Race days are a bit of a crap shoot. You sign up weeks or months in advance with no idea what the quality of your training, the condition of your health or the potential for foul weather will be. And then you train, you eat well, you nurse injuries and take care of your body. You hope for pleasant weather. You trust that all will work out for you to have an epic performance. Maybe an acceptable one. Just not an embarrassing one. As competitive amateur athletes, that’s what we do.
It is a great feeling when all things come together at the right time. You toe the starting line, prepared and feeling good. You race according to plan and finish pleased with the results. Most of us realize that in our real world it doesn’t always work out that way. So we persevere through the difficulty. We race anyway. We post our excuses before the race. Or we unceremoniously don’t show up.
Almost everything went well for me at the Show Me State Games Sprint Triathlon in July. Training was not stellar but adequate. My swimming was strong, cycling was improving and running was ok. I even had a couple of well-timed brick workouts and a decent taper. There were no problems on the trip to Columbia. Hotel was familiar; which helped me get decent sleep. Pre-race meals were significantly bland, yet healthy. Then things started getting ridiculous.
At the event site, I got the closest parking spot I have ever had. The bike racks at this race are sketchy at best. But I found the most awesome location to set up in transition. I was first in line to get my race bib. Having any one of these things happen is unusual for me. But all of them? I was relaxed and positive, took some pictures, rechecked my set-up, defogged my goggles, and idly chatted with other competitors. It was a really comfortable kind of weird.
The Show Me State Games Triathlon features a simultaneous duathlon over the same course. The event is very welcoming for those new to multi-sports. Pre-race instructions revealed no mount/dismount line. “Have your helmet strap fastened and walk your bike out of the racks before getting on.” was the announcement.
“Really? Ok, glad I heard that.” I felt very positive entering the water for the start. I walked out with the guys who looked fast. I found a large, smooth rock to stand on. I even pushed the right button on my Garmin at the start. Somewhere in the first 100 yards I thought about the Nascar concept of getting out in the clean air and started looking for ways to break from the pack without going too fast or off -line.
Once the swim opened up I attempted to do a little drafting, but found it really difficult. I abandoned that strategy in favor of taking the straightest line to the next buoy. After rounding the second turn of the triangle, I passed the only competitor near me. I knew there were others ahead, but had no idea how many or where they were. Coming out of the water and into the first transition, I saw two sets of wet footprints. Being third out of the water was like a power boost to my already positive mindset.
Transition went smoothly. I remembered to push the button on my Garmin and was quickly on my bike. My shoes were clipped in so I pedaled out with my feet on rather than in my shoes. I struggled a bit to get my left foot into the shoe, but was familiar enough with the course to know when it was safe to secure my feet and strap in. The fifteen mile out and back course was mostly rolling hills with an equal descent For every climb. A bit of a cross wind, but overall conditions were very favorable.
I am accustomed to being passed by faster cyclists, so it didn’t put me in a funk when that happened. The out and back gave me a chance to see those behind me and put a little urgency into the second half of the ride. A gradual downhill before the final transition was perfect for coming out of my shoes. Getting out of them was much easier than getting in them.
Transition two went well as I popped off my helmet, slipped on my running shoes and picked up my visor, race belt and water as I headed out. There were no strange feelings in my legs or feet as I started the run. In fact, I settled into a comfortably challenging pace and didn’t check my watch until I was closing in on the first mile.
My running pace is similar to my cycling pace. I’m not very fast and people pass me. I was able to encourage others with an occasional “nice work” or “great pace, keep it up”. The run was an out and back around Phillips Lake, so it was easy to see where I was in the race as well as in comparison to other competitors. I felt pretty good passing mile two, so I picked up the pace a little and then a bit more for the last half mile.
I crossed the finish line at 1:26:40, my best finish in the five times I’ve completed this course. Fastest swim, fastest bike and second fasted run I have done. Everything went well. I was able to meet my goal of qualifying for the National Senior Games to be held next year in Albuquerque. I’ll remember this as a race where everything went well.