Monday, July 27, 2015

A Tale of Two Races

It's triathlon season....that's still a really weird thing for me to say. No running races for me this summer. I'm sticking strictly to triathlons and for the most part I'm having a really great time.

If you had asked me two weeks ago, however, I would've just groaned and complained about how crappy I felt. On July 12 I competed in the Couples Triathlon, which was similar to May's Rookie Triathlon, just a bit longer. A 500 meter open water swim, 11.2 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. My hope was that I could have a panic-less swim, a faster bike, and just maintain a decent pace for the run. The swim was great, the bike was great up until 9 miles, and I completely fell apart on the run. The end result was a crappy overall race. My time of 1:31 was just not good compared to what I knew I was capable of.
Georgetown Triathletes

In the days following I tried to cut myself some slack. I had an asthma attack on the bike that I just couldn't overcome during the run. I didn't have my inhaler or my essential oils to help support my lung function, which was a really stupid mistake on my part. I probably was too dehydrated when I started the race and that just added to my already weakened state. It was humid and hot, although the heat actually really didn't bother me that much. It wasn't my day.

My next race would be Tri Aggieland in College Station on July 26, so I had two weeks to get over myself and get prepared. It would be a 400 meter swim, 12 mile bike, and 3 mile run. Thankfully the Texas A&M course was mostly flat, and the swim would be in the A&M Natatorium with 50 meter lengths versus the normal 25 meter lengths in most pools. It would of course be hot, and probably humid, but I was pushing that thought out of my head and focusing on the positives.

I'm not a strong cyclist as I just haven't put in the real work to improve, so having a flat course would play to my strengths. I wasn't sure about the run course, but I do pretty well on running hills so I didn't worry too much there. I was really looking forward to swimming in that pool as I had never swam in a 50 meter pool before and I knew I would like that so much better. Truth be told, I actually now prefer open water swimming because I've finally gotten comfortable enough with my breathing and stroke to just get into a rhythm without stopping. Having to make a bunch of turns in the pool really bugs me.

Unfortunately, I still was having a lot of doubts about racing. I was having a hard time shaking my dismal performance in the Couples Triathlon. Trying to focus on what was in my control was proving to be challenging, but I was doing my best. I was eating better, hydrating better, getting myself even more acclimated to the heat. I ordered extra lung-supporting essential oils and put them in my new transition bag (finally bought one!) so they'd never be forgotten, I visualized some strategy for the race, and I kept telling myself I would be just fine this time around. I thought a lot about what a reasonable time goal might be for the race, with some wiggle room.

I did come up with some goals and I do think they were reasonable. I wanted to be out of the pool in under 10 minutes. I wanted to have smooth transitions, no more than 2 minutes for T1 (I knew there was a long jog from the pool exit to the transition area), and no more than 1:15 for T2. I wanted to hit 18.5 mph on the bike, and finally, I wanted to be under 10 min pace for the run. If I did all of this, my final time on the course would be 1:22. My "A" goal was 1:19. I did not have any hopes of placing in my age group for this race....the field in College Station is pretty competitive and it really was going to depend on who showed up to race that day.

Doing all of these things was certainly helping me calm down about the race and forget my fears of falling apart. I was prepared and could do well.

Long story short....I had a great race and I'm really very pleased. I didn't come even close to placing, but I put in a strong performance and I pretty much got my mojo back!

The swim was a good one for me. That pool is just plain awesome. To be able to do my swim workouts there would be incredible! I did have a couple of panic moments when I couldn't get my breathing under control, but it didn't stop me and I just kept going. I was out of the pool in 9:50, right under my target. My teammate Joe and I finished the swim at exactly the same time and ran to transition together. It took about 52 seconds to run to the timing mat, so my actual results show a swim in 10:42.

T1 was awesomely fast! From the timing mat to bike exit was 1:00 flat. Perfect.

The bike was fun. I loved the course, which ended up being two 5.8 mile loops for a total of 11.6 miles. I just tried to keep a nice steady 18-20 mph pace with as little slow down on the turns as possible, really focusing on my control and efficiency. There weren't any big downhills so I couldn't capitalize on that type of speed, but that's okay. Joe passed me during the bike and I lost sight of him in all the turns. I secretly hoped he didn't get too far ahead and I could catch him on the run. Overall, I did the bike course in 36:26 for a speed of 19.1 mph. I was ahead of my goal at this point and it was looking like I might hit my A goal. I knew the bike course was a bit short of 12 miles, so that meant my A goal was now a lower number.

I had a quick T2 but not as quick as I hoped. I was in and out in 1:23.

Now for the run, which you'd think would be my strong split. I just focused on keeping a steady cadence, with steady breathing, one turn at a time. There were actually two pretty good hills on the course, and mostly everyone was walking them. I refused to walk at all on this run, no matter how slow my pace was. I wasn't feeling overheated, which was awesome. When my first two miles came in well under 10 minute pace I was thrilled. I knew I would be way under my A goal. I had Joe in my sights the entire run, but just couldn't catch him!

I ran the 2.9 mile course (it was a little short) in 26:21 for a 9:12 average. My overall time was 1:15:54. To say I was thrilled was an understatement! Joe finished in 1:14:40.

I got my ass handed to me in my ultra-talented age group, however! Out of 31 competitors, I was 8th. A respectable performance, but just like I expected not anywhere close to the podium. The great thing about the results is that they rank you on every split, including transitions. These are the stats that make me happy. My age group teammate Tiffany (who scored 2nd place with a 1:06), was the only one faster than me in T1. I was 10th on the swim, 8th on the bike and run, and 12th in T2. Out of 31 competitors, I'll take it! 61 out of 263 females, 187 out of 554 total competitors.

Me and Tiffany

I am not registered for another event until Kerrville Quarter Ironman in 9 weeks. In the next two months my focus will be on adding distance and strength to my cycling workouts, continuing to be comfortable in open water, and heat acclimation on my runs. I'm not sure what my goals will be, but I do know I'm going to enjoy the journey and I'm going to have faith in myself.

Six triathlons done, countless more to go.