Chase the Police Triathlon (0.25 swim, 17 bike, 2.8 run)
Swim 11:37, Bike 1:18:34, Run 35:45
Well, if you're looking for an intro to this race recap, I got news for you: you missed it on Monday. Head on over here if you want to read the hows and whys of this race. Or, if you already read that post, then stay put, because it's about to get real ... real florescent, that is. And I mean this literally - check out the race shirt photo race organizers posted to Facebook just a few days before the event:
Sigh. Another wicking T? Well, I guess so.
Though to be fair, when I picked this up in person on Friday night after a 4+ hour drive through rush hour traffic, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. But, then again, maybe the ugliness of it wore off when reality sunk in: this was about to be my first ever tri shirt. #perspective
Speaking of packet pickup, not that there's much to say about it really ... but, yes, packet pickup went well. Essentially, it was in a hidden corner of town, in a building that almost looked deserted with only 3 cars in the lot. There was no big sign marking the building as the Walker Community Center, so I was a little concerned at first that I was in the wrong place, but I just walked in anyway. Luckily a friendly woman was at the front desk and asked me why I was there, and when I said I was there for packet pickup, she simply asked me my name. That was it.
With very little pomp and circumstance, I was handed a bib & timing chip, and a bag of "swag". Honestly, I was a little surprised that no ID was required. But OK!
After a word of thanks, I walked out to the car and inspected my loot, which included mostly flyers for various products and races, a brochure of local attractions for tourists, a trial pack of bounce dryer sheets (I was a little confused on that one), a sample of triathlete focused body wash and lotion (which proved immediately helpful as I forgot to pack shampoo/soap of any kind in my suitcase for the weekend), a chocolate gu (nice try, but nothing new on race day for me as I prefer NOT to poop my pants, thank you very much), and ... I didn't realize until after I got settled into our rental cabin for the night, but I was also actually supposed to have a swim cap.
The missing cap ended up not being a major deal, as I simply got a replacement at check in on race day. The rental cabin, however, proved to be more of a major deal as the resort managers accidentally double booked the cabin we reserved for the weekend. That wound me up a little as I almost didn't have a place to stay for the night. Fortunately, things got worked out, and we ended up in the cabin we expected. But, between that snafu and my pre-race jitters, I had a hard time settling into a peaceful night's sleep. Though, I suppose the worn out mattress I was sleeping on didn't help matters. Or the lumpy pillows. Or the fact that our cabin didn't have curtains, and we were right next to the street light that illuminated the resort's walkway and marina. *sigh*
As you can tell, I had a very restful night's sleep once I finally managed to pass out well after midnight - insert sarcastic eye roll here. (We'll call this mistake #1 - lack of rest).
Fast forward. Race morning.
Since I had quite a bit of nerves processed by end of day Friday, when I got out of bed at 5:45 on Saturday morning I had an eerie sense of calm. Despite not having my usual big day jitters, I was still nervous enough to have zero appetite, however. Not wanting to go to the race on an empty stomach, I forced myself to eat an apple and drink almost a full cup of straight black coffee. (We'll call this mistake #2 - not enough fuel).
By 7:00 my husband had loaded up our dog, since the resort we were staying at requested we not leave him in the cabin alone while I raced, and we were driving to transition. Transition opened at 6:30, but I planned on arriving at around 7:15 as I figured that would be plenty early to allow for set up and body marking. This proved to be true; I had no problem getting in, set up and marked by 7:45. And, I was even actually early by comparison, since I was one of the first maybe 30 bikes in transition.
During transition set up, I received a text from a friend off site offering last second encouragement, so I snapped a shot mid set up and sent it in my response to her. (This was before I threw my towel down and sorted out my gear bag):
As I was roaming transition, I ended up finding a fellow run club member who happened to be vacationing for the week near Walker. Since she is public servant, she decided earlier in the week she couldn't miss this race, and was officially registered as a "chase-ee" - but, let's be real, I knew I had little chance catching her on course since she is a seasoned triathlete and a much faster racer than myself. Regardless, it was nice to have an experienced racer like her with me pre-gun, since the nerves that were in my system somewhat made my brain shut off and I was doing a lot of stupid things ... like missing major announcements and debating putting my wet suit on over an hour before gun time. Whoops. (We'll call this hidden bonus #1 - having a seasoned racer with you on race day).
Eventually, transition began to fill and time was nearing for the pre-race talk. With less than 20 minutes to spare, I snuck off to the edge of the park to find my husband. He was hiding on the far shores of the lake with our dog Toby; it seemed Toby was not in the mood to be a considerate spectator and kept barking whenever he saw a dog he wanted to go play with, which was drowning out the announcer, hence their isolated position. After I found my husband, I shed my pre-race sweatshirt and stripped down to my tri shorts and sports bra - something I have never done in public before, eep. I then stepped into my wet suit and asked my husband to help get me zipped up and inch the suit into place just a bit more. Then, with a final goodbye to my husband, I wandered over to the starting area of the swim and gave the water a try.
Pushing down some initial panic, I got in and started paddling around, staying as close as I could to the safety rope that lined the course - it was covered in swim noodles and provided a little safety net for me in case I needed an emergency time out. Once in, I was pleasantly surprised to find the water calm, comfortably cool, weed free and extremely clear. Before I knew it, on my warm up, I had already gotten half way to the first buoy.
Hm. I suddenly realized this was going to be easier than I anticipated. I guess all the open water training I did in a very weedy and often choppy lake paid off (we'll call this hidden bonus #2 - experience in less than ideal conditions).
Finally, it was time for the pre-race talk, so I waded out of the water and headed back towards transition. The talk was less official than I expected, and basically included a few directions on the flow of transition (where to bike in/out, where to run in/out) and some general rule discussions. The talk concluded with a very nice performance of the national anthem, sung acapella.
And then, it was time.
The race was set up to release in 5 waves, with the "police" wave first, two separate waves of men following (39 and below, 40 and above), and two additional waves of women after that (same age split as the men). With just minutes before official gun time, the announcer asked wave one to line up along the shore. Then, since things were going well and ahead of schedule, the race officials decided to just get started. So, the announcer asked the crowd to count down from 10 ... and at 1, the first wave was off in the water.
Without a donut lead, I might add. What the heck?! I was a little disappointed by that.
Anyway, donut aside, I anxiously watched how the mob sorted out in the water to see if my swim plan needed adjustment. But, things went pretty much as I had expected. Two or three minutes later, I again carefully watched wave two just to make sure I didn't want to change my plan. Again, I decided my idea was fine.
As wave three was being released, I took several slow, calming breaths and reminded myself of all the reading I did regarding triathlon swim panic avoidance. Breathe slow. Relax. Sing a song to distract yourself and calm down. Think of the swim like you're sharing a lane with some of the worst swimmers ever, who keep getting all up in your business.
Ha! I thought about the lady I shared a lane with at the pool the week prior, who bounced around like a pinball, and knew it couldn't get much worse than that. (We'll call this hidden bonus #3 - experience swimming in a group).
Then, I started repeating my mantra, which I developed just the day prior. The mantra was inspired by a regular Wednesday night swim buddy of mine who likes to race me in kickboard warm-ups (since I'm relatively speedy in that drill, though I wouldn't call it fast). In wishing me luck for the race, she had told me: "If all else fails just kick, you are really good at that."
So I told myself over and over - swim, breathe slow ... and if all else fails, just kick.
10 ... 9 ... 8 ...
In order to avoid the mass chaos at the swim start, I had decided to slowly wade into the water behind the entire group that was my wave. I hung at the very back of the pack, figuring this would allow the group to tear ahead of me, sorting out their paces as I let my ankles and knees get wet.
Well ... that idea works in theory. In practice, not so much. (We'll call this mistake #3 - seeding incorrectly).
Unfortunately, though I am a nervous swimmer, I discovered I am much more skilled than I give myself credit for in regards to speed. I say this because although the group was a good 25 yards ahead of me before I started my swim, as soon as I put my face in the water and started to pull, I was touching the toes of the woman in front of me. Which, I unfortunately discovered when I popped up to site, was actually a log jam of 4 women wide. D'oh!
My choice at that point was to either swim wide around them and risk panic without being near to the "noodle rope", or stay stuck behind the pack. Crap.
For a short time, I decided to stay behind the log jam. Doing so quickly started to drain me of energy, as I found it really difficult to doggy paddle and keep my head above water to watch for them. In an effort to pause and recouped some energy, I went to the "noodle rope" and grabbed on. But just as I did, the pack separated just ever so slightly. Seeing my chance, I plowed through along one side (as carefully as I could without kicking someone in the face) and broke free.
Yes! In addition to finally passing them, shortly after I had rounded the first buoy. The second buoy came much more quickly, as I was finally free of the slow pack. I was ecstatic to be rounding it and coming in to home.
Or at least what I thought was home ... notice on the map above how I added a yellow circle around the word "route"? And a yellow star next to it? The circle symbolizes where the sheriffs had their emergency "go no further" boat.
The star is me.
*sad clown whistle*
Yeah, I realized when I finally decided to site on that side of the swim that I was way off course. I technically could have given the sheriff a high five I was so far off. And let's just say they gave me a look that was ... not impressed ... when I popped my head up to site.
Note to self: site every 4 strokes, please and thanks.
As I neared shore, I knew I was close, but I didn't want to stand too early. So, I continued to pull until my hands hit sand, and them immediately I stood. WOAH! I was so dizzy I almost fell down. (We'll call this mistake #4 - never having practiced a real transition out of water).
Disoriented, I stood on shore for a minute to get my bearings. My brain needed more time than I would have expected to sort out where the water/sand line ended and which way I needed to move towards to get into transition. Though it didn't really take me that long, I did get a few odd looks from spectators.
Finally I got my bearings and walked towards transition ... just in case my dizzy spell wasn't quite over. There, I took my time changing and ensured I drank plenty of water before heading out.
T1 - 3:32
In my head, the bike was sure to be where I'd kill it. While I'm not a terribly fast swimmer and not in the greatest of run shape right now, I am still a fairly decent biker. In fact, you can almost see my positive energy as I biked out of transition:
Well, that didn't last too long. I kind of forgot about one thing.
Yeah, hm. Hills are hard.
As you can see in the map above, I began questioning why I was doing this race right around mile ... oh, 3. If I recall correctly, hill climbing for that started at about 2.5 and didn't quit until 3.5. And just when you thought maybe you were done, at about 6.5 it started again and didn't end until about 7.5. All while in full sun on a humid and almost 80 degree day. Barf!
I distinctly remember thinking at mile 6.5 ... FML, I have basically a 5K to run after this?!
Trying to stay positive, I told myself to just make it to the halfway point, as that is where they were supposed to have water and energy drink. I didn't particularly need water, since I had a full bottle on my bike (that I made a specific effort to ensure I was sipping every couple of miles); what I really was looking forward to was some calorie & salt replenishment via Gatorade or something similar. Imagine my hate spiral when I got to the halfway point, and their only offer was water or ... water. (We'll call this mistake #5 - relying on others for fuel mid race).
Man, that made for a long bike back, I'll tell you what. At least I was alone at that point, so I could mutter under my breath and no one would be the wiser. Except for maybe the bears hiding in the woods, which I imagined would take great joy in eating me since there was no one else nearby to stop them.
At least that thought helped my pace a little.
Finally, after what ended up being a very disappointing performance on the bike, I rolled into transition. As I was coasting downhill, preparing to dismount, I cried a little. I was thirsty and hungry and I really did NOT want to do a run.
At least I faked a smile for the photo, right?
T2 - 1:23
By now, my lack of training for this event was sorely apparent. It was around this time that I decided to label my pre-race day status as "prepared" rather than "trained". Basically, I could do all three disciplines and survive the day, yes... I just wasn't trained endurance wise to preform well.
After I bumbled through transition to rack my bike, I yanked my GPS watch, headphones and iPhone out of my bike bag and literally started walking. Since the first portion of the run was up and around a switch back leaving the park, I didn't much see the point of running it and wearing myself out. Plus, I wanted to get some tunes in to help motivate me to finish.
In the first 1/2 mile, my GPS watch struggled to find a satellite, so I have no idea what my true pace was in that stretch. I think I started running once the switchback leveled out, so maybe before the 0.5 mile mark. But from there on out, it was a mental game of "how far ya' got in ya'?"
Just trying to survive, I took the run in 0.10-0.25 mile intervals, totally at random. I would pick a point in the distance - a tree, a sign, a mailbox, whatever ... and I would try to run to it without stopping. My reward if I could, was a short walk break. If I couldn't, I took a walk break anyway.
Using this approach made the time pass fairly quickly, and before I knew it I was at the turn around point ... which again had only water. Boo. On the plus side, the volunteers there were fantastic and cheered me simply for still having a smile on my face. I didn't have the heart to tell them I was actually smiling because they had their AED laying out on the side of the trail, and I was just grateful I didn't need to use it on myself. LOL!
Having passed the turn around point, my mental outlook improved and the rest of the run went remarkably better. When I finally had the finisher's arch in my sites, despite being exhausted, I committed to running the final half mile out. And I did.
After a long and somewhat disappointing fight - boom. I stepped on the mat. That was it. I was finally a triathlete.
As soon as I cleared the mat and turned in my chip, all I could think about was water. So, I guess it's no surprise that at the finisher's "party", I almost had a melt down because I thought they were out.
The food table started with bananas, cups of fresh strawberries, granola bars and donuts ... with no water to be seen. But, it turned out at the end of the table, behind some chatty racers who were blocking my line of sight, there were tubs of ice with ample bottles of water available. Thank goodness, because I was on the edge of a 2 year old style epic temper-tantrum from being so hot, and just really wanted water numero uno. Though, I have to say, the strawberries were an amazingly delicious second to the water.
And as a side, note - putting into consideration the fact that I finished 5th to last and there was still ample food available, I have to say: kudos to the race planners!!
After grabbing food and water, I managed to meet up with my friend and her family and we settled in on the grass to watch post race prize presentations ... and to hang out for the raffle, of course. I mean, with these prizes, plus a kayak and a standup paddle board up for grabs, how could you not stay?!
Lucky me, I won the bike pump you see above photo, front and center, while my husband hung out in the air conditioned car (our dog Toby is an old man and can't handle long days in the heat very well anymore).
Eventually, the last of the prizes were divvied out ... and that was that! After a final thank you speech from the race organizers, the park cleared out. I packed up my transition mess, rolled out with my bike, and headed towards the car to enjoy the AC as well.
So in the end - what did I think?
Well, despite my lack of training for this race, and my disappointing finish time, overall I thought this was a great race. Why? Well, unlike many of the larger chain races you see in the big cities, you could tell this race was put on by the heart of Walker's community - there was a real sense of pride in their offering of the race, and they were truly enthusiastic that we were there ... no matter how fast our pace.
Plus, I found the field of participants amazingly friendly. Everyone was genuinely encouraging to each other. Even when someone passed me on the bike course, they didn't go by without at least a short, friendly hello or comment about the nice day or the beautiful X-Y-Z we were biking by at that specific point in the course.
In addition to that, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could not only survive the swim, but in fact manage it quite well. This was a huge hurdle for me and my water anxieties, so I'm feeling more confident in my swimming future, whatever that may be.
As for doing another tri - you know I will! I mean, I can't own a wet suit and just let it rot in my closet now, right?! Though, to be honest, I don't think I'll be back at it until next year. With the TC 10 mile just a couple months out, my focus HAS to switch to ramping back up on running, which means taking a break from tri stuff for now - I think.
And the big question ... ?
Nope, sorry to disappoint. I did NOT pee in my wet suit.
And that's the story of how race bib #61 joined my collection. Surprise! I did end up with a bib, even if I only ended up wearing it on the run.
Here's to another race soon!
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