SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO BE OLDER THAN DIRT!
"But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." Matthew 19:29-30.
For some reason, whenever I am last in a race, I am first in my age group. A definite paradox.
And so the tradition continued at the 26th Seahorse Challenge triathlon. I haven't done an Olympic distance triathlon since one week before my bike accident in 2006, even though I have done several sprints since then and two longer distance triathlons, including a half IM in 2008, and lots of running events. But with training going the way it has been going, and with a vacation imminent, I really wanted to get a race in before I left for Yellowstone on June 9. Seahorse was there, waiting for me to bring up the rear once again.
I'm not complaining. I did exactly what I planned to do today. And its not that I am that slow or even was the last one technically (one younger dude was slower than me, but starting in a wave ahead of me, so of course he wasn't last to finish). Its just that these people are so freaking fast! As an example, the woman in the age group ahead of me, who will be in my age group next year, was more than an hour ahead of me--and she has had 2 hip replacements! Don't ever say never!
And I won't bore you about all the pre-race details, other than to mention that when pumping up my tires the valve stem end broke off, leaving me with an immediate flat tire. Anyone who knows me, knows I wish there was a AAA for bike help, because there just isn't any way I can change a flat tire under pressure, if at all. The guy parked next to me offered his help: "Its easy; it will only take you 10 minutes." Right! More like 2 hours, if I'm lucky! Seeing I would get no sympathy or help from this jerk, I decided to wheel my bike up to transition and beg for mercy from the bike shop people I knew (was hoping) were there to help in these situations. And I wasn't disappointed. Not only did I get my tire changed, but the angel adjusted my brakes that have been rubbing lately, and I was good to go!
The only other thing I'll mention is that it was cold, like 45 degrees cold. The fact that the water was at least 20 degrees warmer made it that much more tolerable, because once I got in the water, it was like bathwater compared to the air, and my feet slowly thawed out. Since I wasn't able and didn't want to get in the water ahead of time, and since we had almost 2 minutes before our wave started after the one ahead of us, I figured that was good enough. It was SO easy to get used to the water, because like I said, it was like getting into a hot tub after standing on the icy cold wet grass for 30+ minutes. I tested out my goggles to be sure they didn't leak and to get that first initial face in the water moment out of the way, and while the goggles did leak, I figured I just needed to adjust them slightly, even though they NEVER leak otherwise.
And then we were off, and the goggles not only leaked--like not just a dribble--but both lenses totally filled up with water immediately! WTF??? Still, I continued on, messing with and adjusting them as I went along, to no avail. I tried shutting my eyes, and doing a hit or miss type of swim, but after about 50 yards of this, I knew this wouldn't work long term and had to do something to fix the goggles. Not only could I not see at all, but I was afraid of losing the contacts, and then I would be totally screwed. So I did what they told us to do in the prerace meeting, I put my hand up, and eventualy a guy on a surfboard made his way to me. I told him my goggles were leaking bad and I needed to adjust them. I took them off, put them back on and then he noticed that my swim cap was pulled down far enough that it was preventing my goggles from properly sealing, so after adjusting the swim cap, I put the goggles back on, tested them, and again, I was good to go! Who would have thought??
Of course this also meant I was about 75 yards behind the next closest person, but one advantage? I had NO ONE to get in my way! Woo hoo! This was actually one of my best swims, because I wasn't all stressed and panicked from someone being in my personal space. I swam hard and strong and only had a few guys lap me from the earlier wave, since this was 2 loops, and I actually passed one woman in my wave before the end and beat her by over a minute! While my swim was somewhat slower than I had hoped, it was still within the range of making my goal and making me happy besides.
And then it was time to head to transition. Why is it all the swim to bike transitions have a steep hill to climb out of the water? This was the case, and I just decided to hike up rather than run, until I got to the top and then I trotted across the mat and down the swim to bike chute into transition. I didn't have much problem finding my bike, since it was one of the last on the racks, and like usual, my swim to bike transition was pretty slow, around 5 minutes. But in my defense, it was about 600 meters from the water to my bike, so I wasn't concerned. Especially when I saw I wasn't the last person in my wave nor was I slower than she was in transition. That was a first for me!
On to the bike. Oh yeah, slow swim chick passed me on the bike in the first mile. Whatever! And just as I was thinking what a dream bike course this was--lots of downhills, slight grade uphills-- we turned back. Up hill. For more than a mile. Up and up and up we climbed, with my speed going from 27 mph on the downhills to a "brisk" 8.4 mph on the up. I had forgotten this from years past. I knew there was one long upgrade (like Don said, a false flat. NOT!) but I didn't remember it was more than a mile.
And of course, here I was being passed over and over and over again by dudes 30 and younger, all calling out: Good job! Great race! You can do it! Boys, don't patronize me! Just because I'm old enough to be your mom, so what?? STFU!
And then I started thinking of the pre-race "101" talk where they described the bike course as "flat to rolling with one big climb." Define flat. Was flat at the bottom of a screaming downhill, or maybe it was at the top of the grinding uphill? Either way, I was left to ponder this definition through the 2 loops I had to make for the "challenge" course.
And there was also a mention of "very little traffic on this course." Again, define "very little traffic." Did that include the 2 semis, 1 tanker, 47 motorcyles, and 250 other assorted cars, trucks, and campers that blew past me most of the way??? If so, I guess that means little or no traffic. Maybe in your world, where you bike at 20+ mph and are done in a litle more than an hour. But not for me! I can't wait until you hit your 50s!!!!
Once I passed the race start and began my second l0op, I pretty much knew I was alone out there. And it was obvious. While there was the sherifff's dept. at the intersections, there were no volunteers left between those spots on the bike. Again, this might be a plus, since now I had the WHOLE bike course to my self. But again, my main goal was to reach 14.5 mph and I did that and then some, so I am good with that.
Another first for me: 2:20 on the bike to run transition. It just went well. Nothing more I can say. I think what helped here was they kept people out of transition once they were off their bikes until the last biker (me) came in.
I had no expectations for the run course, but once I started out, I realized that my legs didn't feel that bad! So the plan was to keep going until I had to stop. Which never really happened. Which was really great for me. It isn't an easy course: 90% of it is trails, and not the groomed type of trail but the type where they mark all the roots and rocks for you to hopefully not trip over. Such was not the case for me when I tripped on whatever I have no idea and went sailing about 5 feet, somewhere after the 3 mile mark.
Here, again, I just picked myself, dusted myself off, and contiued, hoping for no injuries. I think my hands and right foot took the brunt of it, and fortunately it wasn't cement. Another thing that helped keep me going was the fact that while it was sunny out, most of it was shaded being trails, and the temperature was only in the low to mid 60s so I never felt wiped out from the heat. In fact, I had thrown on a long-sleeved wick away lightweight shirt for the bike and never even took it off for the run! I actually wonder if it helped keep me cooler, since it kept the sun off my skin. It was barely damp by the end so you know I wasn't sweating much.
I was also starting to realize that here the Chi running and the heart rate training finally paid off. I used my body lean for momentum in the run that helped keep me moving forward, and I was able to control my breathing through my pacing so I wasn't feeling stressed or worn out.
By the time I started my second loop here, a lot of people were leaving, so now I had to dodge people with their bikes and families, since one part of the run course was on the park road leaving the park. But soon I was back in the woods, now watching more carefully so I didn't fall again. I stopped at every water stop, drank a glass of water, and continued on. Every water stop doubled on the way out and on the way back, so by the time I did my last loop in the woods, I told the kids they could leave now! At this point too, I was basically not thinking of anything except keep moving forward, watch where you are running, try not to fall. But I can't say I wasn't more than thrilled or thankful when I knew I was within minutes of finishing. I could hear the awards going on so knew I was close to the end. The last 1/4 mile is up hill but I just plugged along and when I got to the top of the hill sprinted through the finish chute. I felt great!
And once again, I "won" my age group before I even finished! It was a given though. I was the only one. All I had to do was show up and finish, both of which I did.
All of my goals for the day were met: the first was to finish. Did that. The second one was to come in at 4 hours or better. Also did that. In ffact it was a PR over my last official olympic distance tri by about 6 minutes. The third was to have fun and feel good by the end. Did that!
After, I met up with Jan, who had done the sprint. Jan took 2nd in her age group. All she said was "It was hard!" Tell me about it!
Now, on to the next race!