Back in the game at the Kerrville Half Iron Distance Triathlon 9/29/13

So at the beginning of the 2013 tri season I entered the Texas Tri Series hoping to repeat an age group win.  I competed in the Rookie, Pflugerville and Couples (all sprints) and did alright. But just as I was gearing up for the longer distance races – Jack’s, TriRock (both Olympic distance) and ultimately the Kerrville Half Iron Distance, apparently someone in the 40-44 F age group hired a hit on me and I was run over as I was riding in the bike lane during an evening workout.  That sucked although it may not have been a hired hit (although I am not quite ready to concede that point just yet).

I was out of Jack’s with a strained knee and grade II shoulder separation. Jack’s was less than two weeks after the accident, so I knew I was out, but I was hopeful for TriRock four weeks later. My doc told me 6-8 weeks to a full recovery, so that translates to about 4 weeks for most athletes, right?  My doctor and physical therapist didn’t think I could do TriRock, but like in all the feelgood movies I was going to prove them all wrong!!!

Yeah, about that.  Ends up I couldn’t do TriRock either. Still couldn’t swim.

I was finally able to do the September Splash and Dash – I was running late which worked out well.  I got to swim all by myself since I entered the water long after the gun went off, so I didn’t have to worry about getting pummeled. Then since I was late for the swim I knew I was not going to have a good recorded time, so I didn’t feel the need to kill myself on the run, either (although, inexplicably, I did feel like I was going to die. Aqua-joggging for the past two months just ain’t the same).

I finally got my new bike about a week before the big race, then got my new wheels just days before the big race, so by the day of the big race I had only been on my bike for about 30 minutes in total.  Nothing new on race day… except a whole new bike set up.  What could go wrong?

I drove out to Kerrville with fellow TriZoner Pat B in intermittent rain.  Pat needed to go by the host hotel. As luck would have it by the time we got to the hotel Jenny and Joann were there, too, and starving to death as was I. While I was picking up my Half Iron race packet a friend, Julian approached me and asked me to do the Sprint Relay with him and Gary the next day.  What?  I’m not racing on Saturday!  He just needed someone to swim the 500 meters.  Oh, I could do that!  So I signed up to be on the relay team.

We dropped my bike off at the cabin and headed out to “Grape Juice” for some kibble (very yummy, by the by).  Surprising no one, we knew about half the folks in the joint.  Honestly I would list everyone that was there, but then if I left off someone’s name they might get mad at me, so I’m going to err on the side of caution and list no one.  Just know that I am very popular and know a lot of people.

The next morning we got up early (really early since Jenny was volunteering at the sprint swim) and headed out to the race site for the sprint. I swam 500 meters on a relay team (yup, big 11 minute workout for me on Saturday), then went and had breakfast.  Seemed like the obvious thing to do,right?  But apparently, I was supposed to go and watch the rest of my team race.  I did get to T2 shortly after Julian arrived on the bike, then neither Julian nor Cristalynn nor I could find Gary on the run.  After looking for him and even walking the course, we realized why. He had already finished the race.  We missed his big finish.  Does that make me a  crappy team member? Probably.

After some early morning rain, the day seemed to dry out, but the weatherman was suggesting we start building an ark for the rain that night into Sunday morning.  We all worried how the race might be effected.  This was it for me.  It was my big come back race and my last race of the season.  If it got cancelled, well, that would just suck!

I convinced Jenny to go out with me for a short ride, just so I could see how the new wheels handled with the carbon rims.  Then we had to drop our bikes at T1 and our run gear at T2 (two separate transition areas in this race) this day before the race.

How two transitions work: We would swim and run out of the water near T1 where we would don our bike apparel and cram all our wet swim stuff into a bag. The bike course ended about a mile and a half away near the finish line where our run stuff would be waiting for us in T2 because we put it there the day before. The race folks would pick up the bags of swim stuff at T1 and transport them to T2 near finish line for us.  Ultimately all of our stuff would end up in the same general area near the finish line and T2

Since they were predicting a Sharknado-like weather event, when I racked my bike, I took my bike computer off so it wouldn’t get ruined in the great flood.  Then we headed to T2 and carefully arranged our stuff in the plastic “run gear” bags so that no rain would get in.  OK, there was nothing else to do, but go back to the cabin, get our stuff ready for Sunday (come what may) and get ready for the big TriZones dinner at that Italian place.  About 50 of us showed up for dinner and a good time was had by all.

It started raining while we were eating and was predicted to keep raining until sometime Sunday afternoon. I had been checking the radar every 5 minutes all day, but it looked like it was going to do whatever it was going to do but most likely it was going to suck.  So we all headed back to our respective lodging and I slept like a rock until 5:35 the next morning.

Jenny and I got up to cool, dry but cloudy conditions.  Hmm, not too bad.  The weather guy had changed his tune and the was now a 0% chance of rain all day but nice cool temperatures in the 70’s.   I went into my truck and grabbed my bike computer and a fleece blanket (because it was kinda cold), then Jenny and I loaded up her truck with everything we needed and headed to the race site.

I opted not to go to T2 and set up my running stuff.  To be honest I did not entirely trust the weather guy that it was not going to rain at all and I really didn’t want to have to put wet shoes on for the run.  Instead, went to set my bike area up.  I brought two water bottles (one water, one purply Roctane), then filled my aerobottle with water from the water monster*.

*many races now instead of having bottle water have huge water tanks, a Water Monster, with a number of spouts where people can fill their water bottles.

I like to tape my gels to my handlebar stem so that I can pull them off with one hand and they are magically opened while I ride, but the way my shifting cables were routed over the stem made this impossible.  Dang it!  Is this why they say nothing new on race day?  I used a bunch of tape to tape my gels to the cables.  We’ll see if that works.  I put my computer back on the bike and gave the front wheel a spin.  Oops, the magnet is not aligned with the sensor. I go to adjust the magnet and realize just how out of alignment it is.  The magnet is on my old wheel in Austin!  Dang IT!

I went over to the bike mechanic to see if they had an extra wheel magnet, but they didn’t .  At this point I was pretty much resigned that I would have no idea where I was or how fast I was going on the bike course.  But this is just my “back in the game” race, so that was ok.  But then I had the brilliant thought, ‘I can just steal a magnet off of any of the hundreds of bikes in transition.’ . . .

No. I didn’t.  I don’t need that kind of karma chasing me around my first post-recovery race.

At Kerrville the old ladies get to start first – well after the pros (as opposed to dead stinkin’ last in every other triathlon).   Oh, and old is >40 in triathlon [shakes angry fist at clouds, throws kids off my lawn].

I knew we only had two minutes to get in the water and lined up to swim after the pros went off and I knew there were a big old bunch of us, so I got in the front of the pack and got in the water fast.  My “race plan” was to not get hit in the swim, take it easy and maybe find some good feet to draft off of.  I was not going to go fast.  While my arm was rehabed it was not nearly as strong as it had been and I did not want to aggravate it or reinjure it.

The start gun went off and off we went.  I felt pretty good and had a good pace going, but let all the fast gals go off first.  I wasn’t chasing anyone.  I kinda ended up out there by myself which was fine.  It’s a pretty long swim, so I tried to think of something interesting and distracting while I swam.  The swim starts in the middle of the course and you swim right for about 1/4 mile, then you turn around and swim left for about 1/2 mile, then turn again and swim back about 1/4 mile 9the whole swim is 1.2 miles). Occasionally I would see another swimmer to my right or left, but no one was passing.  After what seemed like an eternity, I could see I was approaching the swim exit. I started moving to the right for the most direct line back to shore.  Done!  As I got out of the water Nancy M was right behind me.  “Was that you swimming all over the lake?”  She asked. “You should have been done 5 minutes ago.”

Yeah, apparently, when was seeing a swimmer to my left or my right that was Nancy who was swimming straight as I zigged and zagged all over the course with my Finding Nemo jacked-up flipper arm.  Apparently I have to work on swimming in a straight line. Noted.

Swim- 41:49 (2:10m/m)

We ran up the hill to our bikes.  T1 -2:32

This was going to be all “rate of perceived exertion” since I had no bike computer, but that’s ok, since I was not really racing anyway.  I got out on the bike course and there seemed to be a bit of a headwind going out, but not too bad.  Some of the super fast guys would get out on the course and pass me but I was not going to blow myself up.

The course is a long skinny loop.  So after about 15 miles when we made the turn to come back in I realized that whatever the heck I felt going out, it was not a headwind.  Just as the road turned to rough chipseal and the hills started, so did the headwind.  Good times!

Gary O zipped passed me just as we came out of a very short section of out-n-back with about 1/8 mile of blessed tailwind. It was Gary so, of course, I kicked it in and passed him right back.  He said, “Oh, are we going to be playing leapfrog the rest of the way?” When he passed me again, I told him, “No.  I don’t want to blow myself up.”  He was really going way too fast for me.

I drank a bottle of water and a bottle of purply Roctane and part of a bottle of Gatorade and ate a gel on the first bike loop.  Towards the end of the loop I saw the funniest spectator sign of the day.  All it said was “Cow goes Moo.”  I lol’d.

I rode back into town and through all of the cheering friends and spectators which was really, really nice, then headed out for the second loop.  I cleared the spectators and was back by myself when a guy rode passed, “This is my favorite part of the course!” Ron M called as he passed me.  So passing me is his favorite part of the course?  Nice, Ron! (Later when I asked him, “What the hell was that?”  He explained that passing me was not his favorite part of the course, the part of the course that we were on was his least favorite part of the course, but sarcasm it hard to express at 22 mph).

I finished the bottle of Gatorade and had 4/5th of a ZBar (because one piece always falls into the road) and soon determined that I might have to make a pit-stop and by “pit-stop” I mean “pee my pants” because that is what we do in triathlon).  I checked to see that it was clear behind me, got a bit of speed going since I cannot pedal and pee at the same time and just as I was about to go – swoosh! Matt B comes flying by.  “Hi, Red!”

Ok, last year I thought I peed on Matt as he had come along at the most inopportune time.  What is with Matt showing up every time I pee in this race? Is he some kind of diving rod or something?  I’m beginning to fear running into Matt in social setting lest I should wet my pants.

Once Matt was safely down the road, I took care of business.  The ride was going well.  I had no idea where I was as there were no mile markers on the bike course, but I had another gel and drank more Gatorade.  I made the final turn off the “back roads” area and was heading back towards town when I saw a guy changing his bike tire.

Now, I will help just about anyone anywhere when I am training, but I do not, do NOT, stop on the bike course for any reason (see tinkle incident above).  I called “you got everything you need?” and he said “No!” (they never say “no”!)

I’d been having a good ride, but I knew I wasn’t breaking any world records and keeping with the spirit of this is just my back in the game race, I stopped and asked “What do you need?”  What he needed was a stem puller, but he did have a bit of a difficult time conveying that and was babbling about his stem.  I offered him a long stemmed tube, but that wouldn’t work. So we ended up pulling everything out of my bike bag while he lamented that he only had 6 miles left.  When he saw my stem puller he said, ‘That!  I need that!” Then we had to stuff everything back in the bag which is like putting a cat in a shoebox.  Everything seemed crammed in and we got he bag zippered. He should have been able to fix his bike at that point and I got back on the course to finish the last 6 miles losing maybe 2 minutes (yeah, it’s a 6 hour race, but 2 minutes is huge!).

I felt great and was able to pass everyone who passed me when I stopped. Then I saw Gary up ahead and I was gaining on him fast.  Interesting.  “Gary, come on!” I said as I passed him.  “I’m tired.” he whined.  “Eat a gel! Seriously, Gary we’re almost there!” I told ya he might have gone out too fast.

I rode through town and all the cheering spectators again, and got to T2.

Bike: 2:54:32 (19.3 mph)  Not too shabby for the first race back, but I do love being on the bike.

I ran into transition, racked my bike; dumped my stuff out of my T2 bag: shoes; visor; water bottle; out!

T2 2:00

Having sat out of racing for two months made me forget a few things.  One of them was how badly the first three miles of the run sucks in a half iron.  I got out on the run course, it was still cool and cloudy but I felt like poo.  I was convinced that this was going to be a 3 hour slog, but I told myself to try to get to at least mile 6 until I started walking since I figured my aqua-jog training should be able to get to at least mile 6.

The run is 4 loops of out to the highway and doubleback to a left turn where you go out up a hideous hill then come back, then head back to the finish line where you started, lather, rinse, repeat (this is different from last year’s course that was just out and back with 1/2 of it being a trail run – apparently everyone but me hated last years course).

So you have potentially three opportunities on each loop to pass your racing friends depending how close y’all are to each other.

I got about 1/2 way through my first loop, feeling miserable, when I saw Nancy M.  While there are some people who can do complicated math while hypoxic (eh-hem, Heather), I cannot count to four.  Seriously.  I get confused at around 3.  Yet, I persisted in trying to figure out how long it would take Nancy to catch me on the run. My final answer: potato.  At least it kept my mind off of how absolutely miserable I felt running that first loop.

I would be remiss not to mention the Retro Moxie (Moxie Multisport) Dance Party going on on the sidelines.  Bedecked in Daisydukes and blond mullets the guys and gals showed off their moves to the dance music blaring form their giant boom box.  Verrry entertaining.  I actually looked forward to seeing them each loop.

Into the second loop I repeated “Just run to mile 6, then you can take a break. Just run to mile 6.”  This was my mantra.  But something weird happened at about mile 4.  I stopped feeling completely like crap.  Then as approached mile 5 I actually felt alright even though I was running up the hideous hill.  It was then that I remembered I always feel like poo on the first 3 miles and my mantra is usually, “Just get through the first three miles, then we can talk if you still feel bad.” I need to remember that for next time, because I was really bummed during that first run loop.

As I ran, I said “Hi!” or waved or some gesture (all nice) to everyone I knew who was racing (except, Coach Jen apparently), plus I acknowledged all the spectators who were wonderful! That alone can make a person hypoxic.  There were so many friends and friendly faces out at this race!

The second loop went much better than the first and my mantra was, “When you’re done with this, your 1/2 way there.”  In retrospect, that doesn’t seem particularly comforting, but it got me through.

I did notice that every time I passed Nancy she was gaining on me, this is no big surprise since on one of my good days she significantly out runs me and I was under-trained for this race.  I wondered if she would catch me.

On the third loop my mantra was “When you’re finished with this just one more!” Because if you’re running 4, getting to the last one feels pretty dang good.  I had a good pace, it was still cool and cloudy, and I felt pretty good.  I was no longer worried about having to stop and walk even though I hadn’t run over 7 miles in over 8 weeks.  I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but then my knee didn’t hurt either.  Good times!

Fourth loop!  As I ran passed the spectators I gave them the universal sign of one more loop, I held up one finger.  Damn, Nancy was close!  I strongly suspected that she would catch me on this loop.

As I ran my last loop, I thanked all the spectators who had been out cheering me/us on all day.  “Thank you!  You’ve been wonderful!  Bu-bye!” I passed Nancy after the highway turn-around.  “I’m coming for you !” She said.  ‘Bring it!” I replied with a confidence I did not feel.  Crap she really is gonna catch me.

I passed Jenny P as I was running up the hideous hill for the last time (and at this point “running” is a very generous description of how fast I was moving up that hill). “Distract Nancy!”  I yelled to her.  I grabbed some Gatorade at the rest stop then turned to run back down the hill.  Nancy was right there!

So at this point I started hauling ass.  I was pretty sure she had me, but I couldn’t give in without a fight.

I ran passed the former location of the Retro Moxie Dance Party, but they had packed up and moved out.  Was I really that late, guys? :*(

As I ran passed my friends they would yell encouraging things, “Good Job, Red!” “Way to go!” Then I would listen to see if I could hear them encourage Nancy since we know most of the same people.

I ran and ran just waiting to see Nancy pull past.  Into the finish shoot, I crossed the line just a few seconds before my new arch nemesis (sorry Greg B, but recently you have been slacking in your arch nemesis duties.  I had to replace you).

My run was a 2:07:59 which I was very happy with considering my training season.

My total half Iron time was a very respectable 5:48:55.  I achieved my goal.  I did not reinjure myself or aggravate anything, and I felt pretty good while racing and I did not die (ok, I added that last goal during the first loop of the run).

Good times!

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About jredtripp

Triathlete Extraordinaire!
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