Yesterday marked my eighth foray into triathlon, the Buffalo Springs Lake Ironman 70.3 Triathlon. Not to be confused by the name, it is not "the" Ironman, but rather a half-iron distance, hence the 70.3 designation, so as to avoid confusion with a full iron-distance, 140.6. The race was challenging, no doubt, but mostly from forces not associated with my physical conditioning or preparation (and I use the term loosely) for the event.
The BSLT 70.3 is held in the self-contained community of Buffalo Springs, just outside of Lubbock, Texas. Lubbock is typically known for two things: Texas Tech University and Buddy Holly, the musician who helped further rock-n-roll in the late 50s. Holly died in 1959 but was immortalized in Doc McLean's, "American Pie." The song, not the movie.
When I registered for BSLT in March, I was under the impression that Lubbock is pancake flat, which would help yield an excellent bike split. I was not incorrect in believing Lubbock to be extremely flat; it is. Buffalo Springs, however -- or at least the roads just outside of Buffalo Springs, is not flat. Rather, they carve a path up and down a series of canyons that are nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful. These roads are also breathtakingly challenging, literally. But let me not get ahead of myself.
I had the great fortune of not having to drive myself to Lubbock for this race. Instead, I hitched a ride with Branton & Sarah, the former competing in his second triathlon. We would be meeting Branton's parents (who were driving in from Arkansas) at the hotel they were also gracious to share with me, but also happened to have one of Branton's friends from Arkansas join in at the last minute. Rob, a rep for Javelin Bicycles, made the total in the hotel six, yet we all fit in just fine; the Marriott was most accommodating.
Race morning, we rolled out of the hotel just before five. Buffalo Springs is about a fifteen minute drive, and on that drive, we were witness to a most-impressive lightning show in the general direction that we were driving. Scattered storms had been forecast a few days prior, but no mention of them were made in the pre-race briefing the day before. Additionally, it looked as if several trees would be uprooted by the gale-force winds whipping across the Texas plains, all but guaranteeing an even more challenging day...providing the race could go on.
As we slowly made our way across the dam and to the parking are (a logistical nightmare, yet managed to pale in comparison to what was witnessed at Danskin a few weeks ago), the lightning let up, which meant the race would be able proceed. However, because of the length of time it took to get into the parking area, parked, bikes numbered, and so on, Branton & I were left with but ten minutes to make it to the transition area and get set up -- and it was almost a mile away!
The time must have been extended, for I had time enough to set up my designated area (bike racks were pre-marked with race numbers -- sweet!) and into my wetsuit, down the stairs to the lake, and into the water for a swim to the starting beach. A short swim, but good enough to get a feel for the water and realize just how tired I was from having a combined total of nine hours' sleep for the past two nights.
Swim - 35:56.1
Unlike CapTex, my wave was the second to go out, meaning I didn't have to wait for an hour before hitting the water. The horn sounded at 6:40 (6:39:39, according to the Polar, but who's counting?) and we hit the water. Temperature was reported to be 76 degrees, which technically made it wetsuit legal, although the water was on the comfortably warm side. I'm glad to have opted for the wetsuit, for a couple of hundred meters out, I began to feel sluggish and sleepy; I couldn't churn my arms well enough to generate any speed. That changed after rounding the second buoy, and I began to feel better and gain ground. Yes, there were the obligatory couple of mouth-fulls of water, but in all not bad. Both lenses managed to stay sealed, too, which helped out a great deal. Final 100 meters or so, I had to move between two swimmers, where I somehow managed to steer/split them using my hands. Open water is getting to be much, much easier.
Once I hit the finish, I was helped out of the water by a volunteer and then confronted another who grabbed the front of my suit and pulled it off of my arms. I was then instructed to lie on the ground, where I my suit was ripped off my legs, and thrown back at me. A few seconds later, I was off & running to T1. Beats the heck out of the fumble fest I had with the suit at Gulfman.
Bike - 2:59:50
This was easily the most problematic bike ride I had ever been on. I was barely clipped in before two guys went down in front of me, one spilling three Gu bottles. I grabbed two of them and handed them back before attempting to remount. After what seemed like an eternity (more like 20 seconds, according to the HR stats from my monitor), I managed to get clipped in and rolling, only to be slowed down by a near-nine percent grade hill. Not exactly the best of things to be faced with after a swim, but manageable, using the little ring. A quick downhill, another up, and I was really rolling...into the wind. Still, I was holding around 19, preferring to ride conservatively the first half or so before picking up the pace. In doing so, I would be able to take greater advantage of a tail wind coming back into transition.
The course was somewhat congested, and I was thankful Branton's father drove us over the course the day before. I managed to maintain a decent speed, yet was still passed by numerous riders, many of whom had 404s or better; many had a full disc, lucky bastards.
After passing and then getting passed by the same cyclists a few times, I noticed one of the officials began to take a notice in me. Rather than risk a penalty, I sat up and created a substantial gap between us, still holding it a little under 20mph.
While descending after then second turn around (the course was a "modified out-and-back," having three turn arounds after some serious climbing), I noticed my back wheel felt funny. At the base of the hill, my fear was confirmed: I had flatted. The problem was a small staple-like item that had penetrated the tire and proved to be a real bugger to get out. It finally was worked out, wheel remounted, defective tube tied beneath the saddle (more on that in a sec), back on the bike, and I was rolling. Since we were now on the back stretch, I decided to ride a bit more aggressively, and in doing so, began to make up some time. Never mind that I had lost a little over eight minutes because of the flat, I was able to start making up some ground. Tail winds are indeed a great thing.
On one of the last stretches, I noticed my dead tube was working itself out of the saddle straps, necessitating a sit up to remove it. I tried to finagle the straps beneath the saddle, which worked for a few more miles. In the final few miles, though, they were coming into dangerous contact with the rear wheel, so I again had to sit up and remove the straps, somehow sandwiching them into my already crowded jersey pockets. Total time lost because of the flat was in the neighborhood of 9'15". I wasn't happy, but that was irrelevant, for I still had a half-marathon to run.
Run - 2:02:17
I'm not sure if I over-hydrated on the bike, but the first half of the run sucked. Breathing in was difficult and almost painful in the area of the chest & abdomen until about mile five, where I began to pick up steam. By the time I hit the turnaround, I was feeling much better and managed a good run until the last mile. By this point, my hamstrings were tightening, and I got a little scared for myself when I saw another runner completely seize up half-a mile from the finish. I still managed to make it across in decent shape, but without the typical sprint I somehow manage in the closing meters.
Between the heat and the hills, this was probably my worst performance on foot in a race. However, it was finished, so what did it matter, other than to take the experience, analyze it, and plan for next time. Total time for the race, then was 5:44:25.
You have a lot of time to think to yourself while participating in triathlon. In doing so, I almost considered quitting teaching, in order to get a better paying job to finance my expensive habit. However, the events of April 20 will never permit me to do that, so I will continue in the classroom, doing what I can to better the lives of others. Triathlon does better my life, but some changes will need to be made for me.
I've one more race I am registered for for this year and from there, will begin scaling back my competing in triathlon. The training is still enjoyable, and I will continue to do it, but mostly for the fitness and aspect, not because I have some event of other coming up. That means my goal of Ironman (Arizona was a strong contender) will most likely not be realized in 2007. I need to refocus my efforts (and especially my finances) into other endeavors, namely my savings and my education. Ironman will have to wait until after my masters, instead of coming beforehand.
Buffalo Springs was a tremendous amount of fun, even if it was horribly expensive. I literally could not have made it there without Branton & Sarah, so thank you for letting me tag along and letting me crash on the sofa. Much love to the rest of the good folks at Bicycle Heaven for support & gear in order to make the bike all the more enjoyable, let alone possible. Though only having met en route to the race, thanks to Rob from Javelin for advice on making the bike section that much easier. Thanks also to Dan for getting me wholly into the sport, and to his wife, Kristine, for continued support and lots of laughs. Bill & the gang from Tuesday nights, my hard-charging effort on the last half of the ride would not have been possible without riding with you guys every week; please understand if I'm not at 100% tomorrow night. Naturally, Mom & Dad for your kindness and support on every front. Wish you could have been there.//d