Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Stage Triathlon"

I had a busy weekend, and sort of did a triathlon in stages, although in the wrong order. Saturday morning I ran a 5K, in the afternoon I raced in a swim meet, and Sunday morning I rode 65 miles in the LiveStrong ride (not a race). Even though I didn't win anything or break 20 minutes in the 5K, it was still a really good weekend. I reset my 5K PR to 20:34, I set PRs for the 100 freestyle (1:27) and 100 breast stroke (1:49), and I got to ride almost 30 miles with popular professional cyclist Jens Voigt.

The weather was very good Saturday morning: Cool, but not cold; clear; low humidity. The course was pretty flat, more or less out and back. It wasn't totally flat, there was a drop about half a mile in, and a more gradual uphill before mile 2. This race is called the Donkey Dash, after the donkeys that used to be on the farm that used to be where the strip mall it's held in is now. It's also a doggy dash, with the dogs and their humans getting a separate starting chute from the dogless humans. There were some really fast dogs, too. There were two that, despite stopping to do their business, beat me. There were also a couple of enormous dogs nearly the size of the donkeys. As far as my race went, I think I started too fast. I covered the first mile in 6:15, running pretty close to a few others. Mile 2, I had passed them, and the faster people were way ahead of me, so I didn't have a good pacer, and I did 6:34. I probably still could have hit 20 minutes if I hadn't nearly run out of steam. I nearly let off the gas entirely, but I stayed in it, backing off the pace enough that it didn't hurt quite so bad. It started coming back a little toward the end of mile 3, which I covered in 7:04. I managed to pick up the pace a little for the last few hundred meters, but didn't have enough for a full sprint. On the results sheet, they had me as third in my age group. I stuck around for the awards, but somehow in the end I was fourth, so no cigar.

Later, I went to the gym for a very informal masters swim meet, which they just kind of threw together before a kids' meet. There weren't many participants- it was me, two young girls who swim with my masters group, a club member who doesn't swim with the masters program (but is very good), and some of the life guards/swim instructors. I had no delusions that I would win or even place, but I was kind of hoping to not be last. Since I still don't know how to dive, I was at a disadvantage starting in the water while everyone else jumped off the starting blocks. I stood on the blocks beforehand, when I was warming up, and it was kind of terrifying. First there was a 100 back, which I didn't attempt, then the 100 free. I was in the outside lane, next to the younger of the girls. I think, as usual, I started a little too fast, and when I got to 50, I was hating that I was only half way. I tried to give it everything I had left for the last 25. I'm not entirely sure, but I think I came in just ahead of the girl at the line, but it was too close for me to be sure. After a little break, we lined up again for the 100 breast stroke. This time, an instructor was in the next lane. We were relatively close for the first 50, but she pulled away after that. The younger girl was a few lanes over, and finished a full second ahead of me. So, basically last for both, but since this was my first swim meet ever, it set some personal best times, well quicker than I've ever done in practice.

I got up really early Sunday morning to meet my riding buddies from the gym at one's house who lives close to Zilker Park, 3 miles from the staging area for the ride. Someone had the idea to jump the gun, and head out before the official ride start, in order to be on the road when the professional riders zoomed past. I was inclined to play by the rules and start with everyone else, but I joined them, and so it was 7 riders, in matching jerseys we'd gotten made, effectively leading the ride. Someone must have misjudged the time or something, because we were 10 miles in and still hadn't been caught. That's when we accidentally got a police escort, surely meant for the VIPs and pros. We pulled into the second aid station to refill. The rest of the group left while I was emptying out before refilling. I rode hard to try and catch them, but only managed to catch the one guy who had been dropped. A peloton of fast riders passed a couple miles later. I had absolutely no hope of hitching onto their train. I stopped at the next station for my grumbling belly. My legs were already feeling tired, less than 30 miles in, so I made the decision to only do the 65-mile ride, instead of the 100 I had signed up for. When the course split, there was a small group ahead of me. It was a windy day, so I wanted to bridge the gap to them to get some draft. Fortunately they weren't going all that fast, and I was able to join them. At the front was a guy in RSNT kit. I knew Jens was somewhere on the course riding, but there were a lot of people out in team kit. I started to think that it could be him, though. He was riding a Trek, he was pretty tall. At one point, we came to a downhill, and I passed everybody (the total group was 7 people), and sure enough, it was Jens Voigt. I expected everyone would pass me again quickly, as usually happens, but they were apparently content to ride at my pace for a few miles. I did kind of feel like a rock start, having a professional cyclist riding my wheel. Of course, he was taking this ride at what was, for him, a very easy pace. He was chatting pretty much the whole time. The group slowly broke up, two guys dropped off, and we never really regrouped after stopping for water at the last aid station. I was off the back most of the way from there back downtown, but I always had Jens and the one last guy from the group in sight. When we got back to the venue, I got Jens to pose for a picture in front of the cycle club tent. I hung out for a little while, but my riding friends stuck with the 100-mile route, and weren't back. I was not thrilled about the hills to get back to my car, but it was good to get home, showered, and take a nap.

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