Monday, March 14, 2016

Race Report: St. Patrick's Sprint Tri

Yesterday I participated in Dallas Athletes Racing's St. Patrick's Sprint Tri, consisting of a 300-meter pool swim with live bagpiping; a hilly, 3-loop, 12- to 14-mile bike course; and a really short 5k run. Sponsored by Shannon Brewery, they ran out of beer before I and at least fifty other participants finished.

Training and challenges:
Since January, I have been consistently swimming several times a week and have knocked a minute and a half off my 300m, which is a hell of a lot, even though I'm still slow. I'm also a lot stronger and finally at a point where I don't feel like I'm going to die after I get out of the pool and don't need to go back to bed for another hour to recover. However, I've barely spent 3 hours on my bike since my race in September because I hated it so much and cried through almost the entirety of the bike course. At least I've finally gotten a bike fitting, so I shouldn't be crying over my aching vulva anymore. And my running is stronger, if not faster. So I had a few things going for me going into this race and hoped to finish in less than 2 and a half hours.

Race morning:
Transition was only open one hour, so there was a line of a hundred people before it even opened. Once I finally got in and got my gear set up, I got in the long-ass line to pick up chip timers. As advised at every race clinic I've been to, I put my number on my bike the night before, but this day I lost it somewhere on the 25 miles of highway between home and the event. So after getting my chip, I asked what to do about the number and was told I'd have to get a new number entirely. I changed out my numbers, scrambled to move all my bike and gear to a new rack after the transition area was supposed to have closed, and pretty much just threw all my gear down in a random lumpy pile. Then I had to get in line again for a new chip; the line had tripled by this point. The announcer kept announcing every few minutes that we were on-track for a 7:30 start. I laughed every time I heard it.

I got my new chip and after having spent the whole hour rushing to get ready, I settled in for an hour-long wait from the first swimmer until my turn to enter the pool. The good thing about this is that I get to use the restroom as many times as I need, and a woman complimented me on my new green ENELL sports bra at the sink, where the mirror showed me that I'd hilariously mismatched the hooks; the bad thing is that I don't get to warm up, and I spend an hour standing on concrete before I have to go run a fucking race. The event had a live bagpiper standing on the diving board playing for us the whole time. I really thought he'd quit long before I began.

Though in practice I can swim 300m in about 7 and a half minutes, it turns out that I really struggle without a warmup, and my race time was 9:01—an improvement of 13 seconds from this time last year.

My T1 was garbage, but it is consistently garbage, and this one was actually my second best of four races even though I put on my first sock twisted and had to take it off and do it over.

The event page said in one place that the bike course would be 12 miles, but the linked map of the course was marked "13.8 miles," and the two mapping websites I used measured it at 14.4 and 14.45 miles. I finished it in the same amount of time as my best-ever flat course training time, so, who the hell knows?

This was a 3-lap course with two beastly hills each length: 6 fucking hills total. And really tiny, tight turnarounds. Now, I have not trained on hills . . . because I live on the great plains and there are none.

As I struggled up the slopes in the first lap, I thought, "I'm gonna die." I'd already seen at least a handful of other athletes having to walk it up the hill and worried I'd join them on the third lap. But on the second loop, I glared at the first incline and thought defiantly, "Fuck YOU, hill!" as I clicked into my hardest gear and pedaled fiercely down the preceding slope, determined to take as much speed and momentum upwards as I could possibly muster on this short, shallow downhill. And it worked. I sped past others already laboring and made it two-thirds up the slope before I was back in my easiest gear, breathing hard and pedaling slowly up the last bit. I reminded myself to just keep spinning and that no matter how slow, this was still faster than walking. I hadn't the energy to accelerate any as I reached the top, and several people I'd just passed then passed me by. But I'd catch them again on the next incline. This plan of attack worked for me and I stuck with it through the remaining laps, surprised to find my strength and energy seemed steady throughout.

T2 was not my best nor my worst as I rummaged through my messy pile for my visor, race belt, and running pouch.

As I crossed the timing mat to begin the run, I uttered aloud a relieved "Thank god." My legs felt okay and this was my favorite part. The event's webpage had promised us a "virtually flat," "beautiful, tree-lined course." I rounded the corner, rolled my eyes, and and cried out half serious, "Not more hills!" A runner near me chuckled. I ran a good bit of the course at a very slow and steady pace but took a lot of walking intervals because I was tired. I passed the mile 1 marker at about 12 minutes and grimaced in disgust; this was going to be a very short 5k. I knew I was moving at closer to a 15-minute pace. The volunteer at the turnaround was very cheerful and energetic and encouraged us with promises of beer at the finish line. I finished the run in 40 minutes and 20 seconds, which is about what I've been doing in training on FRESH legs, confirming my suspicions about the poorly measured course. My total race time was 1:57:4.7.

A friend who lives nearby came to wave at me as I finished and gave me a hug after I turned in my timing chip. I picked up a shiny new glass beer mug and asked if she had seen where the beer tent was. We made our way over there and were informed that they'd just run out of beer. I pouted and my friend said she'd buy me a beer if she could, but it was Sunday in Texas and we can't do that til noon. This is the event's 10th anniversary and its 6th or 7th year selling out; organizers know in advance exactly how many over-21 participants there are. How does this even happen?

I grabbed my stuff and left, uninterested in staying to hear the awards announcements with an empty glass. We went to a cafe and saw that it had the same Shannon beer on tap as the race was supposed to have had but were informed that they don't serve it there anymore. I had a Shiner Bock with my eggs instead.

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