REEDS LAKE TRIATHLON, 9/8/07.
I finished. I did it. I'm glad its over.
When I went to pick up my packet yesterday, I got my number: 1449. It didn't occur to me until later that there were 1500 participants, 300 more than they planned: the original maximum was supposed to be 1200.
1500! OMG! That is a lot of people to cram into the same space they use when they limited the race to 500. And that was only a few years ago! I was in the 9th heat, all heats having 150-200 each. Mine was only women, so I was happy about that.
This race is held within running distance of where I live, about 4 miles away, so it has become an almost annual event for me. This was the first outside triathlon I did in 1997. I wish I could find the results from that, but they are packed away somewhere and nothing available on line. I just can't remember. I have pretty much done this about every other year since, so this year was my 6th attempt. 2003 was a DNF, my only one. And last year, while I was signed up, I was on the injured list, having had the bike accident on the same bike course the week before the race.
So I had a lot of misgivings about doing this race. First was the increased numbers. Next was just not feeling ready (do we ever?). Third was not measuring up or being able to beat my time from 2 years ago. And last, of course, was the bike course.
I just decided to do the race at the last minute and hope for the best. I really had no idea how I would compare with my 2005 time. I woke up early, having gone to bed early as well, but decided to head over to transition early too. With 1500 people, I wanted to stake out my territory early. So I arrived at transition just after 5:30 and immediately ran into a couple of other friends, Julie and Lecia.
We all picked spots on the almost completely empty bike racks fairly close to each other, so it would be easy to keep track of each other as well. Lecia was actually in an earlier heat than Julie and I, so I didn't figure I would see her again once she went to swim until after the race. I like an inside end spot, meaning by the fence; Lecia likes the outside end spot, by the aisleway.
Since it was so early, I decided to head back to my car to stay warm. I think the temp was about 61, but the longer I was out there, the chillier I got. I didn't want to put on my long sleeved shirt after I got body marked because it was white. Not smart. Once I got back to my car, I was fidgety though and had to use the bathroom, so I hiked back to transition. It was still dark, and sunrise was supposed to be after 7 am, just before the race was to start actually. More people had filled our bike rack by now, but there were still a lot of people not there, and it was after 6:30 am. What I figured would happen in transition pretty much did: lots of late comers with no place to go.
That pretty much sums up the woman who showed up at 7:15 and crammed her bike onto our rack, right next to mine. I was glad I was standing there because I told (not asked) her to turn her bike around because her handlebars were all caught up in mine and the person's on the other side of her. Then she proceeded to plop all her stuff right behind my bike wheel. Um, hello? Do you think you're staying there? No. Again, I told rather than asked her to move her stuff to the side, next to the fence if necessary. She was going to be a pain right up to the end, I could tell. Oh she was full of excuses why she got there so late, and then "spent 20 minutes looking for a rack," but I'm telling you, when I get up at 4:30 and am here by 5:30, I really don't want to hear it!
Time to get out of transition, because the guys from the first heat were already out of the water!
Swim: I have panicked on this swim almost every time, but this year, no panic. Lots of chaos though! This swim is usually the worst of any race I have ever done. Its crowded and full of a lot of people who don't really know how to swim, so you get the floaters, the side strokers, and lots of breast strokers, so you are always dodging feet. And to make matters worse, the sun comes up right over the lake, just before we swim, so of course it is still low and blinds you for the first part of the swim. Its so bad, you just have to hope you can figure out where to go. The buoys they used this year were the small ones, so I never could see those and had to rely on the line of kyaks along the course. At one point, I actually swam under the swim buoy rope without realizing, and had to duck back under to keep on course. I'm still not sure if I swam more or less than I should have, but I didn't get disqualified, so no problem I guess (or no one was looking!). Time: 19:43, which included getting out of the water (19:15) and running up the boat ramp and across the mats. Not a stellar 1/2 mile swim time for me, but with the sun and all the flailing going on, I am okay with that.
T1: And now, this is where things get dicey with the bike rack thing. The woman who squeezed in at the last minute was out of the water just ahead of me naturally, so she got to her bike ahead of me by seconds. She had one of those plastic crates crammed with her stuff which she then proceeded to dump out on the ground in front of my bike, just like before, leaving me nowhere to go to get at my stuff! I was pissed and couldn't even get my shoes on until she took off. She also got her bike jammed into the person's bike next to her, but thankfully not mine! So a slow T1: 5:07.
Bike: They changed the bike course last year, and I had heard mixed reviews about it, but overall, I liked it much better. The way it used to be bikers and runners crossed paths throughout the bike, where now you only had it for the first 2 miles, much safer and more sensible, and a few of the worst hills now were downhills. Still, you did have to be careful on those and brake to be safe.
What I don't like about this course, and liked even less this year, is the fact that the major portion of the course is on a state highway and THEY DON'T CLOSE THE ROAD! So not only do you have constant traffic, you have heavy truck traffic. And something that never ceases to amaze me is the fact that there are two traffic lanes in each direction, but do you think EVERYONE goes in the farthest lane? Nooooo! They ride right next to you when they could easily get over in the other lane! That's exactly how I got hit! Fortunately, most of this road has a designated bike path, but just as certain, there is always lots of glass and debris on it, so you are forced lots of time to go into the roadway to avoid getting a flat. If you wanted to pass anyone, the same would be true. I had decided early on that I was taking it easy on this course, since I knew I would be nervous, and wouldn't even attempt to pass anyone if I had to go in the road. So of course, I pretty much brought up the tail of the bike course. I wasn't last, but darn close!
This first part of the busy road stretch is mostly flat or downhill, but that means the return is mostly uphill, including one long, one-mile climb. Not rolling, just steadily up. I just managed to maintain, never going below 8 mph, so that seemed like an improvement over other times.
I was SO glad to be done with the bike course. I didn't care what my time was, I just wanted to be off that road. Time: 1:08:27. Again, not a stellar time, but better than some years. I am amazed that so many people--the majority in fact--can do this in under an hour. That's 17.9 miles of hills under an hour, and lots under 50 minutes! In fact, the first two guys out of the water were DONE with the bike before I even went out and were at the 2 mile mark of the run before I even rode by them!
T2: Another distaster story. Not only did stupid woman put her bike in my spot on the rack, but my running shoes had totally disappeared! I was livid about this and jammed her bike over and put mine there instead. So rude and oblivious! I wish I had seen her later to tell her off again. So I'm looking for my shoes, and luckily I noticed one of them sticking partially out from under the transition fence so figured the other one was under it. Sure enough. But I had to get down on my hands and knees and pull it back under the fence! I don't know how my time managed to be less than 3 minutes, but it was.
Run: Yeah. First I got to dodge all the people in transition who were already done and chatting and lollygagging in the way and then started to realize I might be one of the last people out there. 4.9 miles was starting to seem a little overwhelming then, especially since I really had to go to the bathroom BAD! But I continued on. I didn't see any quick way to the porta-johns so decided to take my chances. They had cones or no parking signs placed all along the run course, so in the first mile and a half, due to the bathroom issue, I was forced into walking and running, so I decided to rely on my old pattern: run 10 cones/signs, walk one. That went well until the second mile when we hit the steep downhill, so I just continued on without stopping obviously until I got to the next uphill, which I decided I would walk. There, I could see I was closing in on a couple of guys! still out there. I didn't feel so bad after all! And I knew there had to be other women behind me, but still no sign of them or how close. Did they drop out? Will I end up being last after all?? So I continued on with the run/walk thing but actually stretched the run to the aid stations, and walk a cone or two after, and start again, other than on the hills. The last part of the run course, which I know like the back of my hand and which I could probably run blindfolded I have run on it so many times, has a steep but short uphill and then it is flat or slightly down to the finish. The hill was at 4 miles, and I was still feeling okay, had passed 3 guys, but knew I might not make my time from 2 years ago. I only had 7 minutes left to do that (I thought) and it was still .9 of a mile to go.
I tried though, I really did! I didn't stop, I picked it up a little, and kept on to the end. Close to the end, a bunch of people I knew or who had already finished, were standing cheering me on, so I definitely had to pick it up a little there. Time: 58:12. Definitely slower than 2 years ago, and definitely something I am going to be working on!
Total time: 2:34:27. Two years ago: 2:31:24. But I will say this: they did not have any swim to bike transition in the times 2 years ago, so I am going to assume I was pretty close.
The winning time in my age group: 1:46! That's 48 minutes faster than me, more than 2 minutes per mile faster, and incredibly fast if you ask me! I need to stop torturing myself doing the math! And the other phenomenal thing this year? 16 women in my age group, compared with 4 two years ago! And I only recognized 3 other women in the AG. Who are these women?? And how are they so fast??
All in all, I'm pleased with the turn of events. I do wish I was faster, but I have to train to get faster, so I guess I can't complain that much! Will I do this one again? I said no all during the swim and bike, so I guess I'll have to find another race on my birthday weekend to do next year if I want to keep up the tradition!
Post script: Now that I've had a little more time to reflect on my performance, here are my thoughts:
Swim: I could only do better if I was faster and didn't have the navigational problems I had today. I'm not disappointed, based on my training and the chaos we had. One minute faster than 2 years ago too.
Bike: I am amazed at those who can do this course in under an hour. Even the women in my age group and older men. I was thinking I was 6 minutes faster than 2 years ago, but then I realized that the lack of swim-to-bike transition meant the transition was added to the bike time. Its likely though that I was at least a couple of minutes faster. Still, that meant my time today was slower by 3 minutes than 2 years ago. Sigh.
What I am confused about is having ridden through the area today for the first time (since I was hit) where I was hit, I can't see how I didn't get more road rash than I did. I actually had very little. I had a lot of broken bones and bruising and a concussion, but then I guess when you get hit by someone driving 50 mph, and hit their windshield first, you get thrown quite a distance. So apparently I might have landed on grass? I have always wondered exactly how it happened, but since my memory is blessedly blocked from the moment of impact, its probably better I don't have that in my mind's eye. Its bad enough I had been having flashbacks for a couple of weeks, but fortunately they always stop at impact.
Run: More work needed, that's about all I can say. I realize with my sprained ankle earlier this summer that that likely contributed to a slower time by 2 minutes than 2 years ago, but since I was a runner before a triathlete, I have standards I feel I should be able to meet, so its not acceptable to me that it took 58 minutes to "run" 4.9 miles. Was the course long? Maybe. Even so, I know I need to and can run better if I want to improve my fitness level and my times for tris.
And finally, we did get some great technical tees! The bad thing about that was there is a competing law firm's name on the front, as the main sponsor as they should be, so its kind of a slap in my firm's face. But then, they could get involved. I'm just saying.
I was always a better runner than I have ever been a triathlete. I don't know if I will ever get good enough to be competitive in my age group in a race like this no matter how much I train. WhatI do hope though is that knowing I really have had to rebuild my endurance, which is much better than my speed, over the past 9 months and deal with several other life issues, I am not totally discouraged at my progress. Do I think I could have done better today if not for the accident? Yes. Most definitely. But then I have to ask myself what was the reason for the accident? Do I even know yet?