I really didn't leave much time for error on this one. Will's birthday was Friday, which meant flying out Saturday early, the day before the race. I felt bad for Will b/c I had to be in bed early for my flight and couldn't stay up and do anything fun. Poor guy, always a good sport and going along with my craziness.
I was really worried about TSA crunching Merlin during their inspection. I packed him uber-carefully. Nothing was left exposed - it was all covered in foam pipe wrap or bubble wrap. I even left a note asking TSA to pay attention when unpacking and repacking it and labeled the box "this end up to open". Seems to have worked - Merlin was pretty darn close to the way I left him when I cracked the box open in Houston.
My friend Melissa (who is doing IM Boulder with me) picked me up and we went up to Conroe to eat lunch, build my bike, and do packet pickup. Merlin re-assembled super easy - yay! Packet pickup was low key as well. I bought some CO2 cartridges and some tinted sunglasses for the race and we were good to go.
We did a quick 15 min test ride and 10 min run and called it a day. The rest of the night was spent getting ready and eating/drinking. I tried some Osmo pre-race. It was salty. I'm not sure what to make of the stuff.
Sunday had a wake up call of 4:35 with a goal to leave the house by 5:30. I braided my hair, applied my tri-tattoo race numbers (so cool!), lathered on sunscreen and probably poked around too much. I drank ~200 cal of Skratch and 1.5 small Honey Stinger peanut butter energy bars before we left the house. Our housemate was supposed to race, but he got sick. He was nice enough to drive us around which was super sweet of him.
Transition was the usual, except it was 41 degrees and people were cold. I had my hoodie and flannel pj pants and was perfectly warm. I had terrible time management. We got there with maybe 45 min before transition closed and I dinked around too much, chatting with people I haven't seen in forever. This meant no bathroom pit-stop (which actually was ok - fortunately) and no warm up. I also had no brain cells for pretty much the entire weekend as I kept forgetting things and Melissa was remembering for me and helping me out.
|flannel pj pants are the new craze in triathlon apparel|
Then it was over to the swim start to basically dunk my head in the water and swim a few strokes. The water was just right, probably 70, not too hot or too cold. It was crazy murky, which was a Houston feature I'd forgotten about. I could literally only see 3 inches in front of my face. Thankfully the water didn't taste as bad as it looked. We then went back to the beach, chatted with friends, and waited for our waves.
This was a beach start, which is something I'm never a fan of. I was dumb and hung back a few rows of people. I was keeping another friend company and wasn't really thinking strategically for myself. This was a really dumb mistake and I completely missed my chance to draft off of people. I knew this right when I got into the water. I couldn't find anyone and I was swimming HARD to find people. In all honesty though, with the visibility being crap, I'm not sure I could have drafted off of anyone even if I did start at the front. The swim (as usual) seemed to take forever. I was determined to swim pretty hard and channel Dory. We swam from the beach, through a lagoon, then out to Lake Conroe where we did a rectangle. The winds were pretty decent and they were kicking up some good chop in the water. Not enough to make white caps, but it was enough where you couldn't see a buoy once in a while and you occasionally rolled with the the wave.
Overall: it was a sucky swim. I kept my effort up but I knew it wasn't a fast time for me.
Age Group Ranking: 5/22
Overall Ranking: 184/532
I also checked my wave and I came in with the 16th fastest swim out of 88 people. Not fantastic but not awful either.
I popped out of the water, got my cap/goggles off, and also my wetsuit top off (except the right arm) all in the 100 ft before the strippers. I had to stand there for a few seconds (nicely) yelling for help - things were a bit chaotic. She did her job quickly and I was up and running along to transition. There was a bit of a jog from the wetsuit strippers to transition (maybe 1/4 of a mile?) and a baby, 10 ft tall hill that people were walking over. Thanks to my extra red-blood cells, I could breathe just fine and sprinted off to transition. Seriously, I passed everyone. Apparently I dropped my goggles somewhere along the way and a guy was nice enough to grab them and catch me. When he did catch me, he made a funny comment about how he had a hard time b/c I was running too fast. Sweet!
|this is a pretty kick-ass photo series. Look at me with|
my wetsuit top off as I hit the timing mat, just feet
after the water. Go me!
Age Group Ranking: 3/22
Overall Ranking: 80/532
Apparently nearly everyone else decided to put on warmer clothing because I didn't think I was moving all that fast.
Now it was go time. I had a date with the bike course and I was going to do my best to kill it out there. I was riding strong. The steeper hills were a bit harder than I was expecting. I stayed big ring the entire time but I did have to shift into my easiest gear on nearly all of the hills. That was a bit of a bummer as I was hoping I was stronger than that. I just focused on keeping my cadence up and my effort solid. My heart rate was really high for the first 40 minutes, around 155+ for an effort that was no where near that high. I think that was residual effects from the harder effort on the swim. I just kept plugging away, hoping it would eventually go down. It did and then my heart rate stayed around 145/150 for the rest of the ride.
I love the first part of this course because you are on rolling hills going through the forest. I just really tried to stay in my element and enjoy riding here. I also went a bit down memory lane - the last time I'd been here was during IMTX. I recognized some of the turn-offs and smiled. And then I just kept on pedaling.
Nutrition-wise I was doing ok. I really tried to get in calories from the start, knowing I'd need them for the run. Every 15 minutes I'd eat some chews or swig some Liquid Shot. My drinking wasn't all that great, but it wasn't hot and I pretty much needed to pee starting at the first aid station. Its hard to keep drinking when you have a full bladder. They only had one port-o-potty per aid station and there was always a line, so I just kept moving on. Probably not the best idea but I really didn't want to waste time.
Around mile 20 we crossed into Grimes County and into the land of chip seal. Ugh. And then around mile 25 we turned onto FM 2819 and encountered some of the worst chip seal I've been on. It was so bad my vision was acting like there was a strobe light in front of me. By the time I hit the turn around (and the next aid station) my adductors were acting up (again - ugh) and I decided to stop and stretch for 2 minutes. It was at that point I saw Melissa on the other side of the road heading into the turn-around. I shouted that I was fine and she went on her way. I hopped back on my bike and was happy the stretching worked - I was back to riding well. Melissa ended up catching me and we chatted for a while. We both didn't like the swim but we were both riding well. I had clocked a time of 1:33 at the halfway point and was really hoping for a faster than predicted bike time. I was worried about the wind though, since I knew it would be a headwind the whole way back. I joked about needing some long climbs to be happy and Melissa rode on ahead. I think I caught her 5 minutes later (on a long flat climb) and laughed. At that point I started counting how many people I was passing (16 the whole way back). I was just trying to stay small and do my hill climbing thing.
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. I pushed where I could. My heart rate stayed pretty low and I'd evaluate: can I ride harder and still be ok for the run? My upper hamstrings were talking to me and I really didn't think I could push much more, so I just kept doing what I was doing.
Pace: 16.7 mph
Age Group Ranking: 8/22
Overall Ranking: 334/532
I was targeting 3:24 as my realistic goal (3:15 for a stretch goal) so I'm really happy to come in under my goal. I think if it wasn't so windy out I would have done even better.
Funny random racer sighting: some guy was wearing a jacket, cycling tights, and shoe covers. I can't even imagine how long it took for him to wrestle those tights on in transition......
I was perfectly fine in my tri kit.
Really nothing much to report, although I did nearly leave my gloves on for the run.
Age Group Ranking: 4/22
Overall Ranking: 174/532
aka Go Time. To hit my goal of 6:30, with a 3:24 bike time, I would need to average a run pace of 10:50, which is something I'd never done in a 70.3. Or really, even in an olympic distance race. I didn't know what my swim time was so I was still aiming for a pace of 10:50 or faster.
Each loop of the run course went like this:
- sidewalk for a bit
- gravel for a bit
- grass for a bit
- paved streets with a baby steep hill
- packed dirt with tree roots
- grass with holes filled in by loosely packed dirt
- more sidewalk
- then finally a road with out and backs through neighborhoods - including a 1/3 of a mile shallow hill towards the end and then a downhill 1/2 mile kick to the finish
Melissa was right behind me off the bike and we came out of transition together. I really had to pee still so I stopped at the 2 port-o-potties right after the timing mat. They were disgusting. Yuck. I wasn't that far behind Melissa after my pit-stop. She stopped to fix her shoe and I had a sock that was bunched up so I stopped with her. We ran the entire first loop together and maybe a bit more. It was really nice to have a run buddy again :) I was supposed to keep my heart rate down below 155 for the first part of the race. I kept looking at my Garmin and seeing 157 and a pace that was sub-10. She was running a bit too fast as well and we'd try to slow down. And then we'd speed back up, probably because we were chatting and not focusing on running. I finally gave up on trying to slow down because my effort felt easy and I was feeling really good.
Around mile 6 or so (I think this was after the 1st aid station on the 2nd loop) I lost Melissa. I was feeling good and wanting to push. I don't think she was feeling good. She knew I was pushing for a good time and I'm sure she was ok with me leaving her. I focused on a steady, controlled effort for loop #2 with a heart rate around 160, hoping to bank some time and to see how long I could hold on during the final loop.
The final loop was basically just trying to hold onto my pace. My heart rate was at 165. I was uncomfortable but not terribly so. I was running to the aid stations and only walking about 0.05 mi, just enough to eat some chews, drink some Skratch or water, and dump some water on my shoulders and head. Then it was back to running. This was going really well until the 2:00 mark and I just needed a bit of a breather (literally). I was short of breath and needed an inhaler break and a pep talk. By this point I had ~2 miles and I KNEW I was going to hit my run target of 2:22. I just told myself to suck it up (literally) and go. Nothing felt distinctly bad - no pains or anything - I was just getting tired and it was harder to keep going fast. I walked the final neighborhood aid station and I knew that I had a little over a mile left, including that 1/3 of a mile hill - and then a downhill to the finish. There was a bit of an internal struggle regarding walking that hill or not and I was very happy to find that running up that hill was no big deal. It wasn't that steep and there was shade. And there were men walking up it. So I ran and it really wasn't that bad. Then came the downhill and I knew I only had a 1/2 mile to the finish, so I just ran hard. I have no idea how fast I was going because I flipped my garmin display to only show time, HR and distance a few miles back. I didn't want to focus on pace and get freaked out about going too fast or too slow. I just wanted to run by effort and not be distracted by numbers.
I hit the chute and the announcer said my name followed by a "from Parker..... Colorado.... (?). I saw the clock say 6:39. I thought I started 14 min behind the first wave, did a bit of math, and was really happy to find I came in way under my goal of 6:30.
I then also had a world class asthma attack. Our sick house-mate greeted me at the finish and I did a good job freaking him out by not being able to link 2 words together and struggling to get my inhaler out of my tri top. Thank goodness I put it in my top before the swim instead of keeping it on my bike like I normally do. I don't think I could have made it to my bike.
Once that passed, I checked out the post-race refreshments. They sucked. I got a gatorade, figuring that I was dehyrated. I drank over half and hung out at the finish waiting for Melissa. I then got goosebumps and started shivering while standing in full 68-degree sunlight. Not good. Melissa finished and we then headed over to transition, where I got a hoodie and all was well with the world. I checked the results on my phone and was ecstatic to see my times.
Age Group Ranking: 7/22
Overall Ranking: 316/532
Several things are notable about this run:
- This is now my half marathon PR. This run beats my previous stand-alone 13.1 time by 1:15 Amazing. And this was with a 1 minute bathroom break thrown in there.
- This is the first time I my run ranked higher (age group and overall) than my bike. Meaning: I gained places on the run. This never happens to me.
- I ran faster than my olympic-distance run PR. Wow.
- My pacing was pretty much spot-on. I ran hard but within limits and had enough to really push and leave it all out there for the last loop.
- I didn't over think things and I didn't get defeated when it got hard. I just went for it.
Age Group: 7 / 22