So it’s been 3 days since Austin Longhorn 69.1….
I have been debating about being super positive in this race report, or being honest. I have always worked hard to add a positive spin to any triathlon race experience. I search for motivational quotes, scriptures, song verses, etc. And going into this race (my 4th Half Ironman), I actually was feeling pretty prepared. I had gotten more long runs under my belt, a few good 50+ mile bike rides, and my last swim on Friday was a PR!
I was actually excited to see what I would be able to do with this beast of a course in Austin. My past two race experiences were filled with many moments of joy. 2014 was my first Half Ironman experience here and though it was hot, I enjoyed it. 2015 had unexpected windy weather which made for a choppy swim and slower bike time, but again, I enjoyed myself throughout. 2016…well, I’ll stop beating around the bush and get to it…
Saturday, October 29:
Woke up to a 4:15am alarm, packed up the car and Mike & I were on the road to Austin by 5:00am. I couldn’t help but notice how foggy the entire drive was. We arrived at the Expo center around 10:30am. By that time the fog was just starting to clear out…(foreshadowing)…
We stood in line for athlete check-in, (well, I stood in line…Mike has AWA status so he skipped the line…anyway) got all our gear and shopped around a bit. The athlete race briefing was at noon, so we had just enough time to stop by the Normatec booth and enjoy 15 minutes of heaven in those compression boots.
The race briefing had no surprises to it: same rules, regulations, and routes as it was last year. The meeting was held outside this time and I felt myself baking in the noontime sun…(foreshadowing)…
We took our bikes to the T1 site and checked them in. I was happy to see my race number 1937 was in the exact same spot it had been my first year in 2014. I thought this to be a great sign.
We decided to walk down to the lake where we’d be swimming the next day. There were a few swimmers out in the water and it was so beautiful. The water was warm, smooth, and calm. Mike and I were wishing we had thought to bring our swim gear with us! Oh well, save it for the next day…or so I thought…
Since our bikes were checked and all the race-site to-do’s had been done, Mike and I stopped by Whole Foods to make ourselves a nice salad as well as pick up anything we would be needing for breakfast the next day. We were both feeling calm, cool, and collected, and both talked about how we were excited to see how we’d do the next day.
Checked into our hotel and got our gear bags ready. Since there are two transition sites at this particular race, packing your gear bags is a bit more tedious. Still, it only took maybe about 20 minutes before I had it all laid out and ready to go.
3 of our friends who would be doing the relay met up with us and we all headed out to an early dinner at BJ’s. I got my go-to Ahi Tuna salad along with many chips and dip during the appetizer course.
Back to hotel room and in bed asleep by 9:00pm.
Sunday, October 30, RACE DAY:
Woke up at about 4:10 and checked the weather right away. 67 degrees and would be heating up to about 88 degrees by 2:00pm. Although hot, not too bad for race conditions. No wind makes for a way better race day.
Got our tri kits on, ate an almond butter Clif bar, wrote out our race numbers and ages on our bodies (no hiding your age in triathlon; it’s there large and blazing on the back of your calf for all to see) and set off in the car with all 3 gear bags.
Got to the expo center and walked our run gear bags to T2, where we would be parking our bikes and taking off for our run. I took note of where my rack spot was and met up with Mike. We got into the school bus which shuttled us to T1.
Mike and I had arrived with PLENTY of time to set up our transition areas and then wait for the race to start. My favorite part of pre-race is setting up my transition area. It allows me to calm my mind and mentally map out what I will be doing.
We were set up, with tires pumped and gear laid out with about an hour and a half until myself and then Mike’s swim waves were scheduled to enter the water.
Met up with our other friends Natalie (who would be swimming in the relay), Norma (biking in the relay), and Lulu (running in the relay), along with Chuy, who would be competing in this particular race for the 8th time.
We talked amongst each other, and as the time drew nearer for the first swim wave to enter (7:30am) it was announced that due to incoming fog, start time would be delayed.
Long story short…it was about 8:30am, DENSE fog, and no swim wave had stared yet. My swim wave was supposed to start at 8:35am, but at this rate, I had no idea what time I’d begin my swim.
Finally the announcement was made: the swim was cancelled. Everyone let out a harmonious moan as we were told that the race would consist of the bike and run course, and that we would all be starting in time-trial fashion (2 at a time) in the order of our race bib number.
Mike was number 378…I was 1937…
I couldn’t complain too much because Natalie had been robbed of her entire race, and poor Norma’s bib number was in the 4,000’s…
So, with that decision called, we sadly said goodbye to Natalie and made our way to our bike rack spots. Norma waited with me as we watched the racers slowly walk their bikes to the mount line. I was VERY happy to see my sorority sister Alison at the same bike rack I was! She had mentioned being interested in this race but I never knew she actually had signed up! That was a happy reunion.
I looked at my watch and saw it was about 10:30am and I still hadn’t mounted my bike. This put me about an hour 15 minutes later than I had expected to start my bike….
Finally I got to walk my bike to the mount line. Since there were so many of us all clustered together, it was a bit chaotic to get started. In fact, a race volunteer actually grabbed my seat and pushed me to start (kinda like when my mom taught me to ride a bike, haha).
I was happy to finally begin this course!
Let me sum up my bike experience in a few words:
CROWDED. WINDY. HOT. THIRSTY. HUNGRY. ACHING QUADS. OVER IT.
I had not planned my nutrition for such a late start. In Texas, late=HEAT. Also, where did this wind come from?! I had to pull over twice to refill my drink, and when I hit about mile 40, my stomach began to growl. A hungry stomach during an endurance event is never a good thing.
I don’t want to try to make any excuses. This course kicked my ass. I remember it being testing on the legs, but I really think the heat set into my legs and I was just absolutely aching when I hit the 40 to 50 milers.
Also, we were all riding on top of each other. Drafting rules went out the window. There was never a moment where I was spread out from anyone. Every time I looked back to pass a rider on my right, 4-6 riders (the 30-34 men age groupers) would be speeding up upon me. Made for a bit of frustration.
Anyone who has ridden this course knows that they save the killer hills for the end. This was no surprise to me. I rode my small chain from miles 50-56 to try to let my legs spin out for the upcoming half marathon ahead of me.
I spotted one camera out on the course and flashed my fakest “TRIWITHJOY” smile. Ha.
T2 (Which technically was T1):
When I finally dismounted my bike and began walking my bike to my rack spot, the urge to pee came at me ferociously. This is not something new and I pulled the “pee on the groud as you sit to change your shoes” move I had done last year. No shame…covered my pee spot with my run gear bag (as I had done last year) and made my way out to begin the run.
As I ran out I spotted Lulu waiting under the relay tent and gave her a wave and a smile. “Here we go“, I thought as I trotted my way down the energizing spectator crowd at the run start.
As hot as it was (about 1:30/1:45pm), it felt good to loosen my quads up from that killer bike ride. I refreshed my mind and began my pump-it-up playlist of running songs in my head.
This run course is a 4 mile, 3 loop course which is nice because you get to see spectators several times (especially if your family and friends are there to cheer you on). The downside to this layout is that your legs have to take on the steep up and downhills several times.
My first loop was actually pretty great. I ran to each aid station and walked and filled my sports bra with ice cubes and drank up water, Gatorade, coca cola, and ate pretzels before starting to run again. I spotted Mike at about mile 3 and was so happy to see him. He said he was just about to start his last loop (LUCKY)…
As I made my way around for my second loop I spotted Lulu still waiting under the relay tent. This got me a bit worried about Norma and I sent up a prayer for her. I also got to spot Carolina running during this time and was happy to see a familiar face.
At about mile 6 I felt that old familiar feeling: my left foot was beginning to ache in it’s arch. EVERY YEAR I end up having the arch of my left foot swell, but only on this course. I don’t know why, it may be because this course is more like trail running than running on a street. Either way, the discomfort set in and I knew I’d need to just fight to ignore it.
(My swollen foot after the race.)
I spotted Mike as he was about to make his way into the finisher chute and was so happy for him.
Last loop was pretty rough. As I ran, I racked my brain to think happy thoughts. How I am so lucky to be here and have an able body. How God placed this passion in my heart for a reason and not to take it for granted. How I may be inspiring someone else.
But let me tell you, it was hard. And I went into a dark and ungrateful place for approximately 2 minutes.
Then, for some reason (and this is super random) the song “Go the Distance” from the Disney movie Hercules popped into my head. Yes, I am an elementary music teacher. But I have no idea how I remembered every word to this song. It brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face as the lyrics ran through my head…
I have often dreamed of a far-off place, where a great, warm, welcome will be waiting for me. Where the crowds will cheer when they see my face, and a voice keeps saying, “This is where I’m meant to be.” I will find my way, I can go the distance. I’ll be there someday, if I can be strong. I know every mile will be worth my while. I will go most anywhere to find where I belong.
Super cheesy, I know. But it did the trick. Before I knew it I was headed down the finisher chute with a huge smile on my face and a spring in my step!
And there you have it, Longhorn 69.1 done.
Sadly, my friend Norma was pulled off the bike course on mile 47. Praise God it was not because she was hurt. The race officials had to pull everyone off the course by 2:30pm to open the roads back up to traffic. I KNOW she would have finished if she had been allotted the time she deserved. Due to Norma not being able to complete the bike portion, Lulu was unable to complete the run portion. All around, an unfair ending for my friends’ relay. I am so sorry.
I am ready for rest and a break from the required training for awhile. I have hung my hat for this Longhorn course and am ready to look elsewhere for a new 70.3 to compete in. But 2016 was quite a doozy in my Ironman sanctioned races, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. These experiences have all made me stronger, mentally most of all.
So I will continue to go the distance and TRI WITH JOY!