The subtitle of this one came to me as I was biking – as I *yipped* for the third time when I felt like my bike would get pushed almost sideways by the wind. Then this song got in my head. They (the wind) see me cyclin’, they hatin’. Gustin, they try to get me ridin’ sideways…
So yeah, if you can’t tell, it was NOT a perfect day. Wind made the usually calm lake full of white caps. The riding sideways thing mentioned above, coupled with a mean headwind at times, both on the bike and run. Somehow, on the run course, I never caught a tailwind. It was wicked hot (over 80 at the start, probably upper 80s at the finish). I ran out of water. It was TOM time and that’s NEVER optimal for a race. I’d been nursing some owie hips this week. My last workout before the race? I had to walk it in, almost crying due to digestive issues and pain. I’d had various minor injury tweaks. Work and life have been a beast and I have not trained as hard as I wanted to.
But guess what my friends? I still freakin’ conquered that course. My goal? Around 1:40. My time? 1:40:36. Age group place 22/52, Overall Female 116/300. Almost in the top 1/3rd! Righteous! For someone that last year was just happy not to be last, I feel like I’ve improved a LOT.
Now, there are two ways I could take this. There’s the negative way, berating myself for missing my goal time by 37 seconds. However, I’ll chose to be both stunned that I was able to predict my finish time within 1 minute, and excited that I was able to take some majorly non-optimal course and situational conditions and still frakkin rock.
The timing chips crapped out so all we have are overall times, so I can’t dissect each section, but here’s a bit about how the day went, and sharing my advice to any newbie tri folks with my not-so-pro tips!
Woke up, and had gotten a good solid 6 hours, I think this was the most awake I have ever felt for a race this early. And early it was – alarm time was 4:30. Youch. Pre-race dinner of steak, taters, salad, and bread settled well (I don’t know why I ever deviate – this is the one thing that ALWAYS gets me through a race). Got to the race, got racked (it was open racks so Zliten and I got to bunk with each other, which was SUPER nice). Decided to hit the bathroom and then had a quick jog to warm up. Not-So-Pro tip: bring an extra old pair of shoes with you that you wouldn’t mind losing. That way if transition closes before you can get a warm up, you can use that pair and stash them somewhere else (car, behind a table, etc).
Found our du loop friends running transition, then found an ex-coworker who was also doing the tri, and then found our other du loop friends. I decided that it was time to get in the water and swam a little bit of warm up. It wasn’t quite bathwater but pretty close. It was nice to get a feel for the chop before being thrust in it for the race. Not-So-Pro tip(s): swim out a ways away from people and pee there. WAY shorter than the porta potty line. Oh yeah, and DEFINITELY get a warm up swim. You’ll be ok without a bike and a run, but if you get into the water without any sort of warm up its a shock to the system. If it’s going to be a cold day, bring something to put on over your suit and wait until the last possible minute to get into the water, but it’s worth it.
Zliten was in wave 4 and I cheered him off and then waited the 22 minutes until mine. I spent the time reviewing my transitions. Cap off, goggles off, put in hand, get flip flops, run to transition. Shirt on, sock on, shoe on, sock on, shoe on, camelback on, helmet on, sunglasses on, garmin power on, garmin on wrist, grab bike, run it out. Then I started going over the race in my head. I decided to start on the inside but towards the back on the swim. I decided to take it easy on the swim. Rock the transition. Go hard on the bike, hope my legs remembered how to rock the hills. Rock the second transition (glasses off, helmet off, glasses back on, grab sweat bands and run out). Push the run as much as I could.
The conditions may have not have been perfect, but my head was on straight for sure. That’s major. Not-So-Pro tip: DO THIS. Being mentally prepared and centered rocks.
Starting on the inside in the back worked pretty well. Also, the swim start was MUCH nicer, minus the white caps. I ate water once right away and had to breaststroke a few while I coughed, but soon I settled into a good rhythm. Pro tip: in choppy water, breathe to the side away from the wind. Also, roll more onto your back if you need to get a breath. I decided to take it easy, and while I wish I knew my split to verify for sure, I don’t regret it. I finished up the last 100m practicing my transition in my head, and I was barely winded at all when I started the run to transition.
The 1-2 mins I may have been down by taking the swim easy, I’m pretty sure I picked up in transition. Again, without splits I don’t know for sure, but it can be characterized by “According to Plan”. The only thing was I ripped one pin putting my shirt with the race number on it, and I just let it be. I ran my bike out, mounted, and headed out. Not-So-Pro Tip: Practice Practice Practice your transition. Take a day on your taper week that’s off, set out your gear, and do it at least 10 times. Do it until the point where you can list the steps in your head without stuttering. This 1-2 hours can take more off your time than working for a whole year on your run or swim.
The wind definitely started picking up. On the flats and downhills, I was rocking 18-22s. In the headwinds, I sometimes slowed to 12-15s. The first 3 miles were fast. The second 3 were not. Then some rollers, some wind, and some decent slight uphill stretches. I kept pretty close to the 16mph average, but I was losing ground. However, around mile 10 we got onto a frontage road and got a nice downhil, folllowed by a mile and a half of flat/super slight uphill. I got up to around 25 mph and kept it for almost 2 miles. That was probably the best 2 miles of biking I’ve ever done. I felt like such a freakin’ rockstar.
The last 2 miles were a bit uphill, but I was riding high on adrenaline and kept a decent pace. Not-So-Pro tip: Don’t let anyone tell you that cycling on a stationary bike at the gym doesn’t help your biking. I’ve improved about 4 mph average in the last year simply by learning how to climb hills and strengthening my quads. You have to ride outside on what you race on for sure, but some cyclist act like those miles are worthless. They SO aren’t.
Observation: headwinds suck, but sidewinds are worse. Riding on super light bikes is great until you feel like a gust of wind could knock you over. Zliten actually caught air on his bike flying up around a corner and was fractions of an inch from being a puddle on the ground, but he didn’t even miss a beat and kept pedalling (his rockstar moment).
Dismounted feeling STOKED, ran the bike in, racked it, helmet off, and grabbed my sweatbands and was off and running.
I did this exact run course about 1.5 months ago and had a just under 9 min/mile pace. I was shooting for what I thought was a modest 9:30 pace. Unfortunately, it was not modest that day. I took off running and tried to settle into a pace but the race started with a very slight uphill and RIGHT into the wind (which might has well have ratcheted the incline up a few percent) and I looked down at my garmin and was shocked to see 10 and even 11 min mile paces at times. I passed Zliten on the run, talked a bit, and then took off. After I turned to not quite be heading into the wind I was able to pick up the pace a bit, but still, 9s and 10s, whereas the last run was 8s and 9s.
This was my least favorite part of this race. The headwind parts always seemed to come while I was on the uphills (they were slight, but didn’t feel that way). I was out of water in my camelback and the water stops were warm. I never felt like I settled into a decent pace. The day was just starting to really burn up. I simply did what I could. Not-S0-Pro-tip(s): if you’re overheating, keep your palms cool. I run with my camelback and just constantly drip water onto my hands while I run. Also, if you have a real camelback, it’s VERY insulated. Don’t make my mistake and just fill it with ice thinking it would head up enough to make water. Warm water is much better than ice and no water.
I ran it in to the finish, pumping my fist, accepted my post race water bottle and ice pop (OMG, best finish line nomms ever – I came back for 2 more), and walked it off while I looked for Zliten. I met up with our friends, then ran him in, and we celebrated together and cooled down and cheered on more finishers.
Then, of course, we got a 27 dollar pizza (our fave) and drank champagne and enjoyed a Sunday feeling awesome!
Aftermath and future plans:
Swim – Going to continue to swim, of course, but I’m going to stop worrying about getting much faster. This worked well taking it easy as a warm up.
Bike – I’m just thrilled. I am guessing around 16.5 mph. Going to continue to work both outside and inside on hill workouts and spin class. I think I have the most to gain here this year.
Run – More outside runs. More bike/run bricks. Speedwork. Heat training. HILLS HILLS HILLS. Lots of work in this area.
Today though, the order of the day was REST. My body actually felt relatively awesome – I wasn’t hurting or sore during/after yesterday, and today I’m barely feeling it.
Now, a bit of a break. I don’t plan to do another tri until late summer/early fall, and while there may be a few 5ks here or there, they’re all for fun. It’s time to reset, rest, make sure the injuries are fully healed, and get stronger and leaner in preparation for fall. Also, it’s too damn hot.
So yeah, great race. Ridin’ sideways, but flying high.