Races come in all different flavors. Some, like Warrior Dash, Hell Run, Urban Dare, Keep Austin Weird, are more about the beer and the experience and the fun, and they just happen to have a finish line. Some are for the shirt (See Jane) or it’s sponsored by work (Casa) or a race someone else picked out and you agreed to (Rookie). It usually doesn’t take much arm twisting, I’m happy to race distances I’m comfortable with at any time (sprint tri, 5k, 10k, etc), but it doesn’t mean I’ve put in the training to really kick it’s ass.
Some races, though, are the ones you designate an “A” race. Some races you spend 3.5 months training for without the distraction of other races, simply zooming in on the goal of absolutely CRUSHING your PR and dominating the course. Not just rolling the dice to seeing if your number comes up, but attempting to stack the deck with so many aces by training your heart out, there’s no possible way your athletic gains can’t be recognized with a shiny new PR. Sometimes it works out (Rock and Roll San Antonio 2010), sometimes it doesn’t (Gladiator Games 2011, Austin Half Marathon 2009).
That was this race for me this year.
Please indulge me a race report probably longer than the race itself. I went back and forth trying to edit it down, but to be honest, I love reading long, detailed race reports. Getting into people’s heads, histories, tips, techniques, and living vicariously through their experiences… I love it, so you might love it too. If not, and you just want to hear about the race itself, it will be up soon.
I put in 3 months of solid training for this sprint tri, just working on getting faster, especially at the bike, by punishing myself with hill work at least once a week in the gym, and doing a speed/hill workout once a week on the run. I didn’t do as many bricks (I was averaging 1-2 per week last year and even earlier in the season, later I dropped to one every 2-3 weeks and not all outside), but let me tell you – a 10 miler w/a fast 5k at the end simulates tired legs well, to the point where bricks felt EASY. Double duty workout = rawk.
I also did lots of volume – we did lots of 20-35 mile bike rides, and I did 6 double digit runs in the last 2 months, and put in the same amount of work I did to get to the Olympic last year, even though on race day, I would be swimming only a third of the distance, biking 11 less miles, and running only half as much.
I stacked the deck, for sure. But I still took a gamble training up for a half marathon at the same time and working on those long bike rides. I’ve never thrown this many miles at a short race before.
If your eyes glazed over from all that, please be assured my point is this. I trained really fucking hard for this one, and put my eggs in one basket. By signing up for the last sprint tri in the area of the season. No chance for redemption.
No need though. I absolutely obliterated that course. Dominated. Conquered. (We both did, actually)
I’ll save you a long diatribe about the journey there and the expo and the night before except to mention a few things:
-Staying at the offical race hotel if the start line is a block or two away is so awesome. The expo, our hotel room, and T1 was within a block of each other.
-We checked out the run course and noted that of course, the tricky part was in mile 2, where I have the most trouble. Lovely.
-Pre race dinner at the hotel was just about the worst filet mignon I’ve ever had in my life, and my cut was at least 2000% better than the one Zliten got. Still, chewy steak is steak and it’s much better race fuel than pasta or anything else I’ve tried.
-If you ever have sleepy troubles before a race – half a can of Drank put us both out like a light and I woke up 7 hours later rarin’ to go.
-I must be spoiled. It was the nicest hotel in town and all I could think of was hmmm, it’s been a long time since I slept on anything that wasn’t a pillowtop mattress (but it was fine, see above).
The morning of, I woke up with the alarm at 5:30, and found that my back was markedly better (I’d been dealing with stiffness and some pain this week), so that made me happy. I was still full from the night before, so I decided to go without a breakfast bar, but I swigged a coffee honeymilk (I took half right when I got up, and half about 30 mins before the race). Good thing I had checked the forecast, because I saw a low of 57. Considering we’ve been lucky to be below 80 before that, those numbers seemed pretty much like nonsense to me, but packed for it. When I poked my head outside it was super chilly and felt exactly like it did the morning of the tri the same weekend last year which I was unprepared for..
I was very very glad I brought a long sleeve shirt and pants and extra shoes and socks (and told Zliten to do the same – he actually had purchased that ensemble as a joke for a halloween costume last year, so it may have not been pretty, but it worked). We did our warmup run with them on and, in fact, I didn’t want to take them off. At all. Luckily we were able to rack our bikes the day before and as I mentioned, we were staying at pimp accommodations, so we were able to get a warmup run around the hotel grounds, grab the rest of our stuff to set up, and walk the block over hitting transition about 30 mins before it closed.
Normally this is a no no, and we try to get there pretty close to when it opens, but to be honest, once you’ve secured a spot, that’s half the battle, and we were able to rack bikes in T1 and drop our bike to run bag off at T2 (which was 2 miles away) the day before. The only thing we had to do the morning of was set up the rest of T1, which took almost no time.
I made a few different decisions about gear/stuff this time. While I thought I was going to go sans bike gloves, my last 6.5 mile ride told me I’d much rather have them. Since I didn’t want to add to my transition time, I velcroed them to my bike and planned to put them on while I was peddling. Also, last minute, Zliten’s new ironman watch came with a bike mount which he didn’t want to use, so I snagged it. The plan was to leave it there on the bike and, obviously, put it on my wrist for the run. Also, since I had such a great run while fueling in between, I brought sports beans to throw in my sportsbra just in case I wanted nutrition.
The rest of my gear was the norm. I didn’t do a lot of actual transition practice this time but went over it a billion times in my head. Shammy for feet if needed, sock, shoe, sock, shoe, helmet, sunglasses, camelback, unrack bike and go. After getting briefed on how things would go down, I had to add “put all wet swim stuff and towel in swim bag”. Because if anything was outside your swim bag, it got donated to goodwill or thrown away.
This took all of… 5 minutes. And my goal was to turn on the garmin as close to transition closing as possible because I didn’t trust it finding satellites (since we were not at home, it took a WHILE the night before), so I had time to kill. I walked down to the water and took a look – the lake was GORGEOUS. It looked super clear, which made me happy. I was lamenting earlier that I just wished it was in Lake PF because it’s my favorite lake and I’m comfortable there and I was a little nervous about swimming somewhere completely new I’d not seen until the day of, but my freakouts were unwarranted. Although, the ramps they had to make to get us in the lake due to very low water levels were a little steep and scary. Thank goodness the start was actually IN the water.
I hit the porta potty one more time and went back to transition one last time. When they said 5 minutes to go, I shed my long sleeves and pants and shoes and reluctantly handed off my dry goods bag and turned on my garmin. It was not any warmer so Zliten and I huddled together and went back down to the water to have the pre-race meeting and I dropped off my flippie floppies near the lake exit. We went to go put our feet in the water and out swims a water moccasin. Awesome. Well, I’m pretty sure it was going to be more scared of me than I was of it, and I needed a warmup, so in I went. The water was soooo nice and warm. I swam out to the first buoy and on the way back, the national anthem started playing. I’m not sure what proper procedure is to not be rude while swimming, so I treaded water with my hand over my heart until it was over. I hope America understands. 🙂
I got out, and it was just about time to wave 1 to start (which was Zliten’s) so I gave him a nice big wet hug, secured a spot by the start, and screamed and yelled for him as the horn blew. I made friends with a few women who were shivering and assured them the water was warm. One lady I talked to kept questioning me about the distances in the race… uh… maybe people aren’t obnoxious as I am about knowing and training for every little thing but… really? There is a big difference between sprint swim distances (I’ve seen everything from 300m to 800m) and being prepared for one is not necessarily being prepared for the other. Other than that oddity, it was nice making convo.
The funny thing I realized at this point was… no pre-race nerves. Not just less, but none. I hadn’t really fretted about anything this morning, I had planned and trained for so long, and gone over it so many times in my head, I was just executing. I wasn’t jumping around with nervous energy. I felt very calm and zen the whole morning. I went over my transition plan a few more times in my head, got into the water, and then all of a sudden – the horn blew and everyone started swimming. If there was a countdown, I totally missed it. Treading water fluidly became freestyle and off we went!
Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week… just in case you were interested in the race itself…