Longhorn 70.3

jason_swimUsually I sleep like a rock the night before a race.  The night before my first 70.3 was filled with sleepless hours.  By the time the alarm clock(s) went off I felt exhausted but excited.

We made it to the staging area as planned.  From the staging area participants and spectators were bused the 1 mile to the starting area.  I must say, for accommodating over 2,600 people, it went really smooth.  Virtually no waiting.  This was a real stress relief as I am always worried about being late or rushed.  To be honest, the whole event was really well organized.

As I waited on the hill to watch the other waves swim away I began to get really nervous.  Eventually finding Dan, a familiar face, eased my anxiety.  I positioned myself toward the back but not all the way to the rear.  I didn’t want to lose that much time before I even started swimming.  As expected it was chaos at the swim start.  I have never swam with that many people.  There must have been over 100 in our wave.  The first hundred yards or so for me were swim, stop, swim, stop.  I still am somewhat fearful of dislocating a shoulder, hyperventilating, or getting the wind knocked out of me .  So I really try to stay away from other competitors.  Once I hit the first buoy to turn left it thinned out and I could get a rhythm.  I tried to take it easy to save my arms for the other 5 hours but as I approached the swim finish I couldn’t help myself but to pick up my speed.  Exiting the water I walked/jogged up the never-ending hill to the wetsuit strippers.  This being my first-ever stripping I wasn’t sure what to do so I just fell to the groundwith my legs stuck up in the air.  The 2 strippers actually lifted me off the ground with 1 hard tug then threw the wetsuit back in my face.  Lance informed me that my time was 42 minutes coming out of the swim.  3 minutes faster than projected.  I was stoked.

jason_bikeBecause of the “clean” transition area I was forced to take my time in T1.  This benefited me later as I wouldn’t still be out of breath getting on the bike.  I actually drank some fluids and downed a pack of Cliff Bloks.  It was time consuming putting everything back in the bag but I managed to get everything crammed in.

On the bike the hills started immediately.  However, with the long gradual climbs and descents I was able to maintain a reasonable speed.  There was one hill in the first 5 miles that some riders had to actually walk up.  Luckily the hills flattened out by the halfway point.  The course was extremely crowded which made me ride faster than I wanted to.   Having so many riders around me was actually pretty cool and exciting.  It was completely new experience.   I was always passing or getting passed.  I tried to spin the first 28 miles and not cross the lactate line.  This worked well but the return trip home was greeted with a headwind.  Something happened to me that has never happened to me in any running, bike, or triathlon race.  Me and a couple of other riders were stopped by police at an intersection to let drivers through the intersection.  We were stopped for probably a minute.  I wasn’t frustrated by having to stop but by having my legs become stiff and trying to get my rhythm back.  By the end of the ride my bike split was 2:42 with an average of 20.7 mph.  I was happy with my speed but I actually wanted to go a little slower.  I would pay for it later.

Again, the “clean” transition area forced me to take my time in T2.  I felt good coming off the bike.  My legs didn’t feel tired and I didn’t feel dehydrated.

jason_finishStarting the run was pretty amazing.  You ran through the indoor stadium finishing area with a huge crowd cheering you on.  Then you ran through the “team” area with tons of tents and music.  It was exhilarating.  I felt good for the first mile but quicklyfoundout the run was going to be tough.  I don’t think there was a speck of level ground on the whole course.  There were 2 killer climbs with each, 4 mile, loop.  The crowd was thick throughout the course with plenty of music, Cokes, water, Gatorade, ice, Popsicles, strawberries, you name it.  On the second lap my legs were starting to cramp.  After a few more Hammer Endurolytes I was able to continue.  By the end of the 2nd lap I could tell that I hadn’t drank enough and went too hard on the bike.  Lance yelled out to me that 4:50 was my total time with 4 miles to go.  It took a while for my lactate soaked brain to calculate that not only could I finish under my 6-hour goal but I might be able to go under 5:30.  That’s when the fit hit the shan (to quote Toby Keith).  My legs began to seize in all sorts of contorted angles.  My mind and heart wanted to run but my body was not cooperating.  Every step produced multiple cramps in both legs.  Unfortunately I had to walk most of the last 4 miles.  Because it was a looped run you were  always surrounded by runners but never knew if they were finishing or starting.  However, having them there was motivation.  At this point everyone was hurting.

It was an unusual feeling coming back into the stadium for the finishing lap.  In the blink of an eye the sun and wind were gone.  The voices in my head were fading.  All of the sudden it was dark and all I could hear were hundreds of people cheering.  The ironic part was that I wasn’t even that tired.  After walking for almost 4 miles I had recovered my endurance.  I mustered enough dignity to run the last section and stop the clock in 5:45.  My eyes actually welled up after crossing the line.  I had finished my first 70.3.