When we talk about something somewhat unobtainable at work (figuring out an issue that only happened once, while Jupiter was aligned with Mars, and only while standing on your head), we tend to call it “chasing unicorns”. Very occasionally, you’ll catch them, but most often, they will elude you.
Well, dear readers, let me assure you that unicorns were caught this day. My mother, on facebook, asked what I was going to do with them, and I didn’t really have a good answer besides BBQ’ing them, but that was after bottle #2 of champagne. I felt kinda a lot like this…
Let me back up. Way up.
Last year, the conditions were a wee bit rough (wind wind wind), but I had what I thought was a pretty great race, with a time of 1:40:36. The timing company screwed the pooch and didn’t get any splits, so I can’t compare with that, but when I laid out what I thought I could do, I figured out that if I had an attainably perfect race (stringing together paces which were within my grasp, but just barely) I could swing about a 1:33. Realistically I expected to PR at least by a little, but I wasn’t sure how much that would be.
Things had been going right this week. The old bod, even though I still maintain an extra 5-7 over what I was at last year’s race, was feeling pretty good. Sore in the right ways from training early in the week, and with 2 days of active rest before Sunday, I was feeling rested, loose, and rarin’ to go. Also, my last training session was the best brick I’ve had in memory – 20+ mph on the trainer, and sub-9 minute miles off the bike both times. I was riding the confidence train pretty high into this race. I knew it had the potential to be magical.
These were my strengths going into this race:
1. Lots of form work while swimming. Better form = faster swims @ less effort. Long body, kicking as close to the top of the water as possible, breathing without lifting my head out of the water as much as possible.
2. Since this bike course isn’t very hilly (some rollers, it’s no pancake, but nothing epic), the constant effort on the trainers I’ve been doing is great.
3. Lots of mental training for the run. I’m trying to keep my enemy – the all out 5k pain pace – very friendly. Running really fast outside off the bike really, really helps this.
4. Practicing transitions really helps. I can’t stress this enough. This is the fourth sport people!
5. Having an actual nutrition plan. Eating on the bike keeps you from the despair point on the run.
6. This is now really my home turf. We train here all the time. I wasn’t sure if this would help with familiarity, or hurt me because it would be hard to keep the intensity up, but I do believe it helped me, indeed, to not panic.
Pre race notes:
-Eats: Saturday = Apple and milk for breakfast. Did the normal steak, veggies, salad, wee bit of bread lunch around noon. Little bit of ice cream for desert around 3pm. English muffin, cream cheese, and bacon around 7pm. Sunday AM = chai tea + milk upon waking, oatmega bar slightly after. Tummy happy. Pre-race nutrition success!
-Movement: last workout Thurs AM, active rest Friday/Saturday (seriously active Friday – I burned just as many calories as a workout day running a billion errands). Sunday AM – lots of walking around race venue (at least a mile or two). About half a mile warmup an hour before the race start – .25 EZ jog, .25 with fast striders with no garmin. 200m swim warmup about 30 mins before race start, mostly just getting the arms to work properly (water was crowded so I didn’t do too much too fast).
-Gear/Transitions: #1 Success was laying everything out, practicting transitions about 6 times, and then immediately packing it all up and putting it in the car. I knew I had everything I needed because I had just used it! #2 Success was getting to the race site right at transition opening, since I knew it was open racking, and we got the exact positions we wanted (as close to bike in/out as possible). It took away an hour or so of sleep we could have had, but it was nice to get to the race super early and have plenty of time. #3 Success was spending a LOT of time mentally going over and over my entire race plan.
Swim strong with good form. Swim in until you touch the bottom with your hand. Cap and goggles off. Pick up flippy floppies. Run to bike. Garmin, glove 1, glove 2, sock, shoe, sock, shoe, camelback on, camelback buckled, sunglasses, helmet, unrack bike and run. Bike strong. Maintain 18mph average if possible. Don’t tuck in somewhere and get comfortable and slow. Get in easier gear last mile uphill. Rack bike, helmet off, camelback off, gloves off, shoe on, shoe off, shoe on, shoe off, grab racebelt/visor and go. Change garmin to run mode. Get your legs under you while you put on the race belt and visor. Settle in below 10 minute miles. Get faster as you can. Push the pace. Don’t get about 10s even if it’s painful. You know you can maintain this pace, it’s about pain management. Save a little bit between 2 and 2.5 so you can accelerate to the finish.
My only complaints with the morning was that I got crappy sleep the night before (eh, race days, it’s hit or miss, and it’s hard to get a good night of sleep when your alarm is set for 3:30am), my wave was second to last (which meant it just got hotter and hotter while I waited to start, and I did have a last minute bathroom trip right before my wave (no big d though – especially since my wave was so late).
So, let’s get to the actual RACE report, shall we? 🙂
I sent Zliten off in the 3rd wave, and our buddy Bacon off in the 5th, and did said trip to the potty, and then came back just in time to cheer Zliten out of the water. He looked a little scatterbrained, and later, he said that having me cheer him on helped him focus and get his head back. Yay! I kept reviewing my race plan in my head until we were called to be on double deck, and shut off my brain and joked around with the ladies around me that we had one of the smallest waves (weird). We got in and I decided I would go for the middle and see how that fared. The start was actually past the point where I could stand, so as they counted down, I started breaststroking towards the start and just about hit it when the air horn went off.
I concentrated on my stroke form. Usually I have a good idea of where I am in the swim wave, but this time I was so focused I had no idea who was ahead or behind me unless I could visually see them/bump into them. Can I just say I REALLY hate backstrokers and breaststrokers? If you can’t be buggered to learn the proper stroke, then stay to the outside please… I’m not a terribly aggressive swimmer but each race I’m getting closer to being one. I found my lane a few times and felt like it was a pretty solid swim. I wanted to push myself a little more than normal to see what it did to the other legs and I think it was a success. I got out of the water a little more tired than normal (with normal being not tired at all), but felt recovered after the jog to transition.
Swim time: 11:36. Considering Kerrville was just as calm and the same distance, and I swam it in 13:37, I’ll call 15% better time or 2 mins a HUGE improvement. Goal was a swim in the 11s. Done and done.
Never walked, jogged as much as my flippy floppies and the slick stairs would allow, and executed transition almost perfectly minus a little garmin fumble. Jogged out in my bike shoes, got to the mount line, got clipped in quick, and was on the way.
T1 time: 2:53. Considering the amount of ground I had to cover, I’m happy (and nothing to compare it to from last year).
Got going, and put a nutter butter in my mouth. Tummy did NOT like that. Peanut cookie + sprint race = bad. I started working on my honeystinger chews and those were much better – those will be my go to. They weren’t stringy like the powerbar ones that kinda got caught in my throat, but they were nice, clean, happy sugar and caffeine. And that’s all I need on a short course.
The first few miles went very well – I even got my average pace up around 20mph through the first few. Then we hit the rollers I train on and I was ready for it. In my head, I had thought the second half of the course was easier, so when I was at about 19mph halfway through, I was ecstatic! Then, I hit a little middle fatigue – I think I wasn’t eating enough because the pb cookie made me very unhappy and I slowed down in the middle miles – I lost 19, and started working just to keep above 18 and lost that too. Finally the easy part of the course came and I picked up a little speed but it was never enough to get back above 18.
The awesome part from last year where I accelerated to 25mph and kept it for about a mile? Well, some dumb slow lady was hogging the middle of the road on the turn and messed with my mojo so I didn’t get that awesome stretch I was looking forward to flying past – oh well. I also really didn’t like starting the bike that far back – I love passing people, and REALLY love passing dudes. Zliten’s recount was being buoyed up by getting in a pack with fast dudes, and mine is being really frustrated dodging slow older ladies on a Sunday ride.
Bike time: 48:16, or 17.4 mph avg. I really cannot be disappointed with this, but I feel like it was my weakest leg of the course. No pb cookies, and I need to work on keeping myself motivated internally on the bike – I never realized before this race how much I rely on other people to push me on the bike.
Went as expected, except I realized I was still really dehydrated even though I had my camelback and used it, so I spent 5 extra seconds to suck more of it down. Camelback for constant bike hydration = totally worth the extra 6 seconds to deal with in transition (I’m not good with the bike bottle in a cage and I have yet to spring for a front mounted hydration system). What was not expected was I heard the announcer call Zliten’s name – he was already finishing. I realized that a) he was a lucky sonofabitch to be finishing now because the clouds and cool had just finished burning off and it was hot hot sun run time, b) he had a really great tri and c) I better book it on the run if I wanted to beat him. I saw my buddy R who was running transition and he cheered me on and I said “Zliten just finished, I want to be done…” and he just told me to gogogogo so gogogogo I did.
T2 time: 1:19. Not too bad. I was a little out of it and could probably get this under 1 minute, but definitely went “according to plan”. My position next to the bike in/out really helped this one
While I was crossing the line, I hit my garmin running mode, and started. I put on my race belt, and my visor (it fit weird, so I don’t have high hopes that I have any pretty pictures with it on, but it did it’s job). Then I started paying attention to the garmin. In my head, 10s were unacceptable, and things that needed to be fixed, whatever the cost. In my head, the better I did on my run, the better I would feel later, even if I felt crappy then. And it felt crappy. Mid-80s, no shade, no wind, freaking trail I hate running on (give me pavement for short races any freakin’ day, I feel like I can actually get a grip). But I got myself around 9:45s, and made myself stay there, and it oscilated between bearable, and just short of bearable. I wasn’t ready to try for sub – 9s, I was really afraid of blowing up, so I kept it between 9 and 10.
The run really was a blur. Green shirt 29 year old passed me and I simply kept up with her. She really helped me. I zoned out and focused on my run and what it meant to me to keep up a decent pace, and how disappointed I would be if I just let go and the miles went. Slowly, but they went. I really ran at capactity the entire time. I didn’t think I had much of anything for the finish until I saw Zliten, who ran me in the last 100m or so and told me to speed the fuck up so I picked up my legs and sprinted with the last oomph I had and crossed with the clock reading 2:08.
Run time: 28:07 – 9:22 average. I clocked the course a little short, but it was definitely way under 10 minute miles. Eff yeah!!!
I got my bottle, my towel, and I had to sit down. I really and trully had spent everything on that run. I got my freezy pop (and a second and a third). Once I was recovered, we went to check out the results. Zliten had a 1:33:28 – which is about 34 minutes!!!! faster than last year. I couldn’t for the life of me work out the math when I actually started and I had finish times in my head anywhere from 1:28 to 1:38. I knew I had biked and ran MUCH better than last year, but didn’t know about the swim or transitions…also, had I beaten Zliten? He had really had the tri of his life!
Finally, they updated the finish results tent.
1:32:12. Over 8 minutes better than last year. I was overjoyed. All day. 1:33 was my A goal (and frankly, I set REALLY HARD A goals) and I beat THAT by almost a minute. Honestly, it took me until I just dissected the race above to find anything I could do better besides just “get faster with more training”. And that’s just a given.
The magic of Lake Pf tri even extended to the next day – barely any soreness (so I hit the gym), and today, we race again (little splash and dash – 750m swim, 3k run). I’ll continue my “What’s next” thoughts in that post because for now, this is becoming novel length and I must get on my with life.
Onwards and upwards!
Also – I met someone who read my blog! Wheeeee! Marlena? Maggie? I think your name started with an M – and speaking with you made my day even more awesome, but I’m horrible with names (especially coming off a super tri PR high). If you see this – comment and let me know who you are. 🙂