A couple weekends ago, I did my second triathlon of the season, the Lonestar Sprint Tri down in Galveston. It was kind of complicated how I ended up in the sprint. See, I was originally registered for the half ironman, but yet again, my training just did not support my ability to comfortably do a half iron without either 1) walking the half marathon portion or 2) risking injury. Two weeks before the race, I emailed the organizers and was told I could switch to the olympic distance — but that it was too late to do via email, so I’d have to wait and switch at packet pickup. I arrived at packet pickup only to find that the olympic distance race only to find that it had sold out earlier that week, and I could no longer switch. So, after some amount of annoyed complaining to the registration folks, I switched to the sprint. It was my only real option.
Most expensive sprint triathlon I’ve ever done, that’s for sure.
After a half hour of being annoyed, I got over it and decided that I’d just do the sprint and be happy about it. I got up early Saturday morning while Jose and his family remained sound asleep, gathered my stuff, and headed down to Galveston. It was a really humid morning, overcast and cloudy, and I drove through spots of light drizzle on the way. I had to park over by Schlitterbahn, so it was about a 10 minute walk over to transition, where I quickly set up my bike and other items. With my wetsuit thrown over my shoulder, I walked over to the Moody Gardens beach to wait for the swim start. As I walked, I noticed that the wind was really starting to pick up. This wasn’t particularly surprising, since there’s always some kind of ocean breeze in Galveston.
But as I struggled into my wetsuit (it’s hard enough to get into a wetsuit on a normal day, much less on a day where the humidity is making it stick like glue to every inch of your body), the wind continued to strengthen, and they announced that they were delaying the start of the sprint by 15 minutes for weather. It wasn’t actually raining, but there were angry clouds blowing by along with the wind. Shortly, they announced that they would be delaying an additional 15 minutes, and as I sat on the beach in the crowd, I watched the water get choppier by the minute as the wind howled around us. The swells were growing, and there were whitecaps appearing on the normally calm waters on the protected north side of Galveston Island. And of course the swells were moving in such a way that we’d have to swim directly into them. I knew I could do the swim, but I also knew it would probably take me twice as long as expected since I’d have to fight the swells and current.
Suddenly, I noticed that all of the lifeguards and kayakers that had struggled through the waves to get onto the course were moving back towards shore. They announced that the swim had been canceled, and that the race would now be just a bike and run! I’ve heard of that happening occasionally in races, but it had never happened to any that I’ve done. Although I was a little disappointed to not be able to do the full tri, I think they probably made the right decision.
We all filed back to transition and I was impressed at how quickly the race organizers were able to shift gears and get the race started. We filed out of transition by rows, and it took 20-30 minutes to get all 1000+ sprint racers started. I was in the last row, since I’d switched at the last minute, so I had to wait a while to get started. All things considered, the mass bike start worked out well enough, although it made the bike course very congested. Normally the swim naturally spaces people out according to ability. Not so with a mass bike start, since people weren’t seeded according to ability or even age group.
With the swim canceled, and me doing “only” the sprint instead of the olympic, I decided I was just going to do this dang course as hard as I could. Bike hard, run hard, and just hammer the whole thing. So I did.
As we waited to start the abbreviated race, the wind finally began to die a bit and the sun peeked out. By the time I got started, the clouds were a memory and the wind was more manageable. It was a tailwind on the short ride from Moody Gardens to the seawall, and a crosswind for both the out and back portions. Since I’m a pretty good rider and I’d started in the last 50 of 1000 racers, I passed a TON of people on the bike. I could barely ride on the right side at all since the course was congested, so I spent most of the time in the middle or on the left of the lane so that I could easily pass. When you’re number 1143, and you’re passing a bunch of people, some even with numbers as low as 400 or 500, it’s a huge boost. I was loving it.
My bike split was 38:19. That was the 5th fastest bike split in my age group of 89 people! Woohoo! My computer was showing an average of 19.6 miles per hour until we turned off the seawall to head back towards Galveston. That portion was smack into a fairly strong headwind, and the wind combined with the turns on the way back into transition caused my overall average to dip to 19 mph. Still, I was very happy with my effort on the 12-mile bike.
As I started the run, my legs felt dead as usual, but after running the entire 10K of the Gateway to the Bay tri a few weeks ago, I was determined to run the entire 5K miles of this one! Half the distance means there’s no excuse for walking! And as I hoped they would, my legs started to loosen up as I ran. By the third mile, I was feeling pretty good. During one of the out-and-back portions of the twisty, turny run course, I saw a red-headed girl a few hundred yards behind me. She had been racked right next to me in transition, so I knew she’d started the race at the same time — and she’d closed on me since the previous out-and-back, so she was running slightly faster. I was determined not to let her pass me, and with less than a mile to go, I thought I could do it. I sped up my pace and ran strong — and never saw her. She didn’t catch up! I finished the 3 mile run in 31:28. (It was advertised as a 5K, but both my Garmin and Google say it was 3 miles even.) I was very happy with that time, and better yet were my splits — 11:00, 10:30, and 9:58! Wowza! The fact that my legs loosen up as I go is so obvious, and look at that third mile — I haven’t seen a sub-10:00 mile in a long time in a race, and could barely believe my eyes when I looked at the data after the race.
My overall time for the bike/run including a transition time of 1:33 was 1:11:19. I finished 19th out of 89 women in the 30-34 age group, which is pretty darn respectable in my book.
In the end, I’m glad I went ahead and did the sprint race, even though I’d hoped to do the olympic. I had a great time, put out a great effort, and it really got me excited for the many sprint races I plan to do this year. Next up is the Silverlake Tri on May 16!