Last year, the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon was all rainbows and unicorns.
This took my nerves and expectations to a new level because what should have been a fun little local triathlon to sharpen my speed skills 2 weeks out of my first 70.3 of the year grew to this behemoth of “this is what I’m going to measure myself against” somehow by Saturday.
I realize this is stupid. I’m glad I was able to let go of that before I heard the airhorn go off. I sliced those unicorns that taunted me to chase them into steaks. and grilled em up for breakfast. This is not an A race for me, there is no magical self worth by PRing this specific course, and it certainly isn’t going to do anything for me going into BSLT.
Last year I was doing tons of speedwork, sprint/olympic distance workouts, and at that point was completely healthy. This year, I’m at the tail end of cramming a last-minute base build coming from almost zero real training for a month of being injured, with a knee that is sketchy at higher speeds and a newcomer to the party, an angry lower back/butt muscle on that side. So, totally, the same, right?
How did I fare? I’m making you read the whole report this time. So settle in.
We did the normal steak/veggies/salad/bread food for lunch and played cards with my parents in the afternoon. We did the not so normal thing and bickered the whole way home (seriously, we never fight). Zliten was annoyed at some things and incredibly hungry, and I was in MAJOR pain in my glute/back and also incredibly hungry, so I finally told him we needed to just shut up and stop it and resume after we ate. Dinner was mac n cheese and pb toast, and I snacked on some watermelon, and then we got over ourselves and were fine.
Then, we got back to normal and practiced our transitions, packed everything into the Beast, drank sleepy juice, and headed to bed and I slept pretty well (though I only got about 6 hours).
I woke up around 3:50 (10 mins before alarm) and iced my back and knee and rolled and massaged to get everything in as solid shape as possible. I ate my normal oatmega bar and sipped tea and could not poo minus a little consolation poo right before leaving. Consolation poo is the worst!
We got there a little past transition open at 5, but still got a good spot on the rack near the front near bike out. I love this tri because it’s open racking, so you don’t get stuck somewhere weird that you hate because you’re in a certain age group, and that Zliten and I can rack together. I also love that it’s the tri where we usually see the most of our tri friends. R and his wife run the transition here, and it’s always awesome to see them all morning.
I forget what happened where, but there was real, non-consolation poo that made me so happy I almost tweeted about it but decided against it, a warmup run, setting up transition for real instead of just claiming a spot, almost forgetting my cap and goggles in transition as it was closing, and then a warmup swim. This was the longest swim warmup I’ve done, probably about 400m, which I believe would ultimately be a good decision.
We hung out with our buddy B and his mom for a while, and then sent Zliten off to get in his wave and cheered loudly for his start. Once B lined up, I went to swim out and waited for Zliten. It was hard to judge his time since I couldn’t see a race clock and the later waves got delayed due to a buoy malfunction (which apparently he was just crossing as it floated away so he was even involved), but he got out looking pretty winded like he swam his ass off and I guessed and told him about 13 mins.
Since B was starting right about the time Zliten got out, I waited around and cheered him in too. I also saw JB, so I stuck around and cheered in her husband J. After that, I realized I just had a little longer to wait, so I sat down for a bit. The nice thing about cheering people in is I didn’t have a whole 40-ish minutes to get into my head, so I felt relatively calm. Between all that as well, I ate one cliff caffeinated chomp and a whole package of sport beans. Eating right before the tri last time worked out well for me, and this time things were even settling better today. Good deal.
So, FYI, there is a lot of pre-race here because I WAS IN THE FUCKING SECOND TO LAST WAVE of five million waves. I actually can’t wait to get older next year to move up to 3rd to last. I’m just putting that out there. It’s an extra degree of difficulty on this tri for younger women.
Finally, finally, my wave was up, I lucked out with a spot on the inside about 2 back, the horn went off, and the swim was on.
I really suck at sprint swims. I really, really don’t feel like I can even get going for the first 300-500m of a swim and guess what? That’s a sprint. I took a two pronged approach to fix it this year – a) longer warmup, though it being an HOUR before my wave kinda sucked, and b) just planning to HURT. I went out fast and hit 100m gasping for air. The goal was to hurt, not to drown, so I dialed it back just a little bit and my breathing got better. I couldn’t tell exactly, but I thought I was in a decent position for my wave. I passed my first pink cap (the wave in front) just a bit before halfway, and kept passing them so I figured I was doing pretty well.
The second half, I settled into a good pace and just tried to keep it in the uncomfortable zone. I didn’t get passed by my first white cap (the last wave) until about 450m in and only a few got by me. I swam until I touched bottom, got up, high kneed my way out of the water, and headed out to transition. The timing mat was further away than I remembered last year (it’s about a tenth of a mile from shore to the stairs down to transition and it was almost at the stairs this year).
My biggest victory? I didn’t break my stroke if anyone jostled me, I swam continuously and pushed the pace hard, and I sighted incredibly well.
Time: 11:45 (2:21/100m). Shows as 9 seconds longer than last year but considering how much Zliten and I both have improved in swimming and we were both longer than last year, I’m going to entertain the thought that the buoy malfunction caused the swim to be a little long.
All went as expected. I felt a lot of that transition gravity but I fought it pretty well. Having JB cheering me on helped. I’m beginning to think I might want to go without some of my creature comforts on a sprint (camelback, gloves, put garmin on bike not on wrist, etc) but the miraculous thing? Exact same T1 to the second from last year. Apparently I have my system down.
Time: 2:53 (same as last year)
I got going as expected and had no problems clipping in. I had even remembered to set my bike in middle middle gear like you’re supposed to on a sprint with a pretty nice flat start, and put a chew in my mouth as I checked time of day. I was exactly on pace to hit my 1:30. Then, I said “on your left” for the first time. I would continue to say “on your left” at least 300 times. You see, starting second to last wave, behind all the older gents and ladies, means you have the majority of the race to pass. Morale boosting? Sure. Aiding in motivation to push and go fast and giving you time to just crank and zone out? Not so much. When you are dodging and weaving around so many people, it’s hard to keep pushing, to not tuck in and take a rest. Sometimes you HAVE to tuck in just when you got your mojo going because it’s either slam on the brakes, hit the lady on a huffy bike riding in the middle of the lane, or get hit by a car.
A few miles in, I realized something was REALLY wrong. The wind was fairly brutal, but I was pushing hard, and passing the crap out of people, and I looked down and my garmin an it had me at an average of 15 mph. What what whaaaaaaat? How am I sucking so bad? I checked my gearing and I was where I normally ride, I forced myself to get extremely comfy with riding around obstacle in aero to cut wind resistance, but the number wouldn’t budge. I mean, Zliten and I ride 15mph easy rides on the hillier parts in worse wind. I decided then it was time to ride by feeling, and that feeling had better be pain.
Just in time, my knee started hurting when I pushed real hard. Brilliant. Not the pain I was looking for, not at all. So, I just resolved myself to have the worst bike split of my sprint tri career (ignoring the first one on my old Schwinn), and figured I was just going to push myself just to the line my knee tolerated, pass people, and practice aero. I rode one stretch of approximately 1.5 miles completely in aero, jammin out, passing at least 20 people, finally feeling like good things were happening. Then I looked at my garmin. 14.7 mph average. What. the. fuck.
I finally noticed a few things: a) we were a lot closer to bike in than I expected b) the mile markers seemed way off, I saw mile 12 and my garmin said 10 and c) time of day agreed with me – I wasn’t nearly as far off the mark as I thought. I rode the last 2 miles in as hard as I could saving my knee and dismounted (another slow flying dismount) without incident.
Time: 46:27. 18.1 MPH. Oddly enough, instead of my worst bike split ever, it was my second best (and my best was on a super flat, zero wind, perfect temperature course and only .3mph better). Would I have ridden so fast with a working garmin? Or faster? Good question. However, I’m sure my head may have been a little more positive with one. To do better next time: more eating. I ate 4 chews total because of all that shit that was going on. I finally just sort of put the honeystinger chew bag in my mouth around mile 10 while I rode in aero and got a few out and had to say twice with my mouth full “on your left” so I just gave up. Who needs food in a sprint anyway?
Just wanted to get out to the run as fast as possible. At this point, I still had a shot at a PR, even a sub-1:30 depending on which legs showed up, and I was going to give ‘em the best chance possible by not dilly dallying. Again as T1, exactly the same as last year. I’m not sure how I could do much better, I have this one down to the bare minimum. True flying dismount leaving my shoes on the bike? Running faster? That’s about it…
The legs I wanted did NOT show up (I kinda got the hint when the knee started hurting on the bike but I hoped for the best). I got up the hill and started going and wow, everything hurt. My back, my glute, my knee… so I immediately made the call to switch from pace to my FUCK IT screen (time of day, current and average heart rate) and run that way. I didn’t want to spend the whole run looking at my limits, I wanted to push them as far as I could without injury. Slowly, things started to feel better. My back loosened up. My knee just felt tight not hurty. It got tolerable around the mile 1 marker, so it was time to see what I had.
What I had was not as much as last year. I still haven’t looked at the splits, but I know what my HR was 178 average over that run. Once it got over 180, I’d pull back just a bit. Once it got to 175, I’d speed up. I got to that really uncomfortable place where I just had to turn my head off as much as possible and keep going. It helped that I’ve run this trail like 100 times, so I know exactly what’s next and how close I am to the finish. I didn’t save anything, I just kept running steady, trying to do math with time of day, and in the home stretch just accepting it was what it was and ran into the finish strong.
Time: 30:18 (10:06/mile). It was a little disappointing to be 2 minutes slower than last year, but considering last year’s run was almost an out of body experience and this year my injury was definitely a limiter, plus no running speedwork to speak of since 10/20 – I’ll take it.
Total Time: 1:32:44. Last year was 1:32:12.
At first, I was a little miffed that I missed last year’s time by so little. Could I have found 33 extra seconds on that course Sunday? Maybe. If I ignored my knee twinges, but who knows how badly that would have ended? If I had a working garmin on the bike? If I started in the earlier waves (it was less windy on the bike and less passing people)? If I pared down my T1?
However, let’s think about it this way. Last year, this was the race of my life – my best put together race all year, the one of which I was most proud. My head clicked. I executed. Many other ones, I completely fell apart at some point, so this was a huge victory. This year, I’m less than a month back from being cleared to run 1 mile, and in 2 weeks, I’ll tackle the beast which is BSLT, which has kinda been the focus of my training, not PRing a sprint. I’ve put together some solid mental game for each and every race so far this year. The sole reason I did not smash this PR is that while my knee is just fine with long activities, it’s just not ok with speed. Give me that 2 minutes back on the run I had last year, and I’d be talking about how I just missed breaking into the 1:29s.
My placement (besides that run) was much higher as well. I was in the top 1/3 of my gender, top 1/2 of my age group, and just missed top 1/2 total. That “terrible” bike split got me 8/33, or top 1/4 in my age group. If I could have done that 1:30, I could have moved up to about 8th overall out of 33, and 1:23 (out of my reach right now, but give me a year or two…) would have got me on the podium.
All in all, a solid race. Again, same as last year, I put together efforts I was proud of on all 3 legs, plus you can’t get any better than the same transition times to the second. I would have been overjoyed to have this 2013 race in 2012. This year, I’ll nod and smile a pleased smile instead of jumping up and down about it, because all energy from now on is being conserved to expend in Lubbock in… ulp… eleven days…
Mentionable note: Zliten crushed his 1:33 from last year and did a 1:31. Yep, he beat me. While it’s arguable whether starting 34 minutes before me and not having to dodge and weave half the bikes in Austin, plus the less wind on the course might have given him an advantage (hey, just mentioning it) – he beat me by a minute. I’ll give it to him. There he is above looking all badass running (on the right).