I had two objectives for this race. First of all I wanted to actually be anticipating it, not dreading it. Second, and most important, I wanted to have a good run.
The week leading up to this race was crazy. I had to teach in the morning and cram all my parent conferences into four afternoons. I also had to write two days worth of lesson plans. I am as passionate about doing my job well, as I am about being a good athlete. The extra work I needed to do was time consuming and mentally draining and as a consequence, I didn’t follow my taper plan. It also left me no time to start getting antsy about race day.
Friday was our travel day. Saturday was for athlete check in and meeting and bike drop off. We also went to a local grocery store to get breakfast items. It was pouring rain in Austin on Saturday. I waited until the rain abated a bit in the afternoon to do a quick shakedown ride on the bike. I ran through all the gears a couple of times and braked a few times and the bike felt fine. I had a wonderful time visiting with family Saturday night and actually got a pretty good night’s sleep.
Sunday morning was clear, but very windy. We stayed in the car for a little bit, drinking chocolate milk and eating a banana. Then I decided it was time to start moving. I dropped off my run bag and we got on the bus to go to T1. I knew it was going to be windy all day and the high was predicted to be only 62 degrees. I didn’t want to be cold on the bike, so I had a lot of gear to lay out at transition. A dry bike jersey, wind vest, arm warmers, knee warmers plus the usual T1 “stuff”. With that done we headed down to the swim start.
The advertised swim was counterclockwise, my favored direction. At the athlete meeting we were told they had just received approval to switch the direction which would make for smoother transition flow. We were not allowed into the water until the wave before us had left. Once in the water I swam a little bit and then tried to get into a good position. The water was warm, but the wind was making me cold. Finally the gun went off and we took off. The first leg out was incredibly chaotic. Between all the bodies and the choppy waves I ended up taking on more water than I had planned. It was not pleasant. By the time we got to the first turn the bodies had thinned out a bit and the water was calmer since we were now traveling with the waves. Much better. But then we turned again. Not so many bodies, but the waves seemed bigger and stronger. It seemed to take forever to get back to shore. All the extra water left me not feeling very well and after I had my wet suit peeled, I trudged up the hill. I had a rug to walk on for about one third the distance to my transition spot and then it was barefoot through the cold mud. I packed all my swim gear into the bag, put on all my warm clothes and headed over to the mounting line, hoping for a better time on the bike.
I felt like crap on the bike from the moment I started. Yes, it was windy and yes my power pedals were not picking up for some reason. But that really had nothing to do with why my neck hurt, my triceps hurt, my lower back hurt, my right quad hurt down by my knee. And my stomach just felt gross from the swim. And all that reared their ugly heads in the first mile. I kept hoping with every mile that passed that I would feel better. And I didn’t. I found myself wishing that occasional EMS sirens would be for me. I was miserable. About twenty miles in my right derailleur started going over way too far whenever I would downshift. About twenty miles from the finish it snapped off. I had just come down a pretty big hill and was pedaling across the flat to build some momentum before going up the next one. The rear derailleur was three up from the bottom when it broke, not a good climbing gear on the best of days. I spent the next twenty miles, swearing my way up every hill. I either had to grind my way up or stand. I briefly considered if I could fix it, could an on course mechanic fix it, could I move the chain to a better gear ratio. I came to the conclusion that none of those options would work and just kept pedaling. It was an uphill ride into T2 and by the time I got there, I wanted to bag the run. My legs were fried. When I dismounted I nearly fell over.
It was a long walk to my transition spot and I was looking at all the bikes and thinking terrible, negative thoughts. I got all my bike gear off, put on my running shoes and hat and walked over to the porta potty line. Thom was waiting for me by the fence there and I told him how I fried I was. He told me that I wasn’t done and to work the plan. I took off thinking that there was no way I was going to salvage anything out of this race. The run was three loops. I walked quite a bit at the start of the first loop. I hadn’t gotten to ride easy into the bike finish and I was feeling it. The run course was a lot hillier than advertised. I think it’s 177 feet of elevation gain per loop. Somewhere in that first loop I started getting into a groove and I felt good. I was running the flats and downhills and partway up the big hills, walking to the crest and then taking off again. I was eating my gels every thirty minutes. I was working the plan. And for the first time all day I felt good. It was hard, but it was the good kind of hard. My family was fabulous. They had signs from sisters and brother in Maine. They yelled and woohooed every time I passed them. Spectators on the course were great, enthusiastically cheering me on by name. (First names are on your run bib.) At mile eight Thom asked me how I was feeling. “Good!” was my answer. I was doing the math in my head and I knew I was on track for a running PR. Something good was going to come out of this hell of a day and it was my objective from the start of training. I finished feeling strong and happy and my first words to Thom were, “F—ing awesome run!”
Overall, I did not have the day I wanted, but I am so proud of myself for doing that run at the end of a crappy race. I don’t think I’ll sign up for another race that takes place during the school year. It adds a layer of stress and complication that I just don’t need and there are lots of good summer races! I do plan to do another one though, ’cause hey, the run demon just had it’s ass kicked.