Austin wasn’t the race I had hoped for. Some race days are just like that, oh well, moving on, hello 2011 and all that :-) Oh wait, you mean, really I have to talk about it? Well then let’s get this over with.
I was feeling fantastic going into race day – rested, excited, energetic and healthy. The lake water was a lovely wetsuit-legal 72 degrees, I managed to get my bike reassembled properly, and my legs felt zippy. All that you can ask for!
Waiting and waiting and waiting for the start (my wave went off over an hour after the pros), I was calm and ready and focused on the plan.
The good: I felt strong and smooth and unbothered by the relentless body contact of the mens’ waves behind me (I was groped so much I thought I’d changed careers). Sighting was a piece of cake the way the course was laid out, with straight lines of buoys as far as you could see until each turn.
The bad: Speculation was that the course was long, based on everyone’s times versus expected times. This was disappointing since I came in quite a bit after where I thought I should.
At least I am good at transitions. We had to run up a LONG hill, remove wetsuits, and leave behind no gear on the ground (clean transitions). I was shocked to see bikes still on my rack, and I got in and out before any of the women who were standing there when I arrived.
The good (miles 0-28): This course could in NO way be called hilly compared to where I live and train. I flew through the first half of the course (the “hilly” half) going steady and easy as per my instructions to negative split the course. I was on target to do just that since the back half was the flatter 28 miles. My nutrition and hydration were spot on. It was cloudy and calm, keeping the temperatures down.
The bad (miles 28-56): It got windy. It stayed windy no matter what direction we turned, and there were LOTS of twists and turns on this stretch of the course. Still, that wasn’t what killed me – it was the soul-sucking stretches of under-paved road that stole so much speed no matter how hard I worked as I bounced up and down in the air. They wore me down. They forced me back to my Ironman let’s-get-happy-on-the-bike song and so I spent nearly 10 miles singing 99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall. I knew I had to start singing when, around mile 45, I started wishing I’d get hit by a car to have an excuse to stop racing. I pulled out every trick I had to stay positive, and it worked, but it didn’t make me any faster.
Again, I’d memorized what rack to run to, and I was through there fast.
The bad: What I had feared most came true. A few miles before I finished the bike, the clouds parted and it got HOT. I stepped out on the run course to sun, heat and high humidity (something we do not get at home at all). We never got summer in Northern California this year, so I had no acclimation to these conditions at all. The course was changed from what it was online when I signed up – it became 2 loops of all-hilly trail running (with limited pavement). After a couple miles, I overheated badly. I began to bargain with myself – run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute. I could barely do that, as my heart rate would shoot up, I’d get nauseous and my side would hurt, and I’d have to ease up again. I pulled a calf muscle and it hurt, badly.
The good: I hit every aid station for water to drink, water over my head, ice down my bra, sponges soaked in ice water to shove in my top and squeeze over my head, and Coke to get some calories into me. Around mile 5, I started running again and realized I was not feeling so bad anymore. I was able to run, albeit at a much slower pace than my goal (which was easily achievable for me) had been, for most of the remaining miles, with only a couple walks on the biggest hills. I didn’t give up. I didn’t quit no matter how many times I thought about it. By a small margin, I negative split the run course. I finished.
I finished. I wheezed. I got choked up. I wheezed worse. I got a free trip to the med tent (T-odd assures me I paid for it, I might as well take advantage). I wandered around aimlessly until I found someone to ask where my stuff was. I hobbled down a hill to get my bike. I hobbled up the hill with my bike. I hobbled down the other side of the hill to get my gear bags. I hobbled to my car, loaded it up, and sat in traffic in the parking lot for 45 minutes before I got out.
I thought about crying, but that seemed like a waste. The fact is, I was trained and trained well for this race. But sometimes shit happens. A day spent doing something we love (even if I wasn’t loving every minute of it) should still be considered a good day. And I’m reminded often that I’m lucky to be healthy enough to doing all of this at all. There will be another race, another day, another chance. And I WILL hit the goal I was shooting for. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Except that I was lucky to end my day on a much better note, at dinner with good friends who live in Austin.