I drove down on Friday after work to go pick up my race packet for the Saturday morning race. I brought my running clothes so that I could run the run course (I had a run workout on the schedule). Well I didn’t plan to run it fast; the idea was to jog it just to re-familiarize myself with it. I did this tri last year and came away from it disappointed because I cramped up so bad after the bike I could barely run and ended up finishing 53rd. It should have been easy for me to improve on that. I ended up running the course and because it was still warm I put out a little more energy than I had planned on running the 5k course in 25 minutes. For a sprint tri this event has a long bike portion of 18.8 miles with a decent hill section that you have to loop through twice. I took a drive though it just to check the road conditions and they looked nice and clean.
The 4am alarm get’s the day started early. After a hour drive to the venue I’m rolling the bike into transition at 6am. I like being one of the first into transition as it gives me time to do things at a relaxed pace and put my bike where I want to. Also getting things setup early gives me time to help the newbie’s from whom I always seem to get questions from and if I see someone doing something that’s not quite right I’ll point it out just to help out. The water was warm at 72 degrees and I probably should have taken a longer swim warm up than I did, only going out for a short way then turning around but I was feeling good and was ready to get going.
I was in the second wave and we started 4 minutes after the first group. Lots of seaweed on the start but I felt like I was swimming well. This was the first time I’ve had my wetsuit on this year and it felt extra tight. It was really pulling on my traps and it felt tight around my neck. After swimming for awhile it loosened up and I felt more comfortable. I had a few bumps into other swimmers but nothing much. Things went wrong shortly after I made the turn to head back to the beach. I was sighting what I thought was the yellow course makers and was swimming towards them but it turned out what I was seeing was the yellow caps of the ladies who started 4 minutes after the wave I was in. After I realized what I was doing I had to completely stop to see where I was. I had swum almost to the center of the course section. I was way off course and after finally picking up the course buoy I had to swim back over to the right to get back on course. After getting close to the shore and seeing the bottom I think I stood up to early putting me in deeper water as I stood up. I couldn’t run from here so I just troughed through it a bit until I could run. I knew I lost a lot of valuable time but there was nothing I could do about it.
I already had this planned out in my head (I was not going to make the shoe mistake again). Wetsuit off, helmet on then go! 49 seconds had to be the best T1 I’ve ever had when I had to remove my wetsuit!
The bike ride was completely uneventful. I think I still struggled a bit on the hills but I was faster than I was the year before. I passed a lot of riders and got passed by 3…2 of which I would catch and pass back. A couple times I felt a slight pull in my left calf but I didn’t think much of it. I just made sure I drank water on the ride.
My legs felt OK when I dismounted the bike and through the run into transition. I wasted a few seconds when I was racking the bike because my back wheel didn’t go into the slot to hold the bike up on the first 2 tries. I got it racked, helmet off, run shoes on, grabbed my race belt and was off. At 36 seconds this also had to be my best T2 ever and even it could have been better!
I felt OK coming out of transition. I got my race belt on and I made the first turn and was ready to turn it up when the first cramp hit me in my left calf. As I made the next step I got an even worse cramp in my right calf and hamstring. They weren’t massive enough to stop me but I was hobbling now. Another runner came up behind me and saw me struggling. He asked me if I had anything for them (the cramps) as he reached for the pouch on his race belt. I told him I had a gel so he kept going. I had one tucked under my tri suit so I pulled it out and took a few hits from it. I really needed to run my faster to recover from my swim but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I was running with more of a shuffle as I knew not to extend my legs too much or get on my toes so I wouldn’t flex my calves. Unfortunately the race course has a steep uphill not far from the start. As I hit it I watched my pace on my watch drop from 9 to 10 to 11 minutes and there be nothing I could do as I barely got up the hill. I hit the aid station and walked as I drank some Gatorade then went back into a slow trot. It was a little discouraging watching all the runners go by me knowing I was losing places but I wasn’t going to stop. The second time around I went up the hill a little faster as I had worked my way through the cramps. This time I grabbed water at the aid station but kept running as I took one sip. After hitting the 2 mile mark I was ready to pick up my pace. I caught the guy that offered me assistance early on. He said dude you’re looking better. He said the way I looked early on he didn’t think I was going to finish. I said I know but I was feeling better and now I can run. I said see you at the finish and took off. I was surprised I finished the run in 26 minutes. I thought it was going to be somewhere around 30 minutes. To still manage an 8:09 paces after that run was just sheer will.
So I would finish the race in 38th place out of 141, 3rd in my age group. That meant I had to stick around for the award ceremony. I wasn’t happy with my results but like always I know if I eliminate the mistakes the good results will come!
2 weeks till the next event…Senior Games Swim Meet!