I couldn't help but have the chills on Sunday morning. I wasn't nervous, but it was a very chilly morning in Austin! Fortunately though, it looked like the weather would be spectacular when the sun finally made its way over the horizon. In an unusual turn of events, the race wasn’t starting until 8:30am, which meant that we didn’t really have to be there until about 7:30am to set up our transition areas. Fearing the worst from a parking standpoint, we left the house at 6:45am. Surprisingly, we had NO trouble at all with parking. The race is still small enough (yay!) that we got a decent parking spot, grabbed our bikes and gear and headed for the transition area.
The sun was coming up, but it did little to calm the fear and trepidation that everyone was feeling about jumping in the 67 degree water. All I kept thinking was that it was COLDER than Barton Springs and that's bad enough! I was just doing the Sprint distance which means that in most cases, donning a wetsuit isn’t worth the time and energy that it takes to get in and out of the thing. Today was different and we all knew it. I’d say about 95-98% of the Sprint athletes had their wetsuits zipped up and ready to go. If nothing else, it added a much-needed layer of insulation as we waited by the lake shore and listened to the pre-race meeting.
The directions for the swim seemed easy enough. Head out to the double buoys. Turn around and come back for 500m. Why did those damn buoys seem so far away? Open water has a way of doing that to you. I just constantly reminded myself that it was just 10 laps in a pool. That’s it…no problem. You’re in and you’re out. It’s funny how even the smallest of tri swims can freak you out and summon the internal demons.
The transition area was a good 250-300 meters away from the water and I didn’t bring flip flops so I actually wore my running shoes to the foot of the water and set them near a cone so that I could grab them on my way to transition. (internally praying that I wouldn’t forget them in my haste and excitement upon leaving the water).
We watched the Olympic Distance Racers start. It’s hard not to feel humbled living in a town where the likes of Desiree Ficker, Brandon Marsh, Jason McMillian and other pro-triathletes show up at the local tris each weekend to hone their skills for the big races.
Swim Time-Oh God
It didn’t take long when suddenly my wave (30+ females) was on deck. I kissed Shawn good-bye, wished him good luck and told him I’d see him in about 1 ½ hours. Then, before I knew it, we were in the water. Surprisingly, because the air was so chilly, the water didn't feel that bad at first...more like lukewarm bathwater. You wouldn't want to spend a whole lot of time in it, but it was much warmer than you had anticipated. The airhorn fired and like every tri swim start, you find yourself thrashing, kicking, swallowing water and trying to catch your breath. And that’s just the first 10 meters! I made it to the buoys quickly (for me) and was pleasantly surprised to see and feel other swimmers still around me. Usually, I’m left in the dust at this point. Because the swim was so short, I never did relax into a steady pace. I tried to breathe every 3rd or 4th breath to relax, but it wasn’t enough air. Therefore, I found myself breathing every stroke for most of the swim. I hate it because it only adds to my sense of urgency and exhaustion and amount of water consumed in my lungs. Thankfully, it didn’t last long and I was out of the water in about 12 minutes. Sweet. The hard part was done. I started running towards transition while unzipping my wetsuit at the same time. I didn’t forget to grab my shoes, but it was hard to juggle taking off goggles, swim cap, and unzipping wetsuit while trying not to drop my running shoes. No worries…all was well!
T1 and Bike
It’s amazing and humorous how your body reacts when your adrenaline and heart rate are pumping. Just 15 minutes prior, I was shivering from the air. Now, I was feverishly preparing to hop on a bike in soaking wet spandex and ride into the wind as fast as I could. Oddly enough, I didn’t feel a bit chilly at this point. I noticed something else. There were a ton of other bikes still in my transition area. Now, we didn’t necessarily rack them by age group, but just seeing bikes all around me was a confidence booster knowing that I wouldn’t be the last person on the course!
The bike course on the Cactus Challenge was great! Well marked, good pavement, some rollers, some down hills and one longer climb into the wind. That part sucked, of course, but it was definitely a fair course. I didn’t mean for this to happen, but suddenly I was in “race mode.” I made a conscious effort to kick it up a notch and give it all I had. Cycling definitely isn’t my forte, but I’m getting better. I pushed it when I could and relaxed when I could. I didn’t even carry a spare tube or tool kit on this ride figuring to myself, if I got a flat on a 13 mile course, my race was done. It would take me longer to change a tire than it would to finish the race. For those that know the sport of triathlon, you know there is one goal (besides finishing): picking off people in your age group! Since I usually start from behind with a slower swim time, I spend most races catching up. I had no idea what was in front of me in the way of Women 30-34, but I was going to find out. I rode hard. I passed as many people as I could. I got passed occasionally. Then, I got passed more by a bunch of guys. The Male waves started behind ours and they started sneaking up behind me. I didn’t care. My focus was to continue to pass as many females as possible, not knowing their age until I could see it written in black marker on their calves. I passed a few in my age group, but I seemed to be passing primarily 20-29 year olds. Their wave had started 5 minutes before ours and I was catching up. Wow…this is weird. Where are the 30 year olds? I was pretty sure that there some badass biker chicks ahead that I would never catch but before I knew it, my 13 mile ride (2 loop course) was up. I was digging the Sprint distance!!
I hit my watch…43 min and some change. It’s all a blur when you are getting off your bike, trying not to slip in your cycling shoes and trying to remember where the hell your transition area is.
Now, it was time for my favorite part. The run. Did I have enough time to pass any other 30-34 women? Three miles isn’t a lot of real estate, but I would give it my best.
The run was primarily on well-groomed grass and mulch. It’s a whole different sensation than running on pavement. Actually, there were a couple of times I felt my legs get wobbly when they would hit the grass. The surface is a little more absorbent than concrete, that’s for sure! I was somewhat familiar with this course having done the Danskin Tri on a couple of occasions. Most importantly, I knew about the long hill on the back side of the run that has a way of sucking the momentum out of you just when you need it most for the final sprint towards the finish. I don’t remember much from the run except that there were very few of us actually on the course. I was also surrounded by men primarily. I did pass about 6-7 women on the run course, but that was it. My first Miles were in the 6:30-6:45 range. Holy Shit! It didn't feel like I was running that fast. It never does. Only one mile to go. Damn. There’s the hill. True to form, it sucked the life out of me and took longer than I had hoped. I was running side by side with some dude for the last two miles. We sucked wind together up that hill and now we were in our final sprint to the finish.
I crossed the line and heard Adam Reiser (from jack and adam’s tri shop) announce my name and say something about a great finish in my age group. He also commented on the fact that I was wearing my Jack and Adams Tri Jersey. I stopped my watch...1hr 22min. I had secretly hoped I could do a 1:20-1:25. I had done it.
It would take a while and some misinformation, but according to initial posted results (which seemed to take FOREVER), it showed me at #2 in my age group out of about 22 or so and #6 Female finisher overall. It wasn’t until the Awards Ceremony almost TWO HOURS later (I made Shawn stay) when they announced my name as #1 in my group! We were both shocked!! Apparently, the girl ahead of me had skipped a loop on the bike and had an abnormally fast bike split. Woops. Thank you sweetie. Since then, the results have been altered again and I actually moved up to #4 Female overall. (less than :30 sec out of 3rd place overall)
Needless to say, I’m pretty proud of my effort. It’s certainly a million times better than I thought it would be. Shawn did excellent as well and we’re both now officially inspired to continue our training regimes.
It’s a shame we won’t be in town to do the Cap Tex Tri on Memorial Day Weekend, which was his first tri and one of our favorites to do together. We decided our wedding was more important. Shocking, I know.
Swim: 13:24 (includes 250-300 m run to transition area) 8th out of 21 in age group T1: 2:55 Bike: 43:13 (18 mph pace) 2nd out of 21 ---the #1 person beat me by less than 25 sec! T2: 1:00 Run: 21:31 ( 6:56 pace) 1st out of 21 in age group, #1 run overall female