Let’s be real: I don’t love racing in offseason.
Generally, during offseason, my race helmet is reserved for protecting me from falling off the couch.
Especially THIS part of offseason where I’ve just mostly finished being broken, and I haven’t yet had time to build anything yet. Ironman took a lot of physical recovery time, and I’m still working with some muscles that don’t exactly want to do what they should yet. I’m working with a brain that’s starting to warm up to the idea of being a triathlete again, but I also am struggling with the motivation to put together 5 hours of training in a week. And this is all totally fine until you throw a race into the mix.
I like to toe lines when I feel fit and fiery. I like to stack my training, block by block, to create my fortress. I like to dig my well real deep. My tendency is more towards building a skyscraper that topples over or hitting a water pipe while digging too low, and not that overtraining is good, it’s not, but I really enjoy trying to find that edge. Right now, my well is about two inches deep and my foundation is just starting to be built again. Be this as it may, it’s Lake Pflugerville, which is my husband’s favorite race, and a lot of the BSS team would be there. So, in the interest of fun, camaraderie, and showing my lack of fitness to hundreds of people, I was in to play some triathlon!
We did the normal things you do the day before: pre-race swim, packet pickup, eating a turkey sandwich for lunch and chicken, rice, veggies, and a salad for dinner. We watched a movie. We practiced transitions in the living room while packing up our stuff. Oh, and we test rode about 5 different mountain bikes and came home with one we found on SUPER closeout sale. What? You don’t do that the day before a race? (oops)
Food and bikes, the stuff of life…
I couldn’t sleep too early (my brain just doesn’t shut off at 9pm these days), but I slept SOLIDLY when I did for about 7 hours, and waking up wasn’t too hard. I ate half a sunbutter jelly sandwich on wheat toast and drank a coconut water en route to the race. All the pre-race things went as planned, except one weird moment about 20 minutes before my wave started where I felt super sick for about 3 minutes and then magically it passed. I was just about to eat my caffeinated gel before that happened and I abandoned that plan and stuck it in my tri top for later. I may be kind of underfed right now, but the last thing I need to do is shove too much in my stomach when it’s already doing flip flops.
I made my way over to the beach, and in moments we were in the water, and I actually did a good job positioning myself near the front. I found some feet for a while but then they were going faster than I wanted, so I ended up in fairly clear water for most of the way out. Some people were talking about the chop, and I’m usually the first one to
complain about notice those things, but I didn’t.
Except for the sighting mistake on the way back into the sun that landed me almost in the middle of the lake, this one kinda went like clockwork. I passed lots of different colored caps and I swam into the beach as far as I could. I nailed the effort, every year I swim something with an 11 in the beginning, the best 11:10, the worst 11:40, and this one came in at 11:38 which is fine. 6/11 AG.
Ouch ouch ouch ouch pebbles hurt my princess feetsies (picture care of our tri captain, Claudia!).
Also, pretty much like clockwork. I didn’t have any weirdness or fumbles, but I can tell offseason has made me a little more tenderfooted than I’d normally be around this time of the year, so I was a lot slower than normal running barefoot. I was a little slower than my worst at 2:57 (by 4 seconds), but I also didn’t get the normal pimp spot right by bike out. *shrug*
We got going and I drank gatorade and sat up the first mile because the roads are extra super crappy and then noticed my speed. I was holding 22 mph average. This made me ecstatic until I remembered that I’m not *THAT* strong of a cyclist and if I was flying sitting up pushing almost no power, the back half (majority) of the course was going to be a bitch.
A girl and I were riding together (legally) and she kept going straight at a completely unmarked/unmanned corner and I followed her, and then two people behind us yelled at us to turn around. While it might have only taken ~30 seconds, it totally killed my momentum and we both swore about it for a bit as we u-turned into WHOOOOOOSH! A wall of wind. Ugh.
Instead of worrying about pace I started paying attention to my heart rate and it was staying around 165 average, which is probably just as high as (or higher than) I’d like it to be. My level of effort was probably a little below I know I can race a sprint at, but since I’m relatively untrained right now and my heart rate is pegging itself very very quickly, I decided to be safe rather than sorry.
And honestly, it’s not like I was on a pleasure cruise. The effort felt hard, but I know I’ve pushed that race harder. And I know I’ve held more than the ~150 watts doing it. I found another friend and reason to use my ping pong paddles back and forth with on the back half of the course, and Ironman has forever distorted time for me because it was all over in a blink of an eye and I was dismounting my bike while I wondered what happened to the rest of the ride.
The good: 3rd in my AG/11. I got in a really good pocket where I had very few complaints about the course being crowded and people being annoying which is normally the majority of my race report on the bike here. Also, I only got passed by ONE of my BSS teammates, and it was almost near the end of the bike. The bad: my heart rate was higher than watts, and this is a pretty weak pace for me. Not my worst, but not my best. And I should be crushing my previous bikes with my new TT bike. Total time was 44:47, which is technically a PR, but the course was shorter by a mile, so it doesn’t count.
Everything here also went like clockwork. It’s 4 seconds slower than my worst at 1:46, but also, I was not in a primo spot on the rack. We slept in a bit instead. I’m going to say 30 extra minutes of sleep vs a few seconds in transition for a D priority race was worth it. 🙂
Before, during, (no, not me running, but it’s representative of a thing I was doing) and after.
Here’s where the problem with offseason racing is for me. I made the decision to give myself some time away from running to really let myself heal up after the Ironman, and long-term-me won’t regret that at all, but short-term-me is going to be VERY whiny about it. My run fitness goes so downhill so quickly if I’m not training, it’s why I never quit running for more than a week or two MAX during offseason, and I know it’s going to be a long road back.
I didn’t even feel super gassed after the bike, but I got out on the run and someone had stolen my legs and replaced them with these funny appendages that wouldn’t move correctly and took a lot of effort to ambulate at any reasonable pace. Normally on sprint runs I’m cursing 10 minute miles and willing the garmin to show me 9s (and occasionally 8s), today I was lucky to shove the pace under a 12 minute mile.
I ate a gel right away since I couldn’t even with that while fighting the wind on the bike, and gave myself some time to let my heart rate settle to race effort, but the first mile split was 11:52, and my heart rate was staying pegged at about 174. At this point, that’s what I have to give, so I switched my display to just heart rate and cadence (which, of course, is also in the toilet at this point) to make sure I kept the proper effort (and also so I stopped seeing paces for the effort that made me think I was back running in Veil at 8k feet).
The wind was so strong yesterday that it actually affected me on the run, about a mile and a half in, I felt like we were running into a wind tunnel and I really really wanted to walk. On an effing sprint. I didn’t, but my pace combined with a headwind almost made me feel like I was running in place for a while. With only a little break, that wind continued to the finish of 3 miles in 32:34, or the pace in which I normally can jog an easy 5k, or 8th/11 in my AG.
We couldn’t manage to get a picture of the entire team contingent but here’s a bunch of us (picture stolen from Frank, our vice captain).
Total time: 1:33:44, for 5th in my age group out of 11.
On the surface, it’s not bad. I got 5th last year. I actually placed better in the bike this year. I expected to tank the run (not quite as bad as I did, but still) so that was no surprise. However, I had wayyy less people in my age group (11 vs 21 last year), so it’s a top quarter result last year vs top half (barely) this year. To add insult to injury, this is the Jack’s Generic course. I did 1:26 on that last year. This year, I would have been second in my AG and finally podiumed.
However, I spent my pennies on Ironman this year. I got to the finish and earned my M dot. I have to cut myself a little slack on not PRing the crap out of things eight weeks removed from that. That’s not how I work. I know this, but yet, I’m still letting it frustrate me a little bit before I get over myself in a day or two.
I think the most fascinating thing as a student of the sport and also the most frustrating thing as a highly competitive person is that my husband DOES work like that. He rocked out a great performance of 1:26-something and had his best AG placement so far (5th as well). He beat me on every leg (even the swim by a few seconds). At some point I hope things tip back to my favor (by me improving, not by him sucking more, heh) at least once in a while, but it’s cool to see him climbing the ranks in his age group to the point where he has his eyes on the podium someday soon too.
At the end of the race, I had resolved not to race Jack’s Generic in August. Why suck at something repeatedly when you can just NOT go? However, after consideration, I think I have an opportunity to put myself into a petrie dish and do an experiment since it’s the exact same course. I’m not willing to train a LOT over the next 7 weeks, but I am willing to focus.
What if I start going back to cycle class and doing more structured rides with other goals besides #happinesswatts and take FTP tests so I actually have an idea what sort of watts to hold? What if I actually do the running drills and do speed work and work on my turnover even if I don’t run much more than 10 miles a week? What if I actually take my toys back to the pool and do drills and actual sets instead of just paddling? What if I actually incorporate the plyometrics workouts in my week like I know I should? In 5-7 hours per week max, can I get back to a performance which feels respectable? Good, even? It might be fun to try and see what happens even if I’m not really ready to go all in on anything just yet.