Friday, September 25, 2015

Patriot's International Triathlon 2015

After a pretty good Olympic-distance race at nationals, I took a substantial portion of the next week completely off to recover from a relatively intense string of racing. I still wanted to race a few more times before local waterway temperatures ended triathlon season, so I got back into training after an easy week, and had no difficulty putting out the watts on my bike and getting myself back in the pool.

Then there was running.

I was having a great time getting outside and enjoying the slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity whenever such weather passed through DC towards the end of August, but anytime a workout called for any kind of intervals or real effort, well…

Maybe it was because I’d broken the 2:30 barrier at nationals and had already reached a bunch of podiums this season, and I felt satisfied with what I’d gotten done. Or maybe I’m just lazy.

The running funk didn’t turn around before my first race back after nationals, so two weekends ago, I found myself in Williamsburg on a very muggy morning, with all my gear, ready to find out just where I stood after five weeks of questionable training following nationals.

Swim: 25:57 in the water (4/86 women, 2/11 AG)

I completely misread the current while warming up and started on the wrong side of the first turn buoy, so that had me behind the lead women at the first buoy. I caught back up to them shortly after that, and we stuck together until we caught up to the slow men, which broke us apart. I wasn’t swimming that hard and kept trying to coax myself to go faster, but was definitely doing the whole thing at a moderate aerobic pace rather than a racing pace. Even though I didn’t swim fast, I do think I did a good job of staying on course, so at least I didn’t waste energy, and I came out right at the front of the race.

T1: 2:49 (5/86 women, 2/11 AG)

We had a pretty long run into transition, which, historically, has been a place I get passed often. This time, I decided to treat the run like a race (how novel), and had much better results. I passed one woman, and one passed me, so that’s better than several women running past me before I can even get to my bike.

I also decided to address previous weaknesses in my T1 plan by starting with my shoes clipped into my bike. I’d practiced this a few times in the week leading up to the race, and found that I ran to the mount line MUCH faster, and of course, saved time by putting on my shoes while I was moving forward on the bike course. I can definitely improve my mounting technique and speed, but this was a substantial improvement.

Bike: 1:06:23 (22.5 mph, 5/86 women, 1/11 AG)

The bike was the best and most fun part of the day. I passed one woman in the first mile or so, then the eventual race winner caught up with me and I stuck with her (legally) for pretty much the rest of the ride. My power was lower than it was at nationals, but not drastically so, and I think part of this was because, for 12 miles, we were navigating around the slower people in half ironman that started 30 minutes before us. Part of it was probably also because I wasn’t in as good of shape as I was at nationals.

Once we hit the turnaround, I realized that the eventual winner and I were 1-2 in the race, and she was only a few seconds ahead.  I also realized that my bike computer was showing 32-something which meant that I was on pace for a 1:05 bike split.

This would be substantially faster than the sub-1:10 I was thrilled to post at nationals just a few weeks earlier, so I was a little concerned I was going too hard. But, my legs were feeling OK (well, as OK as they should feel during a hard short course race effort), and my heart rate was under control, so I just went with it and stuck with the lead woman, passing her once or twice as we leapfrogged back to transition.

T2: 1:15 (10/86 women, 3/11 AG)

I took my feet out of my shoes too early because I was worried about not having enough time to do it before the dismount line, so partial fail on the more efficient dismount. It was still much easier running through transition without clomping around in bike shoes so it was an overall success. I had come into transition maybe five seconds in back of the eventual race winner, and decided save time by skipping socks.

Run: 56:02 (9:02/mi, 31/86 women, 6/11 AG)

I started out at a comfortable pace, which turned out to be just over 8min/mile. For whatever reason, I never found motivation to push hard enough to get beyond a conversational pace, and my pace kept getting slower and slower. Once 2nd and 3rd place passed me and I was off the overall podium, I had even less motivation.

Just in case I needed more demotivation, I started developing extremely painful blisters on the arches of my feet after four miles. Remember the no socks thing?

I wound up getting passed by a couple more women, including one in my age group, but never felt the urge to run harder. This was probably exacerbated by the fact that it felt like I was running on shards of glass thanks to the ever-expanding blisters.

Overall: 2:32:49 (6/86 women, 2/11 AG)

I was pretty annoyed with myself about phoning in the run when I realized that if I’d run only 90 seconds slower than I did at nationals, I would have been second overall. The entire time on the run, my thoughts were pretty much a mess of “I already broke 2:30 this season, it’s a hot day, I haven’t been running well since nationals, blah blah blah,” which isn’t going to lead to excellence on the run course.

I do also think I lost a non-trivial amount of fitness since nationals – which is fine and needs to happen after a peak race – but I guess I can’t expect results from work I didn’t do.

Setting aside the above whining, there were some pretty good outcomes here. I made the age group podium in an Olympic-distance race, biked a pretty fast 40k, and logged my second fastest ever Olympic-distance race time. If I can do all that after a month plus of slacking, I can’t complain too much.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sprint Distance National Championships "Race" Report

As happy as I was after my race at the Olympic Distance Age Group National Championships, I didn't have too much time to celebrate right after, because I was doing the Sprint Distance Age Group National Championships the very next day. I love weekends of double racing, and after crossing the finish line on Saturday, got right to work with ice and compression and rehydration so that I was ready for a good race on Sunday. One of my goals this season was to qualify for 2016 sprint worlds, which meant placing top 8 in my age group at this race - difficult, but definitely possible based on how I'd done in the Olympic distance race.

Despite all my recovery efforts, Saturday night, I was still too buzzed from the race - and possibly caffeine - to get to sleep before midnight, and then woke up at 4 am with no alarm. Ah well, sleep is overrated for recovery, right?

I set up transition and went through my warm up routine to find that when I jogged, I had a REALLY tight windpipe and all the puffs on my rescue inhaler didn’t make a difference. I tried stretching and massaging my chest to loosen everything up, but it didn’t seem to help.

You can probably see where this is going.

Not  being one to DNS a race when I've already racked my bike and warmed up, I hopped into the water for a brief warm up. As we were warming up, I could hear the announcer reading off names of women who were expected to place high in our age group, and thought about how weird that would be to hear yourself called out like that.

Then he read my name.

It was weird. 

I am not sure who I know who knows somebody at USA Triathlon who thought that would be a funny joke, but it was definitely bizarre. 

Swim: I lined up on the dock - and it turns out I did so on the wrong side, since there was a last minute announcement about the buoy pattern that differed from the Olympic course - and got ready to go. I went out hard, and felt pretty good for the first few minutes. Then, I started having trouble breathing. By the last 300 meters or so, I was gasping for air and constantly lifting my head out of the water, and got to the swim exit and pretty much fell over.

T1: The volunteers got me back on my feet, and I was so out of it that I couldn’t even get my arms out of my wetsuit and completely forgot to lap my watch. My breathing only got worse and worse, and when I ran past Jason, I told him I couldn’t breathe and I was really starting to panic because this wasn’t getting better. I wound up running right past my bike, backtracked, and fumbled all my stuff together while hyperventilating.

Bike: I considered not even going out on the bike course, but thought maybe everything would calm down. I pedaled SUPER EASY at the beginning, and after maybe 4 miles, was able to do some kind-of-normal breathing, so I tried upping the intensity for about 15 seconds before I realized that wasn’t going to work. I tried that a handful of times more before I resigned myself to doing the biking equivalent of a brisk walk. As I neared the end of the bike course, I considered dropping out at T2, but I’m scared that if I DNF a race, it will be too easy to DNF other races in the future.

T2: I stopped to fix my shorts since I was clearly done with actual racing, so what’s an extra 15 seconds? When I left transition, I stopped to talk to Jason (again, done racing, who cares) and tell him I was OK as long as I kept with low-end aerobic stuff so that he could go and do his own race without worrying about me.

Run: I took off with some easy jogging, and stopped to walk when I felt the wheezing and hyperventilating starting up. It was pretty painful, and there was a convenient bail-out point about 1.5 miles in that was quite tempting, but I figured worst case, I could walk another half hour. The last mile or so, I was getting extremely dizzy and was still hyperventilating even when I was walking, so when I jogged past my parents in the finishing chute, I told them I was going to medical.

They got me on a nebulizer and some supplied oxygen, and I was good as new after about 10 minutes. Then I went out to cheer on Jason and laugh about how miserable my splits were (I haven't bothered to post them here, but you can go look them up for yourself).

I obviously didn't meet my goal of qualifying for 2016 sprint worlds. That's ok. There will be sprint worlds in 2017, and 2018. The bigger issue here is getting my breathing problems under control because it's frustrating to not be able to race to my abilities, and I'm sure my friends and family are kind of sick of worrying about me out on the course. I have, since the race, had a chance to see my pulmonologist, and found out some interesting and very surprising things that I'll discuss in a later post, but I think we have a good idea of how to prevent or address future episodes.

In the end, I'm just happy I at least had a good race on Saturday, and I have some high hopes for nationals next season.

If I can, like, learn how to run.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

USAT Olympic Distance Nationals Race Report

This is for a race from a month ago; my excuse for not posting sooner is that I've had four business trips since the race, and this is also my excuse for putting up a wall of text with no pictures. 

The race itself went very well - better than I expected, both in terms of my time (2:28:55, or over 10 minutes faster than I was on this same course last year) and my placement within my division (50/164). There are, of course, aspects I could still improve, but I was pretty happy when I crossed the line that day. 

Swim (23:55, 1:18/100y, 16/164 AG, 137/1181 women): After an extremely short (3 minute) swim warm up, we were all instructed to hold onto the dock. The dock was maybe 20 yards long. There were over 160 of us. 

You do that math. 

I understand that they were trying to make for a fair start and an accurate swim distance, but this was NOT an elite ITU race, and there were too many of us with too many different speeds on the starting line that day. The first 200-300 meters were extremely chaotic, but once we passed that point, I was able to navigate the course fairly well and hold a good effort level. For the last 500 meters or so, I was swimming stroke-for-stroke with one woman, which was a nice way to pace, save the fact that we kept hitting each other.

In the end, I took about 15 seconds off my time from last year, though most people were about a minute slower because we started 100-150 meters further back than last year. 

T1 (2:53, 64/164 AG, 353/1181 women): That woman I had been swimming next to (and hitting) turned out to be Corey. We waved at each other, and she and at least two other women from my age group passed me while I was running barefoot in transition. I should probably do something to address this. Such as practicing running barefoot. Or becoming a better runner.

Bike (1:09:43, 21.4 mph, 64/164 AG, 253/1181 women): The course starts off with a pretty flat three mile out and back, so I got to work holding my target power of 185 watts and started passing a handful of women in my age group (what planet am I on and can somebody please bring me back to Earth). 

At the hill near the first turnaround, I pushed the power harder to maintain speed and was able to let my legs recover nicely spinning on the downhill and then got back to work. The bridge we got to at mile eight was much easier to go up than it was last year, and while I was definitely pushing a good 240-250 watts for several minutes, it didn’t feel that hard.

Probably should have done an FTP test sometime this summer instead of just guessing it was 220-225 watts if several minutes at 250 watts felt easy.

It was overcast and not that warm, so I didn’t need to take in quite as much hydration as normal, but I did make sure to take in my caffeinated shot blocks starting about 20 minutes in. I think this made a huge difference in my ability to focus and stay engaged in the race, because last year, I was really annoyed, tired, and discouraged for miles 10-18 of the course, which involve biking through industrial side roads that are pretty deserted. This time, I was able to stay motivated and use the fast 24&Under men passing me as motivation to bike harder. About halfway through, it was looking like I was going to average well over 21 mph, which surprised me, and in the end, I was very, very happy to break 1:10 by a substantial margin - last year, I'd posted a 1:16, so this is a massive improvement.

T2 (1:38, 96/164 AG, 522/1181 women): I did not know this at the time, but I came off the bike 27th in my age group. Top 25 can get roll down slots to world championships (with 18 slots available) so maybe I should figure out how to run before I come back to this race next year. I also got passed by at least two more people in my age group AT THE DISMOUNT LINE and should really work on a flying dismount and taking my feet out of my shoes before dismounting because these things make a difference in short course racing.

Run (50:41, 8:09/mi, 82/164 AG, 508/1181 women): I was still super happy from my bike split and yelled to Jason, who was waiting right outside transition, that I’d broken 1:10 several times before I picked up the pace. I was holding in the 7:40/mile for the first mile or so, and was thrilled to be holding something under 8 minute/mile pace. Somewhere in that first mile, I passed a group of shirtless 25-29 dudes who had already finished racing for the day.

I high fived all of them. You'd have done the same.

The pace felt challenging but sustainable, but after about a mile and a half, I slowed down to about 8:10/mile – maybe partially because I was scared of falling apart like I had at Colonial Beach, but also maybe because I’m pretty sure we had a headwind based on how much my pace dropped back down after the turnaround. I was having a great time and cheering for other DC Tri Club folks and anybody I saw in SMASH kits. Maybe I should have put some of that energy into actually running, but maybe it kept my mind off the pain. I was very happy to see that I was going to cross the finish line well under 2:30 and let that distract me from the three people in my age group who passed me in the last quarter mile (fail).

Overall (2:28:55, 50/164 AG, 257/1181 women): I was thrilled with my overall time – I didn’t think I could break 2:30 on this course because the transition area is so large and adds a good 2+ minutes to your time compared to a normal-sized race with a smaller transition area. I was most happy with the bike split, and the run split was not too far off my standalone 10k PR (49:29). Jason looked up my results and we found out I was in the top third of my age group, which means that I qualified for 2016 nationals already, plus the sub-2:30 time means I’m eligible to enter the elite amateur wave at pretty much any race out there, should I want to. 

Altogether, a pretty good day of racing.

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.