It was a beautiful day for a race. I have to emphasize this point, because starting a race at 9 a.m. in the desert in June would normally be more than slightly insane. It was really hot here (high 90s) for most of the week, but in couple of days before the race, the temperatures had cooled off and Saturday was beautiful. We couldn't have asked for better weather. In fact, after the race, I went for a short swim and I was downright COLD sitting around in my wet tri suit after that.
This race is a strange one. It's three rounds, each in a different order, as follows:
1.5 km run
200 m swim
6 km bike
2:6 km bike
1.5 km run
200 m swim
200 m swim
6 km bike
1.5 km run
There are 40 minutes between start times. Anyone who doesn't finish a round within 40 minutes is disqualified. Everyone was able to finish within the allotted time.
They opened up the transition area for age groupers between 7:30 and 8:00 (because of our late start time), so since this race is a five minute walk from my house, I was able to sleep late. Of course, most people wouldn't call getting up at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning sleeping "late", but it's late to me! I was also able to get a decent amount of sleep last night, so I felt fresh and ready to go in the morning.
I did a short warm up run and warmed up my shoulders a bit. Everything seemed to be in working order and I was ready to race.
I went out slowly on the run. This was intentional. There was one other woman in my age group and I saw her running out ahead of me, but I just held my pace. I knew what she didn't -- we were running downhill (you can't see it, but you can definitely feel it on the way back) and there was a bigger hill that we'd have to run up after the turn-around. I passed her on the way back. I was still pretty much in the back of the pack, but there were only 41 age groupers in the race today and only seven of them were women, so I didn't really expect to be out front or even in the middle.
The run was short and uneventful. I quickly entered the transition area, got my shoes off, flipped over to get my swim cap on (I have to flip over to get my pony tail in quickly) and headed off to the pool, goggles in my hand -- I put them on on the way. Run time, including transition: 8:09. This would be a very fast 1.5 km time for me without the transition. I was 1/2 in my age group and 34/41 overall.
I was assigned to the indoor pool this year. I would have preferred to swim outdoors like last year. And to make matters worse, I was in the last lane, which meant I had to run (walk) across the very slippery floor before I could actually get in the pool. However, the lanes are divided by age group, so I wasn't at a real disadvantage. The other woman in my age group swam with me, as did my teammate who is one age group above me. So I slipped and slid across the floor to my lane, got in carefully (no jumping in this year -- this was the shallow end) and started swimming. All that active recovery that we've been doing in swim practice has really paid off. Despite the fact that I was pretty out of breath from running, I had absolutely no trouble swimming. I wasn't going fast, but I was swimming at a decent pace.
Eight lengths of the pool and then I got out and slipped and slid my way across the floor again and out the door towards the transition area. Total swim time (including an uphill run after crossing the mat, slipping and sliding across the pool area floor in both directions and running down the hill on my way out): 5:34. I have no idea how long I was actually in the pool. I was 1/2 in my age group and 31/41 overall.
I had a GREAT transition. Even my coach was impressed. I hope he didn't see me actually getting on the bike -- he wouldn't have been as impressed. At least I didn't actually fall over. Enough said. The bike course is tough. I heard people commenting on it later on. I'm very familiar with it, of course, as I ride it regularly. It starts out easy enough, but there's a long uphill section and parts of the hill are rather annoying. This was a draft-legal race and at one point, a guy passed me and I took advantage of the opportunity to draft off of him up about half of the hill. Since he was quite a bit heavier than I am, it started to get tough for him when the hill got steeper, so I took over and he drafted off of me the rest of the way up (and remembered to thank me later on). His weight gave him an advantage going back down the hill and I never
quite caught up with him.
At the end of the course, I carefully picked my bike up over the edge of the sidewalk (there was a volunteer whose only job, apparently, was to say, "Pick up your bike" to each competitor) and then ran back into the transition area. I decided to leave my helmet and cycling shoes on for the run to the finish line after racking my bike. Running with my shoes on was a bit difficult, but I survived. Bike time (including racking my bike and running to the finish line): 15:16. This looks a bit slow, but everyone's bike times were slower this round -- I don't know why, but I suspect that this time includes the transition (because I don't think my swim time does). Anyway, I was 1/2 in my age group and 33/41 overall.
I finished round 1 in 29:01. This is about three minutes faster than last year and this year's bike course was slightly longer (but it was also a lot hotter last year). I was 1/2 in my age group, 4/7 overall women and 34/41 overall.
This is my least favorite of the three rounds. I don't like starting on the bike and I don't like swimming at the end.
My bike start sucked. I had this stupid idea of hitting the button on my watch, which made it very difficult to get started on the bike. My feet were flying everywhere and everyone else was pulling ahead. I was trying not to ride into the cones. And to hit the button on my watch. I spent most of the ride playing catch-up. I thought I was the last person, but there were a couple of people behind me. I passed a couple more and finished the bike course in 13:26. I was 1/2 in my age group and 37/41 overall. Not particularly impressive. I normally like the bike, but I was actually glad that I only had to go up that hill one more time after this.
My transition was ok, but not great. It's harder for me to get into my running shoes than it is to get into my cycling shoes. I kind of fumbled my way through it and headed out on the run. I don't remember anything at all about the second run, apart from thinking about how I had to swim afterwards. Before I knew it, I was back in the transition area, getting my shoes off and my swim cap on. Once again, I put on my goggles as I ran. My time for the run plus two transitions (bike to run and run to swim): 9:58. Once again, I was 1/2 in my age group and I was 33/41 overall.
I slid across the floor again and got into the pool. I made the same observation that I'd made during the first swim -- active recovery practice pays off. No problem on the swim. Not super fast, but steady, no struggling, no gasping for air. The only thing that bothered me was my shoulder, but it wasn't too bad and didn't prevent me from pulling through my stroke. Getting out of the pool was another story. I slipped on the wet floor and then tripped over a plastic bottle that someone had left there and went flying into the wall. Fortunately, my hand hit the wall first and I wasn't moving too quickly, so I was fine, though a bit disoriented. After commenting on the bottle that shouldn't have been there, I ran out and down the hill and then turned around to run across the finish line. My swim time, including the runs to and from the swim and sliding across the floor: 5:39. I was 1/2 in my age group and 30/41 overall. I finished round 2 in 29:04 -- almost exactly the same time that I'd done in round 1. I was 1/2 in my age group, 5/7 overall women and 36/41 overall. This was my worst round of the three.
My favorite round -- I like doing things the "traditional" way.
Although I was in the water, I almost missed the start -- I was busy talking to the other woman in my age group. When they blew the horn, my goggles were still on my forehead. I quickly put them on and took off behind the other two women. This was actually right where I wanted to be. We'd done some drafting practice earlier in the week and I had been amazed by how much easier it is to swim when you draft off of someone else, so I decided to put this into practice and save my energy for the bike and run. It was great. I drafted off of the other two women for 175 meters. When we turned around to do the last length of the pool, I stayed on the left. I passed the woman who was ahead of me and caught up with my teammate, Ronit. We hit the wall at exactly the same time and got out of the pool together. The third woman was right behind us. This time I know that they took the time from after the transition (I could tell by Ronit's time -- although we left the pool together, she crossed over the first mat before me, but I passed her in the transition area and ended up with the faster swim time). My time for swim plus transition (which was very fast): 5:36. I was 1/2 in my age group and 25/41 overall. Drafting on the swim pays off.
The bike went ok. I struggled a bit going up the hill this time and found myself breathing rather hard. There was no one for me to draft off of, so I was on my own. My dismount was particularly slow, as I was starting to get tired at this point. My bike time: 13:16 (the fastest of the three rounds). I was 1/2 in my age group and 32/41 overall.
After another clumsy transition, I headed out for the last run. At this point, I knew that I was going to finish the race on time (you can't get a flat tire on the run!) and I knew that I was going to win my age group, s
o there was no real reason to hurry, apart from the desire to improve my time. The problem was that I had no idea how long I'd been out there -- because I'd almost missed the swim start, I hadn't hit the button on my watch. So I just ran at a reasonable pace -- not too slow, not too fast. Towards the end, I picked up the pace a bit and tried to run hard towards the finish line, but my legs were pretty tired and it was tough. My run time, including the transition, was 9:28. I was 1/2 in my age group and 29/41 overall (I guess everyone was tired at this point). My time for round 3 was my best of the day: 28:20 - 1/2 in my age group, 4/7 overall women, 30/41 overall.
I took first place for women 40-44 and fourth place overall women. That's quite an improvement over last year, when I was 7/7 for women (I think I had tougher competitors). I also took 3:00-3:30 off last year's times for each of the three rounds, even though I had to do more transitions this year (last year I rode in my running shoes).
I was thrilled with my times and I felt great after the race. In fact, I probably felt TOO great after the race. LOL. I wasn't anywhere near as exhausted as I remember being last year. I could have even done another round! I'd had not-so-great memories of this race from last year (mentally, it's a very tough race), but it was so much easier this year and I really had a wonderful time. It's a lot of fun to race in your own town with your friends and neighbors all out watching you and cheering you on. It's nice to be handed water by kids who know your name, too.
So, beautiful day, great race, hardware and no drive home. What could be better than that?