First off, a BIG thank you to everyone who sent me a little luck before the race and to everyone who celebrated in my achievement. I am still in shock and disbelief that I was able to rock the race course this morning and pull out a 3rd place finish in my age group. This girl NEVER stands on the podium at a triathlon...NEVER! I am so used to being a middle of the pack gal or a top 20 chick. Today was so foreign to me.
I was up by 3:00 am and out the door at 4:00 am for a 50+ mile drive across town to Clear Lake, TX. I grew up in that area so the race course was going to be on roads I was very familiar with. I got to Clear Lake Park with plenty of time to leisurely get my bike ready and fill my bottles before walking across the street to the transition area and body marking. The racks were numbered in groups but you could rack your bike wherever you wanted on the rack. I did one quick look around and moved my bike into a spot at the end of one rack where it butted up against another. What the ladies at the end of the rack did not see was that I had positioned my bike right in front of the Swim In/Run Out entrance/exit. I think I was even closer to the exit than the Elite racers! Top it off, our rack was one of the closest ones to the Bike In/Bike Out. Add to the fact that I was in the first wave after the Elite start. Stuff like that just does not happen to me. I am usually in the last wave and somewhere in the middle or at the far end of the transition area. It was like the Perfect Storm.
A lot of my Team in Training friends were racing this morning as well. Coach Luke, Norma, Ryan, Audrey, James, Ross, Rochelle, Taryen, Andy, Carlton and Jade were racing either the Sprint or the Olympic distance. I told my buddy Ryan that he would catch me on the bike when we reached the Kemah Bridge.
Ryan is a triathlon stud and super fast. We did a group picture and then it was time for me to hustle to the start. I even ran into a girl that I was on high school swim team with before the race! She was two years behind me and her bother was my age and he swam as well. We both saw each other and after 22 years we knew exactly who we were looking at. We both still looked fit and we still had our swimmer bodies. Very cool!
The Elite racers and my wave were all moved into the water and then last minute announcements were made and the National Anthem was sang. BANG! The gun went off for the Elites and we moved up to the start line. I had positioned myself at the far buoy in line with the buoy line and there were very few people there with me. BANG! And we were off. The visibility in Clear Lake is almost zero and it is salt water. Clear Lake empties into Galveston Bay so there are some major differences between Clear Lake and a regular lake. I settled into my pace and started looking for the orange buoys. The sun was not really up yet so there was still a purple haze that hung in the sky. The water was smooth and almost glassy. There were patches of hot water and patches of refreshingly cool water as well. As I got close to the yellow turn buoy for the sprint racers I had a gal start to get in a tussle with me. She had swam from the other side of the pack and was trying to get in line with the buoys. I smacked her around as much as she smacked me around and then I let her pass and I got out of her way. I could see that there were maybe three or four pink caps in front of me. I settled back into my pace and noticed that the sun now looked like a big rosy orange globe sitting in the purple haze on the horizon over my left shoulder. It was still on target to the yellow turn buoy down by the Hilton hotel. After the turn, it was about 150 meters up to the next turn buoy. On the way back in, the water got a little choppy and I found it hard to stay on the buoy line. I always felt like I was being pushed away from the line. I sighted one time and a fish jumped out of the water in front of me. To pass the time I started counting my strokes. I had not had anyone pass me other than that gal I had tussled with. I saw the last buoy and the orange chute poles near the swim exit when two gals in green caps and one in a white cap caught me and passed me up. I did not like being passed but I was happy it took them that long to catch me and that they were not pink caps.
I swam up the ramp and leaped up and started running up the grass to transition as I was unzipping and pulling down my Blue Seventy Swim Skin and once in transition, I was right at my bike. Yahoo!!! I got my Pterodactyl helmet on, slipped my Spi Belt with my race number on it up over my hips and grabbed my bike and ran the 20 paces (literally!) to the Bike Out.
There were two other girls at the mount line with me and we hit the bike course. I let one gal go ahead as I slipped my feet into my bike shoes and started changing gears. The other girl I passed up pretty fast. We were on NASA Rd. 1 that runs in front of the Johnson Space Center. We would pass that on the way back in. I knew I had a little time before we got to our first corner where we would turn onto Hwy. 149 so I took advantage of the time to drink and to take in some calories after my heart rate settled down. I ended up passing three gals to the corner. I was zipping along at 22 and 23 mph. Once on Hwy 149 I saw the Kemah Bridge ahead of me.
I just kept the speed up to see how far I would get up the bridge on momentum. Even when I had to start working I was still pedaling at 14.7 mph. I passed a gal on the way down the other side of the bridge and was thankful that there was good police support to hold traffic as I came up on a busy intersection. I passed another guy and then, there was only one or possible two people way off in the distance ahead of me. I just kept pedaling, drinking, and checking on my heart rate. My goal was to keep my heart rate at or below 140 bpm but I was doing good just to keep it at 143. I would take it. The strangest thing I saw on the bike course? The banner at the side of the road that was advertising that on MWF I could watch midget wrestling and on TTh I could catch oiled women wresting at a local bar.
Remember how I told my good buddy Ryan that he would catch me on the Kemah Bridge? He did not catch me until mile after mile 9 when we were almost to the next turn. He started breezing by me and said I was doing awesome and wanted to know if any other men had passed me. I told him "No" and told him I would see him later. Ryan made the corner about 100 yards in front of me and now we were on FM (Farm to Market) 517 that would take us into Dickenson, TX. I had a few guys fly by me and one gal who was in my age group. It was time for Shot Bloks and S-Caps and more fluids. I had emptied my aero-bottle and was starting to empty another bottle. I passed another gal and soon it was time to turn back north and head for home. The road surface became bumpy chip-n-seal and I lost both of my CO2 cartridges. I prayed that I would not flat out. Thankfully the road smoothed out as we entered League City, TX. There was a nice patch of shade and I got passed by a gal who was not in my age group and another guy. I just kept my pace going. My legs were getting a little tired, but I seemed to be able to maintain my pace. Rolling through League City, I was surprised at all the new commercial business. I rolled through the intersection near my old high school and I knew that I did not have many miles left to go. It was time for more Shot Bloks and now all I had was Gatorade left in my one bottle. Now I was starting to see some back of the pack stragglers from the Sprint race. I made the final turn from Egret Bay Blvd back onto NASA Rd. 1 and started having to shout at people to move over to the right. Oh, and a message to the Crackhead who was sitting up and riding his bike with his arms stretched out over his head, PUT YOUR HANDS BACK ON THE HANDLEBARS. Thanks,...on your left. I had another guy pass me on this last stretch. I stayed about 5 bike lengths back and just followed him in. I saw all the people from the Sprint race on the run course and made sure to slip my feet out of my shoes and get ready to dismount.
With a smooth dismount and 20 paces back to the bike rack, I heard my friend Coach Jay cheering for me. I slipped on my socks and Newtons and got rid of my helmet and grabbed my Fuel Belt and hat and turned around and took two cups of water from a volunteer and dumped them over my head and ran out on the run course.
My pace was a little fast and ragged at first. Once I got my Fuel Belt on I realized that I had made a mistake of trying to put 10 oz. bottles in my Fuel Belt that normally held 7 0z. bottles. The bottles were bouncing around on my back and I lost each bottle and retrieved them in the first 300 meters. I had to turn my Fuel Belt around so that I could hold on to the tops of the bottles as I ran. It was not as bad as it sounds. I fell into a steady pace and gave a shout out to all the TNT people who were coming in from the Sprint race. I hit the first corner into the Bar Harbor neighborhood and found a little shade. Ahhhh!!! At the aid station I grabbed more cups of water to pour over my head and kept going. We took a right turn and ran back into the sun. I saw a gal in my age group try to pass me and then she doubled over and grabbed her calf. I kept on running. A few minutes later, after passing the Sprint turn around, she caught up to me again and asked if I had an extra gel. I told her I only had one on me. She told me thank you and said she could not believe that she ran out of transition without her gel. As she started running off I remembered that I had a gel in my tri top jersey that I put in there before the race started and suddenly I started feeling really bad for telling her I could not help her out. I didn't know how well the Clif Shot was going to help her cramps, but I knew that an S-Cap would set her straight. I called her back and told her that I had some salt caps if she wanted one and she gladly said yes. I fished one out for her and she popped it in her mouth. We exchanged names, she thanked me profusely, and I told her to save me a spot on the podium as she ran off. She did not have too far to run before we hit the second aid station. Again, I dumped water all over me and kept going. Now the runners had thinned out to just those who were doing the Olympic distance. There were a few guys who passed me and I was seeing the fast Elite runners and some of the gals who were ahead of me on the way back in. We were out in the sun again and it was starting to get hot. I just kept on trotting along holding onto the tops of my bottles. I saw Ryan on his way back in when I hit about 2 and a quarter miles. We hit a slight rise running into Nassau Park to get to the 3.1 mile turn around. Even though my goal was to run the entire way, I had to walk to drink a full cup of Gatorade. I grabbed water and poured it over my head as well. Now my socks were starting to get wet. After finishing my cup of Gatorade it was time to run again. On the way out of the park I had one of the TNT guys from the Nations Tri Team pass me up and cheer me on. I saw one of my kid's swim coaches on his way into the park as well. I know Coach Alan is a good runner (he qualified for Boston), so I knew it was only a matter of time before he caught me. I just kept on trotting along. I saw Robin from my tri club who is an excellent racer. She always places in the top three in our age group. She pointed at me and said, "I told you so! See you are ahead of me!" I was starting to focus on my breathing and the sound of it but it was wigging me out. I was at ventilary threshold 1 and I did not want to get to VT2 where the body goes anaerobic and you start imploding. So rather than listening to my breathing I started people watching and looking for the steeple on the church we had run by at mile 2. More people were running to the turn around and I was glad that I was ahead of the curve on this one. After passing the 2/4 mile aid station I saw my buddy Luke from TNT, I saw James from TNT, I saw Greyhound, and I saw Robbie, a friend of mine that I have known for a long time who started out coming to my cycle classes many years ago. The 1/5 mile aid station was getting close. I dumped more water on me for totally soaked socks and ran into the shade along a row of trees before heading back out onto NASA Rd. 1 and back into the sun. I checked my watch and saw that it was 9:33 am. Oh well, no PR today. As I ran past the Hilton I started to count my strides in time with my breathing. Now I felt like I was in "No Man's Land" There were only a few people heading out on the run course, a few stragglers left from the Sprint distance and very few of us, dare I say, fast people at the front. I only got passed by a few men on the way back from the turn around and I really thought that there would have been more. I did not get passed by any women!!! I hit 100 on my count and I started over again. I could see transition and the swim start out on the boat ramp. It was not far now. I saw the 6 mile sign and not far past it, the 3 mile Sprint sign. We were up off the street and on a stretch of sidewalk now and people were cheering for us. I saw Jay again with his camera. There was a hard right turn into the park and then it was down the chute and into the Finish Line. I saw that the time clock read 2:40: and change and I was happy with that.
I guzzled down a bottle of water and mingled with all the TNT gang. I was happy to be done and happy with my effort. Ryan and I stood in the shade under a pavilion talking about our respective races. We tried looking at the results but not many Olympic distance stats were up yet. We saw Luke come across the line and I waited along the fence to see a few more people finish. They were starting the awards ceremony and going through the Elite winners. A few people had asked me my final time but I was not really sure. The announcement of my age group was getting close. When Dave Rainey, Race Announcer Extraordinaire and one of our Tri club founders, read off "The Third Place Women's Age Group Winner with a time of 2:39:44, Elizabeth Garcia...", I could not believe it. I ran up from behind the table, and like an idiot I was jumping up and down and squealing like a stuck pig. The girl who I gave the salt cap to...she came in second. I gave her a big hug and she thanked me again. I have no clue who won first place. I can't even remember what she looks like. But we all got our picture together so I will have to check it out. I got lots of congratulations from the TNT gang and from other people in the crowd. I must have had a look on my face like I had just seen George Clooney in the nude or I had just won the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes.
Yes, all of the hard work that I have been doing paid off today. Now I have to keep working because I have the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 in October. Brick work is going to be very important over the next few weeks. So how am I rewarding myself? I drank a Dr. Pepper, I ate a hamburger and a cup cake, and I am letting myself sleep in tomorrow morning. After that, it is back to work. As soon as I get pictures from the race, I will post them.