To know pain is to really know pleasure.
To know disappointment is to really know triumph.
To have some “meh” races is to really appreciate the good ones.
There is no real dramatic story here. I didn’t spectacularly fail. I didn’t injure something. I didn’t crawl across a finish line. I’ve never done a July race before, and maybe it’s just not my month. Maybe you just have a limit of races you can crush per year, and I’m saving mine for later. Couples was race 13 for the year, and maybe it was just unlucky 13.
Going into Couples, I was both excited and sorta …eh… The exciting part was I got to race with my Zliten (triathlons are usually split in age and gender specific waves – this one was by what sort of couple you were so we started together with all the married under 70 combined couples), and I was going to get up mother fucking carnage hill this time. Meh, because it was at Decker Lake, which is not my fave, and double meh at the run course on grass and sticks and yuck.
We never really got the race woogies. We just kinda did our thing. Set up the gear. Practice transitions the night before. Pack all the things. Neither of us could sleep, and then finally when we DID fall asleep, it started pouring which woke us up. I was working off ~4 hours of sleep which was NOT working for me. The normal tea late in the AM made me functional, not amped like normal.
We got there, racked our bike as close to bike in/out as possible, hit the portas, got the rest of the stuff out of the car, and set up transition. What was going right was the early morning forecast said 70-85% chance of rain, but as the sun came up it was apparent that wasn’t going to be the case. Sunny, and almost no clouds in the sky. Yay, no rain. Boo, no clouds, so it would be hotter.
We did our normal run warmup, slow out, race striders back, and went to finalize transition and I realized – CRAP. My shoes were muddy (*%&$ sticks and grass course!!), so I couldn’t do my norm of shoes on top of my visor and race belt. I spent about 5 minutes mucking with different configurations and finally extended my towel a bit and placed things a little differently. Zliten was laughing at my neuroses, but I have a plan for a reason, dammit!
We headed down and got a practice swim. OMG bathwater!!! I don’t mind it so much (gimme 85 degree lakes over under 70) but for some reason I associate Decker with cold because Rookie is always frigid. We got out, walked around, found our tri friend Brian and our friend’s friend Elle and said hi, and then things were about to kick off.
We had discussed how weird it was going to be for both of us. Zliten usually starts in one of the first waves (it usually goes open, under 29, then him), and I’m anywhere from slightly after halfway through, and in Pfluger, I was actually second to last. He is used to, on the bike, getting passed by all the people. I am used to maybe 2-3 gals with Project Rudy helmets and 10k$ bikes passing me and me passing all the rest of the people. Our wave was just about smack dab in the middle, so it would probably be a combo of both.
Then, we were on double deck, then deck, then in the water, gave each other a kiss and hug, and got our swim on. My focus this year is slowly increasing my swim intensity, to find the line between paddling along and redlining and blowing up, as well as being more aggressive around other swimmers. I think I did well at the latter, at least, as I didn’t break my stroke every time I was jostled or touched. I swam over a few people that were being obnoxious and backstroking or breaststroking in my way. I concentrated on being long and big and confident, and came out of the water feeling like I kicked ass at the swim. I picked up my sandals and then I heard Zliten say something right behind me. Holy crap! I expected to beat him by a bit on the swim.
Swim Time: 21:57 for 800m (for contrast, see my 750m swim + transition below – something was WAY off)
We jogged to T1 together and I had to wait on him just a little, but really quickly we were off on the bike. All went as planned.
T1 time: 3:58 (a little slower than normal)
This is where we started to realize that triathlon is really an individual sport and it was challenging racing every step of the way with someone. He was off like a rocket on the bike, I took a while to clip in and get my legs going, so he slowed. Then, a mile in, I’m off like a rocket charging up the hills and passing all the people, and I had to take it easier after a while because I was losing him. This was the theme of the bike. One of us would get ahead (usually me charging a hill but sometimes Z) and then slow down waiting for the other to catch up. It really effed up the mojo. I race my ass off on the bike, get to redline huffing and puffing, take a second to recover, and then do it all again. It was weird to hit recovery, be ready to go, and then have to wait.
Six miles in was carnage. After last weekend’s torture ride, I was certain I could do it. I turned the corner as fast as I dared, and shouted my battle cry of ” CARNAGE IS MY BITCH!!!!” (yes, out loud, I’m sure my mother is proud) and got out of my seat and tore that hill a new one. My proudest moment this race was not walking up this stupid effing hill.
However, as I’m going, I see Zliten slip off his bike. I was not able to see to what extent. I couldn’t deal with it, so I got up the hill, and unclipped, expecting the worst, having to go back down the hill and wait for him to recover. As soon as I unclipped I hear GOGOGO! That badass fell on a steep ass hill, his first wreck (his paint job has some major road rash), got back on the bike from a standstill, and got up it. Yeah. That rocked.
I remembered the second half of the course was rough, but I overestimated (I thought it was hill, hill, double hill, but it was only hill, double hill), so I got up the last hill and thought I had one more to go and was pleasantly surprised to be done and in good shape. And then I coasted. And coasted more. ….and coasted more. No Zliten. Then Zliten zoomed past me, and I took it easy to the finish like normal where he was pushing and wondering why I dropped back.
Bike time: 42:11 for 11.2 hilly miles- 15.9 mph (4 seconds faster than Rookie – LOL)
We got into transition and I had issues racking my bike, and he had to wait as I did the shoe switch. “Do we really have to do this run now?” I said? For some reason, I was just ready to be done. I swam strong. I got up carnage. Isn’t that enough for a workday? I guess not, because he said, “No, go go go…” and off we went.
T2 time: 1:46 (not too bad)
The run was equally awkward going together. I get my legs a little faster than he does. After the initial shuffle getting my race belt and visor on, I was ready to start cruising under 10s. Zliten was not. He kept talking about staying under 12s and I was like NONONO under 10s but it was not to be. I stayed just a little in front holding my pace back. Then we hit a hill and the “under 12s” became 9:30s. YOU DON’T ACCELERATE UP A HILL DAMMIT. He flew ahead, and then what goes up, must come down, and I flew past him because he had…slowed? I mentally just got mad at the day, at the course, at not being able to run my pace, at Decker, at hills, at sticks, at the hot, sticky day.
My mouth became not of me, but of a sailor. When I race by myself, I often mutter a lot of cuss words under my breath. Well, racing with someone who is trying to talk with me, I started saying a lot of them louder than I should. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck this course, fuck the sticks, fuck the hills FUCK THIS MOTHERFUCKING COURSE”. Yeah, I did that as some random dude ran by and giggled at me. Then I looked at Zliten and said “TALKY TIME IS DONE” and shut up and ran. I am a JOY to run with, let me tell you.
My ankles started hurting as we got ass deep in the sticks and twigs and rocks part from landing unevenly. I cruised on the downhills and chugged on the uphills and made it a goal to just stay within sight distance of Z instead of running with him as we continued the passing dance. About mile 2.25 it turned, and it was sticks and twigs and rocks and uphill as far as the eye could see. I knew the hill lasted pretty much until the last quarter mile of pavement, which was still uphill.
I just lost it. On a fucking sprint tri 5k, I started walking. In my head, our run time was already just awful, so fuck it, why bother chugging up that hill? I walked a bit, then ran, then I saw Zliten ahead of me walking so I ran to catch up with him, and then he starting running and I said “fuck that, I’m walking” and we walked up the stupid hill. He tried to get me going again sooner, but I was done. We had already screwed the run. I made us walk to the aide station, and got water, and saw the pavement.
In MY HEAD, that was time to make the shit up and I took off running like a bat out of hell to the finish, but Zliten asked me to slow down (apparently he was not ready to run Olympian paces), and we cruised into the finish line.
Run time: 33:27 for 3.2 miles (10:26 pace) UGH UGH UGH UGH.
Total time: 1:43:19. Double UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH.
Ten minutes slower than Pf for BOTH of us. We both had really underestimated how rough it would be to essentially have to account for both of our weaknesses together on the tri. I’ve cruised the Rookie run both years at 9:30-ish and really didn’t think that adding an extra mile would screw with my mojo as much as it did.
Mentally, I am happy with how I handled it. I didn’t need the win that bad that day. No bawling in the bathtub. I’ve been hitting my run paces well off the bike in training, so I can write that off as just a sucky course and a weird day. I beat carnage. I still have no idea how my swim was that slow, but it is what it is. I improved my bike pace (by seconds), even with the oddity of trying to stay with someone, and while it wasn’t magic like Pf, it was a solid day at the races. We showed up and got it done. They can’t all be unicorns and rainbows. And, I got to do it every step of the way with Zliten – even though we both agreed we may have been able to eek out some extra minutes solo – it was super fun to keep him in my sights all morning! 🙂
Then, around 6am that morning, I figured out that I had wrecked something in my shoulder, as I woke up IN PAIIIIIN. Four hours of sleep Saturday plus less than 6 hours of sleep Sunday = UNHAPPY grumpy melodramatic Quix.
I posted things to social media like:
“Tired at the core of my soul today. And my shoulder and neck are out of whack. I want so badly to take painkillers and sleep.”
To which some tweeps gave some some undeserved sympathy, as some lunch and less than half a cup of regular octane Earl Grey tea fixed me. I don’t usually bend to the will of caffeine, but I had a very important work meeting, and I realized how out of it I was when I got on the microphone in front of the whole company(200 employees) like I do each Monday and rambled and lost my train of thought. I recovered, but I knew I had to do SOMETHING to fix my leaky brain.
Even though I felt better, I knew that I shouldn’t use my chemically fueled awakeness, and decided to bail on my 2000 yd swim and weights anyway and just rest. Zliten was awesome and rubbed my shoulder and cooked me dinner and I zonked on the couch and relaxed and got great sleep last night.
However, one of my worst race day fears was realized as I woke up this morning, and it was that one day of the month I want to curl up in a ball and die. And instead of that, I was to have a hectic and mentally challenging day at work, and then RACE right after. Yeah, I was really into that idea retaining water, completely fatigued and run down, and rife with CRAAAAAMPS. Plus, my shoulder was still a little owie. Then the weather said it should be around 96. Yeah, please, anything but a splash and dash….
I got through the day aight, but felt the ache pretty bad this afternoon. I decided my attitude going into it was going to be that since I was already in pain, I’d be used to pain, so the extra pain wouldn’t matter, right? That was to be my silver lining.
We got there, got our chips, set up transition, did a very short warmup run in which I felt pretty bleh, and then got in the water and warmed up the arms. The good news of the day was I felt AWESOME in the water and my shoulder had decided to play nice. I decided that I wasn’t going to let myself off, and my goal was 38:11, at least one second faster than I did last month.
The dudes were off, and then 3 mins later, so were we. I decided since I felt great in the water, I wanted to really push the swim. I focused on drafting off ladies that were going about my pace, but sprinting past them when I felt like I had it. I felt more confident and strong in the water today than I ever have. When ladies got near me, I didn’t get flustered, but I either got around them, or swam over them (whichever was appropriate). I kept a really strong (for me) pace and worked on getting ahead of people.
On the way back to shore, my kryptonite happened again. Two girls were both slightly ahead of me, and squeezing me. Last time, I dropped back. This time, I held my space and started sprinting and got ahead of them instead.
Not going to lie, I was more out of breath at the end of this swim than the last, but I felt great about it, and while my run was slower (yeah spoiler alert, whatever), I don’t think it was because of what I did in the water.
Swim+ transition: 18:56 (19:09 last month)
I got out, transitioned, and got running. Last month, I was mentally in each step, pushing, looking at my garmin all the time, trying to keep my pace at a certain point. This time, I just didn’t quite have *that*. I more ran by feel, trying to keep my pace as low as I could, but I wasn’t doing the math and calculating and digging each and every second – I really zoned out a lot of the run and tried to keep the pain and tireds at a manageable level. I can remember what I was thinking almost every step of the last run. This one was sort of a haze, following one girl who was running just about my pace and just getting through the 3 laps.
Run: 19:37 for 2.05 miles (19:03 last month)
750m swim + 2.05 mile run – 38:34 total (38:12 last month)
I finished about 20 seconds slower than last month (my swim+ transition was 13 seconds faster, but my run was 35 seconds slower). Considering I could have described my mood and attitude as tired, shitty, exhaused to my core, crampy, bloated, braindead, pissy, dramatic, and NOT WANTING to do anything but curl up on my couch, I’ll call that a freakin’ win even though it wasn’t.
Tonight – one more great night of sleep and sleeping in, and a mellow 40 on the trainer tomorrow, and then Thursday resumes normal badassery and ramping up for the half IM.
They can’t all be winners. But now the eggs are all in the Kerrville basket, and the rest of these are just playtime. So onward and upward (in amount of miles, certainly).
What is your worst race day (or work out day) fear?