Thursday, September 25, 2008

Redman Triathlon 70.3

I arrived at the race before the sun came up. Setting up transition in the dark was challenging, but I had my checklist and think I remembered everything: bike shoes, socks, gloves on one side; run shoes, number belt next to them - I even thought to put my sunglasses around the pad of my aerobars so that if I forgot to pick them up, I'd still have them. I got my body marking touched up, put on my body glide and sunblock, slipped on the wetsuit and I was ready to go.... Even though I arrived at the race extra early (5:30 AM b/c I got a ride with someone, so I was on his schedule), time went pretty fast, and before I knew it they were signing the national anthem and I was chatting with fellow triathletes waiting for our turn and wondering what the heck we had gotten ourselves into...

That orange dot closest to the buoy is me!
The rifle went off signaling our start (ok, seriously - what was wrong with a buzzer used in plenty of races? Now we had to deal with the ringing in our ears for the first part of the swim!!). I started out slow, trying to wrap my mind around the fact I'd be racing for the next 8+ hours.. no reason to expend all my energy here where I was most comfortable. The sun was rising on my right so I had to force myself to breath solely on my left... slow and steady, I got into a groove and eventually found myself at the white turn buoy, halfway done. Of course, after I turned, the sun was on my left which was problematic b/c the buoys were also on the left making it impossible to spot. I kept swimming, just hoping I was going in the right direction. Every once in awhile the white cap of a full iron distance swimmer would pass on his/her 2nd lap, which made me a little more confident I was heading the right way. A little while later the next turn buoy was there and I was heading into shore. I felt good with the swim, but forgot to check my watch so I didn't know until much later that I'd beaten my Eagleman AquaVelo time by almost 2 minutes - 51:21 for the 1.2 mile swim.

Loved the wetsuit strippers
As I was running out of the water, I heard Jo's friend's daughter screaming at me - after a quick pause to wave hello, I made a stop at the wetsuit strippers (a first for me)and headed to my spot to get ready for the bike. Having someone else take off the wetsuit was a big help, and probably explains why my transition time was 4:24 compared with my normal 6:00...

The bike was the part I was most nervous about - too many things could happen, many of which were out of my control. The first problem was my uncertainties about how Joann & I put my bike together.. even though I had it checked out by the bike people at check-in, I wondered if my handlebars or pedal might fly off during the ride. We traveled through the city and then into rural Oklahoma.. the pavement got rough and the mesh sponge thingy (technical term) flew out of my aero water bottle, spilling gatorade all over me.

I started feeling a little low to the ground so I stopped to adjust my seat height... much better... except a girl caught up to me and mentioned I might want to raise my seat... what?? Ok, fine.. I stopped again and raised it some more - definitely higher than I'd been training all summer, but turns out she was right - it felt good. The course wasn't flat, but the hills were rolling and very doable.. I was passing people on the up hills, using my advantage of training on courses like the Reston Rambler. I smiled to myself when I saw people granny gearing it up hills that I didn't even consider getting out of my big ring for..

My computer wasn't working, so I had no idea how far I'd gone, but based on my watch, I had about 15 more minutes until I was halfway. To my surprise, I reached the turnaround in only 5 more minutes, 10 minutes ahead of my Eagleman pace.. could that be right? Even with the stopping to fix my seat? As soon as I turned, my stomach started cramping up - I had been keeping with my nutrition plan - even had my watch set to beep every 20 minutes to remind me to take in calories - but maybe I was hungry. I wolfed down a luna bar, but that didn't help at all, in fact it made it worse.. so I abandoned my nutrition for the 2nd half of the ride.. I was miserable and couldn't find a good position.. I couldn't get back to transition soon enough.

I was still getting gatorade spilled all over me, and was worried about getting a flat on these rough roads. Finally, I was back in the city, the home stretch... damn those hills!!!! I was granny gearing it up hills that I swear were no steeper than a wheelchair ramp!! Then a blaring horn started to sound - a tornado warning - WHAT?? Like the other cyclists around me, I kept going.. I was so close to the end that nothing, not even a tornado, was going to keep me from finishing this race.. up the last hill and to the path that goes along the lake.. and finally I see Joann (ok, I didn't really see her until she yelled at me), and was ready to rack up my bike. I had slowed down on the 2nd half, but finished the 56 miles in 3:47:21 beating my Eagleman AquaVelo time by over 12 minutes!
My bike was close to the edge of transition area, so Joann came over to chat, and after a few "I swear to goodness" remarks, I was off again in 2:51...

I grabbed some food, made faces for the pictures Jo was taking, and realized that no matter what happens, I was going to finish this race - all I had to do was remember to put one foot in front of the other. Luckily the stomach cramps went away as soon as I got off the bike.... but my legs weren't happy at all. I was tempted to walk quite a bit.. heck, I probably would've walked the whole way, but I decided I wanted to be consistent. I set my watch at 1:2 intervals.. yep, you read that correctly - run 1 minute and walk 2 - it should be embarrassing, but even that was optimistic to me at the time! I didn't know how I was going to run a whole minute... but I kept with it, walking only my scheduled walks or when I had food and drink in my hands.

Right away 2 girls passed me, but they didn't get very far ahead... I was able to keep them in my sights and regained my lead by mile 4. I caught up with another girl and even ran through an entire walk segment just to carry on a conversation - with only 700 people racing long distances, you get pretty spread out, so any opportunity for chatting was welcome. Everybody was so friendly, yelling out encouraging words as we passed each other, even the much faster runners going in the opposite direction. It was getting hot, but volunteers kept coming around on golf carts handing out ice cubes and cold sponges.. finally the turn around.  All I had to do now was get back around the lake and I'd be done.. one foot in front of the other. It took forever.. I was running by parts I didn't remember on the first half of the out and back course.. did the lake expand??

I glanced at my watch and tried to do some quick calculations - while my only goal was to finish, I'd secretly wanted to come in under 8:30. It was possible. I kept up with my intervals and finally I could hear the music and celebration.. any minute now! It was getting hotter and my legs were angry.. but I kept going.. I saw a girl in front of me who I'd seen early on the course going faster than me.. I was catching up to her.. I was almost there. I turned the corner and saw Joann and Michelle.. so close!! I picked up my pace to finish strong, over took the girl I'd seen earlier and ran through the finish line!! 3:33:19 for the run - not a great half marathon time, but I'll take it -- I finished!!

My overall time was 8:19:14 so I'd come in under my secret goal!! I'd also managed to stay consistent on the run and had beaten all of my Eagleman AquaVelo times (the only other event I'd swam and biked these distances). I couldn't be happier - Jo and Michelle had a cooler with beer and Mike's Hard Lemonade, so we sat for awhile and got to see the winter of the full iron distance come by...

We got back to the hotel, packed up most of our stuff, including my bike, and went out to Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill for a great celebratory dinner (though I crashed around 10:30 and finally headed to bed).

OH! It turns out the tornado horn goes off every day at noon -- um, thanks for the heads up!! :-)