Sunday, April 6, 2014

Red Hills Tri: Florida's Toughest Sprint

"In the beginning..."  I had thought and planned that if I could "go" 1:40 that would be a great first time finish on that course. If I could get close to the Master's time that would be sweet. Anything in between totally acceptable.  

The day begins waaaaay early because #KonaKid wants the end place on the rack and the gates open at 5:00 am. Sheesh.  We are four cars back when the gates open. Body marking, chips, rack placement no problem. Irony-he gets assigned a middle rack and I get an end spot. LMBSAO. Then it's time to chill, snack, and get off my middle-aged legs for a while. 

Dancing my way to the "fun" side of Tri ...
and out of Transition for the swim start.
This is my first time here as a participant (Colin has been racing it since 2008), but it felt like a reunion of sorts. Once I'm awake, I do love the early morning camaraderie and fun.  Lots and lots of friends here including guys who trained with Colin in 2008 for his first Red Hills.

Here is probably a great place to say, "Thank you" to Champion Systems for a comfortable and well-fitting kit (although I still prefer a kids' size short); Headsweats for my favorite visors of all time; Newton Running - I've been a Newtonite since before they were the cool kids on the block; and Big Sexy (I'm not sure what you were thinking when you added me to the team, but "I'm here....").

Transition closes.  Now sheathed in neoprene, we waddle to the lake shore for a brief acclimation and warm up swim. I'm fairly relaxed because I have "swim strategy." I know my asthma could attack me at any time. My inhaler is in my wet suite sleeve just in case. The swim waves are lining up and I hope to see Colin get out before I start. The day will good for him if he is out of the water first.  I turn around and see My Main Man/Hubby/Honey on the hill behind the swim start. He has worked a 10 hour shift keeping Tallahassee safe, but still came to the race to see Colin and I finish. Now I'm ready...a kiss and a "good luck" send me to the shore. I check the swimmers coming in and immediately recognize Colin's stroke. Yep! First out. Let's start this party!

That's my Honey.  Always there for me.

I start near the back of the wave even though people are telling me to move up. Nope. I want to PASS people as I settle in, not stress over where I am.  It works like a charm.  Slowly I settle into my stroke and begin to work through he crowd. I'm not fast, but I'm steady, and I can negatively split the swim. I pass a lot of people including men from the previous two waves. I hit the boat ramp at 11:29, not bad for me (1/3 mile) and the transition mats at 11:54 - it's up hill and you're stripping your own wet suit. 

Out of T1 and on the bike ahead if three people that ran past me into T1. It's not my first rodeo. I don't expect to win or place, I just want to be smart. I had set the gears for an uphill start and was very glad to have done so. I've seen people crash 10 feet past the mount line for not planning. Passed four people in the first 200m uphill. My husband and bonus parents said it looked like booster rockets on my bike.  Thank the stars for those big quads   Got out of the state park and kept rolling. My goal on the bike was to NOT get passed. I was successful in that the only person who "net" passed me had played cat and mouse with me for about 8 miles of the course.  I tried to reel her in....she was in my age group. 

I had estimated that with the wave start and my times Colin would be FINISHED by the time I came in off the bike.  He wanted to win, and he was working for it.  At the dismount line into T2 I asked my friend GP Palmer if Colin had won. He said, ""No, third." I proclaimed some bad word in my "outside" voice and kept moving.  T2 was not blazing, but I stayed on my feet. My husband, Mike, was at the run exit and confirmed Colin's finish but added that he had gone a PR time! I felt better. UP that damn hill again for the run. 

Gotta Get My "Big Sexy" on straight.
Most of the first mile is paved, so I'm great here right on my goal pace. Then we get to the trails. The first section of the trail is loose road bedding gravel: a weak ankle's enemy. Slowing down, I pick my way through to the actual trail. It's not too bad. Soft and cushy but rooty (turns out Colin tripped twice out here for the first time), so more caution. Just after mile two I'm back on the pavement and picking up a little speed. Funny, the first and third miles are the hilliest but were my best paced miles. I make the turn to the downhill finish and Mike is right there. He was awesome: tired, exhausted, and I'm sure hot (still in full uniform); but right there for both of us. 

About 100 feet from the finish line
My watch read 1:31:41 when I stopped it. Not great. Not bad. Better than I had planned for.  Good enough for third in my age group. I'll take it. 

GP Petty, Melissa Thompson,
Michael Weyant, Yours Truly

Team Big Sexy had a great showing:  Melissa Thompson won her age group; GP "Crash the Party" Petty took second in his age group and finished 13th Overall.  Michael Weyant was on site as volunteer supremo.

Red Hills "Bling"  Made by local potter Brian Bachman,
 it's unique to the region, and nearly always useful.

I don't know if I'll do this one again. It might be hard to say, "No," since it local. However, make no mistake, it's a challenge. Beginning with a cold, dark, murky water swim, you need courage. The early miles of the bike and one good climb about two miles from T2 can waste your legs before the run. Two uphill-out-of-transition starts test you for sure. The run isn't your typical sprint run: it's not flat, and it's not even all paved. Things to remember in January when registration opens.

Colin #KonaKid #HonuBrat Abbey, Third Overall - 1:08:5
1 Corinthians  9:24-27


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