- Quick Glance:
- Host: Redemption Race Productions
- Shoes: Barefoot/ Keen Commuter III Cycling Sandals (cycle portion)/ ‘J’uaraches
- Venue: Boerne City Lake – the favored training grounds of my Tri-training team, The Wet Willies!
- Would I Run It Again: YES! Most definitely! Given a choice between the Gator Bait (sprint distance) and the Greater Gator (Olympic)…I would choose the greater distance
- Muddy Toes Rating: 10 out of 10!
So, it’s been six long days since I became the Jalapeno King… it was Wednesday before I felt ‘normal’ again, and I managed to get in a short ride and training run before it was time to start tapering for my next Olympic Distance Tri:
This race, like the Gator Bait Tri before it, was set to occur at my preferred training area, Boerne City Lake…and once again, I would be facing the awesome might of Heartbreak Hill. Unlike last time though, Amelia and I were READY for it! …or so I thought….
As I mentioned previously, I have been training a lot with an awesome group of athletes-we affectionately refer to ourselves as the “Wet Willies” – and in this race, there was to be FOUR of us competing! (including myself) So our small informal team was showing out in a big way!
I have gotten race prep down to a science by now, so it didn’t take much to be all set for Mrs MuddyJ and I to be out the door in the morning, bright and early..yes, that’s right…Mrs MuddyJ agreed to get up early on a weekend and be the race photographer for myself and the rest of the Wet Willie’s… so expect lot’s of great photos in the post ahead!
We made it out the door just a little bit later then I wanted to leave, and as a result I was left with about 10 minutes until transition closed. It wasn’t so great for my pre-race mindset..I was nervous about that damned hill already…. I hustled through bodymarking and bike inspection and Mrs MuddyJ brought my now-traditional pre-race coffee bribe to Brian. I looked around forlornly for some rack space…Thankfully, some of my training buddies were saving me a little bit of space… well…. maybe they weren’t saving it, but I bullied my way into it anyway…I really don’t take up that much space…
After I got everything set for transition, I doffed my Tour De Jalapeno Shirt and grabbed my Nemo swim cap and goggles.. I wouldn’t be coming back until after the race started.
The transition area closed just as I was leaving it, and as usual, Brian started his pre-race briefing. This one was a little different though…during the briefing he introduced all the triathletes in attendance to a truly inspring athlete, Monica Caban..though to most in attendance she needed no introduction…
Monica Caban became an Ironman on Nov. 5, 2011 after completing the Panama City, FL, course in 14:02:48. Her two kids were the biggest fans as she crossed the finish. Her legs were a bit tight, but her body felt great and she was ready to do it again.
Soon her sights were on 2012 Ironman Arizona.
But four weeks before the event, on the routine Boerne Loop training ride with a fellow cyclist, an 82-year-old woman driving a pick-up truck hit her from behind. Monica suffered a severe spinal cord injury and lost use of her legs.
Since that tragic incident in October, Monica has focused on getting healthy, with physical therapy as her new training regimen.
And every time, she gets a little better.
But she was out of work when the accident happened, and with no income since, the medical bills are adding up. To help, friends from the swimming, cycling, and now running, communities are raising funds to offset some of her rehabilitation expenses.
Monica also plans to start the Now You See Me Foundation that will help children who suffer spinal cord injuries, and athletes injured during training. In the meantime, she wants to remind drivers that cyclists are sharing the road, and she wants all athletes to “be as bright as you can be out there!”
Thank you for your participation and support.
Her friend, Veronica Thaxton, was quoted as saying, “I heard this crash, and then I saw Monica flying through the air. She flew more than 30 feet and then landed in the grass on the side of the road. I ran over to her. It was hard for her to breathe, and she was in a lot of pain. She asked me if she was dying, and I told her no. I thought I was lying to her.”
I honestly don’t know that I would have the inner strength to come back from an injury like that…but here was Monica, telling us now all about her upcoming October 26th event..FROM THE WATER…where she was sitting, because she would be returning to the competition life by rocking the 1500m swim leg of the race as part of a relay team.
So, simply put for those keeping score: An Ironman Triathlete with a severed spine was gracefully and warmly extending an erect middle finger to fate and naysayers… and was back to competing in an Olympic Distance Triathlon Relay.
Can you tell I admire her just a little bit?
We bowed our heads in a pre-race prayer, and just like that, it was time to start the race! I found my fellow Wet Willies and we posed for a few shots:
It was to be a time trial start, as all Redemption Racing Triathlons are… and I have finally found where in the pack I am supposed to be..and I have learned my lesson about starting too far back, as well as too far forward in the pack… this time it was just right, and sooner then later, it was my turn to start:
As evidenced by the photos above, I charged into the water like an overcaffeinated bull trying to cool down on a hot summer’s day…the problem was, the water was WARM….like a bathtub, or a womb… as I swam, the amniotic nature and temperature of the water started lulling me to sleep! I can recall feeling like I wanted nothing more then to close my eyes and drift off into the nether-realm of dreams with each stroke…and then remembering I was swimming in a RACE…
I tried to shake off the cobwebs as I redoubled my swimming efforts…and while I was fighting my urge to sleep, Monica was finishing up her swim leg with ease:
I rounded the final bouy…annoyed because it seemed much of the field of racers was shaving the course by swimming to the inside of it instead of the outside, as we were all instructed to do pre-race! I am not one to tell other’s how to run their race (ok that’s a lie) but shaving the course is kinda lame… you paid to do a 1500m swim, so why cheat yourself?
Feeding off that mild anger, I ‘put the hammer down’ for the final 400 meters, and made up some of the time I had lost lollygagging (and fighting the overwhelming urge to sleep) earlier in the swim.
After I was helped from the water by an RRP staff member, I charged up the hill back to transition for T1, and my next date with HB Hill. I donned my recon wrap, my race bib and my helmet, grabbed Amelia off the rack and charged off to conquer the cycling leg:
Nearly running over the photographer as I fiddled with the straps of my cycling shoes after getting up to speed… I always remember to forget at least one thing…this time, I had forgotten to loosen my cycling sandals…but the photographer did manage to snap this shot of me nearly running him down:
Just before I hit the first turn, I finally managed to get myself strapped into my pedals and I got my spin going… I left my GPS at home for this race, determined that I was just going to do my best based on how I felt, numbers and tracking be damned.
If you remember the Gator Bait review, the access road had just been freshly coated with loose gravel and tar, or “chip seal“, and it made for some pretty gnarly riding. In the weeks since that race, the surface had settled some, so this ride was much faster and far less bumpy=much less taxing. We turned onto Ranger Creek Road, and in short order I was working my way up each progressively harder climb towards my old nemesis,Heartbreak Hill.
I knew my enemy better this time, and I was far better trained and prepared. I hit the run-up to the climb hard, and I had down-shifted and was spinning my crank furiously to keep momentum….
A rider in front of me dismounted to do the ‘walk of shame’…
I kept pedalling as I was losing speed…half the hill had gone by, and with the second half of the climb to go, I was in my lowest gear. I leaned forward farther and grabbed onto my drop bars, determined to make it up as I passed more riders who had dismounted to conquer it on foot…
…each turn of the crank took me a bit further up the hill, and then, suddenly…
…it was done… I had conquered HB Hill…during a race…and it felt good!
The rest of the “out” portion of the course was rolling with a slight climb to each hill, and I caught my breath by staying in lower gear and keeping my cadence up…by the time I reached the turn-around I was fully re-charged and ready to rock the return… which was mostly downhill…
At the very top of HB Hill, there is a short flat section, and then there is a second, less mentionable climb … so on the return trip, that meant…white knuckle descent, then hold speed, then hang on for dear life as you fly down the hill…
I tucked into my drop bars and hunkered down in the aero-position…I hit the gas (so to speak) at the top of the first descent and I ran through all my gears until I was just spinning my crank… then I hit the flat section. On this descent, during training rides, I have hit 46mph without ever leaving the small chain-ring. So I was moving at least that fast when I hit the top of the HB Hill descent…
I knew I was moving faster then I had before on this elevation drop, using my drop bars to get lower and more aero. I was just about to the bottom and finding the few short breaths it took for me to figure out I might do well to be a little scared when something hit me in the cheek.
A terrible rattle began to come from the front of Amelia and I looked down..the wheels and handlebars felt fine. I feathered the brakes… no problems there…
I decided to keep riding as I looked for the source of the problem to no avail… I moved to settle onto my aero-bars for the next descent, and my left arm met no resistance other then the elbow pad. I recovered from the shock in time to avoid tipping over.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I had just found out what had hit me in the cheek and caused the rattling… the bracket on the left side of my aero bar had broken and released the bolt, which bounced up and hit me on the cheek.
I uttered a sincere and thankful prayer that I had been hanging onto my drops when this potentially catastrophic failure occurred, and I set my mind to covering the final 6 miles left in the cycle leg.
Losing my aerobar’s integrity might not seem like a terrible handicap, but I have had them on my bike since I took her out of her box and assembled her. Because I am so used to riding with them, I couldn’t get into a comfortable riding posture and the final approach sapped a lot more of my energy then I had wanted it to.
I rounded the final corner, slipping out of my cycling sandals and getting ready to transition and Mrs MuddyJ was there to snap a few shots of me (and my now-broken bicycle) as I made the approach…
I executed a flawless flying dismount as I headed into transition and racked Amelia… I dropped my helmet, and having learned a terrible lesson about the trails at this venue during the Gator Bait, I slipped on my ‘J’uaraches before leaving transition and charging up the hill to conquer the run leg… and the mercury was rising:
I suffered more during the next 10 kilometers of trails and pavement then I have on any other run I can remember. I was tired, it was HOT (and getting hotter) , and while it was not a particularly technical trail, it was full of sharp rocks and I had to carefully pick each and every step…
I took water at each water point on the first leg, and when I turned onto the pavement portion, I felt like I was done for :
…then a VERY helpful volunteer handed me a towel that had been soaked in ice water…
The only time I can remember feeling so refreshed, was …well… I can’t remember a time when something cold made me feel that much better…
The final leg of the run was two laps around the final pavillion…racers who had already finished were lounging in the shade and eating delicious Kiolbasa Sausage wraps… I was determined to get there… and soon…
I hammered out the final 5 kilometers of the run as fast as my all-too-abused legs would carry me. I started to get a backache, and that made me realize my posture was bad… I straightened up and felt better… and faster…
By the time I hit the final approach, I was out of gas running on pure willpower (and adrenalin). I dug deeper and found a final sprint to the finish left in my legs:
I was handed a water bottle and a well earned Gator Bead Necklace for my finish, just a little something to remember this very tough and hot race as someone took my timing device off of my ankle… Mrs MuddyJ met me there, happy to see me finish in good spirits!
We stuck around for a while, enjoying the post race fun as we cheered on the rest of the Wet Willies as they crossed the finish line.
Lady luck was on my side this time for the door prizes, and I won a $50 gift certificate to Soler’s Sports… maybe I’ll look into a better helmet with that!
I had agreed to host a post race luncheon after the race, as so many of my friends had competed in it as well, and as soon as I got home, I was cooking up a storm, but that’s a story for another day…
Next up: The Bastrop Lost Pines Tri… I here there’s a pretty hard cycling course with this race!
All in preparation for what could probably be the toughest race I compete in this year:
Stay Muddy My Friends, and ALWAYS Tri your best!