While I had vowed that last year’s disastrous race was my last at Buffalo Springs Lake in Lubbock, Texas, I have determined that the Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon half iron is like crack (only more expensive). You have a good first experience, then you spend half a decade trying to get that high again. So here I was back at Buff Springs, chasing that high.
Tammy, Dina and I arrived on Friday afternoon, driving 400 miles to Lubbock up from Austin.We checked into the hotel, settled in a bit, then headed out to the Lake for a swim practice. I don’t know what happened to our motivation on the 15 minute drive to the lake, but when we got there Dina is the only one of us who actually got in the water. But Dina was doing the Sprint Distance on Saturday. Tammy and I had all of Saturday to get our swim practice in.
So we met with a bunch of TriZoners for dinner after leaving the lake (they all had actually got in their practice swim), then retired to the hotel for some relaxation and sleep.
The next morning we awoke refreshed but both Tammy and I has some gastrointestinal upset (aka, “the poops”). But we would not be dissuaded. We had all day to get over what was surely caused by the day before’s road food. Dina was feeling good, but anxious. We loaded the truck with Dina’s race stuff and Tammy and my spectator and practice swim stuff and headed back out to the lake.
Dina had a great, but wee bit windy race. Tammy and I hung around (close to the port-o-johns) and once again never got into the water. Meh. The race would be wetsuit legal so it was unlikely that either of us would drown.
After Dina finished, we all got some lunch, then went back to the hotel to relax. We pretty much chilled out the rest of the day; Dina was tired from her race and Tammy and I were getting ready for ours. I was feeling much better and, while it was quite windy on Saturday the weather guy said that winds would be down to 13-15mph during the race on Sunday. Piece of cake. That’s like a weekend ride of Parmer Lane. While it was initially predicted to be a high of 87, that temp had crept up each day the previous week and now it was predicted to be a high of 100. That’s ok, I would be done before 1:00 and it would probably only be in the low 90’s. It was gonna be great!
Back at the hotel that night, I slept like a rock and woke up refreshed. Had a bagel and some coffee, then loaded up the truck and we headed back out to the lake. At the lake, Tammy and I racked out bikes and set up our stuff in transition. We were one number off from each other, so we were rack neighbors. Cool. I went to the port-o-john, and oh, the poops were back. Joy. And I still had to get into my wetsuit.
If you have never worn a swim wetsuit it is like putting on Spanx, only they are rubber and 5x as tight and it takes 20 minutes to get in it. But once you are in, your wetsuit accentuates every lump while flattening and distorting every curve. Thing is, you really don’t want to put on your wetsuit until you are certain there did no reason to take it off again until you are done with the swim portion of the race. I wondered around dragging my wetsuit behind me wondering if it was safe to put it on… nope! I was in the dang port-o-john three times before deciding that I didn’t have any more time to not start the process of getting into my wetsuit. I hoped that I could get through the 1.2 mile swim without “incident.”
The swim start is broken into groups of about 100 folks. Each group is sent out at 2 minute intervals. The pro athletes went out, then the men over 45 years old, then women over 45 (that’s me). I’m not all that concerned about the pro athletes who swim at twice my speed (some of these folks are trailed by giant rooster tails of water). However, while some men over 45 are really fast, a lot are not. I’ve determined that some may not know how to swim at all.
Two minutes after the old guys, the old gals started swimming, including me. While I’m pretty fast on the bike and can hold my own on the run, I have decided to embrace my mediocrity in the swim. I would say that I am very middle of the pack. Accordingly, I looked to the first giant inflatable buoy that marked the course about 60 meters off the shore and started swimming for it. Inexplicably, before I covered those 60 meters I swam directly into a guy who has already been in the water, allegedly swimming, for two minutes. He is doing the backstroke with a scissor kick, and I am fairly certain I have broken or dislocated my ring finger. %#$*!!!
Of course, I do not stop swimming, but every time I take a stroke I am trying to make sure my finger is straight and not at some crazy angle, because it really hurts! (true fact: it still hurts, as I type this race report a week later. But, no, it is not broken). While not optimal, this does take my mind off the long swim for most of the rest of the swim. I finally make the final turn and head towards the shore where there are volunteers to help the swimmers out of the water.
I bet you didn’t know that there is a big step up on to the ramp as you get out of the water. Well, I sure didn’t. I proceeded to crack my ankle against the big step. OW! The the volunteer says, “Oh, sorry. There’s a step.” Thanks, found it.
SWIM – 37:49 (Yep, mediocre.)
Another volunteer helps me out of my wetsuit (they come off a lot easier than they go on especially when two people are tugging the legs), and I run towards my bike in transition. To port-o-john or not to port-o-john? I’m feeling pretty good so I forgo the bathroom and head straight to my bike. I hurriedly put on my socks and cycling shoes, helmet, sunscreen, sunglasses, then start running out of transition with my bike. At the last triathlon I did I remember to bring my Gatorade and my aerobottle (a bottle with a straw that is made to fit on the handle bars for easy sipping), but forgot to pour the Gatorade into the aerobottle. Duh! This time I remembered both, remember to fill the aerobottle with Gatorade, but forgot to secure the aerobottle to the handlebars, so as I start to run with my bike the bottle full of Gatorade falls off. At some point in my life I will get this right (hint: it was not at my next race either). I stop and re-secure the bottle to the bike, but this is my excuse for taking 4 minutes in T1.
I run out of transition and jump on my bike. The nice thing about Buffalo Springs is that you have about 100 meters to warm on the bike before you hit the first soul breaking hill. Of course, you still have the benefit of being light headed from being horizontal in the water (that is unless you spend 4 minutes putting your shoes on).
I crest the first hill. As I am enjoying my steep descent immediately before the next big hill, I hit a tiny bump in the road and that magnet reader for my bike computer falls off my bike. I listen to it bounce off the spokes of my race wheel (a wheel that cost so much I am embarrassed to even admit the price). Ping! Bing! Boing! Ping! Ting! Ting! Boing!
^^^Here is a picture of the thing that fell off, as you can see the straps keep it attached to the bike fork allowing it to bounce off of each of your spokes as you scream down hill at 35 mph.
So I have to stop, pull off the front wheel remove implement-of-expensive-wheel- destruction, re-attach wheel and head back out on the bike course. Now I will have no idea how fast I am going or how far I have gone. Spoiler Alert: this ends up being a good thing.
I climb the next big hill where the road flattens out for awhile. Here is where I get my first taste of the refreshing breeze that will accompany the 56 mile bike course.
The wind was coming at us directly from the south, so while at times I had a sweet tailwind, most of the time I was riding into what felt like a wind-tunnel, or leaning left or right to try to stay upright from the cross wind. Based on my effort and the wind in my face I felt like I was riding 20mph the whole time (ha-ha-ha, oh wait, let me laugh some more).
Of course there were the totally illegal pace lines of cyclists CHEATING!!!! But hey, they have to live with themselves and their totally BOGUS race times (amirite?), so I’m not going to bitch about them.
There are several turnaround/out and back portions of the bike course, so I could see how a bunch of my friends were doing at certain points during the race (I must say, everyone looked great despite the challenging conditions). Eva was rockin’ it not far behind me and Vickie, Judy and Vanessa were not far behind. You go, girls!
Hey, have you ever ridden a bike up a 8% graded hill with switchbacks in a 25 mph cross wind? You should totally do it some time.
Contrary to last years’ disastrous race, I was able to stay on my nutrition pretty well, but due to the remaining tummy trouble, I did have to stop twice for a bathroom break. While I was in the restroom, apparently Eva snuck by me.
When I was at mile 50ish, I spied Eva up ahead and I was gaining on her. So I got up next to her and yelled, “No Slacking!!!” as I whizzed past. I heard her say “Oh, shi–” just as I passed. Of course 20 seconds later she was flying passed me. A few minutes later I caught her again. I tried to get her to bite again, but no such luck. 😦
I actually felt really strong the last 8-10 miles of the 56 mile course, even though most of it was into a nasty headwind. As I said, I felt like I was flying, but, yeah. No.
56 mile bike = 3:22:13 at 16.7mph (about 22-30 minutes of my 1/2 iron bike times) – Later I herd a lot of folks say they were discouraged by their slow bike speeds at various times during the race. Here is where I was blissfully unaware since my bike computer was broken.
Zipped down the hill into transition, swapped out helmet/visor and shoes and headed out onto the run course.
I usually have a hard time on the run for the first 2-3 miles. I realize this, I suck it up and I do not allow any whining. However, for some reason, I was unable to get my breathing or heart rate under control at mile 3… or mile 4… If I ran any slower, I felt like I would be walking, but I was a mess. So I ran all the way through the park, up the first two hills and into the “Energy Lab*” feeling like poo.
* Energy Lab is a 2 1/2 mile stretch of hot, flat, shadeless misery that just goes out forever. Several times you will think to can see the turn around, but PSYCH! that’s just the next mile rest stop, then when you finally turn around, you get to run two 1/2 hot, flat, shadeless miserable miles back out. It’s great!
Finally at mile 5, I started feeling like I could actually run. This is great for me, but not so much for anyone around me. Since I now feel good, I take this opportunity to encourage my race-mates. “Isn’t this great?!”
“Look, we can see the turn around!” That’s a mirage. “No it isn’t!”
Then when I was running out: “You’re gonna love Energy Lab”
“Energy lab is as great as you remember it!”
No, that’s not stabbiness, that’s a feeling of encouragement.
I felt pretty good for the rest of the run, but couldn’t really make up for the miserable first 5 miles.
Run 13.1 miles – 2:23:24
My total race time was 6:30:13 which is about 15 minutes longer than my next worse 1/2 Iron and almost a full hour off my PR, but considering the conditions, I’ll take it.
… of course. I’ll be back next year, when I’m sure to have my best race ever!