So as I said in my last posting, I am kinda giving up on this race season. I have been getting too stressed, trying too hard, having less than satisfactory results and little fun.
With that in mind, the day before the Couples Tri, I went out with the Steiner Ranch Cycling group for a hammer-down, hilly, 52 mile bike ride. In my defense, I did not realize it was an A-3 rated ride when I showed up (“A” rides are define as “Intense, fast-paced ride for very fit, experienced riders. (18+ mph average speed)” and hilliness is on a scale of 1(mostly flat) to 4 (very hilly)). I would like to say that I was the only gal on the ride and I was able to hold my own averaging 19 miles per hour over the distance which included 2100 feet of climbing, although I could never hold onto the lead pack.
Now that I got that outta my system, I was ready to race Sunday morning. The race is at Decker Lake – 800 m swim in the warm pristine power plant water, 11+ miles of scenic hills, and a 3.1 mile trail run in the park. (Full disclosure: It is a really ugly un-scenic course).
Couples is a triathlon where you are teamed up with another person and your times are added to determine which team is the fastest. There are several categories of teams (Friends (female/male/mixed), More than Friends, Mostly Strangers, Married, Family etc…) then divided again by age group (<70, 70-94 or >94), so there was a pretty good chance of placing in your respected category/age group… unless you were Friends – Female 70-94 which is a huge group of insanely fit women.
So I teamed up with my friend, Alison (female) and determined that it was very unlikely that we would win anything. Firstly because I tried to dehydrate and cripple myself on my bike the day before, and secondly because Alison has been plagued with some pretty serious foot problems which she is getting over (described by words such as “ruptured” and “fractured”). But our attitude was that we were gonna have a good time (although one of Alison’s friends did ask what we would tell our families if we failed. Alison and I just gave each other that confused dog look in response).
Alison and I have been a couple for, I wanna say… 5 or the last 6 years in this race. The swim start of 150 insanely fit, super competitive women (of course in delicate pink swim caps) is always the most brutal swim start I experience all year. While we were waiting for the start gun to go off I sweetly reminded everyone that “Ladies? We do not swim with closed fists.”
It’s not that the huge number of insanely fit competitive women are particularly mean, but with so many of us in a small area you cannot help but to swim over and into other gals, then you add the fact that everyone is trying to do their fastest and best and well, I never get tired of this video:
Also the Friends-Female group starts in the second of wave of racers, right behind the Friends-Male. The earlier you start the earlier you finish and in Texas that really means something, (the difference between running a 5k at 9:30 or doing it at 10:00 can be 10 degrees and sun versus shade). But it also means that the really fast Mixed Friends, Married Folks, Sister and Brothers etc., are going to be coming up behind you. I’m not used to being passed on the run because usually “old ladies” start dead last or close to dead last if there is an “even older ladies” age group behind me. So if you are going to pass me, generally you do it in the swim and on the bike. Years ago I realized that during Couples if you pass me on the run doing a 5:49 minute mile I really don’t need to try to catch you. This realization has kept me out of the med tent.
My new thing this year is wearing compression socks. They give me a bit more support (after I hurt my ankle earlier this year) and they save me from the inexplicably impossible task of trying to get socks on in transition. Yes, I wear socks during the swim (hey, I never claimed to be cool). So if you wonder why I’m swimming in knee socks, just trust me that there is a reason and it is not that I am a pants on head idiot.
I got to start my race at 8:04 I looked at my watch and noted the time and seconds (since I am always a bit off the official clock) . I was trying to work my way up to the front of the pack before the gun went off, but there were just too many gals, so I ended up starting mid-pack.
The gun went off and the mad flailing began! I couldn’t get ahead of the gal whose feet I kept hitting in front of me because I was boxed in on either side by two other gals (who were probably also boxed in), then there was a gal all over my legs (she seemed pretty frustrated, but I suspect she was also boxed in). I just did my best hoping that we would eventually spread out over the 800 meter swim. A few times I swallowed some water when I would come up to breath as the gal next to me was taking a stroke and practically smacking me in the head. Good times. After the first turn, things did break up a bit and I was able to get my swim form in order and get around a few people. I did notice that I was tired. Even with the little kicking I was doing my legs were sore. I guess a 3 hour bike ride the day before will do that.
I felt alright on the swim. Swam up on some of the guys who started 4 minutes before me (which was kinda cool) they were identifiable by their red swim caps; got passed by some of the folks who started 4 minutes later than I (which is kinda expected), they had green swim caps.
Swam pretty straight, felt good. Exited the water and looked at my watch. Yep, I couldn’t remember what time I had started. I couldn’t even remember around what time I was supposed to have started. (This actually happens a lot).
So I had to check the official time after the race.
Swim: 17:44 or 2:13/100’s. This is just a bit slower than what I have been swimming, but I certainly couldn’t complain (although one of these days I will learn to swim fast).
Then you have to run up the big hill from the water to the transition area, then across transition to my bike, I wiped my socks off on my hand towel (picked off a burr that got stuck in my sock), bike shoes, glasses, helmet, race number and I was off.
I jumped on my bike,clipped my shoes into my pedals and started spinning.
I figured one of two things was going to happen on the bike. Either I would be all loosened up from the day before and kill it, or I would be a sore mess from the day before and limp through. Truth be told, I really expected the latter to happen. But dang, it was on! I really do love riding my bike.
There was virtually no wind, it was partly cloudy and it really wasn’t as hot as it should have been for a Texas July.
I passed a guy who had a full disc wheel on the back of his bike, and he didn’t seem to like that, so he passed me when we were on a slight down hill, but I passed him on the uphill. Several minutes later, here he comes again. I wondered how long before he blew him self up (the answer- not long. Buh-bye).
I passed Coach Jen and felt like a freaking rock star … until I realized that she actually started in a swim wave at least 4 minutes behind me, so she was still kicking my butt even though I was able to get in front of her again.
Just felt great on that bike and had a really good ride.
Bike 32:59 at 20.4 mph (also ranked #1 on the bike among all Friends-Female. Woo-hoo!)
Jumped off my bike, ran across transition. Traded my helmet for a visor and my bike shoes for running shoes, grabbed a water bottle and I was off on the run.
I forgot to pack my little 10 oz hand held bottle, so I had a big water bottle (that I found in my truck that morning when I realized my mistake). Although there is water on the course, depending how hot and sunny it is, sometimes I need water to drink or dump on my head. But a 21 oz bottle is kinda big. Oh well.
I felt strong on the run. The run course is much more trail-like than most triathlon courses. It is not on crushed granite (like the Lake Pflugerville Tri), but mowed grass that has big cracks in it from the drought we have been suffering through. In an attempt to keep from losing athletes into these great crevices, the park has laid down a fashion of mulch. But apparently they set the wood chipper to Julienne instead of Espresso, so the mulch is big chunky sticks and more like running over kindling.
I enjoy trail running, but tend to keep my head down so I don’t trip and impale myself on any of the mulch. Periodically I would hear another running coming behind me. I always tell them “Good job.” because, why not?
So I hear someone coming up fast behind me and I say “Good job” as he runs passed me then moves over to get in front of me. Well, he was quite fit and tan, and wearing only a Speedo and I was tired and hypoxic, so when I said “DAMN!” I didn’t actually mean to say it out loud or in my outside voice. Oops…
I ran down the hill along the fence (the start of the run is on a downhill grade which is nice to get your legs warmed up), then turned to run uphill by the power lines (there is a short portion of the race where you run up a lumpy grass stretch along one side of some power lines, then down the other side). As I got to the top of the power line uphill section, two of my friends Amy and Emmie were cheering for me. Actually what they were saying was “Red, Hurry!” Hurry? WTF? Am I moving that slow? Thanks guys. “I’m running as fast as I can.” I whined in response.
I ran through the “woods” and down Quadzilla hearing some shouts of encouragement from the cyclists coming up the hill and giving some back.
I finally got to the last hill. I have no idea why this hill hurts so much. It certainly isn’t the longest or steepest hill in town, my it always kicks my butt. Finally got to the top, where you can practically see the finish line and ran it in.
Somehow, I missed the timing clock on my way to the finish line. Hmm.
Run 25:41 at an 8:17 m
I was disappointed in my run time as I expected it to be about 20 seconds/mile faster, but when I was finished I actually felt good. I didn’t feel like I was gonna throw up, so maybe that extra minute on the run was the ticket.
My total time for the race was 1:20:05.
I knew that that wasn’t a PR, but it didn’t feel like a PR kinda day which I was ok with. I would call the race a success in that I had a LOT of fun and felt good before, during and after the race and since we knew we were not going to place, there was no disappointment in not placing.
I should probably race like that more often.
Whats funny is, when I finally did get around to seeing what my PR was for the race, it is a minute 2 seconds faster, so this was my second fastest Couples.