I went into this race, as you know, with a lame shoulder. My expectations were not overly ambitious. It was my first triathlon since the injury last year and a LOOOOONG, slow rebuild. About a two months ago, I crashed my bike and have been only a half step ahead of those injuries all summer. Still, I have been training well, particularly in the run, and felt pretty good about it.
I did make the mistake of looking at winning times in my age group for the five previous years. NEVER DO THAT!!! I saw times that I felt put me in contention for a podium spot. The fastest times were 1:26:andchange. The averages for the bike legs were in the 17 mph range and people were hitting the podium with 1:30's. I knew I could pull that off, unless.... Find an elevation profile for this race STAT!!
Hmmm.... MapMyRide painted a pretty scary picture. A long steady climb that tips up into a CAT 5 climb towards the end for about .5 mile. CAT 5 climb? No problem. CAT 5 climb at the end of a long climb that would have you reaching the base without any momentum? Could be a problem. The rest of the course was rolling. HOW BAD is that hill? Does it account for the relatively weak showing in my age group?
Strava. Check Strava. If it's that nasty, it'll be a segment. Yup. There it is. KOM? 12 mph.
Wait? WHAT? KOM=12mph? I am gonna be pushing Seabiscuit to the top of that thing!!!!!
I shot DW a message. "If I have to push my bike to the top, I am going to lie to you."
His response: "There will be no pushing!"
Well, that 86's my plan to get to the top. Maybe pulling is more acceptable.
In the week leading up to race day, I swam twice bringing my two month total to three swim workouts. Awesome. The first swim went pretty well. I was stiff and weak warming up but worked down to a perfectly acceptable pace of 1:35/100 without too much trouble. It wasn't lightning fast but gave me a good barometer for how much I had lost. I went home and seeded myself into the swim at 7:20/400. This was conservative but I felt it was appropriate given the circumstances. Then two days later, I swam again. This time it was terrible. The shoulder refused to come to the party, dragging my pace all the way down to 2:00/100. I promptly and appropriately responded by completely panicking about that 7:20.
Like it or not; prepared or not... race day has a way of showing up on schedule.
|Nails painted "Seabiscuit Red"!|
I worked Friday night into Saturday morning, got a little sleep, then made the nearly three hour drive to Bowling Green. I had booked a room at the sponsored hotel which turned out to be exactly the right answer. I checked in then went to the race venue. I checked out the pool and part of the run course. I rode my bike for around the run course then all over the local neighborhood. I think that I might have gone a little too hard but my legs felt GREAT and I was hungry for an effort. Then I went back, picked up my packet in the lobby, then retired to my room. I ate in the room and used the time to organized my transition areas. Seabiscuit lounged in the corner like a predator. I was really feeling pretty good about the whole thing!
|Seabiscuit resting up for his big day.|
I slept like the dead until the alarm went off. Woke up feeling strong and headed out the door on time. I was one of the first people in the transition area and got a great spot on the rack. After that was all set up, I was able to be pretty leisurely about getting to body marking, etc. I finally warmed up in the pool and felt like I was swimming OK.
Then they had a short meeting and lined people up by number. I was number 81 based on my predicted swim time. One little detail jumped out at me. The actual distance of this swim was not 400 yards. It was 437.... METERS. It was a metric pool. Crap. 437 (that would be 479 yards) meters in 7:20 with a damaged shoulder? I was seeded in too fast. I didn't relish the idea of having people swimming over the top of me. Another thing, the pool had these super slick metal walls. The only way to be confident pushing off the wall from a flip turn was to kind of crouch on the wall, make sure you had your feet, then push... carefully. I knew I was going to be pushing off at hard angles to get under the lane lines for the snake swim too. That could turn into disaster if I wasn't careful.
They changed the start tactics in the last few minutes before the race. Now instead of starting on the wall, you started on deck, went through the timers, jumped into the lane from the ladder which was at 90 degrees to the lane, then started swimming. It kind of blew my mind, as did the looong wait between when they got us out of the pool to the start. I had nearly an hour between my warm up and the start of my race.
The start was kind of fun. Jump in, dolphin dive and kick like mad!! I got passed pretty early and it completely blew my composure. I felt stiff and wooden, could get my body rotating even enough to breathe without taking in water. It took all of three quarters of the swim to feel like I had any rhythm. I did pass two people and got passed twice. I guess I was seeded in correctly after all. The swim ended with a climb up the ladder and a short jaunt across the pool deck. My total time from timing mat to timing mat was 8:32 which was good enough for 4th in my age group and19th place overall.
T1 went smoothly. Though I hit lap going in, I forget to hit lap going out which meant there were no data files to be had. The Garmin Overlord just recorded the LONGEST T1 in history! They were stopping people to mount their bikes right at the timing mats for the bike. That meant that as I ran out, I nearly crashed into the woman in front of me. I feel sorry for people coming through later when the bottle neck was going to be really bad!
|No matter how fit you get, that wet tri suit shows off terrible things!!|
I headed out on the bike. I rode the beginning of the course a little conservatively. I didn't know how bad that hill was going to hurt and I wanted everything in my legs. Still, I was passing people consistently, averaging a much higher speed that most of my competitors. The hill came, the hill went, the hill was NOT A PROBLEM! I powered up it with little trouble passing people the entire time. Then it came to the rollers. Kentucky terrain is so much fun!! Lots of those shortish power climbs immediately followed by whizzing downhills, then straight into the next power climb. I had really found my legs by this point and aside from the guy that decided to cheat by drafting off of me for most of the race, it was just me and the "Biscuit" doing what we do best. I ended up passing every other woman in the race and had buried myself among the male leaders by the end. I averaged 20.5 which was the fastest female bike split of the day and (I believe) in the top 5% of the male bike splits. I came roaring into T2 feeling like I had superpowers!!!
T2 was another button pushing epic fail!! I am going to reconsider the multisport function on my watch, at least for short races. I just don't think of it. Other than that, I rolled through transition quickly and according to plan.
I had a fairly long jog to the exit of T2 and immediately realized how long it had been since I ran off the bike. My legs felt HORRIBLE!! For me, running well is about zeroing in on a feeling. It's a posture thing, sort of. I was so taken aback by my wooden legs that I failed to find that cue that I have come to rely on. I also might have found some bearing in my Garmin information if my Garmin was giving me anything useful, but no....
Early on, the eventual OA female winner jogged up beside me and commented on how fast I was on the bike. She was really pretty cool and there was no real threat since I was never going to catch her on the run for an OA placing and we were not in the same age group. She complimented my "screaming fast bike leg" again then illustrated how screaming fast she was on the run. I finally found some rhythm in the run at about the halfway point. I think at that point I started to run fairly well. However, with the Garmin recording another impossibly long transition, I was unable to know for sure.
The last mile was all inside the park and I was about halfway to the finish when a wicked fast woman in a red MDOT bikini came flying past me. As she went by she said "I thought you'd won it!". My little brain exploded!! She was averaging a low 7's pace and I was unable to match her. I had no choice but to let her go. I had this flood of thoughts and feelings at that point, none of which were helpful. My chin came up, my posture fell apart and with it my cadence. My perceived exertion skyrocketed but I doubt I was running any faster. I was blowing myself up over this one little comment.
The reality check came a few minutes later. Allergy season in KY is legendary and this year has been particularly bad. I was having a lot of trouble breathing and leaned over to blow a HUGE snot rocket. As I looked up, I was staring straight into the lens of the course photographer! How had I not noticed him BEFORE I did that. As I ran by I said "I hope you didn't get that!" He replied, "I get ALL the REALLY BAD ones!"
Awesome sauce, buddy.
Thus far, they have not posted the run pics. Fear not, I will post them as soon as they are up, even the uglies!
I looked to the finish line and discovered, to my horror, that it was not there. The volunteers routed the runners around a bend and away from where the finish was supposed to be. After what felt like 100 miles with a few direction changes, my frustration was rising. I actually heard myself say "WHERE THE F*&% IS THE FINISH LINE!!" Once I finally saw it, I was nearly on top of it. I did manage a weak finishing kick, but there was actually very little time to build into a good one.... and the race was over.
I saw red bikini at the finish and confirmed what I suspected. Female 35-39. Damn. I knew I almost had it and I totally lost it. I ended up third.
In retrospect, I cannot complain. The swim was as good as could be expected with a shoulder injury. The bike was pure poetry. And the run, as much as I wanted to be upset about it, was my second fastest 5K ever, and my fastest in a tri. I ran a good race. There were areas that will be addressed in preparation for upcoming efforts but in all, for the first time back in action after fourteen months, a very solid effort. It was my first non-athena race and I took 3rd in my age group. Just because there was someone who was stronger that day does not diminish the fact that I have come, oh, so far!! There will be a point when the Red Bikinis of the world will watch me disappear into the distance and never see me again. And there will be days that it doesn't work out so well. That's racing.
|The day's best effort was good enough... period.|
Next up? Tri Rock Austin on Sept. 3 for my first Olympic distance effort.