Sunday, August 26, 2012

Clear Lake Triathlon 2012

Pre Race

The week before this race we were on vacation and I enjoyed a very light week of training, (19 miles/4 hours total training time) which followed several weeks of heavy training in preparation for Cactus Rose.  I upped the training time a bit this week, heading into Clear Lake with approximately 55 miles on my body and finding myself having to practice extreme self-discipline by not going all out during the workouts.  

Wednesday, the boys, Richard, and I headed into town for packet pick up.  I really try to not give negative feed back about races, but honestly, packet pick up is a huge pet peeve of mine.  In a world that is trying to become more "green" how much sense does it make to ask 900 people to make the drive twice to the same event?  Surely, most of this could be done on race day morning, since we all have to stop and be body marked as well.  And how does packet pick up really prevent anyone from not giving their bib to someone else?   Every running race I have participated in has allowed for race morning pick up.  Why triathlon can't do this is beyond me.  Rant over.

My last real training day was Thursday and I felt amazingly well.  Friday I did a short yoga session and at the end of it, I felt an unusual "pop" in my right low back.  By the evening, my back felt quite sore and I had pain radiating into my leg.   I also had been having some neck spasms that I attributed to sleeping in a different bed and using a pillow that was not my own on vacation.  I took some Advil and figured all would be well in the morning.

Race Day

At 3:40, the alarm sounded and we were up and ready to get out the door by 4:15.  Back pain was still with me.  I tried to ignore it as I ate my breakfast and slammed down some coffee.  I took a few Advil which seemed to take the edge off.

We arrived at the race site and were pleased to see that we were being placed into a covered parking garage.  A very nice accommodation indeed!  Transition set up went smoothly and I went through my mock T1/T2 simulation, noting all the in/outs and landmarks to help me find my bike.

Mark and I walked the docks to find the swim start.  The water was lit up by the lights and was a very creepy neon green color.  The first thing I saw in that neon green water was an alligator gar.  I tried to push that out of my head and not get overly concerned with what exactly I would be swimming in.  

The Swim:  1500 meters/40:21

I was in the 5th and final wave of the Olympic distance.  It was a large group incorporating all women 39 and over, AND the relay swimmers.  I was a bit nervous about having to tread water for a few minutes before our official start, but kept it under control focusing on any thing I could other than where I was.  
The start was sounded and I began my swim from the pack.  I spent the first half of this swim climbing over people, getting hit, etc, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not seem to get away from the group.  I noticed that I was the only one who really cared enough to stop swimming, look around and try to find a clear path.  Once I realized that I needed to act like Dory and "just keep swimming", I kept my swim going and didn't stop as much.  I did try to avoid the guys as a hit from some of those big guys could take me out of the race.  I felt stronger with every stroke and in the last few yards I recall thinking that I could certainly have continued swimming longer.  
The finish was up a ladder.  It was quite the stretch to get my leg upon the first rung and set both my calves into cramps that I was able to quickly stop as I stomped my feet onto the running surface.
40:21  10th AG

T1:  3:30   

I have no idea why this transition is so long.  Obviously I took a nap, got a massage, and had a pedicure... or maybe I just need some tweaking and practice.

The Bike:  46K/1:41:05

My plan was to take the first loop at a slower pace than the second loop in an effort to adequately recover from the swim, gain course knowledge, and then prepare for the run.  The first loop went well, other than getting passed by everyone.  But I am not really competing against anyone just yet.  I am still new to the bike, new to triathlon, new to how to do nutrition on the bike, etc.  I took the time I needed to feel comfortable handling the food while pedaling.  I did pretty well taking S caps, honey stingers, and even Clif shot blocks while keeping a 17 mph pace.  
Kemah Bridge

The course was a very nice route winding through the NASA area, (on the day that Mr. Neil Armstrong passed away, rest in peace good sir), through some local marinas, and across the Kemah Bridge.  I braced myself for the climb as I finally saw it about a half mile from the actual bridge.  It took my breath away and then I remembered this.
Thank you, Fish!

Fish had written this out for me as he headed to bed on Friday night.  If you know Fish, you know  he is not a "mushy" sort so this was very precious to me.  He remembered my favorite scripture verse, Phil 4:13, and he loved me enough to give this to me.  I tucked it into my spibelt and had it with me for the entire bike and run.  
I recalled this immediately upon seeing the bridge and instantly, my eyes filled with tears.  I am so blessed.  I get to do THIS for fun!  I thought of Bean who was heading back to school probably at that very moment to finish up her last year of college.  I thought of my beautiful grandbabies and all of my children, my family, and was overwhelmed by gratitude.  Ride the bike, Karen.  Ride the bike.
I kept my head down so as not to see the actual climb, (this is something I do while running hills also.  I think it tricks my brain...probably not, but I am going with it.)  Before reaching the very top of the bridge, I noted my speed was 8 mph.  I could have walked faster, but that wasn't even in my mind.  A guy passed me and encouraged me and then reminded me to use "the other gears".  Oh.  Yeah.  I forgot about those.  Honestly though, as little experience I have on the bike, I have even less on using those "other gears".  Where is Youtube when you need it!?!
I managed to make it to the top and fly down the other side at 25.7 mph!  Very fast for me!  I know this is nothing to other cyclists out there, but to me, it was huge.  
This is when I noticed my back was in rough shape again.  No worries, just focus on the race.

I was determined to take loop 2 faster, but Mother Nature had other plans.  It so has it that as I left out on loop 2, I could see a magnificent thunderstorm rolling in from the bay. It was HUGE.  It became windy and suddenly, the flat roads were all hills.  I thought of the recent spin classes I have been attending and tried to focus on my pedal stroke, consistent stroke count, hearing my metronome in my head.  This seemed to work until the bridge showed up again.  I tried to figure out "the other gears" well before the bridge, but my confidence in not losing my chain was minimal.  As I hit the base of the bridge, I saw that every other rider was off their bike and walking it.  I didn't know we could do this.  Seriously.  I figured they knew something I didn't so I followed suit.  I got off the bike and started walking.  I with the gears a bit to see if I could figure out how to get to the others rings, when another woman passed me asking if we were told to get off the bike.  I told her no, and assured her that I was just a wimp.  
Then I realized I needed to ride that bridge.  I hopped back on and somehow managed to crank up that dang bridge, "using the other gears", passing the other walkers, and then made up some good time on the flip side.  
Looking back, of course, I wish I had not ever dismounted the bike on that bridge, but it is what it is, and I probably was only off for about 2 minutes.  
I finished the second loop with my last two miles at a 21 mph pace.  Felt very strong coming into transition.
1:41:55/16.8 mph/14th AG

T2: 2:15

Obviously, had the manicure this time around. 

The Run:  10 K /55:14

My strength.  My comfort zone.  My happy place.  The run.  I wasn't excited by the idea of three 2 mile loops, however, it wasn't as horrible as I anticipated it to be.  I rather enjoyed seeing the same volunteers 3 times, encouraging runners on the out and back, and seeing Mark at the transition area twice.  First loop, I took it easy, about a 9:30 pace, I suspect.  Second loop a tad faster, Mark was smiling saying, "You are going for a sub-9, aren't you?!"   Told him I was just running on feel, which I was.  Garmin wasn't cooperating, (seriously, don't know why I wear the thing anymore!)  
The third loop I kicked it up a bit and crossed the finish feeling stronger than when I started the run.  
55:14/ 8:55/mile/7th AG

The most interesting thing I discovered this race was that each discipline, I felt stronger at the end than at the beginning.  I suppose this confirms my place in the endurance/ultra world.  This is where my strength lies.  I am not that fast, but I can go for a very long time.  
I won't lie, I would like to become faster, but I always try to keep in mind that I would rather never be fast to have the ability to do this stuff for a very long time!

My back is still not feeling very well, which is not good as I am heading into full on CR training.  The mileage is going to pick up for running and those work outs will become my primary source of mileage for the next few months.  I will continue with the swimming and biking because I feel that they are helping me to become a stronger all around runner.  Oh, and I have a little race in May that I registered for.  

The best part about today was Richard's performance!   I will let him tell you about it!  Congratulations, friend!!


  1. Oh, great! Now I have to do my blog post!!! ;-)

    Seriously, though, I think you did great, my friend! This distance is a long race, and one that many underestimate to easily. Long transition times are not bad if they prepare you for the event that follows, and you will improve in time.

    You finished right around the time I expected and hearing that you kept feeling stringer just means that you are indeed well-prepared for distance events. Congratulations on that great event!

  2. Oh my goodness-I'm impressed Karen! Way to rock the swim, especially. I'm with Richard, you'll do great in longer races, should you decide to partake:)


  3. Karen, my friend, I am so proud of you! You have come a long way in this crazy sport of triathlon. Way to go! I have no doubt that you're gonna kick some major butt in May. :-)