The bike was hard. There were eight hills in all. Most were pretty void of spectators, except for Lemon Hill, where there were a few people cheering, and a climb off of West River, where there was a guy all done up in red body paint and holding a triton, like our very own El Diablo. It was really cool, and while I said something to him on the first time up the hill, the second time I was too busy sucking wind to get anything out.
Just after the second-to-last hill on the bike I started to feel fatigued. Not like "Wow this is really hard" fatigue, but more of the deep in the bones, 'I'm gonna curl up on the side of the road and fall asleep right here' fatigue. I've got to say, that's not such a great feeling when you've still got one more climb and a 10K to go in a race. I all but trudged through the end of the bike, getting passed left and right. I had been watching ages as people went by, and it wasn't until this point that I really started getting passed by people in my age group; before this, it had mostly been men in the 30-44 range.
The transitition area was situated at the bottom of a descent, but far enough out that you could still bomb down if you wanted to. I ended up behind someone on the descent who was taking it just carefully enough that I decided that trying to pass her would be a bad idea, especially considering we'd be rolling right into T2.
T2 was okay. I ended up at my rack at the exact same time as the girl right next to me, which made for some interesting times as we both tried to shove our bikes onto the rack and get out of there. Again, because the transition area was so long, we had to run a fair distance with the bike to get back to the rack.
The first part of the run was on grass, as the course fed behind the transition area onto the road. The volunteers were great with directing us and warning us about curbs. The start of the run was ridiculously painful, and it didn't get any better. I felt like I was just slogging along, and was really surprised to see after the first mile that my pace was around 8:30. I was really happy with that, considering how I felt. Although my legs seemed to feel less tired for a little while, the combination of general fatigue, running on grass in Mile 2 and the very canted road surface took its toll, and all in all my legs were not happy.
As with my last race, the run was mostly a mental game. I looked at the faces of people heading in the other direction, and told myself that they were all hurting as well and that it was supposed to hurt, and if I wasn't hurting, I wasn't going hard enough. This got me through past Mile 4, but when I didn't see the Mile 5 marker I started to get into my head again. I knew it couldn't be too much farther, but I wasn't seeing any hints as to where I was on the course. At the last water station, I asked the volunteer how much further it was, and she told me it was just about a mile. That right there nearly kicked my ass, as I checked my watch and couldn't believe I had slowed down so much. But, lo and behold, about 100 yards past the station was the 6 Mile marker, and soon after I could hear the finish line announcer. Whew! I'm not sure what's worse: being told by cheering spectators "You're almost there!!" at Mile 2, or being told there's still a mile left when you're at Mile 5.9.
I had a little left for a kick, but not much. I was passed in the chute by a guy who went flying by me at an all-out sprint, and there was no way my legs were going to do that.
Speedy had caught up to me near the end of the run. While I was a little disappointed by this, as I had been hoping to finish before him (his wave started well after mine), I was happy for him as he was looking fast and strong, and it was nice to see him right at the finish line.
We both realized that we needed Band-Aids; Speedy for blisters and me for a cut on my leg, probably from my chain ring when I nearly fell. We stopped by the med tent to get some bandages, and the staff was top-notch. Instead of just handing us Band-Aids and sending us on our way, they patched Speedy's blisters with Second Skin, and cleaned and bandaged me up, and only laughed a little when I told them I thought I cut myself on my own chain ring (note that the cut is on the outside of my right leg. Yes, the outside.).
Some things I learned:
- I need to do more race-pace training. This pains me to say because I love my aerobic base-building workouts, but the workouts that will make me faster are not the relaxed and conversational ones. I need to get my ass in gear.
- Racing while stressed and sleep-deprived is not the greatest idea ever. That said, I'm sure that's a lesson I'll learn many times over in the future.
- I should get tri shoes; transitions would be much easier.
All in all, the race itself was great, and I was sort of pleased with my result. It'll go down in my books with an asterisk, as in *this race completed while in full-swing bar-study mode. As I told Speedy, I think I raced well with what I had available to me. I didn't leave anything out there, but although I did empty my tank, I didn't start with a full tank.
When I saw Speedy at the finish line, we both gasped about how we were NEVER going to do another one of those, it was so painful, and so on. You won't be surprised to hear we're both already planning for our next.