As soon as I hit the beach, I finally looked at my watch: 33:45. Hmm, better than I thought with all that. Hit the mat in 34:25, after struggling up the boat ramp of rocks and across the parking lot, and through the woods, just kidding. It was a LONG transition.
T1: No idea, just a couple of minutes I guess, not counting the run to transition. No big problems getting going.
BIKE: It was long, meaning it was longer than they said, which was supposed to be 35 miles. My computer said 36:80 when I finished. You start on an uphill, so I just spun up to the road and then kicked it in. Today, I think I found that extra gear. Once I got going, I was easily cruising at 16-17 mph, on the flats, and while my speed slipped several times due to either long slow inclines or potholes, I felt like I put in a good effort. A couple of guys passed me early on, making me feel good that I hadn't been last to this point, but I never saw them again after about a minute. The turns were well marked by volunteers or police, so traffic was fairly well controlled. No incidents, making me happy about that. While the traffic was light and fairly under control, I will probably never get over worrying about being out there, by myself, being last, and having just one stupid driver not paying attention. Still, you've got to have faith.
At 19 miles, a young woman passed me, and I was really surprised to see that. I figured she had probably done the sprint, already finished, and was out on a "cool down." Then a guy comes up behind me, and that surprised me too. He said he was the "sweeper,"meaning he was following the last biker--now me. He was going to tell the volunteers they could leave after I went through their stop. So not only do I get to have him hanging behind me for 17 miles, but I get to hear him tell people probably a dozen times "last biker." That did a couple of things to me: kept me moving a little faster so I wasn't keeping people out there any longer, but also distracted me some, knowing he was watching my every move.
Somewhere between 19 and 30 miles, he picked up another "sweeper" buddy, so now there were two people behind me. I was pushing quite hard, but I'll bet they were just easing down the road. At this point too, the road is quite torn up, pot holes everywhere. I was starting to see water bottles in the road and water reservoir sponges, and nearly lost one of my bottles too! I had to slow down here, just to avoid the holes and chewed up road. So I was probably down to 10-11 mph through about a half mile stretch when all of a sudden I see "the hill"--Blockhouse hill as its called. The blockhouse is an old stockade actually that was used for watching out for Indians way back when, so naturally it is at the top of this long, steep, winding hill. People had warned about it before the race, saying the road was bad, but saying it was at the "halfway" point. I had been watching for it forever it seemed, but once I hit 25 miles I forgot about it. Here, I did something I have never done in a race: walked my bike up that hill. When I got to 3 mph and hadn't geared down fast enough, I was on the verge of tipping over, so I quickly unclipped and hopped off. I was mad, and told the guys behind me I was mad and didn't like this hill here! As if they cared! They did say "you're doing great," but I didn't care, I still walked. I'm sure I lost about 5 minutes here, since the hill went on and upward for quite a while. When I could see it was finally leveling off, I hopped back on and was immediately met with a very steep and winding downhill! I was braking at 29 mph here and was very scared because of the hairpin turns and traffic. Yikes! At this point, I couldn't wait to be done. I was sick of the bike, sick of the hills on what they claimed was a "flat" course, and just tired.
So I was never more glad to get to 35 miles--only to still have to pedal on. And on. And still on. Come on, I thought, I want to be done! It was amusing though in the last few miles, with those guys behind me, because the runners out there were cheering us all on, like they were behind me! So they actually made me look good at the end. Finally I saw the last turn to the finish. Don was there waiting. I also saw a biker down--the woman who had passed me earlier. Someone said she collapsed, didn't crash though. No idea why.
Back at transition, I just was glad to finally be rid of my "escorts" and be done with the bike. I saw Tom, and he was already done with his race. I told him so! Then I had to head out to the run.
T2: Again, no idea and I don't care.
RUN: I'm assuming this was an accurate distance, but I never saw the 6 or 7 mile marks, so can only assume. Again, the first part was directly up the big hill we had to bike out to the main road. Don was there and said he would jog up the hill with me. Uh no. I think I'm walking this. Once I got to the street, I did start running, but only because they were holding traffic so I could cross the street. I felt obligated, you know? I was very thirsty though, and my water bottle for the run was frozen, so I had a hard time the first mile, trying to get my feet and legs working, trying to get water, trying to figure out where to go! By now, there was no one in front of me, and the volunteers were few and far between. They did have one lane marked off with cones, so I started running 5 cones, walking 1, until I got to the first mile and the first water stop. Here I filled my bottle with some more water and gulped another glass besides. Then trotted on, only to not know where to go! Don came by in his car to see how I was doing. I had told him to go get something to eat--and take a nap if he wanted! since I was likely to be out there a while. I told him I didn't know where to go, so he drove ahead a bit and then came back, telling me I was going the right way.
Before I knew it, I was at 2 miles, then 3, then 4. During this whole time, I was out there by myself, but never really alone. The local cop rode by me a few times and said he would check on me from time to time. That was really nice! And then a volunteer stopped ahead with water and gatorade for me and told me to just follow the road around the lake. That also was very nice! He did this 3 more times, doing traffic control at each of the intersections. Then he apparently "handed me off" to another volunteer. This guy, too was very nice. I again apologized for keeping them out there so long, but they were great! They never made me feel like they had anything else to do that day. And of course they encouraged me all along the way. When I got to 5 miles, I saw two marks for that and could only imagine which one was right. I hadn't looked at my watch since I started running and I didn't want to do it now. I didn't want the time factor to pressure me at all.
Somewhere between 5 and 6 miles, the volunteer guy comes walking toward me, saying he'll run with me a while for moral support up the big hill ahead. Yikes, another one! I have to wonder though if he just was trying to keep me moving a little faster. :) Up to that point, and after the cones disappeared, I was running 500 steps (and yes, I counted most of them!) and walking 100. Counting keeps me focused, and if I don't get crazed from doing it, usually keeps me moving forward more efficiently. Yet here was someone who was going to throw all that off by running with me, and up a huge hill besides! I made it to the top before I told him I was going to have to walk a bit. So I mentally went back to my counting and then started running again. The cop was coming by again and said I was almost done. Yipee! How much farther I really wanted to know but didn't ask. He stopped traffic again at an intersection and then held up cars so I could get within the coned off area again. Very nice touch.
Now I was back to the cones, so I figured it would only be about another mile and a half. I went back to running past 10 and then walking to 1 until I got to where I could see the last one and saw Don standing there. I just can't walk again I told myself. I had to keep going. Have to look good, you know? Actually, the walking wasn't because I was tired, just to get my heart rate down so I wasn't breathing hard. As I turned off the street to the downhill to the finish (yes finally a downhill!), the cop was there, Don was there, and the runner guy was there. I high fived them all and then realized the finish line wasn't at the bottom of the hill, but still another block off. Oh well, can't stop now. One thing about the run and all the volunteers out there helping me along the way, I probably ran more than I would have otherwise or wanted to today, but I also know I didn't run as much as I should have. So I broke my rule there about not walking, but I think I made it through just as well for the walking breaks.
As I made my last turn to the finish, a bunch of people were out there cheering me to the finish, calling out my name, and none of whom I knew! (I'm sure they were thinking, FINALLY, she's getting done so we can get our awards and leave!)
I really was able to pick up the pace the last 100 yards and finished strong. And that skunk odor was here too! Finish time: 4:35. I had predicted 4:30, so I'm sure it was that walk up the blockhouse hill that put me over!
And yes, I did take first in my age group, even if I was the only one. But I had fun, I worked hard, and I always go away learning something new from the experience. Not sure what that is yet, except this was probably the best race in terms of volunteers.

9 comments:

WADDLER26.2 said...

Great race report! Most excellent job coming in first! It doesn't matter how many in your age group--there were alot home in bed!

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Sounds like the volunteers were awesome. And good job getting it done. You only win 1st in your age group if you finish. So it takes more than just showing up. Don't forget that!! You ROCK. :)

Fe-lady said...

Congratulations! Last and first is great! That accident sounded awful to witness- I just knew you were going to say that you thought about your own accident as you drove away from there. Did you have to hang around for awhile to be a witness? I hope they put the guy who caused this behind bars for awhile. Too bad he didn't kill himself! (I bit harsh, but what an idiot to put so many people in harms way and then actually cause harm!)
Good for you for still racing...I don't know if I would have had the energy to do so after that.

bunnygirl said...

Wow, you did a fantastic job of holding it all together, in spite of witnessing that horrible accident and in spite of a lot of race course challenges!

You deserved that award for those reasons, alone! Good job!

Phoenix said...

Definately a course in overcoming adversity!! Way to get it done!! And you've got bling besides - Very awesome!!!

SWTrigal said...

Interesting distance. Just enough to make you suffer more than an Oly and slightly less than a half IM. Great job! Geez-the accident-that sounds awful..how truamatizing for you right before a race-thank goodness you were not hit! I have witnessed bad accidents right in front of me before and by the time it registered what happened I am 2 miles down the road, hoping someone stopped and dialing 911. Take care and be good to yourself..

Nancy Toby said...

GOLD MEDALIST!!!!! Well done!!! You kicked the butt of everyone who stayed home on the couch, most certainly!!!

TxTriSkatemom said...

you are so inspiring -- you just keep motoring on, and after such a shake=up on the way, too. You are awesome, and you got the bling,too!! congrats on what ended up as a great day!

See Zanne Run said...

first is still first ... no matter how many people in your ag! Seriously - you rock. That was a great report ... i cannot believe that accident you witnessed going into the race. i have witnessed a couple & it really shakes you up. but you arrived at the race, got focused & did your thing. you are an inspiration - i love reading about all your endeavors!