Those of you who know me well, know that I am a Texas A&M graduate. My daughter is currently attending A&M. And I bleed maroon. When I went to school there, we didn’t have a fancy rec center. Sure, there was a pool, but no one really used it. Besides, the only use I had for a pool in college was to lay beside it or on a float in it.
Fast forward to my daughter’s high school years when she played volleyball. One of her tournaments was at the rec center on campus and I was well into triathlons at that point. When we walked in for the volleyball tournament and I saw the natatorium, I was in awe. I just stood at the window looking in and wishing I could swim there.
When my daughter and I attended her new student conference, I secretly packed my swim gear. I thought we could get in on a guest pass during the conference and I hoped there might be time for me to get in at least a short swim. That didn’t happen for two reasons. The first reason was there just wasn’t time. The new student conference was jammed packed with sessions to attend. But even if there had been time it wouldn’t have happened due to reason number 2. The pool was under construction. Bummer. I vowed that someday I would swim there. I just didn’t know when.
And then I saw a post about the Tri Aggieland. And guess what? It’s a pool swim. In the natatorium in the rec center. There was no question now that my daughter is a student there that I would do the race. I was excited, but also a little curious. Out of all of the triathlons I’ve done the past 10 years, they’ve all been open water swims. I’ve never done a pool swim in a triathlon, so I wasn’t sure how it would all work.
When I registered, they asked for my estimated swim time for the 400 meter swim. I track all my workouts, so I knew pretty spot on what my swim times should be. I didn’t want to be one of those people who estimate faster than they really are and get passed by everyone, but I also hoped that by being honest, I wouldn’t be the one passing people.
The race was Sunday, but I headed to College Station on Friday to spend some time with my daughter. After she got off work, we headed to dinner and I could tell we were in a college town in the middle of Summer. We got some nice entertainment in Chick-fil-a when a drunken frat boy decided to teach all the kids all the foul language that’s not in the dictionary. I was just glad I had parked far away from him, because neither he nor his friend should have been driving.
After dinner, we drove the bike course. I wanted to see what it looked like, but also see if it would be safe to ride Saturday morning. Then we went back to her apartment where I got to meet one of her friends I hadn’t met yet. Later that evening we went with her friend and her friend’s mom for some frozen ice. Yum!
Saturday morning, I rode the bike course. There was one area that I was concerned about crossing, but as I approached the intersection, there wasn’t a car in sight. I crossed the road and made the loop. The roads heading back into campus were pretty torn up and once back on campus, there were several turns to make, so I knew it would be interesting on race day. A two-loop course of only 6 miles meant it might get crowded.
After a shower, we went and grabbed some lunch and then I headed off on my own to pick up my packet and meet a friend of mine from college. She lives in Bryan and was racing as well, so we had agreed to meet at packet pick-up. I think we chatted over an hour, but it was great to catch up with her.
Then it was time to head to dinner. The local chapter of Team RWB was hosting a pasta dinner at one of the local restaurants, so it was nice to finally put a face to the many names I’ve seen on Facebook.
After dinner, it was time to get my stuff ready for the race and get in bed.
Sunday morning I woke up early. No matter what race I do, I like to get there as soon as transition opens and know that I have everything the way I want it. I ate breakfast, headed out to load my car and got ready to leave. I turned the key and nothing happened. This was not good. I tried again but nothing happened. I knew I couldn’t deal with it before the race, so now what. I also knew a friend of mine was in town for the race, so I called and asked them to come pick me up. Whew!
We got to the race site and as we were unloading, one of the RWB folks from tri camp in April pulled up next to us. It was good to see him. I also ran into my friend from college. That’s what I love about triathlons. Pretty much anywhere you race, you are going to run into someone you know.
When transition opened up we headed in and found that this race did bike racking by number. I got VERY lucky and was actually on the end near where I would rack if I had the choice. Score!
I got everything set up, hit the port-a-potty, met the RWB group for a pre-race photo and then headed inside. The natatorium was just as beautiful as I imagined. My only question now was, “do I jump in to get use to the water?” or “do I wait until it’s my time to swim and just deal with it?”. I HATE cold water, and I knew that being the place where the college swim team practices, the water would be cold. Cold to me anyway. I debated back and forth and finally just decided to jump in. It was cold, but not as cold as I thought it would be. I immediately got right back out. And then I shivered from the water.
Finally, it was time to start “lining up”. Our race numbers, in theory, were in order of our swim times that we had indicated on the registration. I was number 275, so I knew it would be a while before I got in the pool. The invitational wave of men would go first, then the invitational wave of women, and then the rest of us. I grabbed a seat next to my friend and some other RWBers. When the invitational swimmers started, I wondered how they had decided who was in that wave. There were some that obviously belonged, but there were a couple that looked like they were struggling.
Then it was time for the rest of us to go. I was watching as people got in and it was quickly evident that some people had way overestimated their swim time. If you are in the first 100 and you can’t even swim a full 400 meters without stopping to rest, you are there because you put a false time on your registration. I decided there was no way I was waiting until 275 to go. I was faster than a lot of the ones already in the pool, so I sneaked my way into the line. The race director had told us we could self-seed ourselves race day, so that’s what I did. I asked several people what their expected swim time was and when I found someone similar to mine, that’s where I stopped.
With people starting every 10 seconds there were a lot of people in the pool. I jumped in when it was my turn, waited for the “go” and took off.
It wasn’t long before I passed the guy in front of me. I was concerned about getting to the walls and turning because we had to swim under the lane line into the next lane to go back. For most of the turns there wasn’t a problem, but there was one turn where there were about 5 of us at the same time. Open water swim tactics served me well and I just plowed on through.
I glanced at my watch when I got out because I didn’t know where the timing mat would be and I wanted to see what my swim time was. It was a little slower than I hoped, but not bad. And I was right about the timing mat. We had to run out the door of the natatorium and to transition before we crossed the mat.
Swim time (including the run out): 9:22
My bike was racked very near where I entered transition from the swim, so it was fairly quick to get the bike shoes, sunglasses and helmet on and get out of transition.
I took off on the bike feeling good and feeling like I needed to give it everything I had on the straight and smooth roads. I knew the backside of the course would slow me down. It felt good and I was very glad I had ridden the course the day before. When I got to the backside I noticed they had the potholes marked, so I just kept going and did my best to avoid the holes. I headed back to campus and made the turn for the second loop. I felt really good about the ride, passed a lot of people and barely got passed.
Bike time: 35:19 for a 19.7 mph average
Boom! That’s the fastest bike split I’ve had in a race AND on a two-loop short course. I couldn’t be happier.
I headed into transition and quickly changed shoes, grabbed my race belt and was back out on the course. I had been so concerned about how the swim would work and what the bike course was like that I really had no idea what the run course would be like. All I knew was that it went through parts of campus, and from having gone to school there, I knew most of it would be pancake flat. What I didn’t know starting out was whether it would be a one-loop or two-loop course. It was evident pretty quickly it would be two loops.
Being July, in Texas, the temps were starting to climb and I knew humidity would be a factor. I knew I wouldn’t have a fantastic pace, but didn’t want to take it easy either. There was one part of the course where we went under one of the main roads that separates the east and west sides of campus, so there was a little incline, but not bad.
Being two loops, however, my family was not ready for me when I came out of the tunnel to head back toward the start to begin my second loop. Oh well, they knew to watch for me the second time.
Run time: 26:19 (9:12 min/mile pace)
I absolutely loved doing this race and heading through the finish line. I waited for friends and other RWBers to finish before heading back to get my car taken care of. Luckily, it was just a battery and nothing more. I’ll definitely do this one again as long as the schedule allows.
Total Time: 1:13:05 for 6th place in my age group.
By the way, I was 150th overall. I was 169th on the swim – almost 100 spots ahead of where I was seeded based on times sent in.