I returned to Tri Waco for my only planned Olympic distance triathlon in 2016 (you can read a recap of my 2015 race here). I had the experience to know what the course and weather would bring, which is why I dragged my heels and didn’t register until days before the race.
Heading down to Waco from Dallas is an easy drive. And no trip to Waco can now be complete without a trip to Magnolia Market! This is actually my third visit to Chip and Jojo’s place, but some new stores have been added and it was really fun to show my mom around. I have my eye on a few pieces I’ll be purchasing in the next few months.
Now, on to the race report…
I lined up and found a few friends to chat with until we entered the water. The temperature was in the mid to high 70s and it felt like tepid bath water. The color of the Brazos River is very dirty; I can only see until my elbow.
I strategically lined up so I was less likely to swim off course. There was the usual melee once the whistle blew, but I quickly found my stroke and a draft I stayed with the first half of the race. After our second turn, my draft suddenly veered really wide. I chose to stay on the course and I knew I could pick up another draft. I turned the last buoy and brought in on home. Overall, I felt like my swim technique and strategy was fairly good.
After getting yanked out of the water, we are required to run up a winding ramp to get to transition. I chose to take a few steps to realign my orientation and heart rate, and then jogged up the last few steps to make my way to my bike. The total length of transition is almost a quarter of mile, which also accounts for me transition time of 5:02.
I set out confident on the bike since I knew the course. I listened to the Race Director’s instructions of staying as far right as possible, even though I was worried about catching debris riding along the shoulder. When I checked my watch and realized only 10 miles had gone by, and immediately became frustrated. I just didn’t feel like being on the bike any longer. I wasn’t even halfway done, and already felt like the ride was too long. 15 more miles to go. I used my frustration and desire to get off the bike to fuel me the second half of the race. I was so relieved when I pulled back into T2.
The heat was becoming unbearable. As soon as I racked my bike, I felt the heat beating down on me. I dumped water on me and headed out for the run.
Almost as soon as I started the run, I had to stop. I immediately identified something was just off. My heart rate was skyrocketing, my breath was becoming very short, and I was worried about overheating and/or having an asthma-meets-panic attack. I walked quite a bit the first mile. Some nice spectators were cheering as I passed, and I felt the need to explain to them that I was walking because my heart rate was out of control. Every single step was a fight to keep moving forward. I had to talk myself out of taking a medical DNF – the first time I have ever considered quitting any race. It was a constant negotiation to keep myself engaged in the race, while paying close attention to my body.
I finally got my heart rate under control right as the course took us into Cameron Park. Miles 1.5 through 3.5 are very hills with some steep inclines. I know, I know. It’s Waco, Texas? How steep can they be? So steep I stopped for a few seconds to put my hands on my knees to try to get enough breath just to walk up the hill. Trust me – these hills are steep! I walked about 70% of this portion of the race. I took in water and sports drink at every aid station, and continuously dumped water to try to keep my core temperature in balance.
After finally making it out of Cameron Park, I figured I was over halfway done with the run so I might as well finish. Yes, I actually thought I might as well finish. I decided at that moment that I wasn’t going to quit, but I was certainly retiring from racing in July in Texas. It’s just too difficult for me to race in the extreme heat. It’s not fun, and it turned dangerous for me.
I finally made it back to the suspension bridge and was able to cross the finish line. I had mixed feelings – I was proud of myself for finishing, but disappointed in my run.
Goal: Push myself but race smart
Date: July 24, 2016
Location: Waco, TX
Distance: Olympic triathlon; 1500 meter open water swim, 40 kilometer bike, and 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) run
Conditions: 91 °F, 5 mph wind and 79% humidity at race start. It heated up to 101°F!
Total time: 3:51:52
1500 meter swim: 35:42
40K bike: 1:36:49
10k run: 1:31:39
Class Position: 11 out of 11
What I learned
I PRed my swim over last year by eight minutes. Wow! Last year presented a lot of challenges with the physical bumping in the swim, but that is still quite an improvement! My bike was six minutes behind last year, and my run was seven minutes slower than in 2015. Unfortunately, my gains in the swim weren’t maintained through the bike and the run. My overall time was five minutes behind my time in 2015, but it wasn’t a fun experience. I love the management of this race, but racing in this kind of heat doesn’t agree well with me so unfortunately I don’t plan on returning.