The Blanco Out Back Triathlon Mini Gator is probably the shortest, smallest tri in Texas. I wanted to win. I finished third overall and won my age group. Aww man … Yay me.
Jessica also competed, and did well, as did five good friends of mine. So I did well, it was fun and I competed with a group of friends. Who could ask for more? I even saw my high school girlfriend …. I hope she saw the results (ha!).
I know some of the diehard tri-heads and other distance freaks will scoff at the piddly distance (400m/10mi/3K) and meager size (232 competitors), but I had been mentally pointing to this race all year, because I thought it was a race I could win. I didn’t tell anyone that, and I kept scolding myself for thinking it (“focus on the process, not the result”), but it stayed there in the back of my mind through the mile repeats and Barton Springs swims. When we signed up and Jessica started telling people, “I think he can win”, I got a little mad. What if she jinxed me? What if talking about it dissappated the energy of it, sort of like talking about a wish makes it not come true? Also, if I blew up and finished 45th or something, I didn’t want to look like a retard. I hope I don’t look like a retard anyway.
I started doing tris last summer, and I finished 18th in the 2005 Blanco Mini. Though I got passed in the last 200 meters of the run to finish 4th in my age group, it was the first time I thought, “hey, I can do these.” And really, that was the impetus to join the Gazelles. After that 2005 race, a friend of mine said, “dude, if you can improve your run, you can be on the podium”. Jessica had just started Gazelles in August of 2005, and I didn’t start until November, but getting passed in that run was really the beginning.
Anyway, fast forward to 2006. Of course I’ve been training with Gilbert and have gotten a lot faster and more fit. I blew up in the CapTex Tri in May, but I did pretty well at Jeff & Brede’s in July. Judging by the numbers I thought I had a chance at Blanco. A friend emailed me last week and said, “win the damn thing”, and he gave me some numbers: 8 minute swim, 30 minute bike, 12 minute run. That would beat the winning time from last year, and they were times I thought I could do.
So we spent a restless night of sleep in Johnson City on Friday night as Blanco’s 12 motel rooms were sold out. Pre-race setup was smooth, but I thought I noticed more “competitive” people at this year’s race as opposed to last year. “Lots of guys with shaved legs” I thought to myself. I don’t shave my legs.
The swim was messed up. The swim is held in the Blanco river and it, of course, is really low due to lack of rain. Last year was an “out and back” loop, but this year they made us walk 1/4 mile down river to swim back up. They also said the last 50 meters or so were probably too shallow to swim. Oh, and there were no wave starts; we were to start by our expected swim time, whatever you thought that was. The first person in the water was a woman who looked like she shouldn’t have been the first person in the water. I was probably the 100th person in the water, which turned out to probably be my biggest mistake. I should have gone in at the front of the pack. But Jessica and I jumped in together, and I had a good swim, “great” for me even. I never saw Jessica after the first minute or so, I felt strong, my breathing and heart rate were under control, and my mind wasn’t freaking out. A lot of people started walking as soon as they could, but I tried to swim as long as I could. It sounds corny, but I wanted to respect the race, otherwise what’s the point?
So I swam until I had to walk, which was probably less than 50 meters. I got stuck behind a girl going through the transition, and I had a little trouble with my bike shoe, but my T1 time was comparable to others. Once I got on the bike, I flew past dozens of people. The course starts with an uphill, and most of the ride “out” (it’s an “outback” remember) is uphill, but Jessica and I had come out a couple weeks ago to ride the course with a few friends, so we were familiar with it (it was the same as last year too). I could tell I was working hard on the bike, maybe too hard I thought, but I kept passing everyone I saw. At one point, I passed a big cluster of riders and the road opened up with no one in view and I thought maybe I was out in front. But there’s a last pretty big hill right before the turnaround and I saw 6 people already headed back down as I was going up. I passed one of them on the ride back, but never saw the others.
T2 was uneventful and pretty quick. I had some trouble starting my split on my watch as I started the run, and a few yards into it my legs actually buckled. I haven’t done any bricks all season and it showed. That was probably a mistake. But I passed one guy right away on the run and was soon running alone. Jessica and I had measured the course the day before, and at the rough 1/2 mile point my watch showed 3:15. I didn’t feel like I was going that fast, but the results show a 6:28/mile pace, so that’s exactly how fast I was going. I had wanted to run around a 6 flat pace, but with no one to run with it was difficult to push. This is where I wish I had started the swim earlier so I could have biked and ran with the competition. I think I could have beaten them head-to-head. As it was, I was only running against the clock, and I didn’t really know what the clock said. They put up a one mile marker sign, but it was way off, because my watch read 5:30. I finally saw the leader running back, and shortly after that the other two runners ahead of me (one of whom I beat on chip time), but I never got within a half-mile of them. I’m disappointed I never got a chance to “drop the bomb” (as Gilbert likes to say). I feel like I never really pushed on the run and that bothers me the most. I finished and I didn’t even feel that spent. I’ve had harder tempo runs. Oh well.
So I waited around and watched Jessica and my friends finish, and talked to the racers who finished before me, trying to guage how they did. Man, I really wish I could have run with them, but it’s my own fault. The results were posted and like I said, I placed third overall. The winner was a name I recognized as the winner of thr 2005 Jeff & Brede Tri. Talking to the guy, you never would have guessed he would win these things. The second place guy was *pissed*, having lost by 2/10ths of a second. I’m glad I wasn’t in his place.
So that’s the story in long form. It probably took longer to type this than race. The more I think about it, the more upset with myself I am. My mistake of not starting the swim earlier in the pack hurt me. The leaders’ gun/chip time diffs were 58s and 1:48. Mine was 5:05. If i could have seen my competition on the bike and run, I know I could have stayed with them and beat them. But I didn’t, so there it is. What I did do, is compete and place third, which is good enough. Yay me.