Normally, this focus on survival would be the start of a less-than-stellar race recap, but TBH, survival was really my main goal. So, spoiler alert, mission accomplished!
We set up camp Friday night, and while it was the normal MO on leaving for trips for the year (I work up until the second I am torn away from my desk), I had 2.5 hours of the drive to transition my brain into race mode. We got settled, had our hot dogs, read books, and got a pretty dang decent night of sleep.
Saturday, we did all the pre-race things like normal, and like normal, it took wayyyy longer than expected (I think we were puttering around town from noon until almost 5pm). We met up with our tri team for the first time in over 18 months and enjoyed a pre-race swim and chats, put everything in various bags and dropped them off in the proper locations, and triple checked we had all our gear since we haven’t done this in forever. We shopped for some essentials which included fuzzy halloween pajamas and adult beverages for post-race, and drove the bike course to remind ourselves where all the hills were.
We had all the normal food, replacing usual breakfasts with bagels since we had some leftover, and the pre-race sleep was somewhere in the middle – about 6 hours of moderately restful sleep – and I felt pretty good when I got up around 4:30am. More puttering ensued to use the potty, drink the coffee, triple check all the gear yet again, use the potty, etc happened as usual, and we got to the race with plenty of time to continue the puttering (pump up bike tires, fill bike bottles, use the potty, set up transition, give away the warm clothes, use the potty, pour myself into my wetsuit, curse myself for not using the potty one more time, etc).
With Covid being a thing, we were as careful as we could be with masks and social distancing pre-race. However, once it was time to lose the mask, it was like, ok, whatever, it’s up to the universe now. It was a little weird to tuck into the humanity which was the line to start the swim but also a little bit normal too and then all of a sudden I was in the water and it was off to the races!
The swim was a bit rough. My back is mostly but not all the way better. It’s worlds away from when I could barely get out of bed earlier this year but a few things still can trigger it to be mildly cranky and that little niggle makes it REALLY difficult to sight in open water. I definitely meandered quite a bit because of it and drank a LOT of lake water and had to stop a few times to not choke and die (even had a kayaker ask if I was okay). However, for all these complaints, there were parts where it was rather pleasant as well and I finished feeling refreshed and warmed up, which is always the goal for the first and shortest leg of the race. We’re going to defocus times here, because that’s not what this race was about. Yeah, it was a personal worst by a minute or two, but I expected it and my pace was actually better than some of my lake swims this year.
Since time was not critical, I was pretty casual in T1. I actually used the wetsuit peeler station but in a non-rushed way, walked the hill, didn’t rush through gear change, and got out of there in about 6 minutes. I think a lot of my compatriots were in the same boat, because I expected to see way fewer people and bikes than I did, so I think we’ve all slacked on the swim this year. 🙂
Honestly, I was the MOST nervous for the bike in this race. My TT bike and I have not been BFFs this year. However, the ride today was the absolute best part of the race. I was just… happy the whole time. That’s not normal for me. I usually get angry on the bike and use it to go hard and pass everyone, but today I smiled and sang show tunes and just thought about how grateful I was for so many things that have taken place over the course of 2021, most relevantly that I was here doing this when six months ago I was barely able to ride for 20 minutes. But other things too.
I saw Joel a few times and Matt near the end and other Austin Tri people throughout the race and just hung onto whatever pace felt good and sustainable, pleasantly surprised that it was more like 17-18 mph than the 15-16 I was riding in training. I was chuffed to make it up the big hill in loop one much more easily than I expected (yeah, I was huffing and puffing by the end, but I didn’t fall over or have to walk it or anything), and on the second loop, the time passed quicker than expected. Tons of warm fuzzies on the bike. It truly is my happy place during races even if it was in slightly different, more mellow ways this race than normal. I ended at about 16.7 mph for the 56 miles, which is actually not my worst showing here!
I rolled into transition, thanked Death Star for a great ride, and saw both Joel and Matt. Matt was doing the aqua bike only, so his race was done, of which I was a bit jealous, but I pressed onward after a nice relaxed 6-ish minutes in T2.
Since Joel and I started running at the same time, we decided to hang together for a while on the run. It was nice to have company for the first 5 miles, but we were definitely holding each other back since we pace differently. Near the end of the first loop, I had to fix my sock, and I sent him on to do his thing. I was doing okay both mentally and physically, even if I was at turtle speed (~13 min/mile). However, around mile 8, my legs and back reminded me just how undertrained I am in this discipline and there was probably more walking than running until mile 12, when I hit the spectator area and got that lovely last burst of energy. Personal worst BY FAR (hah, I think it was something like 3h13 mins) but again, I expected this and was just happy to cover the miles.
I was just a minute slower than my previous personal worst from BSLT in 2013 (also an injury comeback race) with 7h42 min today but none of that matters. I climbed what seemed like an insurmountable hill even three months ago. Now it’s time to rest a bit and then climb even more for IM Texas in April 2022.