This was the last race of my season, and it came not a moment too soon. I have been burnt out and dragging through for probably the last month. My best fitness is well behind me, and I was hoping just to close the season on a relatively high note. And, in short, I did; this race was a great experience, all-around, and made the past season totally worth it.
Driving into Stonebridge Ranch, which is near McKinney, TX, I could not stop rolling my eyes at shit like this and this and this. If you live in something like that, I apologize. I'm sure you're a very nice person. Now please skip the next paragraph.
I mean seriously? How much house do you need? How f*cking bourgeois can you be? Your house has tourets. How can you possibly take yourself seriously? And then as we were heading in to packet pick up, I kept seeing all these fake-boobed, orange-skinned, plastic barbie-doll wannabes and I thought, "Great. J-Lo's come to my race." And that atmosphere--the race was being held at the Stonebridge Ranch "Beach Club"--seriously pissed me off from the beginning. Because that upper-middle-class, WASPish thing is one of the things that really annoys me about this sport. And it's not true across the board; not all triathletes are pretentious upper-crusty white folk with the time and money to do the most expensive sport ever (short of stock car racing). But we all know that they're there, right?
So I came into this race with the mindset that the hoity toities of Stonebridge Ranch were NOT going to out-swim, out-bike, or out-run me, no matter how much they paid for their bikes, their running shoes, or their energy-eating houses.
Which was completely judgmental of me (and I was wrong, by the way), but I'll get to that later.
I went down to the race with a couple friends, one of whom was racing Olympic instead of sprint. Her swim wave left almost an hour before ours did, so it was an early morning for all of us. It was cool and dark when as we walked to transition, so I had very little opportunity to check out other athletes (both their bikes and their bodies). It took me all of ten minutes to set up my transition area, at which point I had about two hours to kill. So I walked around, checked out the area, tried to get a feel for the race. And you know what? It wasn't at all like I expected. Sure, there were the Cervelos and a couple Guru Cronos and various other ridiculously high-end bikes, but there were also mountain bikes and hybrid bikes and plenty of heavy-ass road frames. Besides which, the atmosphere was totally laid-back. There wasn't a lot of conversation about PR-ing or the more technical aspects of the sport; there was none of the posturing and wind-blowing that other athletes have reported; mostly, there was an air of friendliness and willingness to help all the first-timers. I was surprised and encouraged. Apparently, the hoity toities weren't all going to descend on our little race.
Anyway, the water temperature was 76 degrees and I had brought my wetsuit all the way from Kansas, so I figured I might as well. As the sun was rising, I dragged my wetsuit (I was not going to put that neoprene sauna on until the last possible minute) and my ass up the hill (yes up the hill) to watch my friend start with the women's olympic wave.
Swim: 750 m, 16:38
Oh man. The women's sprint wave was (of course) the biggest wave of the day. There must have been 150 women bunched together for the tread start. So I knew that it was going to be rough. I was ready for rough. I was fully prepared to get in a few good punches myself.
The race directors signaled the start with a siren which none of us could hear. We were all looking at each other, asking, "Was that the siren?" when someone finally just yelled "GO!" So we went. I tried to sprint all-out so that I could shake the pack, but I quickly gave up on that. First of all, it was taxing my body entirely too much. Second, it wasn't getting me anywhere; I was still right in the middle of this huge chunk of bodies. So I settled in and found my stroke. After a few minutes, I stopped feeling blows, and I thought, "Oh crap. I'm swimming off course." So I looked up to catch a view of the first buoy, and I was not off course. Everyone else, however, was swimming way off to the left. I was taking the most direct line to the first buoy, and I had open water. Huh. That's unusual. Rounding the first turn, same thing happened; I took the most direct line, and everyone else swam out to the side. I have to say, it made for a pretty relaxing swim.
The last turn is, I think, where I lost the most time. Because that last little bit of swimming took us due east, where the sun was just starting to rise over the trees. Which meant that I could not see a damn thing. And I suppose no one else could, either, because the swimming got pretty rough again. At one point, I felt my hand brushing something, looked up, and realized that I swam myself straight into another girl's crotch. So sorry, other girl; thank you for not kicking my head off, which is precisely what I would have done in that situation. And at another point, someone actually grabbed my shoulder and tried to pull me back. So I let her swim over me, then grabbed her knee and pulled as hard as I could. So sorry to you too; you're probably not really a total bitch.
Final swim time? Gag. 16:38? WTF? Whatever. Last race of the season, and pre-race I was debating whether or not to Tweet during my transitions. So I guess I shouldn't be too concerned with how slowly I swam.
I know, I know! Really slow again! Of course, the run to transition included a very steep uphill followed by a very steep downhill, which (according to my friend) took over a minute and a half to run. So substract 90 seconds from that T1 time and it doesn't look so bad, right? I have to admit, though, that I wasn't in any particular hurry, at this point. Also? I forget to unvelcro my shoes. So while I executed a nearly flawless flying mount onto my bike, it took me a while to get my feet into my shoes. Stoopid muv.
Bike: 20 km, 35:23 (20.3 MPH)
This is the fastest bike speed I've ever posted in a race. The course was fast and fun, and I love my new fit (even though I really should have ridden my bike with it at least once before I raced with it). The course required two loops (four for the Olympic distance), each of which included one big hill and two little ones. But the hills were short and steep, easy to power up those, and the rest of the course was mostly downhill. Which was super fun. There was one section where I really missed my aerobars. It was a little windy and a little bit downhill and I was probably going about 25-26 MPH (my computer isn't working, so who knows). I did my version of a mountain tuck, but I couldn't help but think that the aerobars would have given me a little bit more speed.
I passed and passed and passed on the bike. After the race, an older woman came up to me and said, "I tried to hang with you, but you were just gone!" Hell yes I was. I love my bike, I love being on the bike, and I loved this portion of the race.
Not bad. Not as fast as Mudwater, but still pretty speedy!
Run: 5 km, 31:01 (9:56/mile)
Know what? If I were to race like I trained in this race, I wouldn't have done this part. The last real running I did was over a month ago, a 15-mile long run that was part of my build up to the Tulsa Route 66 Marathon. A week after that, I went on a roadtrip from Massachusetts to Arizona that lasted four days. And it was on the flight home from Phoenix (via Denver) that my ass started hurting. And it still hasn't stopped. For that reason, I hadn't run more than two miles in over a month when I did this race. I was ecstatic that I was able to hold a sub-10-minute pace for the whole thing, especially considering that the terrain was fairly rolling.
The most exciting part is that this split is slightly better than what I posted at Mudwater, which I did before all this SI joint distress started. I remember being absolutely miserable on the run at Mudwater. But for some reason, this race gave me the best run I've had all season. I felt strong. I felt confident. I actually felt pretty good, running. I was enjoying it. Which is, frankly, shocking in itself.
The best part was that I got passed within about 50 yards of the finish line. This tall, lanky girl came up behind me at a pretty good clip. And I didn't even think; I just reacted. I picked up my turnover, lengthened my stride, and straight up sprinted by her. I remember wondering whether or not I would have enough gas to take that speed all the way to the finish line, but then I rounded the corner and there it was. I heard the announcer admiring the "strong finish" and the crowd cheering and then I was across the line and a volunteer was taking my timing chip. I looked back to see the girl who didn't quite pass me cross the finish line. We high-fived and hugged and she was totally cool about it (not at all like the cranky bitch at the Mudwater finish line). I owe her a lot; she forced me to give my best when I wasn't expecting to.
Almost 15 seconds slower than Mudwater, but it felt a lot faster; it felt like a PR, and on a lot less training. Also? 2nd place in my age group (this same time didn't even get me to the podium at Mudwater). The important thing is that this race served its purpose better than I could ever have expected: it reminded me that I love this sport (bourgeoisie and all). I love racing. I love swimming, biking, and even (occasionally) running. I love training and I love traveling and I love winning (although the size of my Shrine to Myself is starting to creep me out; I'll post a picture sometime). I'm grateful for the off-season to have finally arrived, but I can't wait for the excitement that will inevitably creep back in. The dreaming. The goal-setting. The race picking. The prioritizing. And this year (for the first time) the conversations I will have with my coach.
In fact, reading all the race reports in Triathlete, Slow Twitch, and around the web, I can already feel the pull . . .
Note: Raceshots.net hasn't posted their pictures from this race, and I didn't have anyone else to take photos of me, so I will post photos when I get them.