Sunday, March 05, 2006


.... a LOT more.

Well. What first?

OK, first off:
Medal: didn't happen. Medals went 3 deep per age group (duh, gold, silver bronze) and I got beaten out for bronze by a 50-yr-old. However, I got the pretty green 4th-place ribbon you see above on my shirt. And Kathy, the bronze medalist, pulled me up on her podium with her for the photographer.... just like that Canadian girl in the Olympics.

Flat tires: Didn't happen. Not on my bike, anyway. But it did on the truck on the way there. Ran over a big metal staple in the Circle K parking lot where I'd stopped to ask for directions. Pssssssssssst..... More on that later.

Time of 1:40: Didn't happen. What did happen was... .... ..... drum roll, please... ... ... 1:22:37!!!
I think this is a PR. I don't remember exactly what my previous sprint times were but they were in the neighborhood of 1:40, I'm pretty sure. So I am totally thrilled with that. And I busted my ass getting it, too. I was getting very tired on the bike, I'll tell you that.

Swim (pool, 450 yds): 12:01 by chip, 11:38 by my watch. I stopped my watch when I got out of the pool; I guess the chip registered when I ran over the transition mat.
T1: 3:17 by my watch (not listed in computer printout at race.)
Bike 20K: 36:56 by my watch (41:23 by chip, which must have included T1 time.) Average speed 17.6mph, a PR in itself as my best average speed in a race (have no 12K rides to compare my time to.)
T2: 1:22 by my watch.
Run 5K: 29:14 by my watch, 29:23 by chip, not sure what that difference is -- not enough to be explained by transition.


I had allowed an hour and 45 minutes for the one-hour drive, got lost a good 3 times plus the flat tire, and stumbled running and crying to the bike rack at exactly 8a.m., which was the starting time of the race. However, in true senior-style, everything was in slow-motion and there was still a line a mile long at check-in; they weren't anywhere near starting. The pre-race meeting didn't start till 8:30. Then the swim went off in heats, 2 swimmers to a lane for 18 laps (9 out-and-backs) with the oldest age groups going first. Many of you have probably observed 70-and 80-yr-olds swimming laps. It was a long wait. One old geezer was swimming with a snorkel. When we got to the 60-yr-olds things started moving faster. I was in heat 5, but got to swim in heat 4, because someone didn't show, there was an empty spot, and they asked for any Heat 5'ers who wanted to go. So I went. The man with whom I shared my lane kept whacking me with his hand, arm, shoulder, etc. He was faster than me but obviously not used to sharing a lane. I stayed close to the lane rope to give him more room and hit my lap button on it, which may also account for the chip-and-watch time discrepancy. Every time I got to the end where the lap counter sat, she yelled, "Good job, Ellie! Smooth, Ellie!" etc.

Bike was unremarkable except that I kept my computer set to the AVG setting and kept trying to up it. The course was 4 5K laps. At the end of the first lap I had averaged 16.5, second 17.2, 3rd lap 17.5, last lap 17.7, but I went down to 17.6 slowing down for dismount and transition, since we had to go around a little roundabout and then dismount. No flats, falls, or anything untoward. One guy crashed, not sure what happened but he described sailing over his handlebars, landing on the front of his helmet (which showed it), rolling (major road rash on both arms, both lgs, both knees, both shoulders, both shoulderblades, both sides of his ribcage in back.) Bent his aerobars. Got his brake cable wrapped around his crank, somehow... looked weird but he was able to get back on his bike and finish the race. (Yeah, but what was his time?) I didn't get it straight what he'd had to stop for, I think the biker in front of him stopped b/c someone had yelled "Stop!" at an intersection (probably the cop stopping traffic). Anyway, he and his bike got battered and he will need a new helmet. Thank God for helmets.

Run, also, was unremarkable, except for trying to keep my pace, which I couldn't gauge because there weren't any mile markers and it was a loop course. First time I ever really wished for a ForeRunner. The finish-line announcer was a girl about 11 years old who yelled into the mike, "Good job, Number 75, um... good job, um....(checked list quickly) ELLIE! Good job, Ellie!"

And now, the rest of the story, starting with the flat. I got out of the truck at the Circle K (the Southwest version of Sheets, 7-11, or Wawa) to find out where I was and hoped fervently that the loud hissing sound I heard was coming from an air compressor or something in the van parked next to me and not from me. But it was me. Left rear. Big staple-nail clearly visible. I was already late by virtue of being lost. So I got really unsatisfactory directions and moved my truck out of the parking spot over to the side of the lot under a dim street light (still dark out.) I dug in the glove box for the owner's manual since this was this truck's first flat and I had no idea where everything was stowed. As I was flipping pages and checking under the back seats, a run-down looking man with a backpack emerged from out of the blackness and said, "You like rock and roll music?" I pulled my head out of the truck and said, "Excuse me?" He said, "I got rock and roll CD's, I'll sell you one for $10." Oh great, now I'm going to get mugged. I said, "Really, no, I'm lost and I'm late and I've got a flat tire, but thank you anyway," in a tone that said, "Get lost." But he brightened and said, "You got a flat tire? I can change it for you, I worked in a tire shop." And he started checking out my tire and I thought, whatever help I can get. Son of a gun, he went right to the jack and the irons and knew how to use the anti-theft spare-tire key release (I'll bet!) and he went right to work. I lamely tried to help but he needed no help, obviously knew what he was doing. I used to change a tire on my Aspire in 10 minutes without even tearing my white nurse's hose or soiling my uniform, but the truck was a different story, the tires weigh more than our trailer, and I hadn't done any dry runs like I did with my bike before the Ironman. I was just about helpless. So I said, "Well, I need to run back into the store, I'll be right back," and I locked the truck (feeling guilty about that but you never know) and went in and got money from the ATM because I wanted to give him something and only had about 8 bucks on me. I stuck a 20 in my sock, put my wallet back in the truck, locked it again, and helped him roll the spare to the left rear and rolled the flat to the back of the truck (I couldn't lift it into the truck bed though.) He finished up, hefted the tire into the bed, tossed all the tools in with it, saying, "You're in a hurry, you can put these away later." I thanked him and held out the 20, saying, "Let's pretend I bought a couple CD's." He thanked me and accepted it. I unlocked the truck and he said, "I think I left my hat on the back seat on your passenger side." Oh great, here it comes. The old "I think I left my hat inside your truck" gag. I locked up again and went and unlocked the passenger side and just opened the door a crack to look.... there sat his hat on the back seat. Oh, great, the old leave-your-hat-in-the-back-seat trick. I slithered my arm in just enough to get his hat, gave it to him, and closed and locked the door. I felt so awful with all that locking and re-locking, because he could see me doing it, and he'd just bailed me out of a hopeless situation and probably saved my triathlon, and I'd given him twenty bucks, but.... you just never know. He left, saying, "Good luck in the race."

An angel?? If so, did I treat him right? Did I pass the test? Be hospitable to strangers, for many have entertained angels unaware....

I went the direction they'd told me in the Circle K but after about 5 miles I was sure I was wrong. I went into another Circle K. It was light by now. It was after 7:00, the time I'd hoped to be racking my bike. I was sure I still had at least 40 miles to go. A lady started saying, go left here, right there, east here, it's a long way, you'll come to Tempe and then Chandler.... I said, "No way!! I just came from there! Mesa, actually... I need to go WEST, not EAST!" Oh!! So she started over and a man got in on it and finally I thought I knew where I was going, roughly. But the road they'd said didn't go where they said it would. Because after about 5 miles it was closed. There was a detour sign. I followed the arrow. There were no more detour signs. I thought, Lord, I got sacked from that hike, so I decided to do the triathlon, and when I missed the registration deadline, someone pulled strings and got me in. I had a flat and a mugger came and fixed it. I am supposed to go to this triathlon, obviously. If you have in mind for me to volunteer at the finish line instead of racing, then that's the way it is. But I really really would like to do this race.... I turned in the direction that I thought would take me back to the highway past the closure. And took a wrong turn. Ended up in Nowheresville. I was listening at the time to a country station on which Carrie Underwood was singing, "Jesus, Take the Wheel." Maybe I had turned too soon.... maybe I need to go farther west, yeah, I went farther off the road than this..... so I turned west and while I was waiting for a light, got a look at a 3-way road sign and saw that the one I wanted was in fact right there, except I had to make a right U-ie at the light to get to it, so I did. It was 7:40 and I had no idea how much farther it was but start time was 8:00. This is a lesson. What the lesson is, I'm not sure, fear not, only believe, and I switched the clock radio back to show the station rather than the time, since knowing the time was only going to make me more frustrated.

Sun City RV.... Yay, I'm in Sun City!!! I'm here!! Welcome to Sun City, says the sign. Thank heaven. road by the name of the one I'm looking for. Must be farther on. Farther on is a sign, "Welcome to El Something...." Whatever it was, I had driven right through Sun City. So I had to keep going because there was nowhere to turn off to go back. So I kept on going and thought maybe I'd help cut up orange slices or something. Whatever they needed me to do. It was 7:50 (couldn't help looking at my watch) when I saw I was passing through Sun City West.... well, for heaven's sake, that's what I want! It's somewhere around here! No road by the name I need, though. Oh, come on, quit messing with my mind.... pulled into another convenience store and asked, "Where's North Remmington?" They looked like I was blonde and said, "Right across the street, through that entrance, the only Remmington around here is past the golf course." So off I went. It was 7:55. Was there still any chance? If I wasn't in the first swim heat, maybe they could sneak me in under the wire like Roxie had for my registration.... there's the parking lot, it says "Welcome Senior Olympics," I pull in, FIND A SPOT RIGHT NEXT TO THE BIKE RACKS, pull my bike and bag out of the truck, run stumbling and crying to the racks as described above and the rest..... well, the rest is what I've already written, how everything went absolutely perfectly and had I taken another half hour to get there I'd still have been OK.

I still remember missing the start of the Gasparilla Bay Marathon because I was in the loo with the runs. Running up the empty street hoping to catch up with the last runners, hoping I'd be timed because the chip mat had already been turned off by the time I made it out of the porta pot, the first person I caught up with was a woman who had also started late because she'd been saying goodbye to her family in the parking lot for too long. I was winded from trying to catch up and worried that I wouldn't be timed. She told me what I needed to do was call 1-800-SKY-DIVE and jump out of a plane like she had. She said if I did that I would never ever spaz about anything again.

But I did catch up with the other runners and my time did count. Today everything that could have gone wrong getting there went wrong (except I didn't crash), but I wasn't late and everything went off smooth as silk.

It just goes to show.


Tammy said...

Yeah... I get to be the first one to say... CONGRATULATIONS ELLIE!!! *throws confetti in the air* Way to go! :)))

As for the 'angel', don't feel bad, better safe than sorry. And you were very generous.

bunnygirl said...

Wow, what an adventurous day you had!

nancytoby said...

Congratulations!!!!!!!!!! That's fabulous!!!

Maybe, um, print out a map from Mapquest or Google Maps next time? That's what I usually do when going to new race sites!!!

Running Jayhawk said...

WOW Congrats on shaving that much time off your previous PR. I am so impressed. Way to go :)

Vickie said...

Hey, great job! I can't believe you didn't get at least 3rd with that kind of time. I wish they would have had that event when I was there. Sounds fun!

Don't you just love those kind of pool swims, when you get beat up before you even get a chance to get going? At least no crashes or flats (on the bike).

I don't blame you for being leery of the guy who changed your tire. I would have felt the same. Like you said, you never know, although I would bet you could have done some damage to him if he'd tried anything!

jessie_tri_mn said...

OMG the stress of arriving at the planned start....

Nice recovery from a hectic morning!

What an awesome race! You rock, Ellie!

nancytoby said...

I was wondering if you were going to wear that shirt - Comm said you did!! Cool!! I wish I was eligible to join you at Nationals.... next time, maybe.

Fe-lady said...

Congrats Ellie...I had no idea you were staying long enough to do this race too! I had it penciled in on my calendar, but had other committments! You did the race and with the "angel"...don't be so hard on yourself for just being cautious!

Downhillnut said...

It just goes to show that you never gave up. I think GETTING to the race was harder than racing it, but you didn't give up! I admire your persistence, Ellie.

And even if your tire-changer was an angel, I think the angel would be relieved that you were not being careless. Makes his job easier.

From Here to There said...

Ellie, you are awesome! I can't wait to read the full report, but my oh my what an adventure to get to the race! I would have reacted the same with the 'mugger'. You never know, little girls disappear everyday, and you don't want to be one of them.

Onto the race report!