I escaped from the office around 4:15 on Friday and arrived home to discover that Mr. R&R had escaped even earlier and had cleaned, lubed, and polished both of our bikes which was awesome because we were facing a 90+ minute drive up to Elkhart Lake for packet pickup.
Unlike many (if not most) of the triathlons we've done, Elkhart is a USAT sanctioned race which means that you have to show up in person, with a photo ID to pick up your packet, so we had no other choice but to make the trip for a 5 minute process. As long as we were out there, we took a walk down to the lake to check out the swim venue and then a drive to check out both the sprint and olympic bike courses.
The lake looked clear and inviting and, when we dipped our toes in, was pretty warm! The buoys were already out and the sprint buoys looked like they were practically on shore - the olympic buoys (Mr. R&R's distance) looked really far, but less scary to me than they would have a year ago and I started silently berating myself for having signed up to do the sprint instead of the oly.
The bike course was a whole lot of bumpy pavement, sharp turns, and big hills. I started getting the feeling that my bike average wasn't going to be what I was hoping for and I felt particularly sorry for Mr. R&R and the rest of the oly athletes when we drove that part of the course! Maybe the choice to do the sprint wasn't such a bad one after all!
The drive home took considerably longer than either of us planned since Siri couldn't seem to find a route that didn't involve driving every friggin' backroad in the middle of nowhere! We rolled in the door after 9:30pm and still needed to eat dinner and pack up all our stuff. Ugh. Packing was done quickly, but carefully since running home for any forgotten items was out of the question. Dinner was a hurried affair at 10:30pm involving a couple of eggs since neither of was hungry at that point. I finally got to bed at 11:30pm.
The 3:30am wake up call was particularly painful. Coffee was made, bikes were loaded, bags were crammed into the car, and bodies were stuffed into tri clothes. We were on the road by 4:30am and I watched the sun rise while occupying myself with forcing down breakfast (Clif Bar Sierra Trail Mix and 20oz Pineapple Skratch Labs).
Thankfully, the drive went quickly and we arrived at the Osthoff Resort right on schedule at 6:00am. Bikes were unloaded, bottles filled, bags shouldered, and we hoofed it to our respective transition areas to get set up. I wasn't really nervous, but for some reason (I suspect it was the combination of late dinner, little sleep, and early wake up) my gut started gurgling and I had to deal with that before I could finish my race prep rituals. Post porto stop, I found Mr. R&R outside the oly transition area and we walked back to the car to drop off our bags (no room in transition for them) before wiggling into our wetsuits for a warm up swim.
On the way to the beach we ran into Mr. R&R's parents who had come to check out what this triathlon thing was all about. I said a quick hello, posed for a pic with Mr. R&R, and hauled ass into the water since the water was closing in 15 minutes.
The water was fairly warm as it flooded my suit, the bottom was soft and sandy, and when I pulled on my goggles and started to swim, it was really clear and so shallow that I could see the bottom as I swam out toward the first buoy. This was good news to me. I was ready to rock 'n roll by the time I made it back onto the beach. I said goodbye to my in-laws, wished Mr. R&R a good race, and made my way over to the sprint start corral. In the 15 minutes it took for me to get to the swim start, the wind started kicking up and the water got really choppy. Not ideal, but as soon as the race official said 'Go', I ran into the water and dropped onto my belly and started swimming as soon as the water hit my thighs.
I'll be honest, it was a miserable swim in all that chop. Every time I put my head down to swim properly, I'd make it 9-12 strokes before I started feeling seasick. One of my major goals for this race was not to freak out on the swim and I didn't. I figured out that if I did my 9-12 strokes and then did what I call 'The Tarzan Swim' (freestyle with head out of the water) for about 10 strokes, the seasickness stayed mostly under control. The whole swim was so shallow that people started standing up way too soon and I ended up having to stand up before my hands touched the bottom to avoid getting stepped on. Whatever. The swim was done. Time to focus on T1.
Swim: 9:52 (2:02/100 yards)
Goggles went on top of my head and I had the top of my wetsuit off before I started running up the hill toward transition. The run to T1 was really long and the official end of the swim was pretty far out of the water - which annoys me because I think I ended up having a really fast (for me) swim, but I'll never know for sure. I easily found my rack and finished stripping my wetsuit. On went the bike shoes, glasses and helmet and I jogged to the mount line. I could really feel my lack of transition practice because it took forever!
Almost immediately the bike started climbing hills. I tried to settle in and find a rhythm, but it was rough. Around Mile 2 there were 2 really sharp turns that actually had signs and volunteers screaming at us to 'Slow Down'. I'm glad I heeded the advice, but every time I would get up to a good speed, I'd have to hit the brakes to take a turn and then start over again - usually while climbing a hill into a headwind. I spent the entire ride grinding up hills and flying down the other side. I did quite a bit of passing on the bike, so that was encouraging, but I was more than happy to take those two ugly turns on the way back in since the wind was starting to hit me from the side and I had no desire to go flying sideways.
Official Time: 49:24 (15.1mph)
Garmin Time: 49:25 (15.6mph)
*The official length of the bike course was 12.4 miles, but my Garmin clocked it at 12.89 miles.
The run into T2 was short and I arrived at my rack to find that someone had either dumped their bike or it had fallen off the rack and onto my stuff! I re-racked my bike, re-racked the other person's bike, threw on my running gear and booked it out of there. The run out of T2 was long (almost the same as the run to T1, but in reverse).
I felt like I was running pretty well as I left transition. Breathing was even and controlled. Jello legs were minimal. Maybe there was something salvageable in this race. Then the climbing started. At first, it was a subtle uphill to Mile 1. It wasn't a great mile, but it was manageable. All of Mile 2 was a very steep uphill climb. The wind that had been such a pain in the ass for the swim and the bike seemed to have disappeared and the sun was scorching. I walked a lot - along with a bunch of really fit looking dudes sporting M-Dot tattoos on their legs - so that made me feel a little better about the walking. I drank half a cup of water at the aid station and dumped another one over my head - which made me feel better for about 2 minutes. Fortunately, what went up finally got to come down. The last mile was mostly downhill, so I started forcing myself to pick up the pace. I saw my mother in-law cheering as I took the final turn into the chute and did my best to sprint it in.
Run: 32:18 (10:15/mile)
My father in-law was waiting on the other side of the chute in the shade, so I hung out with my in-laws after I exited the finish, and waited for Mr. R&R to come into T2. He came in looking pretty good for a guy who just survived double the hell I endured on the bike course and headed out for a 10k run. I figured that I had about 50 minutes from the time he started the run, so I left my in-laws in the shade and made my way back to transition to collect all my crap (they started tearing it down before the last sprint athlete finished) and haul it back to the car. Once I rejoined Mr. R&R's parents, my best guess was that he was less than 15 minutes away from finishing, but I was wrong. When he'd been out for an hour, I started getting a little worried. At an hour and ten minutes, I knew something was definitely wrong. I was about 1 minute away from starting to walk back along the course to see if I could figure out what was going on when I spotted him coming down the chute.
It turns out that Mr. R&R's usually very stable gut had started giving him serious problems at Mile 2 and he'd been forced to walk for large chunks of time. Ugh...not the way to start a season!
We said goodbye to his parents and I accompanied Mr. R&R into his transition area to help him collect all his gear since he still wasn't feeling the greatest and we were on our way home...both happy with some parts of our respective race, disappointed in others, and seriously craving a nap!
Overall, I'm happy I did this race and got my ass kicked by it. It showed me where I'm making improvements (not freaking out in far from ideal open water situation and still meeting my age group placement goal) and where I need to do some serious work in the 9 weeks remaining until Steelhead (bike a lot more big hills and do more bricks).
Overall Place: 200/298
Gender Place: 65/126
Age Group Place: 7/17