At some point and in a fit of insanity I decided to sign up for the Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon, in Lubbock Texas in June. I had done it once before in 2010 and quite frankly I cannot even remember what I must have been thinking when I signed up for it again. First, it is very hilly – yes, I know it is in Lubbock where you can watch your dog run away for three days, but there is a canyon in Lubbock, so the hills go down into the ground but don’t stick up into the sky like mountains.
I determined that the best way to get me and all my stuff to Lubbock was to drive the 370 miles in my 1995 4 cylinder pick-up truck. I knew it was going to be a long ride, and I had room for another person and two more bikes, but did not invite anyone to ride with me for fear that the extra weight would slow the truck down even further from its top speed of 68 mph. I did take my friends Tammy’s bike since she and Dina did not have room in their rental car for two bikes, but other than that I just loaded up the CD player for 6 ½ hours of me singing with the radio.
I set out at 9:00am on Friday and hoped to arrive by race time on Sunday morning. Actually, I was shooting for 3:30pm Friday afternoon – time to get into town, grab some dinner, do packet pick-up, then get a good night’s rest before the busy weekend. Dina was racing the Olympic Distance tri on Saturday and Tammy and I wanted to be there for her, then we would race the ½ Iron Distance on Saturday.
All went according to plan on Friday, I got into town right about 3:30pm (I did have to make an unplanned stop in Early, TX to explain to the friendly police officer why I was speeding. Scored a warning!) We went and got our race packets, then went out to dinner with a bunch of friends. One of the things I love best about triathlon is that I can get into my car and drive 370 miles to BFE, then get there and race with a ton of my Austin friends. I probably know about 50 folks from home doing this race or spectating. From TriZones we had Jen, Teri, Michel, Me, Lauren and Travis. Then Tammy, Dina, Chris, John G, David, Betsy, Mike, Nicole, Ed, Andrew and Sarah and the kids, Claudia, Dionn, Stacy, Dorothy, Amy, Matt . . . every time I turned around I ran into someone else I knew.
On Saturday morning, we got up bright and early and headed out to the race site to see Dina off and cheer her on. Just a note: My 1995 Nissan pick-up has what the used to call the extend cab- meaning besides the two front seats, there is an area in the back that would comfortably seat a 2 years old or perhaps a double amputee. Because the race site is usually bedlam, it really makes the most sense to carpool. Tammy and I were going to try to get in a warm-up bike and run before Sunday, and we had Dina’s bike since she was racing, so that’s 3 bikes we could fit into the bed of my truck. So we unloaded ½ the crap I usually keep in the extend cab area and crammed Tammy in there for the ride over to the race site. Good times! Tammy was quite a sport about it.
We got to the race site with plenty of time to get ready for the Oly race (there was also a Sprint Distance race and a kid’s super-sprint distance race scheduled for Saturday). Unfortunately for the Saturday racers the winds were blowing pretty good making for a choppy wavy swim and a tough bike ride. But Dina persevered and completed her first Olympic Distance Tri (Yeah, Dee!). We grabbed a late lunch, went back to the room to clean up then I had dinner plans with a group of other friends. So Saturday was rather non-stop which is not optimal for the day before a big race.
I slept for poo on Saturday night, even though I was really tired, then Sunday morning came and I was just exhausted. I usually get up at 4:20, so this should not have been a stretch for me, but dang I was dragging booty! I was so tired that my stomach was even knotted up (which happens when I am really, really tired). I ate some peanut butter and honey on toast and drank a Starbucks Double Shot and hoped it wouldn’t mess with my stomach, but I really needed the caffeine. I have no idea how I could be so freaking exhausted the morning of a race.
For this race, instead of body marking we had those TriTat race numbers, like temporary tattoos, only more permanent! I put a number on my left arm and left leg. They are pretty cool . . . and much more legible than magic marker numbers. Oh, and no ages on the back of the calves for this race – Woo-hoo! Also, sunscreen does not affect these numbers the way it messes up magic marker (I later found about just about nothing does). I had my Tribag packed, threw on my clothes loaded up the bikes and headed out.
Due to June temperatures in Lubbock this case starts much early than any other race I know of. The first swim wave goes off at 6:30, then a wave every 3 minutes until the last wave at 6:45. That’s not a lot of waves and the waves are MUCH bigger than most any other race. We were shooting to arrive at the race site at about 5:15 but when we got there parking traffic was backed up over a mile. No worries; so long as there were cars behind us I knew we couldn’t really be late. We parked out in this big dusty field (one thing Lubbock does not lack is big dusty fields), grabbed all of our race equipment, some folding chairs and supplies for Dina who would have a long day spectating and headed down to transition. Dina was bummed that there didn’t seem to be a way for spectators to get around the course.
When I say “headed down to transition,” I mean that quite literally. Transition was at the bottom of the canyon, so we had to walk down a long steep hill to get in (meaning we would have to go back up that hill during the race, then after the race to leave).
I got all my stuff set up, making sure my bike was in its lowest gear since the first thing you do when you get on your bike is climb a huge steep hill (7.6% grade). I headed over to the beach to don my wetsuit but really felt like I needed a nap. I determined I would take it easy in the swim and try to wake up in the water. Swimming is my limiter, so taking a few minutes in the swim would not be likely to tank my race and I just had to feel better soon.
OK, the swim waves go off as such: The Pros – men, then women, then the hand-cyclists, then a group of the guys, then all of the women (yes, every single gal was in the same wave), then the rest of the guys. This would be a beach start, whereas we would all start standing on the beach, then run into the water and start swimming. There were a LOT of gals doing this race. There were 832 participants so if 1/3 were women that’s still 277 in the female wave- that’s a big swim wave! We were assigned pink swim caps (because all gals love the color pink, right?). This is an aerial view of the women’s wave swim start while we were standing on the beach:
The gun went off and it was absolute chaos! I got punched and kicked – nothing that appeared to be on purpose, but there were just so many people and not a lot of beach/lake space. Then once we got into the water it took no time for the gals to catch up to the slower guys in front of us since they only had a 3 minute head start and the faster guys behind us to catch up with the gals. Here is an aerial shot of us in the water once all the different colored swim caps caught up to each other:
I don’t think I even got wet for all the climbing over people that was going on. That said, you can swim a lot more easily if you swim in a faster swimmer’s wake (you kinda get sucked along with them). The swim was crowded the entire way. Half way through I had someone hit me in the face and knock my goggles off! I had to stop to get everything straightened out but was afraid that I would just get swam over by the masses. Even when I got to the end of the swim, there was a bottle neck at the swim-out area and I had to wait to get a wetsuit stripper to help me out of my wetsuit. I guess when everyone starts at the same time, everyone finishes at the same time. I didn’t think I drank that much water and my stomach was feeling a bit better after the swim because I was finally awake.
Since there was nowhere during the 1.2 mile swim when I was not right behind someone, I had a great swim split. 0:35:26 for 1:51min/100m. Woo hoo!
I ran into transition, got my socks and shoes on, race belt, helmet and glasses, grabbed my bike and ran – – – directly into a mass of people trying to get out of the transition area. That bottle neck at the swim-out apparently moved en mass to the bike-out, where we had to run down a narrow row then make a u-turn to get out. Another helpful athlete was screaming “MOVE!” and it was as effective as it is in rush hour on I-35 in Austin.
My T-1 time was 3:08, but there wasn’t much I could do about that.
I finally got over the mount line and onto my bike and I was off to tackle the bike 56 mile route. The bike route has several challenging hills on it. Not just long, but steep hills. This is the elevation grade map of the bike course:
Oh wait, no, that’s an EKG. THIS is the elevation grade of the bike course:
You can see the steep uphill right at the beginning of the route, then the downhill followed immediately by another longer steeper uphill. Good times, good times.
Swimming always makes my nose run, so I tried to clear out my sinuses the minute the route flattened out only to discover I had a nose bleed. Bah, who needs red blood cells for a ½ Iron? Actually, I was more embarrassed that I was bleeding all over the place than anything else, so for the next 15 minutes I concentrated on not bleeding, and finally got it to stop. Then I tried to get rid of any evidence of blood, which is difficult when you don’t have a tissue and are wearing a spandex outfit. Now I could concentrate on my ride.
I have race wheels on my tri-bike. Race wheels are extremely expensive wheels with deep rims which are supposed to slice through the wind and make you faster. So, I spent some bank on these. Sleek, aero! But about 5 miles into the bike route a big sticky non-aero-dynamic wad of some sort of plastic tape got stuck to my front wheel, and flapped in the breeze for the remaining 51 miles. Yeah, I thought it would eventually fall off, too, but it didn’t and I didn’t want to wreck out trying to reach over my headset to try to pull it off at 20mph. So, yeah, $1000 worth of technologically advanced wheel un-done by some tape. Excellent.
Overall I had a good bike ride, but definitely under did it on my nutrition. I drank three bottles of sport drink and a bottle of water, two gels and two electrolyte salt capsules, but it seemed every time I drank or ate anything my tummy would not be happy, it would eventually pass and I would try to eat something again. I don’t think it affected me much on the bike, but the run would be another story.
I did feel really strong on the hills (I’ve been having a good hill year) and we had pretty calm winds until about mile 43, then we had 10-15mph headwinds the whole way back which really killed my overall average speed. So I averaged a 18.4mph overall for a 3:02:28 bike split.
Back into transition to drop off my bike, down a gel, spray sunscreen, and grab my running shoes. I momentarily considered taking my GPS/Garmin watch but thought that knowing my pace for the ½ marathon would make me try to maintain a certain speed, which could prove disastrous, so I left it and just grabbed a water bottle and headed out.
T2 – 2:23
I headed out onto the run and really felt “ok.” It was hot and the Pros were already heading to the finish line (which is just a bummer when you know you still have two hours!) but I figured that I would settle into a pace the first few miles. They had water, sport drink and ice at all of the rest stops. I would grab a water and dump it on my head, grab a hand full of ice and put it in my sport bra, then drink a cup of sport drink. Because the new thing is to hold ice to cool your hands I would periodically fish some ice out of my bra (which looked like I don’t know what to the runners running towards me on their way back to the finish) to hold in my hands until it melted.
After the first few miles, I started getting into a good pace, but then I hit the first big hill. I was determined to run up the hill, then at about 1/3 the way up, I was determined to make it to that tree over there, and walk the rest.
Run course elevation:
I ran down the other side of the hill, and started to get into a groove when Hit #2 appeared. I ran until I reached the guardrail, then walked some, but somebody put a photographer at the top of the hill, so I ran passed the photographer (’cause you have to) to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill is the turn to the Energy Lab. What is the energy Lab (besides a misnomer) you ask? It is a long flat stretch of black top with empty fields on either side that no one ever thought to plant a tree on, ever in the history of time, but where you can watch the squiggly heat lines rise off the pavement and completely sap your energy. I thought I heard someone whistling the theme to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Runner taking a rest on the way to the Energy Lab.
I actually did ok heading out to the Energy Lab. I saw Tammy pass me running in the other the direction. And really the only thing to keep you going on the Energy Lab road is the fact that you will see lots of your friends running in one direction or the other. I made it to the turn around about 1 ¾ miles down the road and somehow Dina managed to get out there and was helping the volunteers pour ice water. It was good to see a friend. I got my water and headed back the 1 ¾ miles out of Energy Lab. About ten minutes later, there was Dina on the back of some guy’s Harley Davidson heading back toward the finish line. WTF? I guess Dina has been making some friends! That girl is a nut!
I finally got to the end of the Energy Lab stretch, just as my friend Ed was turning onto the road. Everyone knows that Energy lab sucks, but what do you say? So I yelled “Hey Ed, Energy Lab was great! You’re gonna love it!” Apparently I later learned that Ed wanted to kill me since I too obviously happy to be done with Energy Lab, whereas he was just getting started.
Right up until about this point I was feeling pretty good. All I had to do was get up the last hill and back into the park for the final 5k to the finish line. Usually getting to the last three miles will give me a second wind. Yeah, not some much this time. I just felt more and more tired and slow. Then Dina comes driving by in a golf cart to check on me. “Hmm, Dina stole someone golf cart” went through my mind. That girl is unfreakingbelievable. How did she get a golf cart?! I figured the next time I saw her she would be in a Ferrari.
It finally dawned on me that I was bonking when I stopped at the 11th mile rest stop and just didn’t want to start running again. I remembered an old adage my friend Emily once told me “the longer you don’t run the longer it takes to finish” so I started running again, slow, but at least I was moving. My friend Amy blew passed me, obviously someone was having a good run. I tried to run with her for about 20 feet and that was a mistake. Finally I just let her go, as a big truck drove passed blowing smoke and I promptly started to feel an asthma attack coming on. Ok, I think I’ll stick with slow and steady.
Some of the area neighbors had set up there sprinklers to hit the runners as we came back in, and one fella was on the street with his hose, hosing us down, freaking amazing people! I loved every one of them. I knew I was getting close, as Tammy and I had run the first mile of the course together the day before. Finally I could see the finish line! Yea!
I ran through the finish line and directly into the lake to cool down. Amy and her husband Matt were also hanging out in the lake. I asked how his race had gone and he indicated it was ok, nothing great but it was the third race he had done that week. Then I realized that it was my third race that week, too. Which really helped to put things in perspective (one of those things is that it is not really wise for me to do three races in a week).
I decided to go to the med tent since I really felt like poo, and feared I would continue to feel like poo for the rest of the weekend if I did not get rehydrated. But the thought of drinking any more sport drink nauseated me. After being unable to find a vein after five sticks (which really hurt!), they gave me a saline IV in the big vein in my arm (my blood donating vein as I like to call it), then another IV and I finally started feeling human again, so I’m guessing I was pretty dehydrated (and I felt about a million times better for the rest of the day). I saw a bunch of friends also getting IVs in the med tent and Andrew’s wife Sarah chatted me up for awhile, which was nice.
My run felt so slow I was sure I had my worst ½ Iron time and figured I was about a 6:15 overall. Although the run took me 2:15:52, I managed to eek out a sub 6 hour race with 5:59:17, which is PR (personal record) for that course. So not too shabby!
I have to say although I felt incredible slow and tired during this race, mentally I was ok (delirium perhaps?), unlike my race last year in North Carolina where I couldn’t stop crying in T2, but ended up with a very similar race time. Hmm, interesting.
I ended up wearing my race numbers until I got home at 4:00pm on Monday afternoon. After trying to get them off with Vaseline, a wash cloth, a loofa, sunscreen, and alcohol, Phil went into the garage and came back an acetylene torch, a wire brush, and a can of carburetor cleaner. The carb cleaner got it off (thank God), but seriously there had to be an easier way to remove this stuff!
Of course I said, “I am NOT doing that again next year!” and of course now I am considering what I can do better next year. : )