For my second Olympic distance triathlon, I headed down to Waco, Texas for Tri Waco. In July. In Texas. It was so hot my flip flop melted to the asphalt in front of the convention center for packet pickup. And I paid good money to go swim 1500 meters, bike 40k, then run 10k in what felt like the equivalent of a sauna.
Pre-race day, I did a scouting of the swim course. I wasn’t concerned about the distance, but I became concerned once I saw the swim start and exit. It was a piece of astroturf laid over jagged rocks that dropped off into the river. Uh…that does not look like it will agree with my bare tootsies. I wasn’t sure how the race directors planned on getting everyone safely in and out of the water. I had missed the pre-race athlete course review because I didn’t get to Waco until after it ended. Crap. But there wasn’t much as I could do about it now. This was also the first swim I did underneath a bridge, and I wanted to make darn sure I didn’t swim headfirst into a concrete pier. It was the first swim I started where we were treading water next to the buoys. I found my position to the left of the group (I’m a right breather) with the buoys directly ahead of me. The majority of the others in my wave were to my right. Once we took off, I really started to “feel” the water more than I had in my warmup. It felt like a warm bath that was just turning tepid. After about 20 strokes, I started to search for my first draft. I immediately targeted a gentlemen about 10 feet to my right who looked to be about the same speed as I was. I started to make my way over him and get near enough to draft. As I got closer, I realized he was a left breather and we were stroke for stroke.
Awesome! We swam along locking eyes every stroke for about 150 meters. I was so close I could see his kit top was white and that he had a circular shoulder tattoo on his left arm. Shoulder tattoo and I had a great pace together, staying in sync stroke for stroke. Just as I was feeling great that we had a wonderful system down, he disappeared! I looked forward to sight and didn’t see him. I had no idea where he disappeared to, but I kept swimming forward. I was exactly in line with the first buoy so stayed my course. Then a few moments later I felt a bump to my left. I took a few left breaths to see what was going on – and it was shoulder tattoo! He had returned! I realized that he had gotten tired of sighting and was relying on me to sight. GAME ON, SHOULDER TATTOO! LET’S DO THIS! We rounded the first buoy, and I did the fall back and side switch to return to the drafting position of shoulder tat (we were at nickname status at this point). Should tat and I stayed in sync, switching the responsibilities of sighting as needed at a comfortable pace. We passed underneath the bridges towards the final buoy before turning to the exit. But when we got to turn the last buoy, all hell broke loose. Someone’s hand brushed along my teeth, I was getting beat up like an underwater roller derby, my butt was grabbed, and there was an extreme amount of pushing and shoving going on. I knew we were getting close to the exit chute, but I had never been beaten up like this before in the swim! All of the jostling distracted me from my concern about the swim exit. Once I was close enough, I just shot both of my hands up and let the volunteers pull me out of the water like a rag doll. Phew – glad that was over!
After that crazy ending of the swim, I needed to get my heart rate down. We had to run up a ramp to get back to transition; I took my time walk-jogging into transition, took deep breathes, and regained my mental clarity. Transition time was 6:23 –slow, but it was what I needed.
This was where I really wanted to put in effort. I had been focusing a lot of training time on increasing my speed and efficiency on the bike, and it was my beautiful new bike’s race debut. The course was mostly flat. It was newly laid chip seal, and gave a very bumpy ride. I ignored my chattering teeth and shaking hands as I bounced along the uneven road, and focused on keeping my foot position and digging in. I passed a few wipe outs and several flats. I knew I couldn’t let negative thoughts enter my mind, so I kept my head down and pushed. I focused on my hydration and nutrition plan to make sure I maintained the proper fueling. My Garmin clocked an average of 16.4 mph over the course. I had actually been pushing harder in the 17 mph range, but my average dropped in the last mile as I took a few turns into transition. I was slightly disappointed my average dropped beneath the 17 mph metric, but I still pleased to have a better showing that my last Olympic race (for comparison, my average at TexasMan was 14.5 mph.)
When I hopped off my bike, my legs felt like rubber. I saw some friends that were in transition with their things waiting to exit (they had started earlier and completed the sprint distance). I took the time to focus, grab what I needed and headed out for the run.
It was the end of July in Texas, and I know I was in for a real treat by the time I got to the run. And by treat, I mean the undeniable scorching rays of the sun and humidity thick enough to knock my lungs out. I started off on the run and immediately met a new friend. Now, I’ve been working with my coach on developing my racing mentality, which includes cutting down on my Chatty Kathy tendencies and focus on the task on hand. But fellow runner Suzanne was a welcome friend at that point and she did the majority of the talking, so I enjoyed her company to encourage me along that first mile and a half until we reached our first water stop.
In the pre-race meeting, the Race Director let us know there would be coolers with chilled washcloths along the run course and encouraged us to make use of them. We ran along the Brazos River and then headed into Cameron Park. There was no shade or cloud coverage, and the heat was really getting to me. Then we encountered the hills in Cameron Park. I had previewed the elevation map, but was still pretty surprised by the steep inclines on the run course. The run course was brutal. I did my best to focus on my form and dig through, but I had to take several walk breaks because of the heat. In the final mile, we had to run up a ramp and cross over the suspension bridge to the finish line. I was completely exhausted by race finish.
Goal: Have a better bike split than TexasMan and don’t overheat
Date: July 26, 2015
Location: Waco, TX
Distance: Olympic triathlon; 1500 meter open water swim, 40 kilometer bike, and 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) run
Conditions: 97 °F, 8 mph wind and 84% humidity at race start. Humid and hot!
Total time: 3:46:16
1500 meter swim: 43:48
40K bike: 1:30:05
10k run: 1:23:43
Class Position: 11 out of 12
Gender Place: 36 out of 45
The President of the South Midwest USAT was at the finish line handing out medals and thanking yearly USAT members. He introduced himself and my exhausted, lack of filter response was “I can’t feel my butt” as he handed me my medal. Yes, I probably should have kept that to myself, but I was exhausted and just blurted my truth out. Luckily he was great sport and responded with “that sounds about right! Great job”
What I learned:
After the race, I realized what it meant that this race was a regional championship. It meant that the fast people were there, which is partly why I was beat up in the swim and finished last in my age group.
This was the first triathlon I had travelled outside of the DFW metroplex for, so it allowed me to practice my packing.
It was my last chance to race before Ironman Augusta 70.3, and I made sure to pay more attention to my hydration and nutrition.
And even though my total time wasn’t that much faster than TexasMan, it still was a PR and well-earned in that oppressive heat!