The day did not start off well. We (friend Tracey & myself) had driven to the race site on Fri and Sat so had the route down pat, or so we thought. Come race morning, they had roads blocked off for the race. We had to drive all over creation to get into the parking lot where what beheld our eyes but a 2+ block long waiting line for the shuttle buses to the transition site!! We were getting seriously nervous. We eventually got the transition area 36 minutes before my swim wave went off. Quickly (duh) set up transition, pumped the front tire, tried to pump the back tire only to have the stem of the brand-new-I-bought-it-yesterday-and-never-even-rode-on-it tube break in half, giving me a flat. Determined to stay calm (yeah, right), I pulled out my tire tools and could not get the tire off the rim. Fortunately, the tech folks/volunteers were walking around with a pump and I hailed them down and they changed the tire for me (while the announcer was urging everyone to get down to the water). By the time I grabbed my swim cap, goggles and inhaler (I didn't have enough time to put on my speedsuit), the national anthem was almost done. I desperately needed a bathroom trip and, even though there were tons of real bathrooms plus porta-potties, every one I saw had a mile-long line. Pride be damned, I headed to the bushes where I had a lovely conversation with a gentleman. I finally made it to the water with a whopping 2 minutes to spare.
I seeded myself to the far right, front row and had a clean start with minimal body contact. For once I swam pretty darn straight (which cannot be said for 90% of my fellow swimmers) but could not get a draft for more than 5-6 strokes because the water was so murky (no funny taste-just could see more than 6 inches). The swim felt long but maybe that's because I'm so accustomed to wetsuit swims. After what seemed forever, I reached land.
I kept moving in my slow trot but got passed by tons of people. Got to the bike, put on shoes, helmet, gloves (when I sweat I lose my grip on the shifters). Tried to put on spray-on sunscreen but the sprayer wouldn't work-hello sunburn.
The bike is usually my best event and it started off well. I felt good but by the time the bike ended, I had heard "on your left" approximately 1,976 times. I did manage to pass 8 poor souls (there are actually people slower than me!!). I had a good pace going up to about 40 miles, then my lower back started tightening up and my speed dropped, plus the wind kicked in. I was ready to get the bike done.
Another so-so transition. Tried the sunscreen again and had the same result. Oh well, melanoma is all about sun exposure before age 18, right? Stopped at the very redolent porta-pottie when exiting transition for my first pee of the day-despite drinking 86 ounces of fluid on the bike.
The run defines this race. What it lacks in hills-there is nary a speed bump on the course-it makes up with heat, humidity, and a really bad course. The initial part (maybe 200 yards), on a paved bike path, wasn't bad and I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that my legs felt pretty good (not to be confused with good enough to run fast). Managed my patented shuffle for about 8 minutes, when I hit the unshaded grass/dirt/weeds part of the course around mile 1. Things immediately got tough since the sun was blaring down by now (I heard undocumented reports that it was 110˚+ in this 1-1/2 mile section). I resorted to the shuffle some, walk some and lots of self-talk (some in my head, some out loud) to ward off the negative mind set. Part of what kept me fairly positive was seeing some very fit looking guys walking. Side note: I feel that I personally inspired many men to run because whenever I passed a walking man they would look at the age on my calf and immediately start running. You’re welcome guys. Saw 2 guys keel over while running and helped fetch ice for one of them (medics & other racers were pouring ice on him to get his temp down-he was unconscious). I also entertained myself by watching an alligator swim in the fetid water in the canal beside the aforementioned grass/dirt/weed strip. I did manage a slow but determined run through the spectator part at the end of the loop. Loop 2 was tough mentally but I just kept myself going. Loop 3 was actually the best loop, probably because I new I would never, ever have to see that grass/dirt strip again. I also invented a mind game. I counted off 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, 2-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, etc. timed with my foot steps. The game was that I could walk as many steps as I ran so if I wanted a longer walk, I had to do a longer run. That and ice chips at every water stop, 2 cups down the back-2 cups down the front (I think I went up 2 bra sizes at each water stop) got me through the grass section.
Grabbed a slice of pizza, gathered up my stuff, and waited for Tracey who had finished well before me and had taken her stuff to the car. Went to the awards ceremony to collect my nifty award (attrition is a wonderful thing-there were only 2 women in my age group so I got 2nd, also known as last. I was a very distant 2nd, I might add). Went back to the hotel, showered and assesses the damage: 3 toenails in imminent danger of dropping off, a sore back, and painfully fluorescent pink sunburned shoulders.
I did learn some valuable things from this race: vanilla PowerGel tastes awful; raspberry PowerGel tastes great; check the sunscreen before the race; allow an extra hour to get to a race; positive self-talk can really help.