Monday, May 11, 2009

A short story: The Rookie Race Report

Say what you want about the Texas Ski Ranch, but I LOVE doing races out there. Yes, the water is hot. And yes, the water is uber-murky and muddy. (I'm sure the swim exit photos are going to be ghastly). But gosh darn it, I love that course. And as always, the good folks at Jack & Adam's put on an AWESOME event!!!

The Rookie also holds a special place in my heart because it was my first tri...EVER! The first time I rode it, I was on a hybrid...that I bought in 1988. That's right. (Have a pic of that somewhere, but can't seem to find it).

And now I ride the Rookie like this:

(machine by Jack, engine by T3)
I had a little anxiety going into the race....I've been going steady and long since..well, last fall really...nothing short and fast. (yea, yea...that's what she said...). I mean I can count the amount of quality track on one hand. And that means, no fastness. The 2-mile run off the bike was sure to be...uh....interesting at best. The Rookie is fun...but let's face's an all out sprint for an hour. RED. LINE. BABY.
I arrive in transition and check out the 4 racks(!) for my age group. Damn, it just doesn't get any easier. I see the usual suspects, make some mental notes of where their bikes are (what? like you don't do that...) and proceed to set up my transition area.
I had plenty of time, so I decided a warm up jog might be in order. With this short of distance, you don't really have any runway to get things going during the just have to GO! So, I'm jogging out the run course, have to shinny through the chain at the closed gate just after Pat Evoe shinnied through and thought it just wasn't right that I outweigh him. I just did a little out and back to get the blood flowing...but came back completely drenched! It was going to be hot and humid this day people. Got back to transition and popped two thermolytes pronto.
Went through my traditional 3 bathroom pit stops before my wave went off, plopped myself in my usual start in the swim line up (front row, outside edge) where I can keep a good look at everybody while I breathe to the left. Said a quick prayer as Logan counted us down and BANG! we were off!!!
I took off strong, not wanting to get caught up in the masses and hung with the lead girls for a bit....but damn they were moving! I tried to stay on Esther's feet, but she dropped me after about 150. (That girl is fast people.) I was already encountering folks from the wave ahead at the turn around and knew I was going to have to do a lot of sighting...not to keep straight but to avoid traffic jams. At one point, I had to slide through a sliver of open water with a backstroker on the right and a breast stroker on the left...I thought for sure I was going to get whacked..but somehow managed to scoot through unscathed!
I couldn't hang on to the lead group, but managed to come out of the water just behind I was nearing the AWESOME T3 Swim exit shoot, I counted yellow swim caps....1,2,3,4,5 I think. Ok, got some work to do, people. Scooted past one on my way into transition. One down, 4 to go.
Was pulling my bike of the rack heading out of transition as Ms. Lord was getting to her bike. Oh Lord her she comes after me. GO, GO, GO!!! I tippy toed in my cycling shoes through transition as fast as I could and hopped on my bike and got moving. I wasn't sure who the other girls were, but I knew Esther was out there. She's a super fast swimmer and an awesome cyclist, it was going to be tough finding her on the bike...especially since I only had 11 miles to do it. And I could already feel Tracy coming up behind me.
Quickly spun up that first crazy hill after transition, and got to work. Thought about keeping my cadence high and my heels low. I was moving pretty good through the nice, shady lane when a fellow age grouper passed me from behind. Dammit! Back to 5th again. I picked up the pace and hung with her. She was a powerful rider and I was having to work really, really hard. But it felt good.
We kept hammering away and came up on Darcy, who had also beaten me out of the water. As we passed her, you could Darcy muttering something like, Dammit. And then next thing you know, she picked it up and the three of us were hammering along. We'd trade spots at the front, one person passing, the next person passing...all trying to stay legal, but not get too far away from each other.
We came up on Esther and she jumped in the mix too!
We traded positions back and forth along the flats and I thought to myself....ok, clearly these girls are strong. Power cyclists for sure. But....I'm a goat. If I can just hang here until the hills, then I'll make my move.
So I quit trying to battle for the lead and just sat back, biding my time, keeping an appropriate distance, but not losing sight of them, letting them beat each other up...and saving mine up. I know this course like the back of my hand. Just wait until we turn the corner to the back side, ladies...those rollers are no joke and they've got my name written all over them.
I waited....and we turned....and I started picking them off on the hill, one rider....another hill, another rider....another hill, another rider. By the time we made the next right turn off the hill section, they were all behind me.....(save Karrn who apparently was in first the whole time, but I never ever saw her...she's that fast). If you want me ladies, you are going to have to come get me.
We were on the little rollers getting ready to turn right onto I-35...which is power cyclists heaven. I knew they would be coming for me, so I got as aero as I could and turned the cranks as hard and as fast as I could. Move it, D. Here they come. Move it, MOVE IT!
I hustled into transition and glanced at the racks in my age group. Just one bike! Sweet!!!!
But I knew the run was going to be challenging. I pretty much blew whatever I had on the bike and Mo warned me that my run legs might not be back from the marathon yet. And boy, was he right. Man, it was painful. I could muster hardly any turnover, but I knew I had to hang on for just two miles.
Darcy came by me just after the turn around I think. Damn. Back to third. I tried to fire the legs, but they just wouldn't go. No offense left...just defense.
The nice thing about an out and back is once you make the turn, you get to see everyone who's coming after you. I checked my watch at the turn to so I could get a guestimate at how close the next age grouper was...I saw Michelle and Tracy...they were moving fast, closing in and looking strong.
Shit. I'm in trouble people!
I tried to find another gear to get it moving...c'mon D...just one mile, you can do it. And picked it up just a little. I kept focused on my form, tried to be efficient as possible and keep moving forward.
Chugged up that last hill before turning back into the park, took a quick glance behind me, didn't see anyone *right* behind me, but figured I'd better pick up just in case they start hammering from the top of the hill. Didn't want to be taken by surprise in the last 200 meters!!
Lumbered on into the finish chute (with Chrissie asking why I was running marathon pace...this was a sprint!)....thankful and relieved to have finished!
Ended up holding onto 3rd place! Didn't PR overall, but had my best bike split Ever!!!
Here are my stats:
Dionn Schaffner Austin, TX Age Group F 35-39 Gun Time: 01:00:14 Chip Time: 01:00:14 Class Position: 3

Overall Place: 102
Class Position: 3 (WOOT!)

Swim: 06:24 pace: 2:08/M
T1: 01:42
Bike: 34:30 pace: 19.5mph (YAY!)
T2: 00:56
Run: 16:40 pace: 8:20/M (UGH.)
And, so I don't hear it from Mike, here's my hardware!