Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Blackland Triathlon Race Report

I signed up for the Blackland Triathlon because the event was near my home and I really liked its charity that works to combat food scarcity for low-income families. I’d completed my first tri in March and had two more tris rained out, a 10k tornadoe-d out, and missed a duathlon due to illness and injury all within a two-month period. So I was REALLY looking forward to getting back on the horse, bike, whatever.

Two weeks before the race, I drove the bike course so I’d have an idea of what to expect. I was dismayed to find it included difficult hills compared to my usual training course around White Wock Lake. So I planned to ride it a week before the event, but my knee had been giving me trouble after an incident with a coffee table, and I knew I’d be better off resting than pushing it.

Race day dawned 80+°F and 65% humidity before even sunrise, and in the three minutes it took to air up and mount my bike on the car, I found myself melting, bug-bitten, and dreading the day.

This was my second sprint tri, and this time I took the time for warm up in the pool. Which was apparently useless since the race was delayed 15 minutes and I didn’t get in the water again until an hour after I’d been out and standing on increasingly sore calves. It was tough to watch one of the first 50ish swimmers get pulled in the first three minutes of the event; someone near me overheard her say that her shoulder had given out. Ouch.

I was really thankful that this event started in the shallow end so I could get a strong push off the wall, whereas my first race had us jump in the deep end, and I just kept sinking (literally and mentally) before I could get myself going. I paced myself well for the first time in my four swim races and felt really good about this one. I confess I took forever in T1 trying to put on sunblock and eat and hydrate. I can’t swim with anything in my stomach, which makes race-day nutrition one hell of a challenge.

That bike course was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I overheard more experienced riders telling first timers not to let this event put them off triathlon because it was rough even in their opinion. It was VERY hilly and hot. The last three miles of it, I sang the whiny “Ow” song aloud to myself because I was alone, bored out of my skull, and breathing raggedly due to the pain. I don’t think my sitz will ever forgive me.

I sniffled through T2 and openly cried through the first 3/4 mile of the “run” (I didn't run) until three women walking caught up to me, and I decided to try to keep pace with them. They were also runners new to tri who’d intended to run but just had nothing left. Our legs were OK, but the heat was killer, and I never caught my breath even walking it all. They were cheerful and welcoming and kept a better pace than I could have alone. Honestly, I’m not wholly certain I could have finished alone. There was no shade on the 5k course, and we hit it at the 11-12 hour. We were very lucky to have volunteers with ice cold water and Gatorade at every mile.

The finish line and festival took place in an open-air, unshaded amphitheater. The only good think I can say is that there was ice cold beer. I couldn't bring myself to walk the sunny half mile back to transition nor the additional half mile to my car and called Mom for rescue. As I waited for her, I kept standing with the intention to walk back to transition, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt bad leaving my bike there til almost 1 p.m., but in a surprising twist, it was not alone nor the last bike. The Blackland Tri volunteers should be SAINTED. No hyperbole.

Fortunately, my bike fit easily into Mom’s Jeep, and she and I had already made plans to meet at that location to get her signed up for a rec center membership and water aerobics classes (at the pool where the race was held and where I regularly train), so at least something good came out of all this.

Today I got my race results and compared them to my first sprint. My swim was 3 seconds slower this time, but I paced myself much better, felt better throughout, and didn’t have to take long breaks of back stroke, only one brief stretch of breast stroke. One person passed me in the water who was kicking way too hard and splashing so much that I couldn’t see anything and was scared to maintain my pace, and it took a while for that person to pull ahead, so I think that’s what got me.

As horrible, awful, miserable, wretched, and no-good as the bike portion felt, scaling my spring race’s 13-mi pace up to this one’s 15-mi distance shows that I only finished 5 minutes slower yesterday, which I’m OK with.

I couldn’t ever catch my breath enough to run at all, so I ain’t even mad about those numbers. My transitions sucked, but there was a much longer distance between transition and the timing mats. It was 98°F yesterday when I finished, and I’m not sure how I managed to race for over 2 hours outside without getting dehydrated, heat stroke, OR sunburned.
Unfortunately, this all has me re-thinking whether I want to go for an Olympic distance tri in another month and a half. I may need to wuss out and buy a padded cover for my fancy saddle, because the bike shorts just aren’t cutting it. I’d ridden longer distances before but never suffered as much as at this race, and I had to sit my butt in a bathtub with three 10-pound bags of ice after the tri so I could walk the next day.

I don’t need to decide yet. I start twice-a-week swim classes tonight for the first time ever and won’t be looking at my bike for a week. I can reassess after I’m recovered whether to register, which should be about payday anyway.

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