Sometimes the weather forecast is completely off, sometimes spot on, and sometimes a little of both. Today was a little of both and it worked to my favor. I was awakened at 2:00 AM hearing loud and long thunder pass through. Lovely, and I am swimming in a lake today. Fortunately it passed and the rain held off. When I got the the park where the race was I met my training partner and we both stood and looked at the lake. Lake Erie can be calm in places and offer the ability to surf at places. It looked more like time to get out a boogie board rather than a wet suit to swim. There were white caps on the waves. The race officials said the swim was on and it was 75 degrees so it was wet suit legal. Last year the water was rough, this year it looked worse. The Olympic swim course was shortened to 600 yards and the sprint swim course was shortened to 400 meters. From the looks of it and what my watch said, I think the Olympic swimmers swam about 3/4 a mile and we swam about .40 mile in the sprint.
This race had a new dimension to it too this year, there were three new categories in the triathlon for seniors. Next year Cleveland is hosting the Senior Triathlon National Championship race. There have always been age groups for the over fifty, but the senior category is more in lines with Masters. The waves were 50 – 59, 60 – 69, and yes – 70 and over. There was an 81 year old man on the course and he finished. Amazing. The seniors went first and then the age groupers. My group was second to last. The swim caps are color coded and I know the 30 – 39 group wore pink, we wore orange, and here it got confusing – the seniors and the over 50 age groupers wore green. So the first three waves and the last wave all had green caps. As I started out on the swim I was thankful the race director said USAT rules allowed my tempo trainer as long as it was worn on the collar of my wet suit. In my swim cap it is considered an electronic device that could impede hearing like an iPod. The beeping helped keep me calm because the water and swimmers sure didn’t. The swim was out, turn left at the first buoy, then turn left again at the second buoy and swim in to the finish. Sighting is something I am fairly good at, every 8 to 10 strokes I glance up to see the buoy and stay on course. Well the first three times I looked up all I saw was a mix of colored swim caps swimming up a wall of water. The waves were so high I could not see the buoy. I kept with my stroke and made it through the swim. About half way through I started passing pink swim caps – wow, I was swimming faster than some of the 30 somethings. I also saw green caps close to me. I still don’t know if those were seniors from the early waves or faster age groupers behind me. It was the most challenging swim I have ever done. Regardless of if it was 400 meters or .40 miles as my watch calculated, I was in transition within 14:24, a time I was happy to have. My training partner and another friend both thought they were going to have to call the kayak to rescue them. Fortunately they both made it. Unfortunately as I ran to transition I heard an ambulance approaching. Later I learned a man in my age group had a heart attack in the water. I do not know how he is but my prayers are with him.
The bike course is flat but the wind had its way the first five miles. It was a challenge but I was reminding myself the wind will be at my back on the way back. And it was – I had hoped to average over 17 miles per hour but I was at 16.9. Again, with the conditions, I was happy. My second transition was 1:19 – my fastest T2 yet. (Oh T1 was just over 3 minutes, that swim and the ambulance had me a little shaken.) On to the run and I felt good. I could tell my recent training that my trainer has me doing has made a difference. I was able to run between 9:15 and 10:30 the entire 5K and my heart rate stayed just under my anaerobic threshold. I finished the 5K with my second best 5K time in a triathlon – with a 10:01 mile pace. I had said my goal was to come in under 1:35. Well I missed it – by 15 seconds. I finished 1:35:14. Again – I will take it! The final results are not up yet, but I did see that I finished in the middle of my age group. And 58 seconds behind my friend and training partner.
As we packed up our gear and headed to the car the rain came back. All of the bikes were back, though there were a few runners still on the course for the Olympic distance. Running in rain is probably the easiest to do of the three sports. In all it was a good day and a good race. As I said, there are things out of my control that can affect my performance. Rough water, head winds, and rain to name a few. But in the end I made it through and I feel I accomplished more than if I had done the race a bit faster in perfect conditions. Yesterday I read a blog that really helped me today. He writes about how struggles make us stronger. How true – and my struggles are making me stronger.