On June 2, 2013 I set out on the ill fated (and completely unprepared for) Rogue 30k “The Ranch” trail run. That I had not trail run since the 2012 The Ranch trail run and that I had not run longer than 13 miles in 4 months, were only icing on the nursing-an-injured-ankle cake. Anyway, I set out on this rocky single track trail run and made it 6.7 miles before I could hardly walk at all due to ankle pain. The doctor told me no running. I said “Ok, but I will be running in the Pflugerville Tri on June 16th, it’s a flat 3 miler on crushed granite.” He just warned me to stop if my ankle started hurting again, lest I should ruin the rest of my race seasons.
I only tell this story so that I can say, I did not run at all for about two weeks prior to the Pflugerville Tri (ok, I did do a team workout of about 3 miles the Thursday before and my ankle felt ok).
Race morning I woke up on time, got dressed, grabbed a bagel and a bottle of Gatorade and set out to the race site. I like to get there early rather than late. I have no problem napping in my car, or on a lawn chair if I am really tired, but getting to a race site without a lot of time to get decent parking, set up my bike, use the restroom 5 times, drop my extra stuff at the team tent, and check my bike set up before my wave start just stresses me out.
Although I got there early I did not get optimum parking, so I had to schelp all my stuff to transition while carrying my bike (well, I’m certainly NOT going to roll my bike through a grassy field where an errant spur could flatten the tire. Perish the thought – besides my luck with flats has not been great this year). Then I had to find my truck again, which was invisibly sandwiched between two much bigger vehicles, to schelp my chairs to the team tent as there was sure to be much socializing before and after the race.
This is my favorite tri of the year. I love the venue: the lake is warm but clean with a little beach area, the bike course is fairly flat with just enough small rolling hills to keep it interesting, and the run is completely flat around the lake to the finish line area which is lined with team tents of cheering spectators.
I got a pretty good rack position and set up my stuff, before heading back to the team tent (after another restroom break) with my goggles and swim cap to wait an hour before my race start. I decided to try swimming in my compression socks. I figured I would use the extra support on my ankle and calf, but compression socks are so compression-y that they are virtually impossible to get into in transition. It took me five minutes to get both of them on when I got dressed in the morning. However, I did not know if they would collect a bunch of sand and dirt as I ran out of the water, where I would then have a shoe full of rocks and sand on the bike. I guess we’ll find out.
I stood on the shore as the earlier waves set out. First the pros in the open wave (men, then women) then the guys from youngest to oldest. The race started at 7:30, but I was not slated to start until 8:00. As I watched the first groups of guys swim out, the swim course is kind of a pentagon (actually a rectangle with an extra point on top). A good breeze caught the furthest buoy and broke it loose from its mooring. It drifted towards the beach and to the right with the wind. That’s gotta suck for the guys out there trying to figure out where they are swimming. Before the race folks could catch the buoy, then tow it back out to where it belonged, 3 or 4 waves of guys had missed it and cut the course short. Surprisingly, every single guy I talked to swears he did the whole course. Alrighty, then. It was going to be hard to know who actually cut the course and compare finish times for the guys, or compare times of the guys versus the girls (which is kind of a bummer).
I set goals for myself at these races and today’s goal was to finish before the sun came out from behind the morning cloud cover. I had no idea when this might happen, but I knew I did not want to be on the run course when it did.
It was finally time for my race to start.I waded into the water with a bunch of the other ladies of my age group and although there was supposed to be some 3 minutes between swim starts about 1 1/2 minuted later we were doing the countdown from 10.
Although it was breezy, the water was pretty calm. After a few frantic strokes in the beginning swim bedlam, I was able to settle into a decent swim form and head out to the first buoy. I didn’t get hit too much and actually felt pretty good. Swimming is definitely not my strong suit, so not getting passed by everyone assured me that I was not doing too badly.
At the far buoy, I was able to catch a draft off a gal in my wave (waves are color coded by swim caps). This was also where I passed several gals (and some guys) from the previous waves. I kept on my drafters feet, checking a few times to make sure she was swimming straight (she was) and coasted in behind her. I looked at my watch and was trilled to see my swim time was under 10:30 minutes. Unfortunately, I also can’t see sh*t through my goggles.
SWIM time 10:43 for 500 meters (2:09min/m). Not horrible.
I ran out of the water and over the sand to the pavement and to my bike, grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, race number and bike shoes. Pleasantly, not too many rocks and gravel ended up in said shoes. I ran out of transition and hopped on my bike.
I’ve been riding a lot this year and wanted to make up as much tie as I could on the bike, after my so-so swim and before the mystery run.
I know one of my arch-nemeses is a better swimmer than I, so I set out to find her and catch her on the bike (albeit without knowing how far ahead of me she was). I had a really good ride. Felt good. Felt fast. I managed to pass my arch-nememes within the first 4 miles.
The roads in Pflugerville can leave a bit to be desired so far as bike eating cracks, potholes and pavement that slants to the side at a 7% grade off into a ditch, so you have to keep an eye on the line you want to take, while being very aware of what people around you are dealing with and how they react. I can say that the racers were great as far as staying to the right and moving to the right when I called out “On your left!” but the roads were open to traffic and twice I got caught behind a car that passed me but couldn’t pass the slower riders in front of me. So. Absolutely. Frustrating. Dang cars, always slowing down traffic…
The wind did not feel bad on the bike and I felt great although I was pushing pretty hard. At mile 13ish I passed a gal with a 42 on her leg. Dang, at best I would have about 20 seconds on her after the bike. “I hope you can’t run very well!” I called as I passed her. She just laughed (well, that’s not a good sign).
Pushing as hard as I did on the bike I wondered what my legs would feel like on the run. I passed a last few people on the hill heading back to transition, and hopped off my bike.
BIKE time: 39:21 for 14 miles (average speed 21.3 mph)
Ran into transition with my bike, then when I attempted to rack my bike hit all the crap that the guy next to me had left strewn about in my rack area when he came in. Took three tries of me knocking his stuff out of the way with my rear wheel before I could rack (dang it!).
Shoes off, shoes on, helmet off, visor on and I was out on the run.
As I got out on the run course, my legs actually felt pretty good doing something different. I did not grab my Garmin since the run is so short, so I had no idea what my pace was, but I hoped I wasn’t going out too fast. I wasn’t a half mile into the run before Ms 42 blew passed me. dang, I guess she can run pretty fast.
The great thing about the Pflugerville run is how much it makes you appreciate a headwind. The run out with a head wind for about 3/4 mile, then you get the crosswind for the next mile, before the tailwind. In most situations a tailwind is a good thing, but at Pflugerville it feels like no wind at all, just the sun baking down on you until the last 1/2 mile where you get the refreshing crosswind again. But because I know this, I embrace the headwind. Good times!
I was about 1 1/2 into the run when a gal with a 41 on her leg passed me, ‘Noooo! You’re in my age group.” I called. She just waved. Damn, that meant I was 3rd place at best. I hoped no one else would pass me.
As I approached mile marker #2, GAH! a blinding laser burned my corneas! Ahhh, the sun!
But seriously, the sun makes it feel about 10 degrees hotter than it is and with the tailwind, I might as well have been running through the desert.
Less than 10 minutes. I told myself, “You can do anything for 10 minutes” and I ran on hoping for another cloud to drift by.
You can hear the finish line announcements pretty much all around the lake, so when I passed a fella who had stopped to walk after mile 2, I said, “Look! You can see the finish line from here!” Yeah, but it was still across the lake. Ahh, that triathlon mid-race humor. I’m sure my fellow athletes appreciate it.
My run felt strong and consistent and the ankle did not bother me at all (which is a win!), but I also knew it was not one of my fastest runs. I guess two weeks off is a bit too much of a taper.
RUN time: 23:17 for 3 miles (7:46 min/mile)
My total time for the race was 1:16:49, which is not a PR (personal record) on that course and was not enough to even podium – the first time I have not podiumed at this race [sniff*]. I came in 5th out of 46 in my Age Group, so it looks like I need to step up my game at the next race.