Race Report: UCLA Aquath(al)on?

The quick version before I go back to bed:

Today was the first race of the official collegiate season. Evidently, that one in the fall was a fake-out, or a warm-up, whatever. Today’s was an aquathon (or aquathalon—disputing opinions) at UCLA.

I was kidding around with one of The Kids afterwards that if you could invent a race that I was going to hate it would have been this one. But, actually, I might not have been kidding. It was a 500m swim, mass start, around buoys in an Olympic-sized pool. This is basically my nightmare swimming scenario. It’s too many people and not enough space. Then, it was a very hilly 5K run, with everyone super close together and sprinting for the finish. Oh, right, and I still have a cold and couldn’t breathe good. Yay.

The swim was fine, though far from my best ever. (Notably, not my worst ever either.) I couldn’t breathe well, which was partially because I can’t breathe good right now and partially because people kept hitting me in the face. I swam on one of my teammate’s feet for a little while and then I decided that was probably annoying the shit out of her, so I tried to go around, but succeeded only in running into her.

I almost fell over pulling myself out of the pool and then I was sprinting onto the run, because THERE ARE PEOPLE TO RUN DOWN!

The run was painful and wheezy from the start, which was uphill. By the top of the hill, though, I could see the girls who had probably come out of the water first. They only had about 30 seconds on me and there was maybe a half-dozen of them spread out at varying speeds. There was a long downhill and I run downhills fast (generally), so I decided I was just going to have to go for it and hope that I could hold on. I caught some of them, but I could not close on the last UCLA girl in front of me. We made the loop at the turnaround and I felt like I was still running hard, but the gap was staying at about 30 feet or something.

Side note, here: I can never close the last little gap on people. There’s something about them being in front of me that screws with my head and makes me assume they must be faster than me, even if I’ve closed minutes on them. That last 5-10 seconds is impossible.

I started to think I just didn’t have it today. This was too short for me to really be good; it wasn’t enough things. I’ve been too sick lately. Perhaps, it is no surprise that, even though I was still running hard, this is when people I had passed started to catch back up to me.

I could hear one girl right on my shoulder as we started back uphill to the finish, and I was pretty sure there was another one right behind her. I definitely didn’t want a sprint finish today. (While I usually feel confident in my sprinting abilities against adults and the general triathlete population, against college kids today I did not feel confident.) So, instead, I tried to break her. Except, I did a really shitty job of it. I ran the long uphill hard, but I never made any decisive move; I just let her stay right on my shoulder. The effort was killing me too, which showed. You don’t really want it to show, if you’re trying to convince someone they can’t beat you.

We crested the hill and there was a short little downhill to the finish and I thought I had it. I started kicking hard. I came around the corner, but then, oh no, there’s another corner to go around! It’s another 150m! And, I just couldn’t hold it. She kicked past me. In the end, the UCLA girl was just steps ahead, and all four of us finished within maybe 15-20 seconds. But, this isn’t horseshoes or hand grenades, right? Close doesn’t count.

This is where I THOUGHT the finish line was. But, it wasn't and that little girl passed me like five seconds later.
This is where I THOUGHT the finish line was. But, it wasn’t and that girl passed me like five seconds later.

Basically, that is everything about how not to beat someone.

And, then, anyway, it turned out there was last year’s national champion like a minute ahead of us, so oh well, anyway.

Obviously, I was all worried that I got in my head, that I could have found 10 seconds somewhere, that I need to toughen up. Could I have gone harder?? But, then I thought about right after the finish, when I was seeing stars and wobbling and coughing things up and snot was everywhere and I decided: No, I was pretty messed up at the end, that was probably as hard as I had today.

5 thoughts on “Race Report: UCLA Aquath(al)on?

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