65.9 miles run and 4500 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Pure Austin Splash and Dash Series
Place: Austin, TX
Miles from home: 13
Weather: 100 degrees; sunny; humid
I had zero expectations of anything good for this race. I was feeling lethargic, had only done two swim workouts since my previous race here last month, and it was 100 freaking degrees as we climbed into the 87-degree water. My only goal was not to embarrass myself.
I knew I had a chance to place a little higher in the rankings than usual simply because some of the usual top dogs were not present. That is why age group awards and overall placings rarely move the needle for me. All it takes is for faster people to show up to move you down the ladder. Which is why I am always focused much more on my own personal time for a race. And I figured the combination of all the above would make for my worst race yet at this Splash N Dash series.
|Nice superhero stance, poser.
Getting out of the water we did not have a mat like we did last time which would give us our transition time. As I was about to hit my watch a spectator said "fifth and sixth" to me and the swimmer directly behind me. This threw me as I was not expecting to be that far up in the standings. As I would learn, I was not.
Realizing I did not hit my watch for the swim and transition, I only had the total time for both which was 12:26. I am fairly certain that is my second fastest swim and transition ever. To say I was confused how that happened given the temperature, my lack of swim workouts and everything else would be an understatement.
As I started the run, I passed one swimmer who was in the transition area. If I listened to the spectator and believed him (which I did) I was in fourth place. Was I actually in contention to podium?
Up ahead I saw one swimmer running and he looked vulnerable to attack. However, I could hear footsteps behind me and I had an inkling it was the same guy whom I had passed in the swim last time and who had subsequently beat the stuffing out of me on the run. (It ends up I was right about his identity.) As the first loop ran on the backside and the dreaded uphill, I was pulling closer to the runner in front of me. Unfortunately the runner behind me was right next to me. Yet, when we got to the top of the hill, the part of the course where I always excel appeared and I put distance between us. I was hoping that was his surge and I held it off.
By the halfway point of the next loop, two things were clear: I was going to pass the runner in front of me and the runner behind me wasn't going anywhere. Hitting the dreaded hill again I held back for just a bit as I grabbed a cup of water from a volunteer. Swigging deeply, I felt rejuvenated and pushed hard past the runner in front of me, an athlete who you would have to double his age and add ten more in order to equal my own. (He was 16.) Now I was supposedly in third place overall.
We began the third loop and I could still hear the footsteps. We rounded the bottom of the loop and right before the hill the runner behind me finally passed me. I was hoping to stay in touch with him just long enough to get close to that final downhill section and make a surge. Then, almost immediately, another runner passed me as well. One of the fastest runners on the course (he tied with the overall winner for run time) had given me a nice 1:17 cushion from the swim and transition. Unfortunately, I needed more.
I have to admit that this second runner sucked the wind out of my sails. I watched him gain on the runner in front of me and had a front-row seat to their battle. In less than a third of a mile, these two pushed each other to put twenty seconds in between us. They pushed each other so hard that they had a photo finish and were both left with their hands on their knees. I came in with a time of 26:08 which was my third fastest time ever and I was just stunned. If I had stayed with these two guys I would have set a new PR for this course. Racing is a fickle, odd, beast who we try to pretend we control and know what will happen, but this is a perfect example of the opposite being true.
This race came at a good time for my racing ego. After getting my butt handed to me last weekend at the Boilermaker, I was fully waiting to see a personal worst today. Anything greater than that was a bonus.
I'll take the bonus.