Saturday, October 13, 2012

US Open Triathlon (Season Closer)

All said and done in Dallas.
That big smile of mine after the race was over speaks to the joy, happiness, and relief of persevering through the race season and making it to the very end with a solid result. I absolutely love the sport of triathlon, so please don't misunderstand the next statement, but I am very happy to be DONE racing tris til next year.

In the words of Cameron Dye the day before the race, "you come to Dallas expecting it to be hot and flat, but we're getting cold and hilly instead". Cold and hilly, indeed, and you might as well throw in windy for good measure. I suppose you could argue that we were technically racing in Rockwall, Texas, as opposed to Dallas, but that still doesn't mean that you expect to find yourself racing in 52F conditions on race day! The water temperature in Lake Ray Hubbard was still hovering above the wetsuit cut-off of less than 68F, so it was a non-wetstuit swim.

The field at the these Lifetime Fitness triathlons are just stellar, and everyone swims really fast, and the contenders more or less swim at the same speed. I'm not at that speed yet, and I knew that going into the race. Working on swim endurance will be a big focus of mine in the new year, that is for sure. Once the horn went off and we dove from the dock to start the swim, I did my best to keep contact for as long as I could. Once I lost contact with that main front group, I was in no-man's land for the rest of the swim. Obviously, it's not ideal to work alone on the swim, but unlike the Chicago Tri, I didn't let it get to me and just put my head down and pushed hard the rest of the way. The swim was pretty choppy, and that seems to be reflected in the slower swim times.

The first big challenge came upon exiting the water in just my swim suit and gallavanting to my bike in the brisk air temperature. My big concern was not having the motor function/capacity to mount my bike and to fumble around to get my feet in my shoes. Exiting T1 was also straight uphill, since transition was essentially set up in the parking lot of the Hilton hotel, which lay in a gully. I managed to execute a pretty good flying mount and made it up the steep hill without getting off my bike, and after a few attempts, got my my feet into my shoes. I breathed a sigh of relief after that, because it would have been horrible to have to bike the whole way with feet on top of the shoes!  My legs were so cold while riding that I found myself looking down at them to make sure they were turning those pedals and doing what they were supposed to be doing. I found it ironic that the day before the race I actually thought that the cold would be a good thing for me and that I would enjoy racing in it. Turns out that you do have to be careful what you wish for! Normally, I would find the bike quite eventful, but this time around, I was happy to get through it and hopefully warm up on the run. I do remember it being very windy out there, but beyond that, much of it was a blur. After a painfully slow descent into T2 (because I didn't want to face plant, and couldn't brake very well), I actually ran with my bike shoes still on into transition. Better safe than sorry, I figured, but funny when I think and write about it now. Similar to the swim times, the bike times seem to be a bit slower than usual too.

Exiting T2 was also straight uphill, since we now had to run out of the gully on the opposite side to start the run course. Hands down, this was the toughest run course that I've ever done in an Olympic distance run. If you weren't climbing, then you were descending. No flats. It took me a couple of miles just to get the feeling back in my feet, and there was really no way to get into a rhythm. It was nice for Maxine Seear and I to push each other a bit when we were out there on the run course. In the end, she took me on the final big climb of the day and I faded a bit, and finished about 15 seconds behind her in 12th place overall.

I guess I thought that fireworks would go off and there would be music and confetti to mark the end of my season with that last race, but it was a bit anti-climactic! Nobody wanted to hang around outside in the cold, so there weren't many people around, as most people wanted to stay huddled in the hotel. It would have also been nice to finish off the season with a fast time, but again, I don't think the course or conditions were conducive to that last Sunday. I didn't dwell on that too long though, and decided that I would spend my next day and a half enjoying Texas.

So, overall it was a solid race, and though I'm happy, I'm certainly not satisfied.  After a few more days of reflection, I'll be able to give a recap on the season, and all of the lessons learned through the breakthroughs and the obstacles that I encountered so far this year, and belive me, the obstacles were not few and far between!

In the mean time though, I am breaking out of the "normal" routine of swimming, biking, and running, and embarrassing myself in yoga classes that are much too advanced for the inflexible triathlete that I have become:)

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