I’m sure you’ve all been holding your breath for the Danskin Triathlon Race (Danskin) report. So sorry for making you all turn blue. You can breathe out now.
Let me start by setting the stage a little. Participating in the Danskin not only requires preparation of one’s physical state, but also organization and coordination over the whole race weekend. The good news is Laura (my fellow racer) and I have the process down pat. We arrive in Austin late Friday and head directly over to the Bicycle Sport Shop to pick the fancy schmancy bikes we rent MONTHS before. Saturday morning we head out to the race location to register and pick up our numbers - for ourselves, our bikes, and our helmets. Then off to the transition area (the transition area sits between the swim end, bike start/end and run start where we’re assigned a spot the size of a dishtowel to keep all our stuff) to drop off our bikes. This whole process only takes a couple of hours so we get most of Saturday to play.
Swim: 0.5 Miles
According to the race officials we have to be on the swim start boat ramp ready to go before 7am. This early start requires a 4am wakeup call. Me? I woke up at 3.30am. Keyed up was an understatement.
I was scheduled to enter the water 7.21am, so I had some time to watch some of the earlier waves go out. Like others on the shore, I was surprised to see that many of the earlier groups almost immediately headed off course and away from the first buoy marker. I couldn’t understand why people were swimming in the WRONG direction especially as it made the swim longer. My confusion vanished the second I walked into the water. You couldn’t SEE the first marker, the sun was rising directly in front of us and we could see nothing. Uh Oh. Not a great start.
The only word to describe my swim leg was “scrum”. There were bodies everywhere. I kept running into people either swimming on their back (in open water???) or with a noodles (isn’t this a triathlon? Shouldn’t you be able to swim?) Or worse, stopped entirely! Needless to say I was irritated as I pulled myself out of the water. I knew my time wasn’t good.
I was frustrated by my performance in the water. I knew that there was no way I’d beat my best time. Instead of dwelling on the bad I shrugged, ran up the hill towards my spot in transition and decided to enjoy myself for the rest of the race.
Official Time 24 Mins 40 sec (Best time 17:22 in 2005)
I was fortunate this year as some fellow participant had tied a very ugly scarf to the end of the rack where my bike rack was stashed so I quickly found it. (There are about 2000 bikes in the transition area, losing your bike can happen.) My mega organizational skills in the prep area meant that I was able to speed through the first transition. I jammed my helmet and sun glasses on my head, yanked on my shoes and headed out to the bike start. Whoosh!
Official Time 3mins 19 sec (Previous best 4:27 in 2007)
Bike: 12 Miles
I jumped on my bike and started pedaling like a maniac. Surprisingly, the Austin course is known for being very hilly and in places quite challenging. The “Hill” part of the Texas Hill Country moniker comes into play in this area of the state. All was going well until I had to head down a steep grade and make a sharp right turn and immediately head straight up. Every year folks come off their bikes (or head into the bushes, equally bad) on this corner so the race officials are there waving frantically at us to SLOW DOWN. I never want to slow down. The next bit is up, and I want momentum. So there I was, heading into the corner of death when my fingers (yes fingers...ok brain) decided to forget how to change gears. This hand-finger coordination breakdown resulted in a complete stop…at the bottom of the hill. Yuck. I had to get off the bike to fix the gears before I could get back on and move on. Maniac pedaling aside, I thought I had messed up the bike leg too.
Who knew? I was so wrong. Look at my time.
Official Time 39 mins 56 sec Avg Speed 18MPH (Previous best 44:11 in 2007)
At the time, I didn’t know I’d had such a successful bike. I was still hopeful for a decent finish time so I didn’t mess around getting back to my transition area to start the run. Whoosh again.
Official Time 1min 17sec (Previous best 1:32 in 2008)
Run: 3.1 Miles
Did you know that the run portion of the Austin course is almost entirely run on grass? No bouncy asphalt for these ladies. To add to the energy suck of grass, and in Texas fashion, it’s hot, very hot. The run portion of this course is hard and there’s no other way to describe it. You’re on a narrow grass course heading up and down hills (yes, more hills) and dodging the blazing sun by trying to stay in as much shade as possible.
As I started the run I still felt pretty good. I knew however, that the last ½ mile of the race was going to require a long uphill slog to the finish line. In preparation for the final push I’d asked my sister Lucy (who did the race with me in 2007 and knew what I was in for) to wait for me at the bottom of that last hill. I told her she had free reign to say anything to me that would keep me running. Conquering that hill was the last mental and physical obstacle I had to overcome.
As I started running I was worried as I hadn’t seen Lucy earlier on the course. I didn’t think she’d made it. My fortitude was waning. I turned the a corner around mile 2 and heard a faint “Go Jo Jo!” behind me. I quickly looked back and saw Lucy waving frantically at me. “See you at the hill!” I yelled and kept running.
I can still see the hill in front of me when I close my eyes. You can’t see the top when you’re at the bottom. Everyone around you is walking and moaning. I had a secret weapon, Lucy was there. She started yelling at me and didn’t stop. Ahh…sisterly love was at an all time high at that moment.
Official Time 32 mins 15 sec (Previous best 34:59 in 2005)
Finish Time: 1 hour 41mins 28 sec (Previous best 1:48:08 in 2005)
Yes! I beat my best time by 6 ½ minutes. What excites me more is I did this with several major issues on the course. Next year I plan to beat this number again. I’ve set myself a goal of finishing in the top 25 women in my age group. Can I call myself an athlete then? Stay tuned to find out…