The big race, the big day, my big accomplishment. Done. And what a race, day and accomplishment it was...
The day started way too early, 4am, and I'm not a morning person...more like a mid-day afternoon kind of gal. Anyway, I got up, started the coffee and was startled by Trainer as he was sleeping/dozing on the couch b/c he was up at 3:30am and didn't want to wake me up. He made my oatmeal and started toasting the bread for the race. What? Yeah, the last race he went to (as my race support) he had all of my stuff in the backpack, but nothing for himself. No food, no water and no sunscreen. So this time I made lists, one for my stuff and one for his. That way he had food, drink, sunscreen and an extra shirt in case he got too hot. I mean, we were out there for almost 7 hours.
We arrived downtown at 5:30am, I decided that we should park a little ways away from the race so we had an easy exit. Always important. My bike was already in the transition area since we had to check it in the day before. (There were more than 3,000 participants so that was a necessity.) As we walked towards the race area I was calm, which was bizarre since I had been freaking out every time I heard the word 'race' for the past two weeks. I guess my mind came to the realization that there was no more that I could do, no more training or mental preparation...it was here. It was really dark out so they had spotlights at the body marking area. I stepped up and had '292' put on my quads, my arms and my age '36' on the back of my calf.
I was checked into the transition area with my helmet and wristband (only athletes allowed) and went forward calmly to find my bike. I had racked it on the 5th rack to the right...one, two, three, four and five...there we were, towards the back where there were only 2 other bikes. Each segment can have up to 6 bikes, after you lay out your towel with two pairs of shoes, your bike helmet, bike sunglasses, energy gels, running shoes, socks, visor and running sunglasses it's a bit tight. So it was nice with just the 3 on my rack. I pumped up my tires and went back out to find Trainer and to wait. And wait. And wait. My wave didn't start until 8am.
The race officially started at 7am and boy were they on time. Shawn Colvin sang the national anthem (and then probably went back to bed) and they started the 'open wave' for the elite athletes and anyone who thought they could keep up...haha. I ate half of a pb&j as I still had an hour to go and the oatmeal that I had at 4:15 was no longer going to help me get through this mile swim. We stood at the transition between the swim and bike and watched the elites come out of the water in 20 min...fast!! Then I saw a couple of people from my training group and chatted about nothing ...then it was time to go up to the bank of the water. I watched the 30-34yr olds get into the water and we counted down the start of their wave. I put on my red cap, got my goggles on and headed on to the dock. With about two minutes to go we were told to jump in the water and get ready. As we tread water nerves just started wreaking havoc inside my gut. We heard the countdown - 7..6..5..4..3..2..1...and the blare of the horn.
Here's where it gets real. Of course open water is different as there is nothing to kick off of and no bottom to touch, you just go. I was in the mid-pack so I was getting kicked and bumped, and that was expected, however I had a minor melt down...mentally. I started taking in water and I couldn't breathe, I couldn't see...I really started freaking out. In my head I was about 2 seconds from throwing in the towel, my mind was saying 'What the eff were you thinking, you can't do this!!! Swim back now' and then saying, 'Just flip over, breath, get it together. You WILL finish this!!' So I flipped on to my back, looked up at the sky and took in air, I just floated for a bit, moving my arms to propel me forward. Then I turned over and swam, not worrying about the 30-40 women in front of me of the 30-40 who would soon be in the water overtaking me. I am a slow swimmer, I know that, I'm okay with that. It's just mentally tough being okay with that in the midst of a race.
The first 700(ish) meters were a little shaky, and then I rounded the first big triangle buoy and started across the lake, made it to the second big triangle buoy and headed back to the start. I kept myself focused by mentally coaching myself. I was thinking, 'What would coach Mo say right now? What would coach Suzanne tell you about your stroke right now?' and that kept me sane and going until I saw the last big triangle buoy. I made the turn and swam to the ramp, which was very steep and they had to help us out of the water. (THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!) My 1 mile swim was done.
My transition out of the water to the bike was decent. I ran (jogged) all the way to my bike, counted in my head - 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5...here I am! The hardest part was putting on my socks. No matter how many times I wiped off my feet they were still wet and dirty (gross..I know), but I got them on. Put on my helmet next because if you touch your bike without it on you can be dq'd. Then the sunglasses, then put the gels in my jersey, unzipped the jersey a little and took off trotting to the 'mount' line. Note, the transition area was terrible, it's been so dry here in Austin that the area around the lake has been turned into to soft dirt where there used to be grass. It was similar to running in sand. And in cycling cleats...well, it was challenging. Seriously...what about this race wasn't challenging??? Anyway, the ride was great. I felt strong on the bike, it's my favorite part of course, and I ripped up and down the course, 25 miles.
We rode up and down Congress, all the way to the Capitol and back down. We looped three times and each time I was faster. I think a little too fast as I was to find out in the next segment. The transition from bike to running was okay. We had to repeat running in the sand like dirt all the way to the end where my rack was. Then I swapped out my cleats for my running shoes, my helmet for my visor and my cycling shades for my running shades. I took one last swig of water and was on my way to run 6.2 miles. Now, prepare to jump inside my head...
I can do this. Repeat. I can do this. Repeat. Really? Can I do this? Dear lord, why is there no shade on the 'effin course? Who the 'eff designed this trail course in the middle of an extreme drought? No really, I can do this. Seriously. Do it. Nope, gotta walk....NO you will run. You call this running?? Hey, it's one foot in front of the other right? Ummm, yeah...more like shuffling, what are you like 90 years old? Who are those people over there? What are they shouting?? Oh really? You think that by yelling, 'At least it's not 105 degrees, it could be hotter!!', makes it better for us? Really? I think I could expend the rest of my energy by kicking their ass!! No, no, no...turn the corner and go up the hill. WHO put this HILL here??? (In reality it was a slight incline) Oh...look up there, people with soaked sponges!! Grab one, no two....ahhh, nice cold water down the shirt and on the head. Thank you, thank you sweet volunteers....and look - WATER! It's okay to walk when you drink the water. But now you're done...run. No, YES, fine...run. Downhill, I love down hill, except now it's taking up energy and now it's hot again. Where the FUCK is the shade??? Mother trucker race people...really, who designed this course? And I have to do it again.
Oh look, another water station, right in front of 85% of the spectators (because there was shade), and they'll watch me walk. Oh well...I don't care. I'll walk the rest. NO.YOU.WON'T! Fine!!! Shuffle along then. And over the bridge we go. The Democrat! I see a friend and she's waving to me and smiling...and I say, 'I'm miserable, this is HARD!' Nothing like the truth on the course right?? And back through to the start. There is a sign that points in two directions, 1. FINISH - YOU'RE DONE! and 2. Second lap for the Olympic. Crap. I really want this to be over. Nope, one more lap. You can do this. LOOK, there's Trainer with the camera, pose! Look happy for goodness sake! Great, I'm past him...and now there's water...walking is okay during water. No one can see me anyway. Fine, fine, fine....shuffle, let's get to shuffling.
Up and down that silly incline again, bastards. OMG I have to pee, I have to pee really bad. Look, there's a bush right there... Are.you.crazy??? NO PEEING IN PUBLIC! Oh, come on...I really have to go. NO, no peeing in public and that is final. You only have 2 miles to go. Fine. I'll hold it. Sheesh. Last water stop...I'm so thirsty, but I have to pee....I'll just take a sip. And look The Democrat jumps out to run with me. Bless her heart...I need this. She's talking about her pup. She's trying to distract me...but she's pacing too fast. I walk, I apologize to her for walking...what? Right, what do I have to apologize for. I've been running for 4.5 miles! She goes over the bridge with me and I tell her to leave me at the curb, I want to bring this in on my own so she pops out. These little kids have their hands out to high five me, I manage to hit all 4. And then I see that sign again and turn to the FINISH!!! I see more people that I know! I see the finish banner!! I see THE END! EFF YEAH BABY! I did it! I actually did it! And now I don't have to pee...what the heck...
Sorry, that was long and I'm sure you didn't want to delve too far into the inner workings of my brain during the race, but seriously the last miles were so mental. I was mental. This was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I've run 1/2 marathons, walked a full, rode 160 miles in two days...and this was definitely the hardest. 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike and a 6.2 mile run... 3 hours, 23 min and 52 seconds.
I came out of it okay. I think I hurt my right foot, I'll give it through the weekend to heal up before consulting with someone. We got back to the car (the walk back was really, really, really long) and I changed into a running skirt. (off with the wet shorts!) Then we went and had pancakes at Austin Java (my favorite breakfast place) and then I went home, showered and slept. Had a massage, ate a burger, drank a beer and slept some more. Now...on to the next challenge. What should it be? What's your next life challenge??