There are those races that you are completely prepared for and they go exactly as you plan them to go. And then there are those races that you are not prepared for and just pray that you will survive them. But what about those races that have so many variables that you can’t be prepared for all of them. What happens during those races?
This race weekend was … interesting. I managed to get the entire weekend off from work so I wasn’t stressed about getting to the packet pickup or hurrying back to work on Sunday afternoon. I decided to drive down with Mel and her husband to check into the race and then head back on race morning rather than getting a hotel room. It all worked out nicely. They have a bike rack that could carry all three bikes for us.
Unfortunately, when I grabbed my bike to meet them I noticed the back tire was flat. Not just low, but completely flat. It didn’t make much sense to me since I had just used it a week earlier and it was fine during the ride. I just crossed my fingers and hoped that the bike shop that was going to be at the registration would be able to replace it for me.
The packet pickup/registration was in a field near the Boeing offices. Not too bad, but the field was covered in red fire ants. And they loved my feet. I got my bib, swim cap and shirt and had my tire fixed. They were able to do it quickly and we racked out bikes and headed back home.
For dinner I had my standard pasta and red sauce and tried to get to bed early. I actually got to be around 11:15. I wasn’t able to sleep very well though. That is the norm for me the night before the race.
I was up at 4 and on my way to meet Mel again by 4:20. They had some delays getting on their way, but we made it to the transition area around 6:00. I got my things set up with my food taped to my bike and everything else laid out to make the transition easier. The was about five minutes left before transition closed that I discovered that my tire was flat again. A very nice gentleman pumped up the tire for me and told me not to worry. Apparently, when you rack the night a race before they will let some air out of your tires to avoid blow outs overnight.
I got out of the transition area just in time and then I had over an hour to wait before my wave entered the water. We talked to some interesting people I was able to use the porta-potties without any wait since most people were already heading to the river.
We had been warned that we would be wading through the river mud (aka, muck) and that there would possibly be shells in the bottom so I decided to wear my Five Fingers for the swim portion. I’m not a big fan of muddy bottoms so I am glad I wore them. Even through the Five Fingers I could still feel the muck. Unfortunately, the river remained shallow for the entire course for my distance. I really wanted to swim and the people around me were just running the course. The guards on the paddle boards were encouraging people to swim and save their legs for the rest of the race, but no one was listening.
I tried to swim as much as I could but with everyone running around me it was almost impossible and the water was so murky that when I did swim I could barely see more than 6 inches in front of my face. After was swam, we had to climb onto the dock and up the stairs before heading back to the transition area.
I got to my bike and realized that I didn’t do a great job setting up. Taking off the wet Five Fingers was easier than putting them on at least! Once I got myself situated, I check my tire again and found that it was flat. AGAIN! I grabbed my bike and headed towards the exit hoping that there would be someone to help. Thankfully, I found the person who had installed the tube. He had to get a wrench to take the wheel off, but this time he inspected the tire and found a staple in it. He pulled that out and put a new tube on. Mel was two waves behind me and caught up to me at the transition. She was totally awesome and waited for me to get situated before we left together. We were the last people to leave on the bikes.
Mel and I made our way out of the transition area with our own police escort. We turned on to the NASA causeway. After heading over the huge bridge, we took the causeway past the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center and through the NASA security gate. Before we got there, we were able to see tons of wildlife.
At one point, Mel pointed out a huge gator on the side of the road. Right when I looked at it, it leaped out of the water towards up. Thankfully, it was in a ditch and probably about 20 feet away from us, but both of us screamed and peddled as had as we could to get away from it. After that we saw smaller gators. Our police escort laughed at us and got on his speaker to remind us that we were in a race, not a sightseeing tour. We laughed and said that sightseeing was the main reason that we were doing the race.
The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) was is so large, that we felt like we were never going to get there. Once we started heading north, there was finally hope that we were going to get there. After another half mile, I asked the police office if he would be okay with me stopping for a minute to get a picture. He said to go ahead. And then he pulled in front of me. Well, now he is being featured in this review!
I was really feeling good and I started catching back up to Mel since she had pulled away during my stop. One of the bike support volunteers caught up to me and started riding beside me. I asked him how my back tire looked and he said it looked a little bit low, but not flat. I was fine with that and I though it might just look like that because of my weight on the bike. We kept going and made the turn over the train tracks and then I was suddenly riding passed the VAB. I was so excited and I smiled and waved at race photographer. I can’t wait to see the pictures!
Less than a mile after the VAB, I noticed a weird noise and then I noticed that my bike felt weird. I stopped and checked the tire and it was completely flat again. The bike support rider had a CO2 cartridge with him and he blew up the tire with that, but unfortunately, the tire lost the air before I was able to get moving again. He had a spare tube with him, but we needed the wrench still. Him and a representative from the Space Center tried to use another tool that one of the police offices had to try to take off the wheel but had no success. We tried to reach some of the other bike support volunteers, and after maybe 15 minutes, we got in touch with one of them. By that point in time I had already decided that I was done with the bike. There was obviously something bigger going on with my wheel than the staple in the tire and I didn’t want replace it again only to be in the same predicament in less than an hour.
Unfortunately, that meant no launch pad pictures for me. But I was able to be driven back to the transition area. I was able to get this picture before we headed back!
Of course this transition is much easier. I racked my bike, remembered to leave my helmet on the bike, grabbed my bottle of Nuun and headed out to the run portion of the race.
The run started out okay. It was already really hot out though. The first mile was entirely in the sun. It was hot and there was only one water stop on the 5K+ course that was around the half way point. The course was pretty flat but it there was a slight hill but nothing that wasn’t manageable.
The turn-around point was at the Valiant Air Command War Museum. Several old planes were pulled out for us to run by. I was really hoping to see a Blue Angel. I’ve had a slight obsession with them since ever since I say Van Halen’s video for Dreams (remember music videos?). Unfortunately there weren’t any out there. Kudos to my sweetie for just pulling up the video and playing it on our Google Chromecast too. I’m pretty sure if one of the Blue Angels was out I would have gone over to it and given it a hug.
There were a lot of really cool Air Force and Navy. I’m partial to Navy since I grew up so close to a base and have a lot of friends that were in the Navy, but since my dad and uncle were in the Air Force, I hold a special place in my heart for them too.
Since the water station was positioned at the entrance to the museum you actually pass it on the way in and on the way out. I took a few cups of water and dumped them on me. I grabbed some ice too and dropped it down my bra. It definitely helped me cool down. I also met one of the men who was doing the half iron distance. He had done 4 Ironman races and 28 marathons outside of the Ironman distance! Can you just say wow!
When I made the turn to head back to the finish, I found Mel sitting on a guardrail in the shade. She was not feeling well, getting dizzy and nauseous and losing some of the feeling in her fingers. I gave her some of my Nuun to drink and we walked back. I kept my eyes on her and made sure that she took it easy. Once we made the last turn towards the finish she decided she really needed to sit down. Her husband had already finished and started making his way towards us so she told me to go ahead and finish.
I really wanted to run, but I was so hot and I had a cramp in my calf that seems to be a recurring issue. I’m now working on it with a foam roller so it doesn’t affect future races. Once I got to the red carpet of the finish line I ran in. There was a balloon arch that was low enough that I jumped up to reach it. I was so thankful to finish the race.
So, the day didn’t go quite as planned. I’ll definitely want to do this again. With my new schedule at work, I will be able to get more Sunday bike rides in. Unfortunately that won’t be happening until I figure out what is wrong with my tire. The bike support people think it could have been one of the spokes. I’ll be taking my bike in to get it looked at but I don’t think I’ll be investing too much more money into it. I hope to get a new bike before next spring.
It looks like I owe my friend a banana bread since I didn’t meet any of my goals that I set out for myself. I honestly think I would have been on track for the bike time I set since Mel finished the bike in 2:45 and change and I was doing good keeping up with her. I guess I’ll just have to see how that works out next time!