Sunday, June 29, 2008

We Did It!

Remember in my last post I said I always leave behind something I really need – this time it was my wetsuit! When I left for Iowa a week before the race, the swim had been cancelled due to flooding at the original site, so I decided not to take my wetsuit. I thought about packing it, “just in case,” but I didn’t really think I would need it. To my great dismay, however, I learned on Thursday (6/19) that the swim had been reinstated and the water temperature in the lake we would swim in was 73º. I wasn’t sure I could complete the swim without a wetsuit, and I was devastated that our sister relay would fail because of me. On Friday, I located a dive shop in Des Moines (a 2-hour trip from my parents’ farm) that had wetsuits for sale for $127.95 and I was prepared to buy one when we went to DM on Saturday to attend the mandatory race briefing and pick up our packets, as I was having no luck finding one to rent and figured it would be better than none. At the race expo, however, I did find a wetsuit for rent ($50 plus tax and cost to return), which put some gloss back on my attitude.

Because the race had been moved from its original location, and then revamped again to include the swim, there were two transition areas – the first at the swim site where the bike course started, and the second at the run site where the bike course ended. Bikes had to be racked at T1 on Saturday night, and the age group solo competitors also had to take their running shoes, etc. to T2. Neither site had any parking, so athletes were to park on race day at a shopping mall several miles away and ride busses to the swim venue for body marking and chip pick-up. Then they would be transported back to the mall from the run venue after the event ended.

This plan worked fine for everyone but the relay team runners, as the swim and run sites were 2+ miles apart and there was miscommunication about getting from one site to the other. One race official said on Saturday there would be no shuttle bus between them, and another official said there would be. An email was sent Saturday night to all participants clarifying the bus schedule, but we didn’t see the message, so my sisters and I all went to the swim venue. Then JJ, who was our runner, had to take the bus back to the mall, drive to the office park from which spectators and relay runners were being transported, and take another bus to the run site. She was not happy about this. She was even less happy when the bus stopped 15 blocks from the site because the roads were closed for the race and all the passengers had to walk the rest of the way. JJ can be quite feisty when she’s upset. Overhearing her tirade when told she could not open a gate to cross and had to walk around to the other end of the fence to enter T2, a volunteer immediately commandeered a golf cart and drove her to where she needed to be. JJ did remember to thank the volunteer.

Meanwhile, I was getting ready for the swim, which started at 6 a.m. The relay swimmers, about 150 of us, were in the third wave. The water temperature was 75º. I didn’t feel as chilly when I entered the water as I had at Yorktown, but it was still hard at first to get any rhythm in my stroke. I concentrated on swimming from buoy to buoy, and I cheered myself on by occasionally rolling onto to my back to see how far I’d progressed since the last buoy. My swim time was 48:55, which was eleven minutes less than the hour I’d allotted myself and five minutes faster than my one practice swim at the JCC pool.

T1 went smoothly. JB had been wearing her helmet since 4 a.m. so she wouldn’t forget to put it on. I gave her the chip and she took off. I’d planned to walk to the run site, but JB’s husband had driven to the swim site (even though spectators had been discouraged from doing so), and he gave me a ride. This, of course, inflamed JJ and made her recounting of her own trip to the site even more animated.

We had expected JB to ride the course in 1½ - 2 hours. When that time passed and she wasn’t there yet, we began to worry. We hadn’t been able to drive the course on Saturday because there were youth triathlon events that day that used much of the same routes, so all the roads were closed. Returning bikers had reported the course was very windy and had a rather steep hill in the beginning. We also heard there had been an accident, but a race official assured us we would have been notified if JB had been involved, so we continued to wait and I nibbled a few more fingernails. Finally, I saw her approaching the dismount line; her time – 2:12:05.

Another chip transfer and JJ was off on the run. JB, her husband, and I waited for JJ near the finish line. After we’d been there awhile, I noticed JB was still wearing her bike helmet! JJ did the run in 1:12:12. She would have been faster but she stopped at every water stop to pour two cups of water on herself plus drink one because she was so hot in the official race shirt I’d told her to wear. I’d read on the race website that participants were encouraged to wear their shirts, and it seemed like a nice “tech” shirt, but according to JJ, it didn’t “breathe” properly. Her favorite line from Talladega Nights – “Sweet Baby J----!” – and her desire not to let the team down kept her going.

Our total time was 4:17:27. I’d predicted we’d do it in between 4 and 4½ hours, so we were pleased, and I was especially proud of my sisters for participating. By the next day, they were almost willing to do it again.

A final highlight. While we waited for JJ to complete the run, JB and I were interviewed by a reporter for the Des Moines Register. The lower front page of Monday’s paper carried this blurb under the topic heading “More triathlon coverage” – “Family Effort: Three sisters who grew up in Hancock, [our names and ages], teamed up to complete the amateur portion of the Hy-Vee Triathlon on Sunday.”

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On to Iowa

The flood waters are receding, and we're leaving for Iowa in the morning. I'm not good at packing -- I always take too much stuff, and forget something I really need, so packing for this trip is a particular chore. I have a checklist, but there are a lot of variables in getting ready for an event out of town and a week away -- a week that will be spent on the farm answering my parents' questions, "What is this thing you're doing?" and "Why are you doing this?" and
"You drove 1200 miles to ride a bike and run around Des Moines?" It's a very good thing I don't have to explain an IM to them!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Change in Plan

For months I’ve been planning to do the Hy-Vee olympic triathlon with my sisters, and I was supposed to leave for Iowa early next week. But due to the severe flooding in and around the area in Des Moines where the triathlon was to be held, the event has been moved to a higher and drier part of the city and there will be no swim. The event now will consist of a 10K run, 24-mile bike ride, and 5K run. I think I will do the first run, but that, too, could change. My sister JJ, who lives in NC and was going to drive with me, is having second thoughts about going at all – she thinks the change in the tri course, plus the flooding, is a “sign” we should stay home. Although I can understand her concerns, I don’t want to cancel all our plans unless absolutely necessary, so I’m hoping conditions improve soon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

no. 2, on the way to 4

On Sunday (6/8) I did the Yorktown Sprint, my second Setup event in my quest to earn an age group award for 2008 (of course, I'm currently 7/7, but now that I've done 2 events and the other six women have only done 1 each, I'm hoping my standing will improve). The sprint featured a 650 meter open water swim in the York River, a mostly shady and flat 12-mile bike ride, and a hot 3.1 mile run. Because the air temperature at 4:30 a.m. was 78-80 degrees and the water temperature was 76-78 degrees, I opted not to wear my wet suit, as did most of the other 500+ competitors. But the water did feel a little chilly when we first entered, and I had a hard time catching my breath when I tried to put my face in. I swam at least the first 100-150 meters with my face out of the water before I found a comfortable stroke to get me through the swim part. One of the reasons I chose to do this event was to get some open water swim practice before Hy-Vee on 6/22. I think for that one I'm wearing my wet suit.

The bike ride went well -- I was prepared for the small hill at the beginning of the course, managed to pass a few people en route, and didn't fall off at the dismount. When I started the run, the temperature must have been at least 90 and I was grateful for the ice in the tiny cooler that I had with me in transition. I grabbed my hat and my race number and took off. About 1/4 mile down the road I realized I was still wearing the shoes I'd biked in! I guess I hadn't noticed this before because I hadn't worn my shoes with clips. Anyway, it was too hot to go back and change shoes, so I just kept going and did more walking than running. The real downside, however, was that I ended up with some painful blisters on my feet. I finished in 2:01:15 -- 76 seconds slower than I'd hoped for. I got a lovely paperweight for being 2nd in my age group (or, stated differently, because there were only 2 of us, last in my age group!). The woman who took 1st had a slower swim time than I did, but a faster bike time, and we were about the same on the run. I have to wonder if I'd remembered to put on my running shoes if I could have done better, but I did manage a negative split.