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.


  1. I was wondering how this race went, sounds pretty awesome. Kicking but and improving each year- 2016 better watch out!

  2. YES! So happy to finally get to read your first recap. My swim start was pretty chaotic too, and I didn't realize we started farther back this year. Interesting. Caffeinated gels make a huge difference. I'm such a coffee fiend that taking in nutrition with some sort of caffeine is non-negotiable for me to stay focused. :) That Wall of Shirtless 25-29 Dudes sounds amazing. That is a good kind of wall. ;) Congrats on a great race--time to get ready for Omaha!

  3. Nice work on the Olympic course! That's so strange they changed the swim start setup. Ugh, that start is bad enough. Congrats on the course PR and the strong bike!