IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE RUN.
LANSING LEGISLATURE RACE REPORT--Sunday, August 11, 2007.
I ended up doing a sprint tri today, sort of a tag-along race, the type where there is a sprint attached to a longer distance race. Since Don was insistent on doing a race BEFORE IM KY in two weeks, even though he should be tapering, that's what we did this weekend.
The last time we did this race was 3 years ago. From what happened today, I am starting to think we have a jinx on this race. Three years ago, it was scheduled to be an innaugural race, with a half IM and a "sprint," although the sprint distances were questionable back then. It was a bad year for me (as if any year isn't??), having sprained my ankle badly that year too, badly enough that by August, after it happened in January, it still wasn't healed. And it was the year David died, so I was going through a lot of depression, drinking too much, training hard, but not with my heart in it, having done only 1 other tri that season up until then. So I went along to do what I call the tag-along race. Only, the weather was inclement that year, with fog causing more than a 2 hour delay, resulting in a huge modification of the race courses. So, instead of having a half IM and a sprint, everyone had to do the same distances: 1.2 mile swim, 32 mile bike, 6.8 mile run. I don't know what you call that, but it wasn't an Olympic distance or a sprint. A long course, maybe? And it was a no wetsuit swim. Fortunately, my training was good enough that I could do the distances, but the run was a huge problem not only because of the course (mainly trails), but also because of my foot and ankle problem. I did A LOT of walking. But I finished.
So of course I was hesitant to sign up for this race again, but I was also itching to get out there and see what I was capable of. This year, it was an Olympic distance and a sprint. Reading through the course description, mainly the run course, I was somewhat reassured that it was a mainly flat run, with no trails. That proved to be deceiving, to say the least. More on that later.
We spent the night at a hotel near the race site. The race site is at a state park that reminds me more of a farmer's meadow or field with a nice lake posititioned in the middle of it. Quite pleasant actually. The hotel was fine, but the bed was not. I could not get comfortable sleeping for hours, tossing and turning, and at 3 pm I finally gave up and turned to the bottom of the bed and was instantly comfortable. I have issues with the shoulder that was broken last year, and last night it was bothering me enough that not only could I not sleep, I had a horrible neck and head ache besides. Until I changed positions. So the alarms go off at 5:20 am. You realize then how much sleep I got!
Regardless, I got up, got ready, and headed out to the car, noticing at once that it was windy. Dark and windy. Those two things really don't go together. In all my years of pre-dawn running, the only time it is windy when it is still dark in the morning, means a storm is coming in. Sure enough, within a few seconds I saw a flash. I thought it might be my imagination and dismissed it. But when Don came out to the car, he said he thought he saw lightning. And just then, another flash. Lightning! Not good!
So here we go again. Could it be? A repeat of 3 years ago? As we drove to the race site, it also started raining. First, big drops. Then a steady rain. But we rode out of it. Don was optimistic, saying it probably had already passed through the race area, but I am a wannabe meteorologist, and predicted that storms (in our area) do not usually go east to west. They more often than not go west to east. The race was east. We were coming from the west. That told me we were due to get the same weather--SOON.
Sure enough, by the time we reached the race site, it was lightning and starting to rain. I didn't even want to think of the consequences of what might happen again! We went ahead and got our packets, but I decided to wait to put my bike in transition for a while at least. It went from drizzling and lightning to raining hard, blowing, and lightning a lot. I finally, reluctantly, took my bike to transition, securing a spot by the fence, so I didn't have anyone on both sides of me. Then I went back to the car to wait out the time until they decided what would be done because of the weather.
Don went ahead and took all his stuff to transition to set up, but I just took a relaxed approach and sat in the car, organizing my stuff there. Finally, at 7:30, I decided I would take the rest of my stuff to transition. There was still a steady rain coming down, and they were saying the race was starting on time. As long as the lightning had quit, I didn't see any reason NOT to start on time. I mean, we were already wet, so what was the big deal?
In transition, I reorganized my stuff, from the plastic bag I had found to put my shoes and stuff in, to finally just separating my bike and run stuff and taking my swim gear and going to the prerace meeting. It was still raining.
When 8 am rolled around, they had decided to delay the race 15 minutes. (here we go again was all I could think!) Of course, there was a no wetsuit swim, so basically we stood around in the blowing rain, trying to keep warm. Keeping dry didn't matter to me, but I can't tell you how annoyed I was with people with umbrellas that I kept getting rammed into with. Some people were SO stupid as to walk around with the point facing you. Okay, duh! I want to be speared at this race.
It stopped raining just before 8 am, but was still heavily overcast and cool. Finally, the Olympic men started, then soon after the women. The sprint women 35 and up were next, about 15 minutes later. They had changed to a wetsuit swim at the pre-race meeting, but I decided to forego that since I figured it might cause added trauma to my ankle trying to get it off, but did decide on a neoprene ankle brace for protection.
It was a 500 yard swim, easy enough, right? I thought so, and seeded myself up front with my wave. I figured the speedy ones would start after us, so I wanted to get this over as quickly as possible. When we started, I felt strong and not nervous. I swam well, almost until the turn around when I got kicked. I kept going. Just then though I got kicked again in the chest. WTF? The same woman who had kicked me decided to turn over on her back and do a swift kick routine to keep going at the same pace apparently, with me in her wake. "Oh sorry" was all she could say when I had to stop short after getting kicked hard enough that I took in a mouth of water. And do you think I could get rid of her after that? Nooo. She hung with me until almost the end. I am puzzled as to how people swimming badly, or rather non-swimming, are so fast?? And then I realized my mistake, trying to keep her away from me. I realized then I had swam right into the next wave, instead of around them like we were supposed to! So I got clobbered again and then had to swim back and around the men's wave to get to the finish! Yikes! Not the best swim. Fortunately, the beach and transition were very short, but I still took it easy and tested the ankle before finally breaking into an easy jog.
T1 was agonizingly slow. I had to remove the wet ankle brace and put on a dry one. I knew the wet one would just irritate my skin, so I felt it was necessary. The problem with the transition here was that as luck would have it, nearly everyone who exited the water with me was on my bike rack, and the majority of them were newbies, so basically they were in the way no matter which way I turned. I finally got going on the bike, realizing another woman I knew to be in my age group was still in transition. Yowza! I finally got ahead of someone! Now to hold her off on the bike and run!
The bike was probably the shortest distance I have ever biked in a triathlon: 12.6 miles. It was more than 2 miles to get out of the park though and then onto the surrounding roads. I pushed hard from the beginning. I came to the sudden realization about the short distance and decided to ride as hard as I could. Despite this, there was a young girl ahead of me on a mountain bike, leisurely pedaling it seemed, yet it took forever to pass her! So I dug deep, as deep as I could and finally passed her before getting out of the park. It was then again that I decided to ride as hard as I possibly could, because it was definitely going to come down to the run in the race, who would place and who would not.
I wasn't sure of the course exactly because I couldn't remember from the 3 years before, but once we got going, I remembered. It wasn't flat at all. It was a series of steep rollers, even while it was an out and back course. So imagine my surprise, just as I was nearing approximately the 5.5 mile mark when Don came by me, on an uphill. However, we then turned a corner and it was flat again and when I realized he wasn't pulling ahead of me like he should have, I again made a conscious effort to pass him, digging deep to do so. Here was a moment in triathlon history, not to be forgotten by me: I passed him! I had to, there was no choice, right? Either that or risk a drafting penalty. He laughed but came back as expected by the time I reached my turnaround, at 6.3 miles. That was okay. I had him there for a minute.
At the turnaround, it was then I was glad I was only doing the sprint. While I felt good on the bike, and felt I could push hard (for me) the whole way, it was crazy out there, with the sprint and du men passing like the wild beasts that they were, with one of them nearly clipping my wheel on a pass. And then there was the scary spot near the end, when there was a bunch of us all pushing hard into the last few miles, me trying to pass a young woman, two guys behind me, a car coming, and a car going. The stupid young guys yelled at us to let them pass. We were as far right as we could go! Okay, right. I'll just stop while you go by me! I yelled back for them to go around. It wasn't just their race after all. There was nothing we could do.
We were back into the park now and I dug deep again to finish in a respectable time. The young woman I had worked so hard to pass on the road several times came by me now, barely looking like she was putting any effort into pedalling, yet I could not catch her again. I was working as hard as I could but she got away for the final time. We had been playing cat and mouse since the turnaround, and I found out after the bike portion, she was on the same bike rack as me, right next to me in fact! Go for it, was all I could say back at transition.
T2 was a little faster, since all I had to do was get my running shoes on after taking off my helmet and reracking my bike. I grabbed a drink of water on the way out, after deciding not to bring my water bottle. It was still very overcast and while it was warm, it just didn't seem that hot yet. I hadn't drank anything on the bike, yet I didn't seem thirsty either.
The run started on the beach, but on grass, and we had to run up through the picnic area to the paved trail to the parking lot and then back on another trail. I was a little disappointed here, to learn there was going to be so much trail running. Basically, it was running through a field with the only "trail" marked by a chalk line and whatever grass was beaten down by those who had passed through before.
Fortunately, it wasn't too bad, but it definitely was going to slow me down. There were too many uneven areas where I felt I couldn't just plow through without being cautious. It was a narrow clearing, so of course people got jammed up trying to pass. I was a little concerned someone would knock into me and cause me to fall, but fortunately they just went around, some grumbling of course. I couldn't take a chance stepping off the "path." That was probably about a 1/2 mile and then we were out on a gravel road.
Here I could see more people coming back. It was hard to tell who was in which race, since they had an Olympic distance with men swimming first, so potentially there could be some younger guys coming in; they also started a duathlon at the same time as the sprint, so a lot of these people could be from that too. And of course the sprint, where a lot of the women 35 and up were now coming in. Since I didn't know who might be in my age group, I watched for those women passing me on the return. Didn't see any one by the time I reached the 1 mile mark, but just then a woman with a "54" on her calf came buzzing by, and I mean buzzing by. In fact, by the time I passed the water stop at 1.5 miles, she was already returning. While I was quite happy I had swam and biked faster than her, even with a good ankle I wouldn't have been able to hold her off! Then at the turnaround, a woman I figured was in my age group that I had seen earlier, finally came by me. We talked briefly and then she too was off. With a good ankle, I probably could have held her off. Again, there wasn't much I could do now but at least go for my goal time.
The good thing about the run was I didn't walk at all, my ankle didn't hurt, and the sun stayed behind the clouds. The bad thing of course was running tentatively, to be sure I didn't do any further damage to it. It still had some bruising on Saturday that I hadn't noticed, and after my Thursday ice cream ride with the group, it had ached continuously, so I was really surprised to find nothing major bothering me this morning. The other bad thing was the trails. Just before I reached the end on the trails on the return, my ankle did do a quick twist but I caught myself and it didn't seem to do anything.
It was here, though, that I saw another woman close enough to pass if I worked at it, someone I thought might be in my age group. At this point, I figured I could only do as good as third, and didn't want another slipup to put me into fourth. So I reeled her in. But as I got closer, I started wondering if this was really a woman or a man?? I honestly didn't know for sure until one of the volunteers shouted out "good going gals," and a quick look behind me told me she was talking to us. So that was it. I had to pass. But as I did, I saw her age: 48. No matter, it had to be done. The finish area was also a little tentative, since once we left the paved path, we were back on grass, and I was afraid someone would pass me here, but only two young guys did, so go for it I thought. A quick look at my watch just before I passed her also told me I would make my goal, which I did: 1:45:30.
After the race, while I waited for Don, I took stock of how I felt and I realized I felt great! I knew I hadn't been able to put 100% effort into the run, but I certainly had on the swim and bike. Unfortunately, as it turned out, there was at least one other woman ahead of me, because I did not take third. No results up yet, so I don't know whether I was last in the AG or someone else was behind me. Either way, I did the best I could under the circumstances.