Monday, November 3, 2008

Race: PBR Off-Road Tri

Yeah, I know it's been forever since I posted. I was burned out at the end of the season, and with that didn't feel like blogging much. But I'm back! And I need to catch-up on a race report, the PBR Off-Road tri that was back on 10/12/08. It was the week after XTERRA nationals, hence the burnout.

I woke up at 4 AM and got out the door to drive to Tempe. Zac stayed home to take care of our injured greyhound, so I would be racing sans-sherpa again. No sherpa means hauling all your stuff on your own. I packed everything into my big blue TYR bag and put that on my shoulders, and walked my bike down to the transition area on the north side of Tempe Town Lake (not the beach park on the south side). Transition was in the dirt under the freeway, so it was quite messy. I picked up my race packet, attached my numbers to my bike and helmet, and proceeded to my assigned bike rack. I seemed to be in with all the guys. No rhyme or reason to the rack numbering. I chatted with the guys next to me while I set up my area, and several were newbies. One guy asked me for any advice on open water swimming, as this was his first. do I summarize open water swimming? "Don't panic" I told the guy.

I wandered to the lake ramp and shimmied into my wetsuit. I was in one of the last waves (or the last wave...I can't remember) so that meant a ton of guys would be in front of me and clogging the mountain bike course. All I cared about was the mountain bike and redeeming myself after the XTERRA nationals in Tahoe. After that I figured I could go all out in this sprint. Everyone was worried about the 76 degree water temperature and how cold that was. The week before I had swam in water 20 degrees colder! This was bath water! Finally it was time to get in the water. I got in and swam to the side, right on the buoy line, which is my typical spot. I warmed up right away and it was go time.

The horn sounded, and the gals in my wave and I started the 750 meter swim. I went out pretty fast, trying to focus on keeping a strong stroke with my arms. The course seemed crazy short after doing 1500 meters in Lake Tahoe. And it was so warm! It felt like I reached the first buoy in no time, and there were a few stragglers from the wave in front of me there. Then I got mixed in with that wave of guys and was passing them. I moved my way up to the next wave of guys (they started 6 min ahead of us) and was passing them! It was awesome! As I made the turn towards the ramp I started to catch a few of the straggler guys from the wave 3 waves ahead. Overall it felt like a strong swim, but when I crossed the mat my time was 17:11. A little slower than it should have been, but then again I wasn't exactly up on the swim training like I should have been.

I stripped off my wetsuit on the boat ramp so that I wouldn't have to do it in the dirt of the transition area, and ran to transition. The rocks and gravel were a little tough to run over. I figured my rack would be empty since I was surrounded by guys and they were in swim waves in front of me, but I was the first one there! I threw my wetsuit over the bar, hosed my muddy feet off with my water bottle and wiped them with a towel to get the gravel off, and got my shoes on. This took a little extra time but I really didn't want all those rocks in my shoes. I got my Camelbak on and snapped the chest strap and put my helmet on and ran out of transition. As I ran with my bike, my helmet's visor was flopping as one side had unclipped. Somehow I reached up and was able to get it reattached and snapped into place. Thank goodness. Total transition time = 2:29.

Now to the fun part. This was a 3 loop mountain bike course around Papago park, none of which I had ever ridden before. I figured that's what the first loop was for. I hopped on my trusty Blur and joined the pace line of bikers heading up the hills. It was a mess. We hit the first technical downhill part and people were walking. It was a short, steep section with 6 inch drops or so on the way down. This type of riding is my specialty, where you have to slowly crawl your way down the rocky face while controlling the brakes and your weight over the rear tire, and you have to hit that sweet spot between cleanly rolling the face or totally going over the bars face first. I cleaned the dowhill part, made it through the wash at the bottom, and got stuck behind the walkers on the uphill part. No choice but to get off and walk, but if I was going to walk it was going to be a fast walk. I ran up the hill, jumped on my bike, and passed as many as I could before they got on their bikes.

It was a freight train of riders after that, and myself and some other faster people tried where we could to work our way around the slower riders who were in the earlier swim waves. Next up was a forced dismount area, where you had to get off your bike and run through a long tunnel. In the middle of the tunnel all of the light disappeared, and I couldn't see my feet or the rocks in the trail. I had to just pick up my feet as I ran and hoped I wouldn't trip and be crushed by the tons of riders behind me. As everyone ran, dust got kicked up and so it was like being in a mine. I could've used a bandana around my neck to quickly pull up for that part of the ride.

After the tunnel was a short uphill section, and then rolling flats before one of the big climbs. I made it most of the way up the climb, and tried to yell "riding left" as many folks pushing their bikes up the hill were blocking the way. I hit a soft section and had to dismount and run up the last little bit. After that the trail was similar to Fantasy Island with a bit longer climbs, and a few more rocks in sections. I crossed back under the tunnel and past the crowd and finished my first lap.

The second lap was much less crowded and I was able to get around people easier. This time I was able to carry more speed down the little technical section to get back up the other side and passed a few there. Somewhere on this lap I caught a girl with "30" on her leg, so I sat behind her a bit to evaluate her speed. I was better than her in the technical sections and the downhills, so I picked my spot and passed her. She must've seen my leg and the "31" as she passed back. Ok, wanna play that game? I sat behind her until I knew the trail would open up into a fast downhill section and made the pass at the very top and flew down the other side and put a few racers between us. I learned from motorcycle racing to stuff slower riders between you and the person you're dicing with, as the slower people will slow your competition down. It worked because I didn't see her again. I raced like she was right behind me and and kept the hammer down to gap her as much as possible.

The third lap was even less crowded and I had more room to get around people I was now lapping. At one point I came up on a guy that asked a girl if he could pass. She decided to try to ride a rocky downhill followed by a short uphill and fell over just as he was trying to pass. He fell over, then I had to dismount as I was right behind him. I ran up the hill and got by. I finished the lap and as I ran into T2, one of the volunteers said "You're number 17." "17 what?" I wondered. 17th overall, 17th female, 17th in my wave? Why do people give me this information in a race? I'd rather not know for this reason.

Total bike time = 1:23:03, and the 2nd fastest bike time in my AG!

Ran into T2, racked my bike, and got my run stuff on. T2 = 1:28.

The run was like my swim in that I really couldn't expect much based on my lack of training. We started out on a trail section, and about half way through the girl I had gapped on the bike passed me on the run. It was pretty obvious that I couldn't keep pace so I just ran the pace that I could hold, and tried not to fall on the trail. After that we ran up Lakeside Dr on the road and down Curry. As I ran down Curry I realized the last time I was here was IMAZ, and I had puked in the bushes right over there (yep, this is the stuff that goes through my head in a race). But I started to pass a bunch of guys here, and I could hear others coming up behind me. Everytime I heard a faster runner coming up I hoped it was a guy, or a girl that wasn't in my age group. Sure enough, I was able to hold off anyone else in my group. I got to the finish, crossed the mat, and jumped on the slip-n-slide for my big finish. Total run = 32:50

Total race = 2:17:02

After the race I walked back to my car, changed my clothes, then walked back to get my bike. I stopped by the results, and I was in 4th! I looked at the winner in my age group, and she had won the women's overall race, so I hoped we would be bumped. I waited around for the awards, and sure enough they called me up for 3rd place. I was 3rd out of 8 in my age group and got a strange PBR trophy (a PBR beer can glued to a marble base), a PBR bell for my bike, and a PBR glass.

I grabbed my bike, loaded up my Jeep, and drove back to Tucson, stopping for a Blizzard at DQ in Casa Grande. I kept the AC cranked because I was so sleepy after the race, and didn't want to fall asleep at the wheel. Normally Zac drives home after races and I get to pass out.

Checking the results, I was mid-pack in my AG on the swim, 2nd on the bike, and last on the run. Elaine will be working on her running over the winter! That's just unacceptable. I finished 20th overall out of 64 women, so the "You're #17" must've been my overall place out of the women heading into T2.

Overall, this was a great race, and I felt vindicated after Tahoe. Always good to end the season on a positive note!

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