Thursday, April 26, 2012

TryCharelston Half: 67.2 Awesome Miles

After Monday’s very quick summary of the 4/21TryCharleston half iron distance triathlon, I got a bunch of gigantic congratulations on my “win.” 

Before I delve into the race report in detail, I didn’t really “win,” since I was 45th out of a race with 83 women starting. I did, however, win my division – the Athena division, which is open to all women who weigh 150 lbs or more. Entry into this division is optional, so nobody is forced to disclose that they weigh over 150 lbs, which means that many women who qualify don’t enter because they don’t want to let everybody know their weight.

In other words, the entries in the division are often a lot more sparse than they could or should be.

Regardless, I registered in the division and came in first with a time of 6:03:13, which was in the middle of my estimated time range of 5:45 (:25 swim-3:00 bike-2:15 run-:5 transitions) to 6:45 (:35 swim-3:30 bike-2:35 run-:5 transitions). In terms of finishing time, it was relatively successful, but there are still some improvements to be made before IM Louisville – which is fine, because the point of this race was to identify any adjustments I’d need to make over the next four months.

Backing up a bit, things didn’t exactly go as planned – not just during the race, but before the race. Let’s review:
  • Doug found out earlier in the week that he would need to work until fairly late on Friday, meaning that I’d be driving there and back by myself.  Not exactly ideal, since driving 500-some miles less than 24 hours after finishing a half ironman can be pretty rough on your legs. But it did mean that I could speed along like crazy, minimize stops, and knock out the whole drive there Thursday afternoon and evening, leaving Friday morning for relaxing and organizing for the race. In the end, it was disappointing to not have him there, but I wound up with more time to focus on the race.
  • The swim course was not open the day before the race, nixing my plans to check out the water conditions. Eh. Go to a city pool for the warm up swim instead.
  • At packet pickup on Friday, I found out that I had not been assigned a race number, and that my name was nowhere to be found on the participant check-in list. Luckily, I always travel with a hard copy of my race registration, and managed to convince them to assign me a number. The race director did let me know that they somehow just dropped my information, and that I’d not made a mistake. Lesson to all: ALWAYS bring a hard copy of your registration confirmation. Always.
  • Just to cap off the fun, I went to set up my Garmin set up on Friday night, and it wouldn’t power on. Fascinating. Five minutes of panic and one Google search later, it was working again.
Finally, after renormalizing from the unexpected events and a night and morning of hyper organization to deal with the separate locations for T1 and T2, it was time to line up to race.

Swim: 31:49, nominally 1:30/100 yards (pre-race estimate of :25-:35)

The official time includes wetsuit stripping and a not-so-short uphill run into transition; my watch showed that I got out of the water right at :30 (or 1:25/100 yards), which was right in the middle of where I estimated I would be. I stayed at the front of the women’s wave, finishing 6th out of the women, and did the best sighting work that I could on a course with a grand total of 3 buoys. I felt a little weak and tired, but knew I was keeping ahead of almost all the women, so I didn’t panic and just got it done.

Now off to the leg that scared me the most: the bike. You know, given that as of 10 months ago, I hadn’t been on a bike in years, and I was about to go bike 56 miles before running a half marathon.

Bike: 3:03:36 (18.4 mph) (pre-race estimate of 3:00-3:30)

The bike was, oddly, my most successful leg of the day. I was right at the fast end of where I thought I’d be, I got in all my fluids, electrolytes, and nutrition every half hour as scheduled, and got in my out-of-aero stretch breaks while keeping myself solidly in the aerobic zone for 95% of the ride. I finished with my legs and body prepared to finish a half marathon without dying. All goals met with a good-for-me split.

Now that I’ve gloated about how awesome I was on the bike, I have a story to share. As noted above, I was racing in the Athena category. This means that instead of having my age marked on my calf like most athletes, I had an “A” denoting that I was racing against the other Athenas. Somewhere around Mile 15, I hear a voice behind me, but instead of the standard “on your left,” perhaps followed by “keep it up,” or “looking good,” or the like, I heard the following:

“Heeeeeeeeey Athena Girlieeeeeeeeeeeee. You could get rid of that A if you worked on it.”

My honest-to-God, completely automatic response was “It’s not going anywhere. I like it.”

“Oh…well, you look good, keep it up.”

I found this very odd, and nobody had ever said anything like that to me before – after all, we are RACING, it’s not exactly time for conversation, especially with people you don’t even know.

And then, about a minute later, it occurred to me that she’d basically told me that if I could lose weight if I worked at it.

Seriously? Did I ask you? Do I even know you? Why do you care about my race category if it isn’t yours. She was racing age group, so it shouldn’t have mattered to her even if she was watching her placement closely. I do know that some people think the Athena and Clydesdale (male equivalent of Athena) categories are ridiculous, an opinion that they are fully welcome to. If this is you, don’t enter them. But even if you object to their existence, you should realize that people those categories make your age group ranking higher, because we get pulled out of those rankings. It absolutely doesn’t impact you at all, and in the end, we are all racing against the clock. However, even though I know that there is a substantial group of people who dislikes the categories, I have NEVER heard anybody say anything remotely derogatory to any of the competitors in the divisions. Most triathletes are supportive of each other, especially on the course, where “good job” and “hang in there” can be heard throughout the run leg when many people are suffering and breaking down.

I was probably actually more irritated because I hate it when people refer to grown women as “girls.” And possibly because I’m relatively certain that she had more body fat than me, and had no room to talk.

(No, I don’t judge people on the race course for what they look like, but when you comment on my weight, you open yourself up.)

Anyhow, I had a race to do, so no time to devote to it. Keep on biking to get to the run.

Run: 2:22:20, 10:50 pace (pre-race estimate 2:15-2:35)

And here is where the fun started.

I got myself out of the second transition at almost exactly 3:40 total race time and started contemplating a sub-6 hour finish time. It would be close, but possible since my legs felt OK and I was off and tackling my run/walk intervals at a 10:10 pace for the first 4 miles. I was using the rags soaked in ice water to keep myself cool

Then I slipped to 10:30 pace for several miles. But still enough to make it in under 6 hours.

You know those rags soaked in ice water? Well, they kept me cool, but soaked my shoes by mile 8. Oops. That was unexpected. But with five miles to do, I could deal.

Until the real fun started. There was a turnaround near mile 10, which happened to be collocated with an aid station. There was a backup of a few runners, and we came to a dead stop for a few seconds. I started running again…and couldn’t run. My legs just wouldn’t turn over. With 5k to go, the 6 hour mark started falling away. I tried to get back to the run/walk intervals to keep the pace up. Two minutes of running, and my legs couldn’t keep up. Honestly, I think power walking was faster than whatever kind of run-shuffle I was trying to do. So instead of a strong final 5k, I did a 5k of run/shuffle-stumble-power walk. With a mile to go, I tried to run to just get it over with, and managed to run about half of it. Three women passed me in the last mile. I still couldn’t make myself run for that long, until the finish line was in sight.

I was angry after finishing, because I felt like I’d mentally given up and been weak – come on, three women blowing past me with a mile to go? And so close to six hours? But after reflection, I think I just hadn’t done long enough long runs because of illness, other races, and traveling, along with competing training needs – namely, getting enough time on the bike to ensure that I could tackle 56 miles. And in the context of the rest of the season, this wasn’t a race I was training towards with a specific time goal. It was like a practice race for IM Louisville. And even with the controlled implosion during the last 5k, I was still right in the middle of my estimated finish time range for the run. So, as disappointing as it was at the finish line, it wasn’t a complete disaster.

With that perspective, I kind of wish somebody had a video of that run/shuffle-stumble-power walk. I’m sure it was funny.

And how did I stack up against my actual goals, which had nothing to do with time?
1.   Don’t be stupid – Done. No bike hammering, no going out to fast on the run, just a little light on the long run training recently.
2.   Follow the damn race plan – Also done. All nutrition intake went according to plan and there were no issues. This is great news for IM Louisville, as it leaves me with only a little tinkering to do between now and then.
3.   Bank confidence for IM Louisville – Again, done. Even with the slow down at the end of the run, the race went pretty well, and I know I need to do more long run training. Which is part of the plan in the next four months. No problem at all.

So a plaque, a pretty decent time (in my brain, 6 hours is a respectable time for a woman), and a good assessment of where I am four months out from IM Louisville. Not bad for 3 days and 1000 miles of driving.

Just to top it off, I had dinner waiting for me when I got home Sunday night.

Along with wonderful, wonderful words.

“I used lots of extra salt.”


  1. Crawling IS allowed. Just saying :)

    Nice job!!!!

  2. Congrats on great execution. Also, just FYI, I ran 21 minutes faster in my 2nd HIM than my first...Yes I was definitely in better shape, BUT so much of it is learning the distance and knowing what to expect and how your body is going to feel.

  3. Wow, congratulations on a smart race, even if your legs weren't quite with you all the way to the end. And a group win is a win! So kudos on that.

    I cannot believe that woman said that. RUDE.

    Sounds like you'll have it all dialed in for IM Louisville!

  4. I think it's an awesome time. And I've totally been there with the not moving legs. No fun.

  5. Nice job in this race.

    You are really going to do well in your race. Wow 4 months away-I'd go a bit mad I think.

    Third, I had when people comment on size and weight, and while racing. That is seriously one of the rudest things I've ever heard-who the f is she to say that too. Clearly she is having personal problems herself.

  6. that comment is utterly rediculous. but you totally killed your goals!! fabulous. your legs will be ready next time ;)

  7. As the girl that got 3rd in the Athena, I want to know the number of the person who said that to you so I can figure out who it was. I hate it happened :(
    I finished in 6:29 and was very happy with my time also. I am enjoying the towel ;)
    I especially am enjoying reading your blog...thank you for doing it. I look forward to hearing all about the IM in KY!

  8. I can't believe someone said that to you? How stupid!

    But, I think you had an awesome race overall. Your bike leg was amazing!!! I am scared for the run in a couple weeks on mine :(

  9. For some reason when you first posted that someone said that to you, I thought (assumed?) it was a man (I guess I thought he was creepily hitting on you) . It's almost more offensive that another woman said it....

    Awesome race! I'm hoping to drastically improve my run from the last time. I looked back at my splits and the last 4 started with 11:xx... eek.

  10. That's an awesome race! You stuck to your great plan and it worked. I'm impressed! I would have lost it before that last 5k.

    And as for that woman on the bike. I would have been plotting ways to get her penalized.

    1. Oh there were like zero refs out there, and a LOT of "teamwork" going on during the bike. About 6 people decided that I wanted to be on their team at about mile 25 and enjoyed my draft. Jerks.

  11. I'm sorry - I would have just laughed at her. Seriously? What gives?

  12. First of all, you should be commended for not losing any time getting off your bike to punch that bitch. While you did awesome on your race, even though the last 5K sucked, I really think that's the true accomplishment here. Your celebration dinner looks a little too healthy though. I hope it was followed by lots of chocolate.

  13. 6 hours rocks. You did awesome and are set up well for IMKY. And just for the record, I woulda mowed that "girl" down :-P great recap!

  14. Congrats on the smart race and division win!

  15. Sounds like you had a fantastic race! I'm sure you learned a lot in that last 5k since it was so horribly difficult. Look forward to hearing about the rest of your training as you go for IMKY. I'm super impressed you registered for an IM without even doing a half first.
    As for the Athena comment - that girl had balls! When I first read it, I assumed it was a guy too (like Rachel). Seems even worse coming from another woman! Seriously?