Sunday, August 26, 2012

Second Time Around

A week out from Steelhead 70.3, Aug. 19, in Benton Harbor, Mich., and I have a lot on my mind.  I had originally written this blog as a top 10 list, but it just wasn't working for me. So here are a few general observations, followed by the swim-bike-run specifics. Race day was well organized, which is as you would expect considering how much an Ironman-brand race costs. The day before, however, told a different story.
Signs leading us to the race site on Saturday proved inadequate, but once we got there, our frustration became borderline disgust. It seemed that every time we approached the parking lot so I could drop off my bike, the parking police (I use that term loosely) told us there was no room at the inn. We tried three times, and just missed the open spots. Just down the street the Boy Scouts were making $10 each time someone parked in their designated lot. Sorry, but I have a real problem with the Boy Scouts, and their no-gays-allowed 1950s stance; we refused to pay them. And naturally once we did park and I walked my bike to the transition area, plenty of parking spaces were open near the lake. The frustration was so unnecessary. And I know it seems petty, but when you're mentally preparing yourself for the difficulty of a half-ironman, the last thing that should slip you up is parking.
Now, for race day:
The Swim. In 2011, this race became a duathlon because the chop in Lake Michigan was too risky to the athletes. That was my biggest concern for race day. But the Great Lake looked calm, and blue, and so inviting (at least what I could see before the sun came up!). This is an unusual race because the transition area sits in between two lakeside parks. Depending on the lake current that day, athletes either walk 1.2 miles south of transition or 1.2 miles north and then swim back. Jokes abounded during the walk that we should get credit for that distance, or call this a 71.5 rather than a 70.3. Yeah, triathletes are a witty lot. Except for the walrus/swimmer who had no concept of swimming straight, this leg went extremely well for me. Once I lost the walrus about halfway through it was clear sailing, and I came out of the water with many in my swim wave (wearing yellow caps) still freestyling. Yes! My time was no faster than in the Syracuse 70.3, but I felt calmer and more confident. Now that I enjoy the swim, I can begin to work on speed in the water.
Many yellow caps behind me.
The Bike. My worst event of the three, and I'm starting to think it's because of the equipment. It seemed like I got passed by 1,000 athletes while I was out there. I was feeling pretty demoralized about that--holding back tears--but I looked at my Cat-Eye and realized I was ahead of the pace I had wanted to achieve. Plus, I reminded myself that as one of the first swimmers in and out of the water, stronger cyclists were bound to catch me. But why so many??? The dreadful road conditions didn't help--Michigan is even more hard-up than New York, and it shows in how they "repair" their roads. It got so bad that I had to use the portapotty at about mile 30--my bladder couldn't take any more. That cost me 5 minutes, but I still finished the bike faster than I had in the Syracuse race.
The Run. My favorite (and at one time my best) leg. Just like in my first half-ironman, I vowed to keep moving forward, "one foot ahead of the other," and never walk; never. I didn't care if it took 2-1/2 hours, as long as I didn't walk. Well, it didn't take that long, and I didn't walk. I enjoy the run for many reasons, but it's always nice to talk to others as you go--you hear people's stories, hear where they're from, if this is the first, or 10th, such event. Then you blast by them, after telling them to finish strong (he-he). Hey, I can't squelch my competitive nature. I really enjoy the run because I can always blow by some woman who kicked my butt on the bike. It never fails to feel good!
Because I was pokier on the run than my first 70.3, I finished this race 10 minutes slower. Had I not stopped on the bike, it would have been 5 minutes.
No complaints. It was terrific having a small portion of my large family there to cheer me on. I thank them for standing for hours waiting for me to finish, feeding me, encouraging me and keeping me going. My sister has always been good at popping up where you least expect her, and she didn't disappoint this time--I saw her on the bike and at several points on the run.
I desperately need to work on my biking, and I this off-season I plan to build even more leg strength, and win the lottery so I can buy  a new bike.
My next race: Escape From the Judge, 1-mile open water swim in Skaneateles Lake, Sept. 2. That should be interesting.