Sunday, August 28, 2011

Xterra Lory 2011

'It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.'
-Andy Warhol

1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike, 4.8 mile run
6500' elevation, Lory State Park, Fort Collins area

I love this race.  It's a beautiful course, well organized, fun atmosphere, a great way to finish out my triathlon season.  My main goal for this race is to take some time off the bike.  I did the course at a pace of 9.0 mph 2 years ago (bike course was different last year) and the realistic goal is for 9.4 mph but my secret stretch goal is 10 mph.  I know it'll be a hot day, predictions are for 90's and the sun is already blaring at 7:00 a.m. so I don't want to push the swim for maybe a minute or two of time gain.  I know the run will be tough in the heat but I'm going to keep my focus run it as hard as I can.  I'm frustrated with my running this year and this is my last chance to improve.

I don't have any goals for placements.  There are 12 people signed up in my age group and I know 2 are way faster than me but I don't know about the rest nor do I know who will actually show up so setting a placement goal is pointless.

For the second weekend in a row I'm headed north up to Fort Collins in the pitch black and hoping not to run into any drunks or deer.  Or drunk deer.  I start off the journey by watching a guy next to me start to turn into oncoming traffic on a 55 mph highway as I wait at a red light.  I honk at him not knowing what else to do and this works in that he stops but he doesn't back up out of harm's way and I can see cars starting to come at him off in the distance.  He sits there for a bit sticking out in traffic then finally decides to do a U-turn in front of me on the red light with the oncoming traffic getting ever closer.  Thankfully he pulls this off and takes off in the opposite direction.

I arrive to the race 15-20 minutes later than I normally do (6:40 a.m.) and while I still have plenty of time I arrive at the same time as everyone else and the busyness is a little on the frazzling side for my sleepy brain.  I get a nice spot in transition but it's crowded and eventually a guy with a huge bike racks next to me and his giant handlebars block me in.

Busy Busy

I'm #97

Then I go down to the end of the transition area to take a picture of the swim course and see a ton of empty racks so I grab my stuff  and relocate.  The transition area is neutral meaning it doesn't matter where you rack, the only advantage is being on the main row and not in a row that's off the main runway.  I can't believe my luck and as people head down to the water they comment that they should have come down here too.

This never happens in a triathlon

Last year I didn't wear socks and got horrific blisters on the arches of both feet.  They were horribly painful and took weeks to heal.  So this time I'm planning on wearing socks but nonetheless I glob a ton of Bodyglide and Aquaphor onto my feet and especially on my arches.  It seems like ridiculous overkill but no way I'm getting blisters this year.

I had originally planned to leave a cooler in transition with 2 big bottles of ice water but the cooler was too heavy to carry on my bike the long way from my car to transition so I grab the small cooler packs out of the cooler and place them on top of the bottles then put my backpack over that in transition.  If not for this simple thing my race would have had a much different outcome.

There are lots of dogs milling about with spectators.  This one reminds me of Lola a bit.  She's wagging her tail at anybody who'll pay attention to her.

Swim (880 yards)
The water temp. is a balmy 75 degrees but I stick to my guns and wear my wetsuit. I'm glad I have it and I don't get hot at all.  I'm in the 5th of 7 waves and they're putting around 6 minutes between waves so I have plenty of time to warm up.  There's a huge area to warm up in right next to the start line so I'm able to swim right up until the start of my wave.  This year the waves are organized by a combination of our swim times and biking ability so instead of being in the old lady wave at the end of the race I'm in a wave with all manner of hooligans.  Men, 20 year olds, a mish mash of everybody and most of us supposedly close to each other in swim ability.  This is a good idea to eliminate congestion on the single track trails for the bike.  However it means I'm swimming in a mass of humanity for about half the race.  I get bumped and swum into a bit and I've got to swim around all manner of people breast stroking, back stroking, etc. and no way to pass them but to swim into the mass.  Normally this would send me into a panic but I've been working on this outside of the water, and I'll write more about that later, and I'm not the least bit worried, just keep siting to find an opening somewhere and keep moving forward.  I try to find feet to draft off of but they all end up being way too slow and I have to pass them.  I'm so preoccupied with managing the crowds that the turn-around buoy comes up before I know it.  And once I turn and head back to shore there's suddenly no one in front of me.  So weird.  After a minute or two I feel like I've somehow drifted way off course but after looking at photos of the buoys I realize it's just the way they positioned the buoys.  I make it back to shore without incident and stop for a moment in the water to take off the top part of my wetsuit and get my clothes underneath as wet as I can.

Swim (880 yards):  16:44 mins. (1:54/100 yards), 2/8 in age group, 150/273 overall

Dash to T1:  58 secs.

T1:  2:03, 5/8 age group

Bike (12miles advertised, 12.3 miles by my cyclometer)
My brain is a bit muddled after coming out of the water and I think I can get on the bike as soon as I cross the timing mat out of transition but I see a bunch of people running way past the mats so I start to get on then think I can't and get off and run a bit more then realize, duh, I can, I don't know what these people are doing.  And I was supposed to be working on quick, cyclocross style bike mounts this summer but I can't even figure out when to get on the bike.

There is only one woman in my swim wave that's also in my age group and though I'm out of transition before her she quickly passes me on the flat road before the single track.  I plan to at least keep her in my sights but she's way too fast for me and I have to abandon that strategy early on.  The race is a little crazy for the first lap with people trying to pass me as well as me trying to pass other people but for the most part it works out o.k.  There's only one woman who gives me a little bit of a hard time about letting me pass because she's already fallen once trying to let people pass.  But there's soon a group of people built up behind her and she's going to have to let us by at some point.  She eventually slams on her brakes to a stop in the middle of the trail with no warning then makes her way to the side.  I have enough time to stop but the guy behind me nearly runs into me.  Everybody else is really nice about letting me pass or nice about passing me so for the most part it's not a big deal.  It always seems there's one person that you pass back and forth several times and for me it's a tall skinny 24 year old woman who I'm guessing might be doing her 1st triathlon because she did the swim with no wetsuit and wore a swimsuit for the whole race.  So I try to be extra nice to her when I need to pass and at a couple points I get caught up behind her and don't try to pass because it seems more trouble than it's worth.  But at some point near the start of the second lap I pass her and take off and get way ahead and that's the last of my passing difficulties.

My average speed for the first lap starts out at around 10.1 mph then goes down to 9.8 at the slower part of the course with the hills.  With a possible 10 mph ave. speed in my sights and the course a bit more clear I attack the second loop, using my new bike handling skills to works around the turns and get as much speed as I can on the downhills.  I can't ride the switchback/drop on the first loop because someone's in the way and there's also someone there off her bike on the second loop but she steps off the trail to let me by and I cruise down it no problemo and the person I pass is from my age group.  I pass one other person from my age group on the bike but there's no sign of the person from my wave that passed me at the start.

I get over the final hill before transition and there's a mile, maybe more, and I'm at 10 mph ave. speed so I try to go even faster on the remaining downhill because maybe I'll exceed my stretch goal!  I get off the bike and my cyclometer reads 10.1 mph!  I'm so happy and I realize I've taken 10 minutes off my bike time from 2 years ago.  But when I see my official results my time is only 8 minutes faster and my ave. speed is 9.8.  I realize my cyclometer only records time and distance when the bike is moving so the time I wasted mounting the bike at the start and stopping to let people pass is about 2 minutes.  But still, I know my actual riding time was 10.1 mph, can't help the stoppage time for letting people pass, and I'm very very happy about it.

Bike (12 miles advertised, 12.3 miles by my cyclometer):  1:14:48, 9.8 mph official time,
                                                                                              5/8 age group, 184/273 overall

 T2:  1:29 (ouch), 5/8 age group

Run (4.8 miles)
T2 took a little longer than normal because I had a hard time racking my bike with no other bikes to weight the rack down and the rack moving all over but also because I took the time to dump one of my ice water bottles over my head.  I was already starting to overheat on the bike, temps. were high eighties pushing into 90 degrees for the run.

I carried my other large size water bottle with me on the run.  The ice packs had kept it cold enough that there were still loads of ice cubes even without the cooler.  It's heavy though and throwing off my stride.  After only half a mile my hip is starting to ache and I consider abandoning it on the road by the cars before I hit the single track up the steep hill.  I'm cool enough from the water I poured on my head in transition and it feels like it's slowing me way down.  But I remember how badly I struggled in the heat last year and I was already overheating on the bike this year.  In the end I decide to keep it.  And I'm so glad I do.

My plan is to wait until mile 2 then dump half of it on my head and take the rest as I need it.  But soon after the 1 mile mark I'm already struggling with the heat.  The hill is steep and goes on for 2 miles or so and there's no shade, the sun is beating down and I start to see how valuable this water will be to me.  I end up squirting small amounts of it on my head, face, arms, chest, etc. every time I start to feel myself overheat.  I take the occasional sip as well.  I ration it out and it lasts until maybe the 3 1/2-3 3/4 mile mark.  The heat effects me for sure but the water makes it possible for me to run the entire course unlike last year where I was sick and dizzy and had to walk a good portion of it especially at the end.  My race would have been miserable without it.

Lots of Runners pass me on the uphill but no one from my age group.  I used to be a Runner and it kind of makes me sad that I'm not anymore but I can't worry about that and I focus only on the trail in front of me and moving up the hill and forget the heat and the other people.  Somehow despite the heat and my diminished running abilities this year the top of the hill seems to come faster and easier than any other year I've done this.  But I notice what feels like a blister starting on the arch of my left foot.  I can't believe it but what can I do but head down the hill?  At least it's only 2 miles or so to the finish.  I pick up some speed going down and pass back some of the people that passed me on the way up.  The downhill seems longer this year though, I think I'm slower on it than 2 years ago because of the heat.

I get to the bottom of the steep downhill part and after a bit I can hear and see the finish line but it still looks so far off that it's actually discouraging.  I hit the 4 mile marker, only .8 mile left, but somehow this is discouraging too.  Can I hold on for that long?  I'm so hot and tired.  But again I forget all that and look only at the trail in front of me and next thing I know I'm off the single track and at the last water station.  The volunteer dumps water on my head and I take another quick glass even though I'm minutes from the finish.  It only costs a few seconds and it tastes so good and gives me a little boost for the finish.

That last stretch down the dirt road to the finish seemed so cruel last year but this year it zips by and soon I see the finish and the ridiculous Slip-n-Slide with the filthy tub of water at the end.

Thankfully there is not a little kid blocking my way at the finish.  I think I probably would have thrown him out of the way if there was I was so thankful to be done.

I'm planning on avoiding the Slip-n-Slide this year but I'm so hot and I see a woman spraying a hose down the ramp.  The announcer tells me that I'd better go faster than that or I'll never make it to the end and he's right but I don't care.  I make it about halfway down and lay there in the spray of the fabulous hose.  Feels.  SO.  Good.  I get up and climb over the side to get out so I don't have to get in the horrible filthy brown pit of doom.

Yes I do know how funny that looks, didn't take the photo on purpose but oh well.

Run (4.8 miles):  1:09:21, 13.53 min./mile (not great but better than I though it would be given the heat)

Finish:  2:45:19, 5/8 age group, 56/99 women, 199/273 overall.

So very happy with this race given the conditions.  My finish time 2 years ago was 2:44 but the swim was maybe 100-150 yards shorter and it was overcast and in the high 50's.  My bike was 8 minutes faster and run was only 5 minutes longer.

Compared to last year's race the swim was exactly the same time (freaky!), bike was 8 mins. faster this year, run was 9 mins. faster this year in similar hot conditions but the bike course was much harder last year so I'm not sure it's fair to compare those 2 races.

No hardware this time but it's o.k., this race was better for me than any of the races that I did manage to place at.  The woman from my wave that passed me on the bike right out of transition ended up in 3rd and it was her first off-road triathlon.  First and second place went to the 2 super fast people.  I was only 7 1/2 minutes behind 4th place and 5th place was over 1/2 an hour behind me.  I was 46-47 minutes off of first place and 1/2 an hour off of 3rd so nowhere close to placing.  But I'm happy about the improvements over previous years and holding up physically and mentally in that heat.  Fun day out on the trails despite the hot run.

The only downside to the day, aside from the heat, was the finish line food.  No food at all for vegetarians, just fish tacos and chicken burritos, some gross puffed fries and oreo cookies.  Funny thing was I asked if they had any vegetarian options and when they said 'no' the 2 girls standing next to me also groaned, 'This is Fort Collins, how can there be no veggie food?!!'  The caterers were apologetic and said they did have veggie burritos at their restaurant but weren't told to bring any.  They kindly gave a coupon for a free veggie burrito to the women but this didn't help us right then and there.  I did have energy bars in my car but my key was about 1/2-3/4 mile away back in the transition area.  I missed the raffle and a good portion of the awards going back to transition then coming back to my car and the finish area.  I did get to see the sides and roof of the Slip-n-Slide collapse though and it is a beautiful finish area.  Can't complain too much when there's blue skies and red cliffs.

Was tired and bonky on the way home but I eventually made up for the lack of finish line food no problem once I got home.  I wonder if I can spend the next week just sleeping and eating?


Swim (880 yards):  16:44 mins. (1:54/100 yards), 2/8 in age group, 150/273 overall

Dash to T1:  58 secs.

T1:  2:03, 5/8 age group

Bike (12 miles advertised, 12.3 miles by my cyclometer):  1:14:48, 9.8 mph official time,
                                                                                              5/8 age group, 184/273 overall

 T2:  1:29, 5/8 age group

Run (4.8 miles):  1:09:21, 13.53 min./mile, 6/8 age group, 255/273 overall

Finish:  2:45:19, 5/8 age group, 56/99 women, 199/273 overall.


  1. Congrats!! I dont know how you do it!

  2. Congrats on making it through, on the improvements over last year, and on what looks like pretty decent placements for someone who's not a "pro". Amazing how much a tiny squirt or two of water here and there can help. I've found that just putting a damp bandana on my neck & rotating it helps tremendously, and it always intrigues me how little it takes to do that. Glad you didn't get hypothermia, either.

  3. That's a big improvement in your bike/run over last year - great job!!!! Congrats on putting it all together for a successful race day.