The final event in my festival of summer racing was the Spa Girl Tri, held in Bastrop, TX (just outside of Austin) at the beautiful Hyatt Lost Pines resort. Those of you who’ve been readers for a while know that I’m a runner.
I’m a runner, I’m a runner, I’m a runner.
But when you have a friend (and former Balance client) who asks you and some friends to do a triathlon, you say “Sure!”
That’s how I found myself in Bastrop last Friday night, where I met up with my friend J who moved to San Antonio. She’s one of The Tri Amigas, our training and planning and cheerleading group.
We picked up our packets, ate dinner in some rocking chairs on the back patio of the resort under a beautiful Texas late-summer sky, and then we went to the pre-race briefing meeting. It was at this meeting that the race directors assured us that the swim would be not crowded (true), the bike would be not nearly as hilly as the road into the resort (big fat lie), and the run would be beautiful and shaded on the golf course (true). I guess two out of three isn’t bad.
J and I went to our hotel room in Bastrop to get ourselves organized for the early morning call time at the race of 5.45am. We affixed our race number tattoos to ourselves, put our number stickers on our bikes and helmets, and made sure we had everything we needed to take to the transition area in a bag.
Lights out at 10pm.
I slept well, which isn’t always the case before a race. We left the hotel at 5.20 and got to the resort and transition area by 5.45. We met up with the other Tri Amigas, racking our bikes in the same area and making sure everyone had everything set out in a logical and easy-to-access way.
We left transition by 6.15, eating our PB&J sandwiches along the way as we picked up our timing chips and headed to the gathering area. It was there we separated into our swim start groups. I started in the second swim group– one swimmer at a time every 5 seconds or so to give people space in the lazy river that was our swim course– but I know for future years to go ahead and enter in the fastest swim group. Not only do you get to start much sooner, but I passed so many people on the bike and more than 100 people on the run. Our friends who started in the last swim group waited more than an hour to start. Not a big deal if you don’t really care about a finish time, but it’s a long time to stand around in your swim suit when the air is chilly.
My goal was to finish the 300 meter swim in 8 minutes. I was expecting it to be challenging to swim with so many other people, and the lazy river isn’t straight. As it turns out, I touched absolutely zero other people during the swim. I even passed two people. I got out of the pool in exactly 5 minutes.
The transition area was about 300m from the pool, and my bike was at the far end of transition. It took me a while to dry off, get on my socks and shoes, eat a gu, and grab my bike. I walked it to the mount line, and when I got on to start my 10-mile ride, my watch read 10:00 flat.
As I was leaving the resort parking lot, I could hear a fellow competitor’s bike clicking, clicking, clicking. I shouted to her, “You’re not in gear!” and then thought smugly, “You should really know how to use your bike if you’re going to ride in a triathlon.”
Not two minutes later did I realize my own hubris– I’d never readjusted my seat after I removed the trail-a-bike I normally have attached. My seat was in the lowest position, and that made it really uncomfortable and inefficient to ride. I was already on a mountain bike rather than a road bike, so my lack of attention-to-detail wasn’t helping me out any. But I rode on…
The bike course was rolling hills along some pretty Texas ranch land. We were out as the sun was rising, and it really was a beautiful scene. It was inspiring to see so many women out on the course– some riding for fun, some riding for a fast time, but all of them out and moving their bodies and feeling strong.
The second half of the bike route was far hillier, even to the point where many women were walking their bikes up the hills. I can imagine that if you don’t bike or spin very often and didn’t train on hills, it would have been really hard. My glutes were burning for the last 20 minutes of my 45 minute ride.
As I was making my way back through the resort parking lot to transition, I spotted the husband and kids of my friend M, the one who got us all into this in the first place. It’s always a boost to see people you know out on the race course.
After I dismounted my bike, it took a few minutes to get my legs back under me. I had encouraged my Tri Amigas to practice the bike-to-run transition, as I knew from experience the legs can be a bit wobbly at first. I racked my bike and headed out of transition rather smoothly to finish the race with a two-mile run.
As a runner, it’s fantastic to finish a triathlon strong. Like I said, I passed at least 100 people on the run. I was glad for the mostly flat and well-shaded course, even though I would have liked to have had a better idea of the route going in to the run. I finished strong, though, with a run time of 15:33. Only seven people in the whole triathlon had a faster run time than mine, and they were all younger than I. That was my victory for the day.
My finish time was 1:13:05, not that it really matters. But it was a good, hard effort that gave me some fun variety and challenge over just distance running.
The real thrill of the race, though, was going back and cheering on my friends as they came in from the bike.
And it was awesome to shout for them as they finished:
What a fantastic role model M is for her little girl (one of The Stowaway’s pals) and a treat for them to cross the finish together:
Our group had another mother-daughter duo (in the first finish photo, above, mom is beating daughter!), who prove that age is only a number:
We may not all be hard-core athletes, but you can’t deny the pride and satisfaction in finishing an endurance event:
In the end, I was treated to the thrill of seeing all of these women in a new light as they learned they can push themselves physically and complete a triathlon.
On to the next challenge!
PS- Free race pics from Spa Girl Tri— nice touch!