Friday, October 22, 2010

The Race

Living in Lago Vista meant a 3.30 am alarm on race morning. Ugh. We had done bike drop off and packed all the gear the day before so all we had to do was to eat breakfast and get down to the race. Transition set up and body marking was done by 6.30 am so then we just sat around in the dark, freezing and waiting for the sun to come up. My wave was due off at 7.40 am, ten minutes after the pros. Andrew had to wait another hour.

At 7.20 am I ditched my sweater and flip flops in the morning clothes drop-off bag and headed down to the start. They had people parachuting in with the colors while the national anthem was sung over a PA system. Just as the lady got to the ‘free’ in ‘Land of the Free’ the power went out. The gathered masses filled in the last missing line and watched the ‘bouncy castle’ arch over the Swim Start slowly deflate. It seemed an ill omen but the timing clock was still working and unfazed officials started the race on time.

As our lilac-capped wave of old (50+) and young (18-25) ladies inched down into the ‘on deck’ position I wondered about the wisdom of starting such a venture. But there was no turning back now. I edged out into the lake toward the outer part of the group away from the marker buoys. They counted down and we were off. The swim is a strange event. I have no fear of it and have no doubt I can do the distance but it is nonetheless unpleasant. It is impossible to get into a rhythm. As soon as you do someone swims into you or you into them. Plus I had to defog my goggles several times. My freestyle is rubbish but it is the only practical stroke in a pack. So I swam that unless I was in the open when I did my breaststroke, which is much more efficient for me, as fast as my freestyle, I can see where I’m going and I don’t get worn out. After five minutes I heard the wave behind start. These were 45-49 men so I knew I’d get caught. I kept out of their way to the right of the buoys. After a bit they did catch up, and then the yellow caps of the 45-49 women, and then the next group and so on. I rounded the first buoy and checked my watch – I was about where I thought I’d be time wise so got my head down and kept going. After rounding the next buoy I started swallowing water every so often. “Concentrate” I barked at myself. But rather than being lack of concentration I think it was just that the waves were coming at a different angle. By this time I was thinking “I’m fed up with this I want to be done with this swim”. Not too much later I was out of the water and running up the ramp to T1. Just inside 55 minutes – almost exactly what I had predicted based on training times.

My transition was slow. I don’t have tri-gear so I was swimming in my costume and had to get it off and put bike shorts and a shirt on. We all have to dry feet and get bike shoes on but concerning my efforts “more haste, less speed” springs to mind. Helmet on, I got a nice man with sunscreen coated gloves to put sunscreen on my face and arms and I was off on the bike leg. Once I got going I looked down to check the speed, but my little bike computer had gone. “Bloomin’ heck”, I thought, “somebody’s nicked it”. But Andrew told me after that as it only cost $10 that was highly unlikely and that it had probably been knocked off somehow. “Oh well”, I thought, “just ignore it – it doesn’t actually directly affect speed so just pay attention to the mile markers”. So I settled in to do a steady 15 miles per hour or so that would get me just inside 4 hours and not leave me too tired for the run. I used Perpetuum in my bottles. I like that in ultra runs and hadn’t had any time to experiment with anything else. I had a few gels with me also. At the first aid station at mile 12 I was busting for a wee so I got off here, took care of it in a nice pink Port-a-Potty and then took the opportunity to have a gel and a quick hamstring stretch. Off I went feeling much better. The rest of the bike went fine, if a little slowly. The only problem was that I got a fair bloat on which was pretty uncomfortable from the halfway mark on. But I managed the electrolytes and fluids carefully to not push it over the edge while still keeping somewhat hydrated. I know from ultrarunning that these things can usually be managed if you pay attention. Many hundreds passed me, but I just let them go. Andrew had told me not to try too hard on the bike so that I had something left for the run. It was good advice. Towards the end of the bike I was passed by a lot of guys in the 25-29 age group. But I caught loads of them back up on the run, even though I was going pretty slowly. Andrew passed me about halfway round the bike course. He looked to be going well. I was glad that I rode the course a few weeks ago. Even though they have markers every 5 miles it helped to have an idea where I was on the course. So I finished in 3.51 breathing a sigh of relief that there were no mechanicals and no flats.

Off with the bike shorts and on with the running shorts and I was away on the run. I thought at that point that I should be close to 71/2 hours. But running after the bike is always harder than I bargain for. I walked for the first 5 minutes to get the feeling back into the legs and then tried to run the downhills and flats and walk the ups. The bloating was still a problem but I kept working at it. Then I noticed a pre-cramp feeling in my right outer calf. I never normally cramp. So at the next aid station I forced a bit of banana down, and a couple salty prezels. I kept drinking the PowerAde they had. I kept on this banana and prezel habit every 3 miles or so until I was done. Plus I had a couple gels. I would have had more but I was still pretty bloated and couldn’t fit much more in. It was quite hot on the run so I did use the iced water sponges quite a bit. I figured managing the body temperature would help decrease the sweating which would help with hydration and electrolyte balance. Plus it felt nice. Andrew passed me again when he had 3 miles to go and I had another loop left. On the second loop I knew it was going to be touch and go to get inside 8 hours. I couldn’t believe I was so slow, but there it was. So I tried to push along as hard as I could. The result was almost even loops (the 2nd just 21 seconds slower than the 1st), but I just missed the 8 hours by a little over a minute. Anyway I was done and was happy to get the finishers medal. Not too bad for a woman of 50.

I enjoyed the race a lot and it was well organized, but I have to say there was one thing I hated about it – the unbelievable amount of trash generated. It was way beyond anything I have seen at any other race. I wonder if any of it gets recycled. I might just see if I can do something about that.

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