Sometimes you’re rewarded just by showing up and being too damn stupid to quit even when you are broken.

Backing up a bit, we knew that everything being EVERYTHING lately, we needed to take some extra time around this race to relax and I’m so glad we did. We cruised into the end of Thursday EXHAUSTED after a launch, putting out fires, and a live stream so we halfarsed the packing and slept instead and did the drive Friday morning after a few hours of work (on our day off :P) and then a hour of packing. Please note that this also came after a week of good intentions of getting some activity, but not following through yet again. It’s ridiculous that I even finished this race but I digress.

The week was a big ol’ goose egg.

We cruised up to the campsite north of Denton, Texas, in good time (4-ish hours with a lunch stop) and enjoyed chatting, developing Joel’s new lunchtime game D&D system, and otherwise not looking at screens. We had the usual first night of camping hot dogs for dinner, and read and slept early, often, and very well. Saturday was the day to shake everything out, and THANK THE UNIVERSE we did, as we discovered my bike tire was utterly shredded and very likely would have caused a blowout mid-race. No idea how I was riding on that. Also, during the practice swim, I brought out my old race goggles, which leaked immediately. As in, I had to doggie paddle back to shore, grab my backups, and use those. A lot of normal race prep went by the wayside this time and it really showed. All was well though, the bike shop got me some sweet looking tires, I scrubbed out and defogged my old goggles, and I was prepared to race!

Saturday was a super-duper long day though. We were up and swam/biked in the morning and left the campsite around 11:30. After an hour long drive, the packet pickup line with the dearest older lady who was manning the table taking her sweet time, lunch at the New York Deli (nomnomnom), getting my tires fixed, obtaining some nutrition from the run store, procuring camping groceries, and the hour long drive back to camp, I think we arrived at 6:30 and ate just after dark around 8:30. I was very glad for the time to relax the evening before!

I did not get the most excellent sleep, but some coffee and race morning jitters got me out of bed at 5am just fine. It felt weird to be doing all this stuff but also kind of normal and it was an interesting mix of feelers. I may not be who I once was – staring myself down in the same mirror three years ago I was hoping to win the race. This year, it’s like, “I can haz finish plz?” However, it was still nice to be there, at 5:30am, having a conversation with myself before a race. I may be highly distracted with other things right now, but I recognize I need some of this in my life.

All the pre-race setup went like clockwork, except I had to run back into transition 5 minutes before it closed because I left my bike nutrition in my backpack (that would have been bad news!). I regretted not being able to have my phone at the beach, pre-race, as I’ll remember that sunrise forever – the sun shone hot pink and reflected corals and reds and oranges on the water. Ah well, memories.

Here, instead have a sunset from the other side of the lake!

I will mention at this point that my cranky heel, which I had been abusing with all the standing and walking and all other manner of being an upright human more than normal over the last few days, was just over it already by the time I ducked into the crowd of neoprene sausages in our wetsuits waiting to dive into the lake. I just hoped it would decide to let me through 9 miles later in the day, but that was problems for later me. Now, it was time to swim.

…and the swim went really well! I felt super comfortable in the water, my wetsuit, and cruised from the back of the pack passing people. Which was a little bit WTF because I’ve been swimming so slow lately, but also a lot of YAY because I’ve been swimming so slow lately. It was a two loop swim and I actually walked the beach instead of running it, I figured keeping my heart rate down to swim faster would be better. I ended up at a 2:07/100y pace, which is actually damn decent even in my prime for a race in open water, especially feeling like I exited the water warmed up, not in the least bit shelled.

Almost always but not today!

I transitioned with decent haste, and set off on what is normally my favorite sport. Spoiler alert: it was my least favorite today. Something was just *off*, and I don’t think Deathstar is to blame, though I will need to make sure nothing was funky with the new tires/bike set up. By mile 5 or 6 I had no oomph and it just got worse and worse. My head tanked hard.

Joel passed me around mile 10 having a great day and was all smiles and love and I retorted with several choice f-words about the course (what can I say, I’m a gem). There was one section, from about mile 12-15, where the road smoothed out from the constant bumpbumpbump and the wind wasn’t buffeting us for just a moment. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought MAYBE the worst was over. Then, we made a turn back into the happy horsecrap which was the rest of the bike course (chipseal and hills and wind, oh my!) At the 20 mile turn around I fought the demons saying, “just go back and beg someone to enroll you in the Olympic distance race instead” and went back out for another loop, convinced it would be better.

Spoiler alert: it was not. I just kept telling the bike course it was rude and if I possessed tear ducts and adequate hydration, I probably would have cried multiple times going 8 mph uphill into the wind with just nothing left in me mentally or physically. I. was. done. I normally roll courses like this at 17-18+ mph and I came in under 15 mph. Garmin says 2:42 for the bike (at 14.9 mph) and I was hoping and expecting closer to 2:20.

At least it was a pretty place to be miserable!

In transition I sat on the ground and contemplated life. My heel/ankle was already toast, both calves on the verge of cramping, and I really had a moment where I thought I might try to convince someone to let me into the aquabike division instead (aka, end the race there). However, out of habit I put on my run gear and I decided I would go for a little walk and shove my “cocktail” (2 advil, 2 salt pills, and two herbal muscle relaxers) down the hatch and see what happened. Note: I pack this every time and normally toss the advil. Not this day. I don’t condone throwing painkillers at pain you have for a good reason very often but it saved my race.

The “run” started without much fanfare. I walked most of mile 1, I would try running about 10 steps and nope out, but soon my legs loosened up and I tried some run/walk intervals, and they were okay. After the first few miles, I decided I was too stubborn not to finish this $&^tshow of a race and also, I was going to make friends with everyone on the course while I did so. I ran the flats and downhills and walked up. I got to know all the volunteers at the aid stations. During the second half of the second lap I noticed no one was behind me so I sped up as much as I could, and somehow my heel went from craaaaanky to letting me run the whole last mile and squeaked in DFL (dead %$#@ing last, yeah that’s the official racing term) as they were deflating the finishers arch (which they were nice enough to inflate when they saw me coming since I did make it in time). My “run” was about 2:21 or 15:50/mile pace, to complete my race in about 5 hours and 51 minutes which shows that it was really just about survival and not racing at all.

Joel told me he placed first out of three (one dropped on the bike, one on the run) and encouraged me to check my age group even though I was like, yeah, whatever. Well, I was the only female 40-44 that showed up and didn’t drop out either, so hey, first place! So very many things I need to work on for next time, I’m trying not to look at racing a full HOUR longer than I did in 2014 as a huge success but as a stay of execution for my triathlon ego. However, sometimes showing up and being stubborn AF is rewarded and failing any race prep or conditioning, I can always at least give that.