“Rookie???” you may be asking. This is the one race in the Texas Tri Series where everyone is a Rookie. There are separate swim starts and prizes for true Triathlon Rookies. Those of us who are less Rookie than others are in a category called “Veteran Rookies”. So now I find myself falling into the “veteran” group, as well as “masters” and the oldest women’s swim wave. Way to make a gal feel old … and Get off my lawn!
The Rookie is a super sprint which means it is a short race consisting of a 300m swim, 11.2 mile bike, and a 2 mile run. Last year I banged this one out in 1:01:11, so I was shooting for under an hour this year. Let’s see how that worked out for me.
First off, as many of you know because you live in Central Texas, we have been having some weird weather of late. Sunday morning’s weather was predicted to be in the low to mid 40’s. Saturday morning started in the 40’s so I went out on my bike at 8:30am to see about how cold I would be during the race, but I was not going to get wet pre-ride on Saturday. So keeping in mind that I would be soaking wet on Sunday from the swim and based on my scientifically conducted Saturday ride, I was able to determine that I would probably be fine on the bike after the first mile, but I would likely freeze to death waiting for the race to start.
I woke up at 4:30 on race day, mostly because I always wake up at 4:30. All the animals in the house wake up at 4:30. I fed said animals, scooped kitty litter, got dressed, then threw on sweat pants and a shirt over my tri-suit, went through my tri list one more time, ate a PB&J with a cup of tea, mixed some beet juice (because everyone is swearing by it these days, but I put that in my bag to drink closer to race time), checked my Facebook status, played some solitaire, heated up a gallon of apple cider and poured it into a thermos (because hot apple cider on a cold morning? Heaven) then loaded everything into the truck and pumped up the tires on my bike. I was off for the 20 minute drive to Decker Lake. Really, no one needs 4 hours to get ready for a super sprint triathlon, so I got to the race sight at 5:45, still close to 3 hours before my race would start.
One of the volunteers “directing traffic” into the parking lot looked more like a ped-MVA waiting to happen as she had no lighting at all. Of course, I had a spare flashlight in the truck so I gave it to her to make her less of a target and more able to direct traffic. Word on the street is that the volunteer returned my flashlight to someone wearing a Trizones team shirt. So if some random stranger handed you a flashlight and you were wearing anything that said Trizones on it, that’s be mine.
I got sweet parking (one of the perks of getting no sleep) and went to find a good rack space for my bike in transition. And, Hey, where did this wind come from? It was pretty windy, especially for 6:00 in the morning. I’m sure that will die down before the race start as the weather guy did not predict strong winds, and he wouldn’t lie to me.
I got a good rack position and set everything up in transition. Then spent 5 minutes trying to decide whether I should wear a windbreaker on the bike or not. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. I left the windbreaker on my handle bars and figured if I needed it I could wear it and if not, then not.*
*I do not know where y’all got the idea that I’m some super athlete impervious to the cold. Yeah, I’m tough, but I also hate the cold. I walk around my office in July wrapped in a fleece snuggy. And as if to prove that point…
I went over to find the Trizones team tent (which had not yet arrived) so I could set up my hot apple cider. Luckily, the RadioActive tent (my other team) was there, so I set up my hot apple cider and shared some with a few of the RadioActive guys who were setting stuff up. Mmm, hot apple cider. So yummy, and the cup will keep your hands warm.
In short shift the Trizones tent arrived and I took my apple cider (sorry RadioActive guys) over to my girls. Yes, it is May. Yes, we are in Texas. But we were also freezing. That apple cider really hit the spot and disappeared quickly.
I was pretty dang cold as I waited for the sun to come up, but at least I was in my sweats. The only other pre-race question was wetsuit or no wetsuit. Jack (of Jack & Adams) said the water was 74 degrees, but Jack knows how to measure water temperature favorable to wetsuit wearers. I figured if Jack said it was 74, then it was probably closer to 80 (foreshadowing: I was wrong). Besides, there would be no wetsuit strippers.
Wetsuit strippers are volunteers who pull your wetsuit off for you when you get out of the water. While you run over to them you unzip, take your arms out of the top of your wetsuit, and push it down to your hips, then flop on the ground with your feet in the air so they can grab your wetsuit and whip it off you in .3 seconds (there have been instances when, in their zeal, they whip off more than just your wetsuit, but that doesn’t matter today, because there would be no wetsuit strippers). Compare the wetsuit strippers .3 second wetsuit removal to me rolling around in the dirt trying to get a skin tight wetsuit off over my Fred Flintstone feet. I determined that the short time it would take me to swim 300 meters (that’s 6 laps in a regulation pool) while freezing would be far exceeded by the time it would take for me to try to get out of a wetsuit by myself, so no wetsuit.
Actually, a wetsuit would have benefited me while I waited for 8:28 to roll around and my race to start. Even with the sun up, it didn’t warm up as I thought it would. I finally doffed my sweats but grabbed a Mylar marathon blanket I found in the truck that morning (one of those shiny silver plastic sheets you see people walking around wrapped up in after the marathon) to keep me warm for the 20 minutes prior to my wave start and headed down to the water. I also drank my beet juice. And for those who are thinking “Eww, beet juice?!” Yes, it does taste horrible, but I have been told it is a magical exlixir that will give me the strength of 1000 men and the stamina of a penguin.
So it was finally time for the old(er) lady veteran rookies to get into the water and DAAAAAY-UM! that water was cold! Did I mention it was windy, too? So the water was freaking choppy. They say you should get completely underwater prior to you start to get used to the water temperature before you swim, but it was tough ‘coz it was so cold. I seeded my self in the middle of the pack because I have not had a lot of confidence in the swim this year. The gun sounded and we were off.
On a 300 meter swim you don’t have any time or distance to get spread out and into a good swim stroke form. So mostly I was just thrashing about. Then we took the turn at the first buoy and were swimming directly into the wind getting pummeled by the waves while trying to not get beat up by other athletes, yet breath, and swim. And lemme tell you, the ladies take no prisoners. Good times!
This video is the best video depiction I have seen of a tri swim start:
Go ahead and watch it again, because the commercial is only 30 seconds long and I was in the water a lot longer than that.
I usually start at the front of the swim pack because although I am not fast, I don’t mind getting swam over so much as I mind getting kicked in the face, and I can usually find someone faster than me to draft off of. At the Rookie, I determined that starting mid-pack sucks. You have the detriment of getting kicked in the face and punched, added to the complete inability to get in a full stroke let alone draft.
I think my swim can best be summed up as “not good.” I could never get into any type of good stroke form because I was constantly being punched in the sides and smacked in the head by both other swimmers and the waves. If was cold as %$#*. I couldn’t get around any of the slower swimmers because it was just a interminable mass of flailing bodies out there. But I can say, in my altruism I did have time to think , “Oh my, the rookies are going to hate this!”
As I exited the water, I noticed several wetsuit clad swimmers running over to a area set up for — wait, what?! They have wetsuit strippers!?! What the hell? Damn it!
I ran up the hill to my bike, slightly peeved.
My swim took 7:17 which is a 2:26min per 100 meters, aka pathetic.
Into transition: I put on my helmet and sun glasses, rubbed my feet on my towel to remove most of the dirt, grabbed a sock then spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get it on my wet dirt foot, ditto for sock number two. I have no idea what the problem was, but I finally had to sit down to get my socks on.
T1: 3:03 Really!?!
I did decide to put my windbreaker on because it goes on really easily (unlike socks, apparently). I had no problem running out of transition and hopping on my bike and getting out on to the course.
It was windy, but I am ok with wind. I warmed up on the little hills down Decker Lake Road then got out onto Decker Lane. Decker Lane heads north straight into the wind, and although it does have some inclines, it doesn’t have any of the really bad hills. The bike is where I usually catch and pass the competition that beat me out of the water. Only thing is, this bike is pretty short, so I didn’t have a lot of time and with the valuable minutes I lost in the water and in T1. I also had no idea how many folks in my age group are ahead of me already.
I can say that no one passed me on the bike! Woo-hoo!
Then I can say that the only people who were behind me (a) were true (clueless) triathlon Rookies who started the race after me and (b) folks who did worse than I out of the water and/or transition. So, yeah. That.
I will say that I did pass several guys on the bike. And the only reason I take the time to say that is because the guys get to go first because they are ” faster than the women”, and the old ladies go dead stinking last because we are so “slow”. So 😛
The Rookie course is not an easy course. It has quite a few hills; some steep, some long. But the temperature was great for riding and I was comfortable in my windbreaker (although I do not know that wearing it was even necessary). At least I wasn’t hot.
The course is only just over 11 miles long, but at mile ten is Quadzilla. Ya know, it really isn’t that bad a hill, but it comes so late in the course it can be daunting.
Luckily there are always encouraging signs and spectators cheering us on… By the by, where were all the signs and spectators on Quadzilla Sunday? Hullo? Hullo? Nothing! I am hoping that folks moved out there to encourage the rookies once they got on the hill, because there was no one out there when I was on the hill.
The good thing about the big hill is that once your up it, you’re pretty much done with the bike. I cruised around the corner, then up the last little hill into transition.
Bike time: 36:45 (18.3mph)
As I ran into the transition area I saw my friend Rhonda who yelled something encouraging, but then informed me that our friend Dionne was ahead of me and kicking my butt. Well, crap! Dionne is in my age group.
I racked my bike, lost the jacket, swapped my shoes and was out of T2 in 1:25. That’s more like it.
The Rookie run is a trail run. Part is on the very uneven grass. It is a park and the grass is mowed, but it is no golf course. There are tufts of buffalo grass, and uneven dirt beneath it, so you have to watch your step. But then it goes onto some roughly chopped mulch. Actually, at times it could be described as “piles of pointy sticks”. I was trying to run as fast as I can without twisting an ankle or getting impaled. This just makes for an exciting run.
Remember how I was complaining about nearly freezing to death before the swim? Well, that makes for great running weather. At one point I even thought: Hmm, I’m not sweating!
So where was I? Oh, yes. Trying to catch Dionne. As I headed to the fence line, there’s Rhonda again, “Go get her, Red!” Then “Dionne! RUN! Red’s coming.” Gee, thanks, Rhonda. I spot Dionne ahead and can see that I am gaining on her enough that I will eventually pass her, so I hold my pace . Just before I overtake Dionne, some gal goes zipping past me. Argh! She’s 42 (thus in my age group) and she’s flying. I say to Dionne, “I don’t know who that is but she’s 42!” Dionne replies, “Go get her!”
Go get her? She passed me like I was standing still. I was just hoping to keep her in my sight.
I had a really good run. I felt good and finished strong (but I never caught Ms 42). Run time: 15:12 (a 7:36 minute mile).
I did not make my goal of beating 1 hour. I was 1:03:43, which isn’t horrible, but is disappointing since I should have been able to take at least 2 minutes off between the swim and T1.
I’m not blaming the beet juice … actually, I am blaming my inability to swim effectively and my loss of sock changing ability. So before my next workout I will practice putting my socks on. Live and learn.