Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lonestar 70.3

Friday afternoon I left work early, met up with a few other folks racing, and headed to Galveston for the Lonestar 70.3. This would be my second time to race this race and just like last time, I wasn’t where I wanted to be with my training. Despite that, I knew that I would be ok and could complete the race barring no major catastrophe.

We arrived in Galveston, got settled, grabbed a few items from the grocery store and headed out for dinner. Then it was time to get some rest.

Saturday morning I slept in. It was nice as I don’t get to do that often. After grabbing some breakfast it was time to take the bike out for a short spin to make sure all was working properly. We just did a little over 20 minutes, but all seemed well. I was happy that it didn’t feel like much of a headwind either way and hoped for the same on race day.

After the ride, it was time to load the bikes and head to the race site. There are “mandatory” meetings for the athletes and the first one was at 12:30, so we hit that to make sure there weren’t any surprises we needed to know about. One thing they said was that all bikes needed to be racked by the seat. No big deal for me as that’s what I usually do.

After the meeting it was time to register and pick up the race packet. Because of how early it was, there was a big line heading into the tent. As I got close, I noticed there were different lines based on bib numbers. Of course mine was one of the longest AND it was on the end, so people were going around the line and trying to cut. Umm, I don’t think so. The other thing that annoyed me was that lots of people were bringing their bikes into the registration tent and it was not set up for that.

I made my way through all the stops – signing the waiver; getting my wristband, race numbers and shirt; activating my chip, etc. – and then exited through the expo part. When everyone was done, we went back to grab the bikes and head to transition to rack them.

When we got to transition I found my spot and put my bike on the rack by the seat as I had been told. And it just hung there. My front tire did not reach the ground. It was windy (it is Galveston afterall), so my bike was rocking back and forth and looked like if a strong enough gust came along it might just blow off the rack. One of the volunteers came by at that point and she said that the officials told her it was ok to rack the bikes by the handlebars tonight because of the wind, but they would need to be fixed in the morning. No problem. I switched my bike around, took the obligatory “bike rack” picture and left transition.

At the big races they usually have a pro panel and it was time for it to start, so we headed that way. They had six pros (3 men and 3 women) on stage. I knew Tim O’Donnell, Kelly Williamson and Caitlin Snow. I was far back and couldn’t see who the others were. Then I glanced at the big screen. Oh. Lance Armstrong is up there. I know there are mixed feelings on Lance and I won’t get into that here because he is bringing recognition to triathlon, but the whole pro panel seemed to be about Lance and not much about the other 5 pros being up there.

After the pro panel we chilled out for a little bit and then headed for an early pasta dinner. We timed that just right because after we walked in a whole bunch of people came in. We were seated fairly quickly and those behind us had to wait a while.

After dinner it was time to get everything ready for race day. Once all the race gear was laid out it was time to sleep. Or try to sleep. I did good until around 2am. After that, I’m not sure I got much sleep.

The alarm went off at 4am race morning. I got up and dressed, made my race day shake and ate my Lara Bar. I also mixed my Infinit for the bike and double checked to make sure I had everything. It was time to head to the race.

You would think that getting to the race site early would mean good parking. Nope. Parking this year was quite a ways away from transition. Well, that would be my warmup.

Once in transition I began to lay everything out. I’ve tried to simplify my “spot” over the years with just the basics I need. I’m still amazed at how much stuff people bring into transition with them. Some folks had backpacks on that were as big as a suitcase. I’ll never know what they have in there. Anyway, I got my stuff laid out, talked to a few ladies around me (including another one racing for Team RWB), hit the port-a potties and put on sunscreen as best as I could without smearing my body marking.

Transition closed at 6:45 and my swim wave didn’t go off until 8:20, so I grabbed my wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, and my second breakfast of a Lara Bar and Gatorade. The walk to the swim start is a pretty decent walk, but I was obviously in no hurry to get there.

Once at the swim start I found a place to sit and just soaked up the atmosphere. The pros were allowed to jump in the water, the national anthem was sung and the race started. After the pros went off it was funny to watch the age groupers who hadn’t planned well and realized that their wave was about to jump in the water. They would come running through with panicked looks on their faces. Some of them didn’t even have their wetsuits on. This scenario played out over and over again. I didn’t want to be one of those, so around 7:45 I put the bottom of my wetsuit on, found the bathroom again and then found some other ladies in my swim wave. I got the top of my wetsuit up and had one help me with the zipper. I was ready.

When it was time, we lined up and made the march down the pier. It wasn’t long before we were jumping in the water. It’s about a 3-foot jump off a pier into the water. I tried to hold my nose and my goggles, but my goggles actually came off when I jumped in. Good thing I found them before they sank. I got them back on and swam to the start buoys. The water was a tiny bit chilly at first, but I knew it wouldn’t be cold while swimming. We had a couple of minutes before our start, but it wasn’t long before that gun went off and we all went horizontal.

I don’t like cold water and it hasn’t been real warm yet, so I had not done a practice swim in my wetsuit before this race. In fact, I don’t think I have even worn it since IMFL in November 2010. I could tell in the first few strokes that it was a little more effort to stroke than without it. I was also trying to go a little hard in the beginning so that I could get some room around me and get into my grove. I noticed that I was having a hard time breathing (the wetsuit felt a little tight around the chest) so I just told myself to slow down and just swim.

I got into a little bit of a groove and was feeling ok. I noticed that I was able to pass a guy from the wave in front of us before the first turn. It was also around that point, however, when a guy from the wave behind us passed me. Lovely. I was a little worried about this as we had M55+ and M18-25 behind us. I knew I would get passed, I just hoped I wouldn’t get beat up as they went over and around me.

I managed to keep a fairly good line with the buoys, but there were a couple of times I veered off course. I also had to kick really hard a couple of times because the guys were swimming upon me.

Finally, I reached the final turn to head back in. I had no idea how I was doing. I tried to look at the color of swim caps around me when I breathed, but I didn’t really see a bunch from my wave. I was a little worried as I didn’t want to be the last out of the water.

When I reached the ramp, I stood up. I got a little dizzy at first, but grabbed the bar at the exit and kept going. I unzipped the wetsuit and got the top part off. I didn’t see strippers at first and thought I’d have to get out of the wetsuit in transition, but then I saw them further down. I pointed to one, lay on the ground and she ripped that wetsuit off in a split second. I’d gladly have her strip my wetsuit again. I got up, grabbed my wetsuit and headed into transition.

Swim Time: 44:29
79th in my division of 126

I ran into transition, found my spot, put my wetsuit out of the way and started putting my cycling gear on. I did the socks and shoes first and then the glasses, gloves and helmet. I grabbed my bike and was out of there.

T1: 3:25

I got onto the bike feeling good. I wasn’t out of breath. I don’t wear my HR monitor in tris because my garmin isn’t waterproof, but it didn’t feel like my HR was high. It was time to see what I could do on the bike. I made my way through the grounds of Moody Gardens and turned on the Seawall Blvd. You never know until race day how the winds are going to be, but when I made that turn I felt good. It seemed like the wind was mostly a crosswind but with a slight headwind. Since I was doing around 16mph I was hoping this was the case. If we had a slight headwind on the way out we would have a slight tailwind on the way back.

I started passing several people. The only people that passed me were the fast guys behind me. It was a while before a female passed me. That made me feel good as well. About 10 minutes into the ride, I saw the pros coming back in on the other side. Based on the bike, the lead cyclist was none other than Lance Armstrong.

Since I carry all my nutrition on my bike, I didn’t need to stop at any of the aid stations. I do usually have to stop about mile 20 for a potty break but I was hoping to at least make it past the turnaround at 28. I accomplished my goal. I might have been able to make it the whole way back, but I decided I would rather empty my bladder and be able to cycle stronger than have the full bladder affect my speed. I stopped at the first aid station after the turnaround and felt much better.

As anticipated, on the way back in we had a slight tailwind. That was nice as my speed increased by a couple mph. I did start getting a little uncomfortable toward the end. I haven’t had the long rides I would have liked leading up to the race and I haven’t been in aero for long periods of time either. I would try to stand up every now and then to stretch the legs out, but that’s hard to do on a flat course. I also noticed my right inner quad muscle was a little tight at times. I definitely need to get in more bike rides.

I was very happy to make the final turn off of Seawall and weave my way back through the grounds to transition. Rode right up to the mount line before getting off.

Bike Time: 3:20:25 for a 16.77mph average
first 28: 1:45:50 for 15.87 mph
second 28: 1:34:35 for 17.76 mph
85th in my division, so I lost some ground here

I ran as quick as I could to my spot, racked my bike, took off the cycling gear, got the running shoes on, stuffed nutrition in my pocket and took off out of T2. I have to admit that there was another woman in my age group in transition at the same time and I was extremely motivated to beat her out of there.

T2: 2:14

There is an aid station immediately after you exit transition. I went to grab a drink and realized it was Perform. I can’t stand the stuff, so I dumped it and grabbed a water instead. The last time I did this race I had a little bit of stomach discomfort on the run, so I knew I needed to get and keep fluids in me. I could tell already that it would be a hot run.

I wanted to do as much running and as little walking as I could. I kept looking for the first mile marker so I could check my pace and adjust accordingly. Somehow I missed the first mile marker. This made me start questioning whether I was going the right way or not, but I just kept running. Finally I saw mile 2. I knew what time I had exited transition and saw at this point that I was doing around 10 minute miles. Good. Not too fast and not too slow.

At mile 3 I took my shot blocks. I was alternating drinking water from the aid stations with Gatorade I was carrying. Somewhere around mile 4.5 or 5, I decided I needed a walk break. I tried to keep it short and tried to keep the rest of the walk breaks to the aid stations. When I hit the part of the course that took us out on the airport runway this year, I had to walk more than I wanted. There was absolutely no shade and a good portion of that section went straight into the wind. I wasn’t really looking forward to doing that 2 more times.

I just kept going. Every 3 miles I did my shot blocks. I would walk through the aid stations grabbing water and ice and the cold sponges when they had them. I would even dump a cup of water on my head. I kept checking my watch for a while to see if I was still around 10 minute miles, but somewhere along the way quit doing that. It no longer mattered. I just wanted to get it done.

I finally hit the last loop of the runway and knew it wouldn’t be long until I finished. I pushed through as much as I could and was glad when I made the little turn and had the tailwind behind me. I knew at this point I could run the rest of the way in. When I hit the final stretch for the finish chute, I ran a little faster and crossed that line with a smile on my face.

When I looked at my watch and saw 6:25, I was happy. I couldn’t remember what my PR was at the moment so I didn’t know if I had beat it or not, but I was happy with my time.

Run Time: 2:14:22
10:15 overall pace
70th in my division, so I made up some time here

Splits from the course:
2.9 miles in 28:00 for 9:41
1.7 miles in 15:15 for 9:04
2.7 miles in 29:52 for 11:16
1.5 miles in 15:15 for 9:58
2.8 miles in 30:09 for 10:36
1.5 miles in 15:51 for 10:29

After I crossed the finish line I headed straight for the athletes food to grab a Coke. They didn’t have the real thing so I grabbed and RC Cola or whatever it was and headed back to the finish to wait for everyone else to come through. After that we grabbed the bikes from transition and headed out.

It was a hot race, but I’m glad I did it. I did, in fact, set a new PR with a final official time of 6:24:55.

My swim will probably not improve much since it really hasn’t in 4 years. I definitely have room to improve on the bike and if I put together a solid bike, then I know I can have a solid run at IMAZ. I’ll take the next couple of weeks fairly easy and then start my “official” IMAZ training plan. The first weeks of the plan are light, so it will still feel easy, but just like last time, I will follow the plan and know that it will get me to the start line in good shape.


M said...

Amazing! I don't think I will ever do a half Ironman... and how cool to have raced with Lance :)

donna said...

I had sme friends at Lonestar doing the race and they said the run was super hot - so great job! IMAZ here you come!