Buffalo Springs 70.3 marked my 8th half-ironman. I seem to remember that I swore I would never be back to this race. But as an athlete, it’s hard to say when it’s really the end, because there’s always the desire to push yourself that ONE MORE TIME. With that said, I ended up at the Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon on Sunday for one last run for my money. I was coming back for revenge after the course broke me down mentally and physically on my first attempt. The race is held in Lubbock, TX in a Canyon. The swim is spring fed and traditionally wetsuit legal, but always boarderline. The bike provides 8 challenging hills with a lot of technical bike handling skills needed on the downhill switch backs (which I don’t have). The run has 3 challenging hills which I witnessed even some pro’s walking.
One thing I will say about 70.3 races, but this one in particular is that they are really intimidating. Everyone has a nicer bike than you, everyone is fitter than you and everyone looks more hardcore than you. It can really mess with your head if you let it. I walked into transition race morning with my $1,000 used road bike that I’ve had for 5 years to be surrounded by people with their $3,000+ tri bikes, fancy wheels and fancy aero helmets. I’ve done enough where I learn to ignore it, but damn it can be intimidating. I don’t know what these people do for a living where they can afford all of this stuff, but obviously I’m in the wrong profession.
I can’t figure out why this race attracts all of the insanely fast competition. Like stupid fast. Huge pro field and people literally from all around the world. It’s not like Lubbock is a great destination race. It has to be because it’s a Kona Qualifier, and because people want a challenge of racing one of, if not the toughest, 70.3 races in the country. Anyway, there were some hard bodies and fast people there. Made me want to lay off my Mexican food intake for awhile.
Pre- Race: Four a.m. came early as it always does. Iron Sherpa Dan and I got up and headed out the door of our hotel and I was feeling much less than confident. My legs felt surprisingly good from racing the Sprint the previous day, but I had major butterflies in my stomach. I knew this was going to be a difficult race and I just wasn’t sure how it was going to go. But we blasted a bunch of motivational tunes in the car and I was starting to get ready for the challenge ahead.
|Pre-race: 70.3 Miles or BUST!|
The Swim – 38:53 (2:01/100m): Last time I did this race, I swam very poorly. Here’s the thing about the swim at this race: the swim waves are huge. Like 150 people per wave. All of the women started together in one wave, followed closely by a huge group of men right behind us. Last time I freaked out and got pummeled in this swim, having to stop several times to regroup. I’m comfortable enough in open water right now, that I decided to throw myself right in the mix. I knew it would mean getting kicked in the face, pushed and likely swam over, but I knew I needed to swim more aggressively this time. The gun went off and it was chaos. I had situated myself somewhat near the mid/front of the pack which made me start out way too fast. My heart rate went sky high, I was having trouble finding open space where I wasn’t getting kicked, and my breathing was labored. Instead of freaking out, I stayed calm. I ended up with a great swim (for me) and for once, I did not have to sit up a single time to see how much further, adjust my goggles or stop for another other reason. My goal for the swim was sub-45, so I was ecstatic to see a 38 flash on my watch when I got out of the water.
|Goal: Swim like a fish, not a turtle....|
The Bike – 3:23:28 (16.5 mph): I knew going into this race the bike leg would be where my weakness lies. It always is. I hadn’t done many rides over 40 miles, and ridden ever fewer hilly rides, so I knew I would start to struggle the last 16-20 miles. I decided that no matter what, I would do what I needed to stay within my ability so that I could have a strong run. I didn’t want to get caught up in any of the draft packs and risk a penalty, so when people passed me, I let them go. I knew I could make up some serious time on the run if I didn’t kill myself on the bike.
My other goal on the bike was to make sure I was fueling properly and staying hydrated. This is where I always seem to struggle, but I can say this race I nailed it. I knew I needed to be taking in enough fluids in the heat where I would need to use the bathroom. Because if you are taking in fluids and don’t need to use the bathroom then you’re likely dehydrated. So the good news was I was taking in fluids and had to use the bathroom. And the bad news was I was taking in fluids and had to use the bathroom. Several times. This is where it gets gross. There was no way I was stopping and wasting valuable time to use the bathroom, so was only option was to pee on myself. And just FYI, peeing on the bike is harder than it sounds. And, you may think you would NEVER do that, but let me assure you, you get in that situation and you will do what you gotta do. Nothing like riding your bike in 100 degree weather covered in sweat and urine…and still having to run a half marathon afterwards.
On the last 16 miles of the bike, I was cooked.We had already climbed hill after hill and were now fighting a strong head wind the last 16 miles. Plus it was hot as shit. With about 3 miles left, we turned back into the park, and I saw Dan and my in-laws who gave me a boost to finish strong. I finished the bike about 8 minutes faster than last time.
The Run – 1:50:19 (8:25 avg pace): You can do hundreds of these types of races and still never know how the run is going to go. It’s such an unknown with so many factors throughout the day that will contribute to how that last 13.1 miles go. My goal was to stay steady, continue to hydrate (and pee on myself...yeah) and not hit a wall. I always run completely by feel in triathlons as to not get caught up in what the Garmin says. When I got on the run I had visions of the first hill which gave me such trouble last time. The first hill is at Mile 3, and it’s seriously like a freaking mountain. Luckily, Dan and my in-laws were at Mile 3, right at the bottom of that hill, and they gave me a huge boost that I needed to get up that bitch.
|Up the hill at Mile 9|
The first three miles I wasn’t feeling all that great. I was running steady but not sure if I was going to be able to continue at that pace. But, after the hill at Mile 3, I got some sort of second wind. I started to feel strong. I was passing people right and left (pay back for passing me on the bike) and I can proudly say I did not get passed by a single person on the run. My routine was to take a water and a cup of ice at each aid station. I would down the water and dump the ice down my sports bra. In between water stops if I would start to feel thirsty, I would jump grab the ice from my sports bra and eat it (gross, I know, but it worked).
There were two more big hills on the course, and I was able to power up them. I really could not believe how fast the miles were just clicking by. The course was an out and back, so I knew if I could make it to Mile 10, there would be no more hills, and I would get to see Dan and my family again. I made to back to them (and still smiling!) and knew I was close to a huge course PR and a sub-6 hour race. I put the hammer down (or as much as you can put the hammer down in a half-ironman) and squeaked in at 5:57:30, crushing my previous time of 6:22 and bettering my run time by 10 min.
|Headed to the finish line!|
The med tents were full with people hooked up to IV’s, but I felt weirdly good? It was strange. Usually after these things I fall to the ground practically comatose and unable to speak for a good 15 minutes, but this time I grabbed a water bottle and headed over to meet my spectators and chatted away. I wasn’t near as cooked as I expected.
All in all I feel pretty accomplished out of the race. It was good day, and I’ll take those when I can get them. Buffalo Springs is definitely a course that one needs to respect. It is a race that you go to experience the challenge, and I can now feel I can say I conquered “The Beast”.
|I'm done with you Buffalo Springs, see you never!|
A BIG Thank you to my Iron Sherpa Dan for driving me literally across the state of Texas, watching me race both days, standing out in the 100 degree heat and not complaining once. It wasn't just 100 degrees for us- the spectators and the volunteers were out there in the same heat, all day long. They were amazing!
I was insanely sore yesterday (which wasn’t helped by a 6 hour car ride home) but am feeling better today. This week will be a light recovery week for me before beginning marathon training for Baltimore next week.
Thanks to everyone for their kind comments, encouragement, good luck wishes and congratulatory wishes on the races this weekend. They meant a lot – thank you from the bottom of my sweaty and stinky heart.