Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tri Tyler Half: Lonely Is Hard To Survive

The Tri Tyler Half is an organized-by-locals, second-year race in Tyler, TX.  Between that and its billing as the "Hardest Half in Texas," the participants who self-select to register are...there for a pretty good reason.

My reason was that about 10 days beforehand, the thought of another week of "just" training filled me with boredom dread.  It was time to race.  Probably past time, in fact and in some people's minds, but I had needed to feel "ready," as I kept telling everyone.  But "ready" didn't have a definition attached.  I figured I would know it when I felt it, and suddenly I felt it.  It turns out "ready" was knowing that I had put myself on that start line, in order to really own the outcome.  Whatever that outcome would turn out to be.

Stick a fork in me.  I'm ready.

Well That Was Unexpected

I can honestly say I didn't expect the swim to go like it did.  I hoped it wouldn't go horribly - I mean, I always hope that the swim doesn't go horribly, which is like dancing about architecture - but the kind of calm, collected, efficient, evenly-paced swimming which ensued was pretty much nothing like any previous swim leg I've raced.  So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I PR'd the distance by about a minute, solidly breaking the somewhat-coveted 30 min barrier.  I even managed to do that in usually slow conditions - alone (vs. with/around people) and in a speedsuit (vs. a wetsuit).

Normally I measure my performance by comparison to those whom I'm chasing (and usually losing time to).  The pack of men I chased dangled just out of reach, finishing about 90 seconds up, which is kind of like finishing a marathon within sight of the Kenyans, and for probably the first time I ever, I actually put time into someone!  I beat the other woman in my wave out of the water by nearly 9 minutes.

Let the loneliness begin.

Planes, Trains, and Hunting Hills

I want to preface the rest of this report with the fact that from the first conversation I had about the Tri Tyler Half, I heard about the hills.  Hills on the bike, hills on the run, hills on the swim if they could arrange it.  Up, down, swooping, tiered, and diving.

Ok, so hills.  There were going to be some, they started after mile 25, and I had best keep some powder dry for them.  We had a plan, which started conservative from what I could probably do if it was a flat course, and then further conserved for hills.

Now I'm out there all alone, hunting them thar hills.  Long story short: I kept too much powder dry, because it turns out hills are relative.  I was expecting epic, I got pretty normal for a long ride west of Austin.  In my race notes, I said that I could have done another 56-mile lap, and faster, after the first.  So clearly, although I had written fine and steady etc etc, it was too reserved.

The two women chasing me got caught early on at a train crossing, amassing a group of about 10 racers as they waited.  The group worked together for the next 40-some miles and my 9 minute gap after the swim was probably a minute, maybe 90 seconds, off the bike.

Positive: followed the plan and felt solid off the bike.  Negative: other people went faster in a group.

During Which I Found All The Hills In East Texas

As much as the bike was oversold, the run was undersold.  I heard one description that actually (in retrospect) did it justice, and I was all "that can't be true, that would be horrible."  Believe it people: horrible.

It was like running on the edge of a saw:

 The bright spot was that off the bike, in the "flat" part, I was running well, at a pace that I would have been happy to hold for a whole 13.1 miles - and I thought I might be able to hold it for 13.1 miles.  Somewhere around the time I was facing a ramp into the sky - a straight climb, flanked by mature trees, split by a double-yellow line which led to blue (meaning that I couldn't see over the crest) - the bright spot faded.

I maintained my lead until just past the turn-around.  A friend of mine recently - and wisely - said that running in the lead is running in fear.  [How would I know?  I've never led anything before!]  Turns out that truism is doubly true when you are actively engaging in damage control.  I knew the pass was coming, I just didn't know when, and I knew that when it did there was going to be little I could do about it.

So that happened.  And with the trees and turns and ups and downs, then I was alone again, left to my own flailings and failings.

The Many-Sided Coin

I count at least three sides on this coin.  I got paid, and actually broke somewhat even for the trip overall.

My biggest regret is that when the race came to me - up until the turn-around of the run, it was really happening somewhere behind me - I wasn't in a condition to participate.  I needed to fight, but I could only limit losses.

But aside from the swim, the biggest positive is having raced.  I finished wanting to do it again, soon, and knowing that I would be fine to do it again, soon.  And so, I am doing it again, at the end of June. 

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