Monday, September 20, 2010

Summer’s End

This weekend marked both our last outdoor agility trial of the season, and the last open water triathlon in Michigan this year.  It made for a busy weekend, trying to get in our final chances for summer fun before the daylight and weather change push us inside, or to other outdoor activities, until next year.

On Saturday, we entered Maebe and Django in their first USDAA-sanctioned agility trial at Pontiac Lake Recreation Area.  Django was entered in just three runs during the day, but Maebe was entered in seven(!) classes, as they were offering both tournament and titling classes that day.  We hadn’t actually registered for all the classes, but were put on a Pairs team anyway, so we went along with it.

USDAA was a fun new experience, if a bit hectic.  We enjoyed the high level of competition, seeing some elite dog/handler teams, and having the chance to really push and challenge ourselves.  On the other hand, agility trials are often busy enough when you are only entered in three to five classes in one ring.  You have to make sure you have time to review and walk your courses, warm-up your dog, run, cool the dog down, let the non-competing dogs out to stretch, work a class or two, etc.  With Maebe in all the classes and in both rings, we were kept busy trying to monitor all the action and figure out where to be when.

The trial seemed to be running long, and by late afternoon, Lowell and I finally got to sit down together for half a second, and realized we were both about ready to drop, and were both getting anxious about getting home in time to prepare for tomorrow’s triathlon.  So, we did something we almost never do and scratched from the last two runs of the day.  Django only ran one Standard course (which he did nicely but with one dropped bar),  but I knew he’d be just as glad to get home to kitties and his Jolly Ball.  Maebe ran nicely, but was jumping 22 inches for the first time in competition (she jumps 16 in every other venue).  By her fourth run, I thought her jumping style was getting sloppy and she seemed to be tiring.  We decided that though we’d had fun and enjoyed the day with the dogs and friends, the best use of our time at that point was to head home, pack for the tri, walk the non-competing dogs, and get some rest. 

Back at home, we pulled crates out of the van, loaded up race bikes, and packed our transition bags with our wetsuits, water bottles, bike and running shoes, and other gear.  After a nice moonlit walk with Tristan and Cade, we got to bed early, hoping we’d feel well-rested by the time the 4:45 AM alarm went off.

I woke up feeling pretty decent physically, but dragging mentally.  From the weather map, it looked like we could expect rain and 60-degree temps throughout the race, and I had visions of shivering my way all the way to the finish line.  But, as we began our drive to Stony Creek and the sun started to creep up, the morning proved to actually be a nice one.

We checked in at the race, set up our transition areas, and then familiarized ourselves with the course layout.  Looking out from the beach house over the swim course, I was quickly reminded why all the effort is worth it:

stony creek beachMy dad came down to the park to watch the race, so after slipping into our wetsuits, we visited with him for a few minutes before it was my wave’s turn to enter the water.  Even with a wetsuit, 65-degree water is COLD.  Once I caught my breath and acclimated though, the swim went great.  Probably the easiest tri swim I’ve ever had – didn’t get kicked, punched, smacked, or elbowed once, and was able to sight straight lines between each buoy.  I was out of the water before I knew it.

The bike portion was fun for me as always.  It was made more exciting when about a quarter of the way in, I was passed by a woman in my age group.  This was the first woman to pass me on the bike leg at any tri this year, and I wasn’t going to stand for it long, so overtook her again quickly.  I held the lead again until about halfway, where we had another back-and-forth, but this time I pulled well away from her. 

The bike course was on local roads and was open to traffic, and about 5K out from the finish, a group of us got stopped at an intersection for a few seconds as a car was turning.  Shortly afterwards, my rival passed again.  For a second I felt disheartened and figured I was running out of steam to hold her off.  Then I remembered the delay at the intersection, realized that was why she caught me, and decided that I was ending this season with my record intact – that no woman was going to pass me on the bike leg.  I pulled ahead and held it this time.

She and one other woman passed me pretty shortly into the run, but after that I held any other women off.  After the initial “brick” feeling caused by the bike-to-run transition wore off in my legs and feet, I felt pretty good and ran strong to the finish, having fun the whole way. 

I ended up finishing just off the podium – fourth in my age group.  I was 14 of 77 women overall, a finish that I was quite proud of.  My 5K run time was as good as my best 5K straight time ever, even after a tough bike. 

So now we transition to a few trail races, orienteering meets, hikes, and mountain bike rides through the changing leaves, and indoor agility for the next several months.  It felt like a great opportunity this weekend though to get those last events in, and when we collapsed into bed early Sunday night, we were exhausted but content that we had made the most of summer.

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