Monday, May 25, 2015

Island Lake Triathlon race report: Feeling strong but a weak showing

Spoils of war.
The best word I can think of to sum up this race: Bummer.

I thought I did well on each leg. I was feeling strong and keeping steady paces. I had an eye on the clock, and I was coming into transitions a few minutes ahead of when I told my husband to start looking for me.

But when the final times were posted, I saw that what were decent times for me still weren't good enough to finish even in the top half of my age group. Ugh!

Where am I?
Pre-race: This race always sneaks up on me. It's early in the season and on a Saturday, so I always feel I am scrambling around Friday night to prepare. I remembered at the last second that I needed Body Glide and Tri Slide. My husband was doing some house projects Friday night so I just stayed in, ate a few extra carbs, prepped my bottles and laid everything out.

We were up pretty early on Saturday to eat and head out the door. I never, never, NEVER leave the house at the time I want, so I am always annoyed I am running late. But we got to the race site about an hour before the race start, and that still gave me plenty of time to pick up my packet, get marked, set up transition, use the ladies' room, suit up and even get in a decent warm-up swim. (I've done either the sprint or the Olympic version of this race about a half a dozen times so I know the routine by now.) The water was reported to be high 60s and the air temperature was high 40s.

Swim: The water was cold but not unswimmable. I had a silicon cap under my latex cap and silicon ear plugs, and I was fine. We counted down and the horn went off! I did OK in the swim, although I kept swimming into others. I got a breaststroke kick to the side WAY too early in the race. When we made the first turn, we had to sight directly into the sun. That was probably the worst part of the race. More than a few times I had to stop and shield my eyes so I could see where I was going. I only got a little panicky once when I got disoriented, but I tough-loved myself back into a groove.

I swung a little too wide on the second turn and found myself alone, but I was more annoyed that I was wasting time than anything. The third turn back to the starting buoy was the best part of the race because the sun was behind us and I could see where I was going! I tried to make up for some speed here. Back around, back directly into the sun, a few stops to shield my eyes and sight, and finally the final turn and a straight shot to the finish. I tried to pick it up again. Touched bottom three times, stood up and waded in.

My final time was 34:46, a personal WORST for this race. However, all three of my times were within 0:58 of each other. So, at least I'm consistent? I know I lost at least a minute to losing my way in the water and having to stop to get my bearings because I couldn't see the damn buoys in the direct sun.

Bike: T1 went pretty uneventfully. I put on a long-sleeved shirt, which was challenging while wet, but I had made sure to grab a stretchy shirt and that made it not quite so ridiculous. Wetsuit off (I did notice it was slightly easier with the Tri Slide), socks and shoes on, glasses on, gloves and helmet on. I had packed a thin hat to wear under my helmet but decided to forgo it, and I was fine without.

I ride this course almost every weekend during the season so I know it like the back of my hand. But what I DON'T have to deal with every weekend is a few hundred other riders, most of them whizzing by me. I did the best I could up the hills, tried to take advantage of the downhills, etc. I had to slow down a few times to avoid drafting. The first lap was crowded but I knew the second would be less stressful since there are never as many Olympic racers as sprint racers.

I had taped two Gus to my frame with electrical tape; I know they say not to try anything new on race day, but ripping one off with the top still attached to my bike worked like a charm. I had my own Powerade a few times and some water after my Gu but nothing else. I couldn't avoid a stick in the path and screamed an expletive but went over it without crashing. I apologized to the rider behind me but she just laughed. I also zoned out once and veered right off the road!!! But magically I was able to get back on without falling. My bike handling skills are nothing to write home about, but those two incidents made me feel a bit better about my progress.

I was keeping an eye on the clock on my CatEye and was sure I was set for a PR. I was disappointed to see at 1:31:35 I was about three minutes off. It was a slightly better time than what I did last year, but the second WORST time in my age group. While I'm always happy to break 16 mph, I calculated that winner had done 19.8 mph!!!!! How is that even possible?!?!? I had thought I was feeling good and just ended up so depressed that my "feeling good" is still my age group's "second worst."

I still have a lot of work to do on the bike.

Run: I actually had the second-best T2 time for my age group: helmet off, visor on, gloves and bike shoes off, slip into running shoes, off I go. The run is my jam; I got this!

Except that it was already starting to warm up and my stretchy long-sleeved shirt was feeling way too hot. I told myself, "You don't have to kill it, just be consistent. Consistency will pay off better than intervals." Up the hills, through the grass, over the bridge, around the turn: consistent running. I only stopped to walk through the water stations.

I successfully picked off quite a few people although I didn't see anyone in my age group. Back to the finish line for the turnaround and I could NOT believe I had to do it all over again. I had to slow the pace once or twice as I approached puke threshold. It wasn't that I was going that fast; it was getting warm and I was ready to be done. Up the steep grass hill. Down the path. Over the bridge again. I started counting down from 300 to distract myself. Finally, the final stretch! There wasn't anyone ahead of me so I skipped the finish line sprint. Waved to my yelling husband. Crossed the finish line. Didn't barf. Got some cold water. Caught my breath.

My form isn't terrible and my calves look ripped!
I wasn't expecting a PR so I wasn't disappointed to see a time of 53:22, an 8:36 pace, about what I was shooting for. (My PR is 52:03, an 8:23 pace.) And, it was about 2 minutes faster than last year. BUT, again, although I thought I pulled a decent time, it was still only good for fifth in my age group.  I calculated the winner's pace again and it was 7:27-minute miles. Seriously?!?!? However, the winner was an outlier; the next four of us finishers ran within a 1:35 span. Knowing that I can hang with the second pack helps dull the disappointment a tiny bit.

Overall: 3:03:59. I didn't break three hours. I didn't podium. I didn't show as well as I would have liked. One word: Bummer.

I do take a bit of comfort knowing that at least I finished three minutes faster than last year. The first race of the season is always kind of a wild card. If I look at my logs, I swam, biked and ran in the times my training would suggest. Of course I'm disappointed I didn't do better... but I felt strong the entire day and have a better idea of what I need to work on. (Everything.)

I'm taking a few days off training to enjoy the long weekend and then it's back at it.

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