Saturday, June 09, 2012

This is the End

After the pre-race meeting for the Beast of the East, where the race director (Scott) announced that this would be the last year of the race, I thought about all of the song titles that would capture my feelings about it being the last running.  This is what spoke to me the most.

I first discovered the Greater Smokey Mountains Triathlon Club in 2008 when I got plantar fasciitis and trained for its 5K swim race.  That race was an amazing experience for me and I have loved Lake Chatuge and the GSMTC ever since.

My first time at the Beast of the East was in 2010.  It was a low-key, no-frills event, but Lake Chatuge was beautiful, the bike ride was challenging and scenic, and the run was an effort.  Last year, GU allowed me to race at Rev3 Knoxville, so I missed racing with Karen and Becky, but this year I was back!  Doug, the girls, and I met Karen and Tom to camp in the Clay County Recreation Park before the race.  My second adult camping experience was great!  Car camping is the way to go for me.  We had a blast feeding the fire and testing different kinds of s'mores.  Doug and Tom know how to camp!

Tom showing off his outdoor chef skills.  He made us a killer pre-race dinner.

Doug coming in from his ride of the course - 2/3 mph faster than my race pace.
It wasn't a surprise when Scott said he was done directing races, because I knew that other races (Rev3 Knoxville, Gulf Coast, and now Mountain Madness) had moved into the late spring/early summer slot.  Still, it wasn't a bouncy "It's the End of the World as We Know It" I felt as I lined up in the lake with Karen.  It was melancholy.

Scott said "GO!" and we were off.  I veered all over the place on the way out to the first buoy like I always do, accidentally scratching some guy on his foot.  I thought it was Jay, but he said it wasn't him.  It was actually impossible for it to have been him because he was WAY in front of me.  Ha!  I forced myself to calm down and enjoy the marvelous lake.  I concentrated on swimming with a purpose and made it to the giant concrete thing in good time.  I thought I was near Steve for most of the first leg, but I didn't see him on the swim after that.  After turning around the concrete thing, I headed for the second buoy.  It didn't seem to be getting any closer, but I concentrated on reaching forward and that seemed to help.  AND, I noticed that I was following some bubbles.  For the first time in my triathlon career, I was drafting on the swim!  OK, really, I was veering in and out of the draft, but still.  It was a huge relief to let the other person worry about where we were going and just aim towards the bubbles.   I made sure to go around the last buoy and made it up onto the shore.  Doug was there waiting and shouted out "FIRST WOMAN!"

                                   45:32 for the swim and transition #1
WTH?  How did that happen?  I was sure that I had been following another girl.

Going out on the bike, I mosey-ed along and thought about what Julie Moss said about being in first place at Kona in 1982, about how first place was hers and no one was going to take it from her.

Yeah, I did not feel that way.  My bike strength can't support that kind of attitude, so I watched woman by woman pass me.  The first was turquoise shirt in mile 5.  She looked really strong as she stood to climb past me.  I made peace with the pass by telling myself I would either get her on the run (it was WAY too early to be standing on the climbs) or if she was strong enough to stand on the climbs and then run she was the stronger woman and deserved to win.  A tall, thin lady passed next and then a brother/sister team on Litespeeds who appeared to be taking turns leading.  I HATE that.  Drafting is illegal, so I made it my mission to pass the woman on the run.  Then, sometime around mile 20, Karen passed me.  I gave her the lowdown on the leaderboard and then she was gone.

The bike beast (a 4 mile hill, that requires standing at the top) was challenging and I kicked myself for not stopping at the porto-john located at the top of it.  Instead, I soldiered on and stopped at the oasis instead.  The oasis is a gas station that sponsors the race that is located out on the highway portion of the route.  Becky and I stopped during one ride of the course years ago and bought gallon jugs of water that we used to fill every bottle we had and dump on our heads because we were overheating.  The potties were locked!  After I waited for about a minute for the person in there to leave, the clerk told me they were out of order.  Curses!

"Just go on the bike," I told myself. 

"No, I don't want pee socks. They will smell and give me a blister."

So I soldiered on, bladder throbbing, and looked for some cover.  Finally, I found a warehouse building and squatted in the cover of the clover-covered hill beside it.  My hover needs work and my behind got very close to the delightfully soft and cool leaves.  Ahhhh, sweet relief.

Until the stinging started.


I sat in ants!

Ever seen a triathlete dancing around swatting ants off of their bare bottom?  I'm sure it was hilarious.

Chastened and covered in pee, I made it to the next water stop and waited while the volunteer filled my bottle and rinsed my hands after I explained to him that I had had a potty incident.  He said that the girl in front of me had the same problem.  "That is Karen," I told him, and decided that I would catch up to her because she would laugh at my story.  But, when I caught up to the girl, it wasn't Karen.  She had also stopped beside the road to potty.  I could not hang with her and she left me before we got out to the highway.  I was still in a great mood and enjoyed the beautiful day and lovely scenery, even on the not-so-fun highway part of the ride.  I knew that I would not be able to break 3 hours on the bike, which had been my stretch goal, but I abandoned the idea and just basked in the great weather.

                                3:14:19 for the bike and transition #2
Going out on the run, I was in 6th or 7th place.  I racked my bike and grabbed my shoes and GU to put on while making another pit stop.  Alas, I forgot that the lake bathroom is almost always wet and sloshed right through a puddle.  All that trouble and I would start the run with wet socks.  CURSES!  I took them off and wrung them out while using the restroom, but they were soaked.  Whatever, it was time to go to work.

Relieved to be on the run, I started out way too fast.  6:36 pace.  Oops.  I toned it down a bit as I passed the other potty girl, who settled in right behind me while we chatted.  She said that she could not run in heat.  Could have fooled me!  I passed the tall thin lady and Karen and shared good words with both of them.  I saw the drafter, but did not pass her until after climbing the run beast (entire height of the dam plus the hill before it).  I waited behind her for a minute or two, trying to time the pass to my advantage so that it would stick.  No need.  She heard me behind her (because I am quiet and graceful like a giant wheezy dump truck) and slowed down so that I had no choice but to pass.

2nd!  I was in 2nd!

My run plan (courtesy of Doug) was to hold just under 10 min/mile for the first half, and then turn it up if I felt good in the second half.  Except for the screw-up in mile 1, I stuck with the plan and after finding my lost GU in the bathroom at the turn-around (did not need to use the bathroom - just went in to find my GU), I started loop 2 feeling good.  My heel had a hot spot, but I moved my foot around in my shoe with each step to relieve the pressure.  I passed Sarah from GUTS and a guy with happy rainbow-colored sneakers.  We chatted and I felt relieved each time a cloud passed over the sun.  Coming down the other side of the dam, I looked ahead and saw that turquoise shirt girl was walking.  BOOM!  I leapt into the air and had a dance party for myself.  The rest of the run felt like a victory lap.

OK, it was a victory lap with furtive glances behind me at every corner to see if the tall lady or Karen or my "I can't run in the heat" buddy were gaining on me.  I walked up the steep part of the run beast (climbing the back of the dam) both times and encouraged the folks around me to do it too.  I walked fast, though, with powerful strides and was probably in Zone 4 both times.  Still, better Zone 4 walking than blowing up.  I think the walking was a good strategy because it gave me time for my HR and body temperature to come down a bit.

The hot spot on my heel turned out to be a huge blister.  I was pleasantly surprised to see no blood on my sock when I removed my shoes, but it was not a pretty sight.

I crossed the line in what I recall as 15:56 and change, but my official results are 6:01:55.  I was the first woman and 9th overall out of 12 women and 31 total racing.  It was an awesome day, especially the lake and camping and hanging out with Jay and Kristen and Steve and Buffy and sharing post-race Young's double chocolate stouts with Karen and Tom. 

Photo courtesy of Kristen Petillo

My bum knee did not bother me and I paced the bike well enough to run so I am not as scared about Vineman.  I may not make any time goals, but I think I can still finish feeling good enough to enjoy a post-race feast.

Beast of the East, you may be gone, but you will not be forgotten.

1 comment:

Elena L. said...

Way to go Steph! Ants n' all!