Conversations with endurance athletes can be funny. In addition to the talk of rest weeks that involve 50+ mile bike rides and several days of double workouts, you hear a lot of discussion regarding “only” doing a half marathon/a 10 miler/an Olympic distance triathlon.
People. There’s nothing “only” about any of those things. Racing 10 or 13.1 miles is HARD. So is swimming a mile, biking 25, and running 6.2, particularly if you are trying to put together the best time you can. So don’t dismiss your race as an “only” race. It’s still serious business.
Now that all said, I’ve got one of those “not only” races this weekend – the Columbia Triathlon, purportedly the longest-running triathlon in the Mid-Atlantic.
Even though I believe that an Olympic distance Triathlon is nothing to dismiss as an “only,” this isn’t a target race for me. First, you can only have so many of those in a year, because if you are always resting to put in your best possible performance at every race you do, you’re never training. Second, timing wise, this puts me smack between recovering from last month’s half ironman and crushing the Eagleman Aquavelo next month. So instead, I figured it was a good chance to practice race execution and race locally with a ton of DC Tri friends, as well as a few others coming from Pennsylvania.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I saw this in the Athlete’s Guide for the race.
Well then. Mid-Atlantic Athena Championship on the line? Joseph Francis Law Memorial Trophy? Game on.
After obsessively checking out last year’s results in the Athena category, and reviewing results of everybody else entered the category in this year’s race (shut up, you do it, too), I’m pretty sure I can podium in the 39&Under Athena category, and maybe, just maybe, win the overall trophy if I have a really good day.
Which requires having a solid race plan. Here goes:
- Swim: After reviewing everybody else’s race results, I am fairly confident that I’ll be the first one in my category out of the water without pushing too hard. The plan is to stay smooth and strong, but not go all out, since the energy depletion from going all is much more significant than that for going strong, and really doesn't result in much of a time savings.
- Bike: I already previewed the course at a fairly easy effort two weeks ago, and managed to finish it in 1:40; I anticipate going at least 10-15 minutes faster on race day. The hills are there, but they aren’t impossible, and there are nice descents before almost every uphill that allow you to get most of the way up the hill before you even have to start pedaling again. The biggest challenge will be getting in nutrition, which you can’t neglect during a nearly 3 hour race. I identified a few flatter areas – Miles 2-3, Miles 10-11, and Miles 19-21 – where I can sneak in 100 calories of Gu Chomps and an Endurolyte capsule. And of course, with temperatures climbing into the 70s and significant humidity, I’ll be getting in fluids at any opportunity to maintain a rate of 20-25 ounces an hour.
- Run: After NOT trashing my legs on the hilly bike course, I get to contend with a hilly run course! Luckily, I live in upper NW DC, which is the land of constant rolling hills, and I run them all the time. That still doesn’t mean it will be easy, so it’s important to remember to stay quick and light up, and to use gravity to dominate the downhills. I’ll be pretending that I weigh 100 lbs on the uphills and 200 lbs on the downhills. I studied enough nuclear physics that I’m pretty sure I can make that happen, or at least convince my brain that it’s true. The final piece of the run strategy is to go easy two miles, build two miles, and hammer the end, since the controlled implosion during the last 5k at Charleston was probably due to going too fast at the start of the run. It’s hard to avoid this, since the run is the end of the race, but a 10k is not to be run like an all-out mile on the track.