So the forecast was ominous.
And all night the thunder was rolling.
But maybe because Krissy deserved some good karma after missing her first race of the season because she was flooded into Iowa City, the clouds rolled on by.
So the game was on.
It was raining as we were setting up in transition, but nothing too bad. And that little bit of rain even broke the oppressive humidity of the early morning.
Oh yeah, the fun part of the day began when I realized halfway to the race that I forgot both pairs of my goggles in my car. Nice. Fortunately, some nice Iowan soul loaned me a pair, but then forgot to pick them up again - I gave them to the race director, so hopefully they get them back!
Anyway, on to the details.
There were only three waves and all the women were starting in the last one. There were only a total of 125 or so racers, of which maybe a third were women. It was actually an in-the-water start, which I had never done before, but which was kind of nice. The course was a straight out and back in a narrow long lake, which is totally a bonus for straight-swimming-impaired folks like myself. I pretty much had the swim competely to myself. I didn't touch another swimmer the entire way. Which meant that I could get in a rhythm. Of course, after realizing I am a air swallower, I am now really paranoid about it when I am swimming, as a good session of air swallowing would completely take me out of the race. So my rhythm was messed up by thinking too much about exhaling.
But it was overcast, so there was no sun to blind you. Buoys were on the right, so always on my typical breathing side. And the buoys were ginormous, so you could not miss them from afar if you tried. The water was about 85 degrees, so there was no cold shock getting in. It was perhaps the nicest open water swim I have done. No weeds, sandy bottom as long as you could touch, then deep! What more could you ask for?
Anyway, the first surprise of the day was when I hit the turn around in 14 minutes.
Are you doing this math in your head?
14 minutes for 750 m?
Have I mentioned how slow I usually am?
My first thought was "this course has to be short." I eventually figured out that the course does curve some and on the way out you are on the inside of the curve and on the way back you are on the outside. So it took me 21 minutes to make it back (and another to run to the timing mat).
Are you still doing the math here? That's 36 minutes.
Do you know what I did Big Creek in last year? 44 minutes.
Still doing the math? That's an 8 minute PR folks! For someone who avoids swimming like the plague.
I pretty much decided at that point that I could DNF and be happy. Even though I pretty much was one of the last five people out of the water. My bike sure was easy to find in transition!
1500m in 36 minutes (2:16/100 yds)
Ah the bike. This was my first time racing Aqua Velva. (I am still trying on bike names, Krissy threw out that one - I am seeing how it fits...) The first thing I did was come out of transition and clip in with the wrong foot. I don't know about everyone else, but my left foot must go in first or it is disaster. I seriously almost tipped over on the mount line and I had to unclip and start again.
Krissy and I had driven parts of the course the night before, so we sort of had an idea of the hills. They weren't quite Hill of Death caliber steepness, but they were most definitely not "rolling hills" as advertised. I'll note that in the run description they say "the course includes challenging hills" and you have to bike up the same hill at first. Rolling hills my ass!
Like usual I came out of transition with my heart rate really high and the first thing I had to do was climb the first hill. While the Hill of Death was steeper, these hills were twice as long. I had my bike in the lowest gear and was spinning like a fiend so that I wouldn't tip over. My heart rate was in the 170s (anaerobic threshold for me is like 167) and I was gasping for air. I actually passes two ladies on the hill - I think I am so afraid of tipping over that I think I have to spin as fast as I do, but I probably could back off. But they both passed me again at the top as I was keeping myself in low gear to let my heart stop pounding and to catch my breath and drink some water and eat some Clif Bloks.
As soon as we hit the first flats though, I blew by them again and I was flying in the 20-25 mph zone with the modest wind at my back. My friends, this was a lonely course. Seriously, there were times where I couldn't see anyone in front of me. After the first bit of flats (where the road had a huge expansion crack in it that was perfectly tire width), there was a downhill into a valley where I was up to almost 40mph and then the second climb of the day, which rivaled the first. I got passed by one dude at the bottom of the hill. I caught up to Krissy, who was chugging up the hill in a much more calm collected manner than I will ever be able to achieve with my mad spinning and grunting. (She suggested I practice going up hills more slowly to prove to myself that I won't tip over - perhaps with sneakers instead of being clipped in)
We had more rollers and flats again and then we had a nice flat stretch directly into the wind. But it was just annoying wind, not soul-sapping wind - I was still able to maintain 15-16 mph going directly into it. Oh and how much do I love this bike? I stayed in aero almost the entire 25 miles.
There were three or four other hills which were long and required me to go into my lowest gear and spin feverishly. On one of them, the guy ahead of me had to stop and was trying to get going again and managed to turn his bike perpendicular to me while I was trying to pass him, so there was almost disaster, but he quickly reacted and all was good. The last hill was at about mile 23. You get a crapload of momentum coming off the hill before, but then you have to make this 90 degree turn up hill and you lose a lot of it. Krissy called this hill Injury. You actually get to turn off the hill about 2/3 of the way up. Which is awesome until you make the right turn and you see the hill she dubbed Insult.
We had driven this part of the course the night before, so we knew that even though it was almost done, there were still some brutal hills. This woman who I had passed on the third hill or so, who then passed me again, who I then passed on the flats decided she was going to make her move at about Mile 22 and jokingly said to me as she passed "C'mon tri bike girl, it's on!" I let her pass me, and then I took her down on Injury and she never caught me again... until the dismount line. The nicest thing about climbing out of transition for a mile is that you get to cruise back into transition for a mile. I came zooming in at 27 mph, then I braked and took my precious time getting off my bike and walking into transition and in the meantime, she came through behind me and ran her bike across the line before me. I guess that is what I get for being lazy!
25 miles in 1:34 (15.8 mph)
If that isn't indicative of the hills, I don't know what is - last year I did Big Creek in 1:25...
So I left transition at 2:13. My time last year was 3:25. So despite the slow bike, my awesome swim meant that I actually still had a chance of PRing. I just had to run a 1:11 10k! My 10k PR is 10 minutes faster than that! And I did Big Creek in 1:11 in positively sweltering conditions! Let me note here that we couldn't possibly have had nicer conditions for a race in Iowa in July - it was often overcast and probably in the 70s. So easy peasy, right?
Those hills were brutal. My calves were already burning from the bike. But I soldiered up them. I don't wear my Garmin during triathlons, so I didn't have any clue how fast I was going. But I hit the first mile marker in 12 minutes. You think you'd be done with a hill and another one would appear. For the first two miles, it was neverending. Finally between miles 2 and 4 it flattened out a bit and I was able to pull off at least one 10-min mile. But then the hills started again! At least it was a net downhill to the end, but there were still some steep climbs. I actually had to stop and stretch since I was cramping up. Being in aero for 25 miles made my back sorer than I would expect and climbing bothered it a lot. I was pushing as hard as I could, but the hills broke me. We don't even have hills like that in Ames to train on. The Mississippi Valley makes our hills look like blips. Finally you get to the top of the last hill and it is a sweet sweet descent (the same one as the bike) down into the finish. But not sweet enough to make up for the previous hills and I cruised into the finish in 1:13.
10k in 1:13 (11:48 min/mi)
So I was one minute off my other Oly distance race. It's hard to compare them though. That race was flat and fast, but hot. This race was hilly as hell but with good weather. I sometimes use the winners time as the gauge for course difficulty. At Big Creek the winner finished in 1:53 and here the winner finished in 1:56... But the Big Creek winner also just came in second (losing by 18 seconds) at Ironman Arizona. Sooo... can you really compare?
One minute is sort of a frustrating time to not to match on a 3+ hour race. Because I am sure there was a minute somewhere I could have shaved off. I really expected to come in a solid 5-10 minutes worse than Big Creek and so I wasn't even thinking about time, given the hills, but my swim changed all that. I am still concerned the swim might have been short, but the course was USAT certified - do they certify the distances too, like USATF does? My transitions were both under two minutes, which is good enough for me.
But can I really complain? I seriously didn't train for this. To be honest, I hadn't even run since Norway. And I did one bike ride. No wonder the hills killed me. If it is July and you don't have bike short tan lines yet, you haven't been riding your bike enough.
And I brought home the bling anyway - second place in Athena... out of two.
But interestingly, I would have placed second in my age group as well (out of five) if I had raced in that category instead (they gave trophies three deep for five year age groups for a race of 125 people - this is totally a bling kinda race!). But I am glad I didn't as then Krissy would have been denied the fruits of her sprint to the finish against her new nemesis. Gotta spread that bling around!
Okay, that was long and rambly and pictureless, but oh well :-)
A Few Good Swims
2 hours ago