Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Race Report Download - Three for the Price of One

It’s a good thing I’m not paid to write about this triathlon thing, because I’ve done three races over the past six weeks and not written about them here. I meant to do in depth race reports, but instead, let’s go with the rapid-fire summary.

General Smallwood Sprint (June 14)
Swim: 13:51 for 750m (9/106 Women, 1/15 AG)
T1: 2:41
Bike: 49:22 for 16+ miles (13/106 Women, 1/15 AG)
T2: 1:11
Run: 25:28 for 5k (21/106 Women, 2/15 AG)
Total: 1:32:31 (10/106 Women, 1/15 AG)

Going into this race, I thought that with Eagleman and Challenge Williamsburg going on the same day, I might have a shot at placing in the top 3 overall, with all the fast women in the region otherwise occupied. Then, before the swim, I spotted last year’s sprint overall national champion, her almost-as-fast mother, and somebody else who goes to world championship events more often then I get my haircut. So much for that, but I did manage to nab the top podium spot in my age group.

Other notable things from this race:
  • The run from the swim exit to transition was pretty long, and I got passed by at least two people. I’m HORRIBLE at running barefoot and should probably do something about this if I want to be competitive in short course races.
  • I came in to T2 to discover some dude had racked his bike in my spot, on top of all my stuff, and when I racked mine a few inches over, his fell over. Because I’m not a complete asshole, I picked it up to re-rack it and cost myself a few seconds. Oh well.
  • I had a very difficult time holding good power numbers on the bike. I wish I could say it was fatigue from heavy training, but I looked at my training log after the race, and was pretty sure that the actual cause was loss of fitness from too many rest/race/rest cycles. Since I had a good four week gap before my next race, I had time to put in a good block of training, and the wake up call was perfectly timed.

Colonial Beach Sprint (July 11)

Swim: 14:15 for 750m (6/128 Women, 1/18 AG)
T1: 1:39
Bike: 39:27 for 14 miles (8/128 Women, 1/18 AG)
T2: 1:12
Run: 24:35 for 5k (23/128 Women, 5/18 AG)
Total Time: 1:21:09 (8/128 Women, 2/18 AG)

We woke up at something like 4:45 am to POURING RAIN, and waited until a break in the rain to head over to the race site to that we could avoid getting our gear wet (spoiler alert: didn’t matter). I went for a warm up jog and noticed that non-trivial portions of the run course were totally flooded out and figured we were going to be in for a fun one. I managed to avoid crashing (score) and stayed in the very front of the field throughout the race to wind up 8th overall and 2nd in my age group. Riding in the pouring rain was so bad that it was almost perversely fun, and I put out some pretty high power numbers despite bleeding out watts on every corner to avoid crashing. All in all, a successful day.

Colonial Beach Olympic (July 12)

Swim: 27:03 for 1500m (7/15 Women, 2/13 AG)
T1: 1:38
Bike: 1:18:52 for 28 miles (27/115 Women, 2/13 AG)
T2: 1:40
Run: 1:07:53 for 10k (16/115 Women, 12/13 AG)
Total Time: 2:57:04 (47/115 Women, 8/13 AG)

After the sprint race, we went back to our rental house, dried off all our gear, and foam rolled and the like to get ready for the next day. Went to bed early, and then woke up 45 minutes later completely unable to breathe. My sinuses were so inflamed and congested that I couldn’t even blow my nose, which had the added bonus of instigating an asthma flare up. I didn’t get back to sleep at all after that, even after I finally took the decongestant that Jason threw at me. Obviously, I had managed to get sick in the 16 hours after finishing the sprint race, and considered not starting, but remembered how many times a good workout helps me clear out my sinuses and makes me feel better in the long run.

Got to the site, went out for a warm up jog that instigated a fit of wheezing, took a couple of puffs from my inhaler again and tried more running with minimal luck. I told Jason I was having a very hard time breathing, he suggested that maybe the swim would help clear things up. Great idea!

The swim did help relieve a bit of sinus pressure, and I somehow managed to stay on course much better than I usually do, and was happy about where I was in the field heading out onto the bike. I was able to hold some pretty nice power numbers and stay in the front of the women’s field for a good 10 miles.

Then a raging sinus headache, complete with vision problems, showed up. I hoped it would start to recede, but it only got worse throughout the bike and I planned to talk to Jason about at DNF when I saw him at T2, but when I didn’t see him at T2, I decided to try running. I *did* see him at mile 1 on the run course, and I swore he told me to “keep going” when I told him I was dizzy and sick, but it turns out he actually told me to “do what [I] have to” and this resulted in a funny finish line exchange.

I essentially walked the majority of the run course because I was getting really dizzy from the headache and general sickness hitting me harder and harder. Maybe I really *should* have DNF’d, either way, I didn’t put too much stock in the results from that day because 1. Obviously I was in shape, since I performed well the day before and 2. Shit happens and sometimes you get sick at exactly the wrong time.

So that’s how June and July races went. We leave for nationals in about 18 hours, and we’ll see there how a season of short-course focus pays off on the big day.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Rock Hall Sprint: &*()%& Fourth Place Overall Again

Since I can’t resist a double race weekend, about 5 minutes after finishing the Rock Hall Olympic Triathlon, I was rehydrating and working on glycogen replenishment (jelly beans at the finish line, brilliant idea) so that I’d be set to go for the sprint race the next day. The heat during the Olympic distance race took quite a bit out of me, and I spent the afternoon taking in a lot of fluids and electrolytes and icing my legs. I woke up in the middle of the night with intense pain in my hip flexors, but was fine when it was time to get going in the morning so I put that out of my mind and went to the race site to set up and warm up. Soon, it was time to line up for the start with the rest of the 39&Under women.

Swim: 13:18 (1:36/100 yards), 1/27 AG, 4/257 women

I took off pretty hard at the start, and three women surged ahead, only to drop back about 100 meters later. I was pretty sure I made the first turn buoy before the rest of the wave, and gave myself a pat on the back before discovering what was in store for me for the rest of the swim.
 Yep, the Wall of Dudes was out there in full force, thanks to the fact that 300+ of them started 4-12 minutes before us.

At this point, I lost track of any other women in the wave and just worked my way through the Wall of Dudes. As we neared the swim exit, I (accidentally) clobbered one guy with a stroke and was pretty sure it looked like Jason.

I mean, all’s fair in love and open water swimming, isn’t it?

Once I got out of the water, it was confirmed that I was first woman out of the water (the three faster women were in a later wave), and I ran into transition desperate to hold onto the lead as long as I could.

T1: 2:04, 7/27 AG

Exact same time as the Olympic. Go figure.

Bike: 40:54 (22 mph), 3/27 AG, 5/257 women

There was one woman (Missie) who passed me right out of T1, so I followed her at legal distance and let her set the pace while I relaxed. After about two miles, my power numbers were a little lower than I wanted them to be, and I was concerned about other women catching up to us, so I passed her and settled into my power target – until I ran out of gears thanks to the substantial tailwind that had me pushing something like 26 mph.

The other challenge was the continued battle against the Wall of Dudes. Since some of them got up to a 12 minute head start, we were behind athletes substantially slower than us, and at one point, I wished I had a speaker that just announced “ON YOUR LEFT” on repeat. 

I found myself referred to in pejorative terms at least twice for this (classy, gentlemen); dudes, if you don’t like women shouting “ON YOUR LEFT” behind you, there are two possible solutions. 

First, bike faster

Second, bike to the right except when passing

In fact, maybe do both.

As we continued to work through the Wall of Dudes, Missie repassed me at about mile 8. I stuck with her until mile 11 or so, but after that, I lost her in the Wall of Dudes. Coming into transition, I wasn’t quite sure how far ahead she’d gotten, but figured I’d find out on the run.

T2: 1:16, 7/27 AG

Based on my typical ranking in the bike-run transition, apparently this is what I do in there.
Run: 24:27 (7:52/mi), 8/27 AG, 24/257 women

I started out around 7:30/mi pace for the first mile because this is how I envision the run course any time I am near the lead of a race exiting T2. 
Soon, though, I just got way, way, way too hot. It was hard to push beyond what felt like a jog and the concept of walking was extremely inviting, but the thought of that stampede behind me kept me going. As I approached the halfway turnaround point, I saw Missie running back towards me, and we exchanged a side-five.
In the last mile, one other woman passed me, and between the heat and the race the day before, I was about done and had no chance of going with her. My time was still the 3rd fastest run time I’ve logged in a sprint tri, and the only two others that were faster were on 40-50F, overcast days, so I don’t think they are comparable.

Overall time: 1:21:56, 1/27 AG, 4/257 women

Coming in fourth overall – getting beaten by a woman in a wave behind me AGAIN - was not happy. I know that the Victoria of two years ago would probably like to smack the Victoria of today for whining about coming in 4th in a field of over 250 women and winning her age group, so I do have to keep some perspective, but that’s STILL two races where I’ve just missed the overall podium.

At least I ran fast enough to hold onto the age group win because I knew there were two fast runners in my AG right behind me and I had to push to make sure they didn’t catch me. I guess I have some more work to do before I can get up on the big podium, but this will do for now.
The good news is that it is abundantly clear what I need to work on - maintaining my swim and bike fitness while improving my run and tolerance to heat. My coach and I have some ideas on both, and I hope to be able to see some improvement by the end of this season so that I can put together an even better race.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rock Hall Olympic Distance Triathlon Race Report

Last weekend, Jason and I headed over to Maryland’s Eastern Shore for a weekend of racing in Rock Hall, a tiny little town off the Chesapeake Bay. I signed up for the Saturday Olympic and the Sunday sprint, while he, more wisely, kept to the Sunday sprint. In the interest of keeping this post from turning into a dissertation-length monologue, I’ll just report on the Olympic distance race for now.

This was my first Olympic distance race in 10 months, and I was a little nervous about how I’d hold up on a 10k run off the bike, and how I’d hold up in the heat. It had been so long that I wasn’t sure I remembered how to deal with either, but better to deal with any issues now than at nationals in August. On the other hand, I’ve been putting out some good power numbers on the bike and run paces during brick workouts, so I was hopeful that I could post a PR, and estimated that if everything was absolutely perfect, I could post something around 2:30, which would be a nine-minute PR. With the mixed feelings in tow, we headed to the race site, where we discovered the water was above the wetsuit-legal temperatures. Strike one against a perfect day; this costs you a good 1.5-3 minutes on the swim at this distance. Nothing to do about that, so I got set up, warmed up and headed over to the brownish-brackish Chesapeake Bay waters to start the race.

Swim: 27:18 (1:33/100y), 2/35 AG, 11/196 women

A couple of women in our wave took off super fast at the start, almost everybody hung back, and within 30 seconds I was pretty much all by myself. The first two buoys were very easy to navigate, and I felt like I was holding a pretty good position, until I made the second turn and could NOT see a buoy because one of the race support kayakers was right on the buoy line. Allow me to showcase my superb illustration skills (my artist mother is disowning me as you read this).
Eventually, another support kayak flagged down me and about 20 men from earlier waves who I’d caught, and re-directed us. By the time I managed to find the buoy, I was pretty sure that I’d tacked on at least an extra 100 meters, so if you are keeping track, that is strike two against a perfect day. For about 5 seconds, I was ready to give up on having a decent race, placing, setting a PR, but then I realized that a 40k bike and a 10k run would give me a lot of time to make up for that error and got back to work.

When I came out of the water, I figured I must have been 20 women back or something like that given the misdirection. Turns out that almost every single woman in our wave, and the one after, had the same problem I did, so it’s a good thing I didn’t shut it down just 10 minutes into the day.

T1 2:04, 7/35 AG

This included a substantial run from the water. Not great, not bad.

Bike: 1:12:50 (20.5 mph), 6/35 AG, 28/196 women

Putting the swim behind me, I got on the bike and got to work making my watts so I could pass the slower men who got to start the race up to 12 minutes in front of me. 

I pushed right in the proper power range for the first 18 or so miles, and was going really, really fast. Like…almost 24 mph for the first half. It became pretty obvious to me that we had a substantial tailwind – I know what kind of speeds I hold on a flat bike course at a given power level, and for the watts I was producing, 24 mph did not match up. Even knowing that we had a tailwind, I was happy with the power I was holding, the dudes I was passing, and some of the fast women I was able to follow (at legal distance, of course).

Then we hit some chip seal roads, which ate into my power AND made holding onto the time trial position pretty uncomfortable. I was relieved to turn back onto smooth roads, until maybe a mile later, we made a turn that gave us MORE chip seal roads AND a headwind.

It quickly became apparent why I had been holding 24 mph before. Hmph.

We soon got to turn back onto some smoother roads, but by this point, my average power had dropped a bit, and I was having difficulty getting it back up. I think I may be due for a fit tweak, because even on chip seal roads, I shouldn’t be struggling to maintain power in the time trial position over just 40k of biking.

Overall, the bike was a huge success. It was a PR at the distance by almost four minutes, which is a gigantic amount of time to take off for a 40k bike.

T2: 1:38, 10/35 AG

As I was coming into transition, my coach yelled that I was 8th overall, which was a huge shock to me because I thought I was super behind in the swim, and at least two women had passed me on the bike. Interesting.

I celebrated that news by turning in my worst ranking of the day in T2 because stupid running shoes are stupid.

Run: 51:08 (8:13/mi), 7/35 AG, 36/196 women

Strike three for perfect conditions was in full force on the run course – it was hot and humid, with almost all of the run taking place on unshaded blacktop. I do much, much better in cold conditions than in hot conditions, but I’d thought ahead and had frozen a small waterbottle overnight to grab in transition. I read somewhere (probably slowtwitch) that holding something cold during the run can help with heat tolerance. It seemed to do the trick, until the ice finished melting around the end of the first lap.
I held 8 min/mi flat during the entire first loop, and was feeling pretty good despite the conditions. No feeling of overheating/GI distress/etc, and I was holding off most of the women behind me, except those who blew past at sub-7 pace because I just can’t run that fast. The second loop, on the other hand, was tougher, as the sun was getting higher in the sky and my core temperature was starting to climb. I grabbed water to pour on my head at each aid station, which helped for probably 400-600 meters, and tried to hold pace as best I could, but I slowed a good 20 seconds per mile by the time I was finished.

The run, too, was a huge PR for an Olympic distance run – almost three minutes – and isn’t too far off my standalone 10k PR run. My goal for the season is to get my Olympic distance run pace under 8 minutes per mile, and 8:13 is getting pretty close to that, so I was pleased.

Total time: 2:34:56, 4/35 AG, 18/196 women

I knew I was obviously NOT in contention for any top overall spots, but thought maybe I’d lucked out and made the podium for my age group. Close, but not quite. I was moderately annoyed, but 3rd place was 1:50 in front of me, so it’s not like I could have easily made that up out on the course. Still, I was pretty happy with the day overall, and I managed a 4+ minute PR at this distance. I had figured a 2:30 under perfect conditions, and it definitely wasn't perfect - instead, it was hot, humid and windy, and I held up against them to stay as competitive against the (not small and fairly fast) field as I could. I logged big time drops on the bike and run, and possibly most importantly, finally proved to myself that I CAN run in the heat, and only sacrifice a small amount of time.

Besides, being happy with the race was the best way to prepare for the sprint the next day...

Friday, May 1, 2015

Richmond Sprint Tri Race Report

First triathlon of 2015 is in the books, and I got this nifty mug out of the deal by coming in 3rd in my age group at the Richmond Sprint Tri last Saturday.

Yes, that’s sparkling water. I’m living on the edge these days.

I wound up third in my age group and 11th out of the women’s field, which is alright. The race wasn’t perfect, but was a decent way to kick off the triathlon season.

The first unexpected event of the race came before I even left for Richmond. I was glancing through the athlete guide and the swim wave list, and noticed that I’d somehow been put into the elite women’s wave.

Before we move on from this, I want to clarify two things:

1. I have no delusions that I am an “elite” triathlete by any standards whatsoever. In fact, I probably don’t qualify as “elite among triathletes living in the 20008 zip code with a last name beginning with the letter A.”
2. I definitely did NOT ask to be put in said wave and am still unsure of why this happened.

However, once I realized this meant that I wouldn’t have to crawl over people during the swim, I decided it was a very welcome opportunity to race with essentially no interference from earlier waves and went with it.

Once I got to the race site, I discovered another nice feature of being put in this wave was that we had our own rack right next to bike in/bike out. Sweet. Minimal running in bike shoes, everybody knows how much space they get on the rack, and it was an easy, orderly setup.

The race started pretty early, and it was quite dark, leaving pretty much no good option for a bike warm up, and only scattered parking lots and sidewalks for a run warm up. I jogged around for about 10 minutes, and then headed inside to warm up in the pool, which was only open for warm up until 6:30 am. In retrospect, this was not nearly enough warm up, and I'll be doing a better, more focused warm up for future races.

Swim: 5:57 in the water (1:29/100m), 1/15 AG, 6/148 women

So even though this swim was in a pool, we had an “open water setup” and had to navigate buoys, just like you would in an open body of water. Rather than try to explain this in detail, here’s a “course map” from the race organizers.
There were two other women in our “elite” wave who were about the same speed as me, and we swam most of the course together. I definitely lost some speed doing horizontal 180 turns around those buoys (unsurprising), but swam at a good effort level and came out of the water third.

T1: 1:14, 1/15 AG, 7/148 women

I passed one of the women who beat me out of the pool in transition and did not delay getting out of there one bit. Time to ride in the balmy 40F conditions!

Bike: 38:19 (19.7 mph), 3/15 AG 18/148 women

I put in a few substantial weeks of bike training following my February marathon, with my power numbers finally getting back to something respectable last month, and was excited to see what kind of power I could hold up for a 12.5 mile bike leg. I found myself passed by a couple of women out on the course, which was a little discouraging, and I just lacked the drive to try to keep up with them. I got to a point in the last quarter of the bike leg where I was wondering if I was still on course because there was NOBODY I could see and I hadn’t been passed by the non-“elite” men yet. Finally, a couple of them caught up to me, but I was still a little bit off my target power. Couple of things that led to this – one, lack of training specificity at sprint triathlon power output for sustained intervals, two, taking every corner like a wimp. I guess the good thing about early season races is that it illuminates our deficiencies quite nicely.

T2: 1:46, 9/15 AG, 58/148 women

Continuing my tradition of mucking up T2, I rolled into transition and found that my hands were so frozen that I couldn’t physically hold my running shoes to put them on. Thank God I had decided to run sockless or I might still be in transition trying to get them on with my frozen claw hands.

Run: 24:06 (7:46/mi), 3/15 AG, 17/58 women

Like I said in my previous post, one of my major goals this season is to consistently run under 8 min/mi off the bike in Olympic distance races – which means going quite a bit faster than that in sprint distance races. Once I got my act together and got out onto the run course, my legs felt great and I was able to hold a pretty good pace, though I definitely overran the course, which was two meandering loops around parking lots, a design that makes it difficult to follow the best line.

I got passed by two other women who were just better runners than I am, but was relatively pleased with the pace I held despite the many, many turns on the course. I think it lines up nicely with my run goal for the triathlon season, and was encouraging.

Overall time: 1:11:36, 3/15 AG, 11/148 women

I crossed the finish line before 8:15 am, and thanks to being placed in the “elite” wave, there was no line for post-race massage (bonus) and I had plenty of time to clean up and load my gear in my car before awards.
3rd place in my AG and 11th overall is a little lower than I would have liked to have been in the field, but not too far off target. I posted a decent run, and got some useful feedback about how to improve my bike training to perform better in other races this season.

Finally, as for my placement in the “elite” wave, which I still question, there were nine of us in the wave, and I finished 7th out of the group and 11th overall. So, I wouldn’t say that I belonged, but I wouldn’t say that I didn’t belong, either. In either case, it was the race director’s call, so I’m not going to feel guilty over taking up a spot.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Winter Running Block Recap

The thing about being a triathlete in the mid-Atlantic is that there are very few opportunities to race triathlon between mid-October and early May, unless you care to pack up your bike and travel a pretty sizable distance. Since most of us like competing, we find other races to do – swim meets, road races, etc – and over the 2014-2015 winter, I put in a lot of run training and racing. Since that block has wrapped up and I do my first triathlon of the 2015 season in less than 48 hours (what?), I guess it’s time to document how that went.

In summary, had I met all my goals for this run-focused block, I would have:

Broken 23 minutes in the 5k

Gone a 1:47:xx in a half marathon

Qualified for the Boston Marathon (sub-3:40 for my age group)

 Let’s take it race-by-race.

November 2: Race to End Women’s Cancer 5k – 24:02

I’d just run a 5k in a sprint tri in a 23:18 and figured there’s no way I’d go slower than that. In figuring that, I ignored 1. The likely slightly short course for the tri 2. The fact that I took a good 3 weeks of light training at the end of the triathlon season and 3. My tendency to run fastest right after biking (something about race-specific training blah blah blah). #2 was the biggest factor – can’t get upset by results you don’t get from work you don’t do, so this not-so-awesome time kicked my butt back into gear to train for more winter races.

November 27: SOME Trot for Hunger 5k – 22:58

Made that sub-23! Looks like training helps. Also, we got exercise before Thanksgiving dinner, so everybody wins.

December 6: Rehoboth Beach Half Marathon – 1:49:38

I was gunning for a 1:47:xx, and the 5k just 9 days before gave me confidence I could do it. Unfortunately (dudes go ahead and stop reading if you want), I had an ovarian cyst swell up in the interim, and it ruptured in the middle of the race. For anybody who is curious, MANY women with a rupturing ovarian cyst will go to the ER because the pain is so bad they can’t stand up. For me, it sounded like more fun to run 8 miles at about 8 minutes per mile, telling myself that I use my legs, not my ovaries, to run, and then almost blacking out from the pain and walking substantial portions of the race before gutting it out through the last mile of tunnel vision and dizziness to barely break 1:50 and set a 3 minute PR.

January 1: New Year’s Day 5k – 23:56 

Jason and I did this race together in 2013, a few weeks after we started dating. It’s a tradition for us at this point, so despite getting pretty sick while traveling over Christmas, I went to the start line anyway with the intention of getting in a good tempo workout. Went out at what felt “hard” but not like “racing” and went about my typical tempo pace without compromising illness recovery.

February 14: Myrtle Beach Marathon – 4:10:26

So, what was supposed to be the Boston Qualifier wound up being, like, half an hour too slow. I knew from the outset that this goal was a reach, had a few good long runs and then became a MESS about four weeks out from race day for a variety of reasons ranging from insufficient rest to difficulties balancing hard vs. easy miles. Come race day, I easily held onto goal pace for 14 miles until my quads said “Thanks, try again another time” and I more or less walked the remainder of the race. I don’t regret giving it a shot, though I do have to say that this is the only marathon I’ve done that wasn’t a negative split, and I would prefer to go back to that approach in the future because it is far less miserable.

March 1: St. Patrick’s 10k – 52:00

Since I walked a substantial portion of the marathon, I felt like my legs bounced back pretty quickly, and I was eager for a redemption race. I signed up for a fast and flat 10k in downtown DC, where I was greeted with an ice storm and fatigue so crushing that I literally contemplated stopping for a nap half a mile in. Finished the race in my 2nd worst 10k time ever and contemplated not racing ever again. Lesson: systemic marathon recovery needs are real even if your legs feel fine.

March 22: Shamrock Half Marathon – 1:48:17

After the miserable 10k, I decided I didn't care to race in hard conditions anymore this winter/spring, or possibly not race at all. I was already signed up to race the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, and decided to go ahead when the weather forecast called for temps around 40-42F. Perfect for running, I'd already paid, and Jason was running, too, so let's go and have a nice run. I wound up settling into a "challenging but not painful" pace the whole way and definitely did NOT leave it all out there, but had a fun day and set a 90 second PR, so fine, we'll go with that.

April 12: Cherry Blossom "I don't even know what distance it really is" Miler - 1:16:23

I lucked out and got into the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler via the lottery, and was excited to run what looked like a fun course (look, I like running around Hains Point, OK?). It's unfortunately a little close to the start of triathlon season, so there was no way I could target this as a running race. But, since I am focusing on Olympic and Sprint races this season, it would be a good chance to check my ability to hit my pace goals (open 10 miler pace is sort of close to off the bike 10k pace). The race course was re-routed because of an accident investigation and was shorter than 10 miles, so that shot the "I really don't care what my time is" factor up by an order of magnitude or two. Just like Shamrock, I ran at a "challenging but not painful" pace and enjoyed the day. My watch showed I held 8:01/mi for the distance we ran, and my run pacing goal for triathlon this year is to be under 8 minutes per mile. 

In the end, it looks promising, so let's get on with that triathlon business, shall we?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Two Things Tuesday

It's been a while since I last posted. I've raced four times since then, so you'd think maybe I'd write about those races, but no, not interested in that right now. Two non-racing things I'm here to discuss instead.

1. Our local amazing triathlon shop, Tri360, made me their featured athlete of the month. They run an awesome shop, and if you have any bike- or triathlon-related needs in the DC area, you should go there. They take amazing care of my bike, and when my powermeter acted up 5 days before Eagleman 2014, they were going to turn the world upside down to get me set for race day.

Luckily, I only needed to move a battery. Way easier than moving the Earth.

2. Having done a lot of deep water/pool running when my foot was broken, I've still been working in a session or two a week as cross training. It's obviously not the most mentally stimulating activity, but during Sunday's pool running session, I found the ultimate secret to keeping yourself entertained while pool running.

Music? Nope.

Intervals? They help, but only so much.

Friends? Not quite.

The secret, you see, is to go to the pool the one afternoon of the week that the diving boards are open for use. Crowds of kids, teenagers, and, erm, "adults" were there to show off their...I'm not even sure what...on the 1- and 3-meter boards. It was nonstop entertainment for all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 Waterman's Sprint Triathlon

As I noted last week, I’ve been able to run again post-fracture, and it’s been fun. The weather has (generally) given us cooler temperatures ideal for running nearly any time of day, and I’ve been pleased to find that I didn’t lose too much running speed. After a couple weeks of gradually longer runs (only one over an hour, don’t get excited) with decreasing walk intervals, I floated the idea of racing a sprint triathlon to my coach, figuring I could handle a 5k run at this point in my post-injury recovery. It may not be fast, but I’d been swimming and biking enough that I could bank some time on the first couple of legs, and maybe squeak out a qualification for the 2015 Age Group National Championships so that I could get that out of the way.

While I expected coach to question the wisdom of competing in a race less than 4 weeks after my first 20 minute run-walk, she gave me the green light, so I signed up for Waterman’s Sprint over in Rock Hall, MD, and made the early morning drive over to Maryland’s eastern shore with no idea of what to expect.

Turns out it went pretty well, and I turned in 4th place overall, which is the highest overall placement I’ve ever achieved – and I would have been 2nd overall had I been able to put on my shoes (see T2 time and ranking).

The good news is that I still won my age group, which means that unless USA Triathlon drastically changes their qualifying standards, I’m in for 2015 Age Group Olympic Distance Nationals!

As for the details…

Swim, 750m: (11:58 in the water (1:36/100m), but 12:22 once I got off the dock and across the timing mat. 5th/154 women, 1st/15 AG)

Despite the cold temperatures race morning, I still planned to get into the water to warm up for 10 minutes before the race. That is, I planned that, until it turns out we weren’t able to do so. Instead, we got about 3 minutes to bob around before our wave started, which turned out to be insufficient warm up (shocking, I know). I spent the first half of the swim very much not with it mentally, and was definitely not putting out a sprint-level effort. It was probably about 10k swim effort, if that. I picked it up a little bit for the 2nd half, and just barely came in under 12 minutes and soon heard somebody tell me that I was the 4th woman out of the water. Not ideal, but not catastrophic, so I put the swim behind me and moved on to the next task at hand.

T1: 2:08, 4th/154 women, 1st/15 AG

I passed one of the women in front of me in transition. Then I probably wasted a few seconds at the mount line clipping into my shoes because who has time to practice flying mounts?

Bike, 15mi (maybe): 43:29 (20.7 mph), 8th/154 women, 2nd/15 AG

Though it was still chilly, I didn't bother with arm warmers or gloves, and reasoned that I could warm myself up by making more watts. This works for a sprint, when there isn’t as much concern about blowing out your legs as there might be for a longer race. I averaged 190-200W for most of the time I was pedaling, but bled off a little power going around turns and the like. While keeping me warm, that power output helped me handle the pretty substantial wind with ease, and also helped me pass one of the two women in front of me a few miles in. Given the wind, I was definitely glad to have my powermeter keeping my effort level even – you can see that my speed, which is in green, varied substantially despite the flat course, owing to the variable wind direction. My power output, however, stayed relatively even except when passing or taking turns.

I was also glad I had my powermeter because my heart rate monitor wasn’t functional thanks to the brackish water we had for the swim. No, I was not putting out almost 200 watts with a heart rate in the 60s, but I can dream, right?

Anyhow, at least one piece of technology held up throughout the bike, and I kept ahead of the rest of the women’s field to roll into T2 behind only one woman.

T2: 1:22, 38th/154 women, 7th/15 AG

Since I’m still a little iffy about my foot, I was running in super supportive shoes (Hoka Bondis) without speedlaces. And I now know this is where I lost my overall podium spot. Sad trombone. 

Run, 5k (again…maybe not quite): 23:18 (7:30/mi) 13th/154 women, 2nd/15 AG

I set out onto the run course and focused on trying to hold threshold effort, or perhaps a little faster. My run legs came out pretty quickly, and I passed through mile 1 in 7:30, and figured I was either going to blow up and barely avoid walking while watching speedy female runners stream past me, or I was going to run faster than I have all season.

Of course, even running faster than I have all season, I could still get passed by a bunch of women. There were some speedy ladies out there, so I was bracing myself to see a stampede of them right behind me when I got to the turnaround.

And didn’t see anybody. Eventually I saw a dude, and a few more dudes, and finally saw a few women about three minutes behind me.


Essentially, it was my podium place to lose, so I kept running at a high effort level – definitely close to redlining the heart rate and periodically looking over my shoulder. Knowing that half the women started four minutes behind us, I didn’t let up despite the space behind me, and was definitely DONE when I crossed the finish line. I got a temporary boost from being announced as the second woman across the line (this may never happen again so don’t expect me to ever shut up about it), walked through the finish chute, and immediately laid down for a substantial chunk of time before going over to inspect the results.

Total time: 1:22:36, 4th/154 women, 1st/15 AG

Turns out that two women starting in that wave behind us were 8 seconds and 20 seconds faster than me, so all the glances over the shoulder in the world wouldn’t have told me that. I won’t lie, I was a little upset that I was SO CLOSE to being 2nd overall. But I really think I put everything I had out there that day. Sure, I could have been faster in transition, but it would have been at the risk of reinjuring my foot. And I could have swum a little faster, maybe put out a few more watts, what if, etc.

In the end, I didn’t. And even though I didn’t, I can’t be too upset about the results, because I’d just started run/walking 27 days before this race, finished 4th out of 154 women in the field, and actually set a 5k PR by almost 30 seconds despite having biked pretty hard for 40 minutes immediately beforehand.

I also can’t be that upset because the overall winners got tubs of HEED as a prize. Who needs that? I’ll take the bottle opener, thanks.

And that’s it for the 2014 triathlon season. It definitely didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, with a DNS in my first scheduled race, a broken foot, and some races I hadn’t even planned on doing. But it was a pretty good season regardless, and I know what I want to do with the 2015 season – and that’s a discussion for another day.