I would subhead this post “Rolling with the punches” because that’s really the underlying theme of the day. I apologize in advance for the lack of photos – T had to go back and pack up the campground so he wasn’t able to be my race photographer. If my official race photos aren’t too awful, I’ll link to them later. To those who don’t wish to read a really long report – scroll down to the bottom to see my times.
I usually like to be at the transition area super early, but with a 6:30 start time it was really hard to make the call to leave at 4:00 am, so I decided to suck it up and cut my pre-race time shorter in favor of some more sleep. Not a good idea, I arrived at the transition area at 5:45, about a half an hour before it was supposed to close. I frantically set up my transition area and pumped up my tires. I just felt completely flustered and unfocused. T had dropped me off and gone to look for parking, so by the time I found him back in the throngs of people, I was in quite a state. He calmed me down and reminded me that I had another 40 minutes before my wave started, which helped a lot. I got into my wetsuit and started feeling better. Then it was time to bid T good-bye and line up for my swim start.
The way the swim start works for this race is a little different, there’s a long permanent dock that they attach a floating dock to for the swimmers to get into the water and float next to for a few minutes while they wait for their wave to start. The various groups line up before hand in order of their start times, which gives you more time to get nervous, but also time to chat with your fellow age-group members which was nice. I found Jennifer to wish her luck, since her group left approx. 10 minutes before mine (plus she’s a really fast swimmer, so I knew she’d be way ahead of me by the end of my swim… ) Then I went and found my group of fellow 35-39 year old ladies.
I always enjoy having a ladies only wave, mostly because the vibe pre-race is usually so supportive. There were a number of first-timers for this distance, so I got to assure them they were going to do great. Most of them just wanted to finish in under 8 hours (and probably did it way faster than that) and were generally unsure if they were going to be able to do it at all. Before we knew it, the wave before us was off and it was our turn to get in the water. Usually, I do a little swim warm-up before hand, but that wasn’t really an option at this race, so I was hoping that wouldn’t be a big problem. But no time to worry about that, it was time to swim.
For once, I was able to start in the group and not get stuck in the craziness. I started out with a nice relaxed stroke and just tried to find a nice smooth rhythm. I passed a few folks in my group and looked for someone to draft off of that was swimming a nice steady pace in a straight line. There was a small group that looked promising, but after I followed them for a bit, I realized they weren’t going in a straight line. So, after a little course correction, I found some open water and just tried to stay out of the way of the good swimmers from the other waves. The course is pretty narrow and got a little crowded toward the end, but I finished feeling good.
I headed into transition and changed into my bike gear. It felt like it took forever, but before I knew it I was out on the bike course. They’d changed the course, so the scouting ride I’d done a month ago was basically wasted. (I used to drive the course beforehand, and will do so in the future from now on… ) Luckily, it was pretty similar to the previous course start, so it wasn’t too big of a shock. I felt pretty good heading out and just focused on finding a nice comfortable pace to start with. About seven miles in, I noticed that one of my cleats felt loose and I realized that I was going to have to stop and deal with it. I debated the point for a while, then pulled to the side of the road – letting the folks I’d worked so hard to pass in the swim pass me by. I tightened my cleat and hit the road, only to have my chain jam up a little while later. Curse you, bike course!
Because the course is lots of hills – a lot of slow uphills and speedy downhills, I couldn’t calculate my average pace. I was trying to do the bike course in 3:30, but I couldn’t tell if that was going to be in the cards. As I reached the end of the first loop, I discovered the other surprises the course had in store – some stupid big hills. RUDE! When I saw the hills, I realized if I was going to make my time goal, it was going to be very, very close. At the half-way point, I saw that unless I could ride the second loop considerable faster than the first loop, 3:30 was not going to happen. Because my overall goal of 7:30 relied on a 3:30 bike or pretty close to it (or some sort of miraculously fast run) I was forced to consider that I might have to shift my goal and just do the best that I could.
I passed some folks going into the second lap, which was a nice confidence boost. I tried to focus on how much better I felt this year compared to last year. I felt much better on the bike this time, compared to last year where I just wanted it to be over with. The last four miles, after the second lap, were also pretty rolling – again RUDE! 🙂 I finally made it to the transition area and changed into my run stuff, a little on the slow side and headed out.
My legs were not happy to run after all of those hills, so I walked for a few minutes to let everything loosen up a bit (and it gave me a chance to eat my pancake with peanut butter I had left from breakfast) then I forced myself to run/shuffle. I stopped at aid stations for water to dump on myself to keep cool as the sun was coming out and it got a little toasty on some parts of the run course. The run course was a figure 8 shaped that you ran two times. Because of this, tons of spectators would gather in the middle so there was tons of support which was really nice. It also broke up the course into manageable sections so it wasn’t too disheartening. The second half wound along the lake which was not only scenic, but provided a nice breeze and folks would sit outside their houses and cheer for us, which rocked – especially spritzer girl.
Unfortunately, my legs just didn’t want to run as much of it as I wanted them to and they were winning the battle. I tried to find a zone and just get into it, but it was definitely a struggle. I calculated how fast I needed to run the various sections and it became pretty clear that I wasn’t going to make my 7:30 goal time, so I had to deal with it and try to come as close as I could, which wasn’t close at all. Finally, I was on the last part of my last lap and chugged it on in to the finish line. As always, it was so nice to be done and T was there to cheer me in.
1st Transition: 4:44
2nd Transition: 5:14
I’m trying to appreciate the positives and figure out how to learn from the negatives. The positives were:
- I was faster on a tougher course than last year’s race.
- I felt better overall than I did last year, in terms of both general fitness level and post-race recovery.
- I was much better about my nutrition. Although I needed to drink more on the bike, I didn’t overeat on the bike so I didn’t feel bloated on the run.
- I took all of the obstacles thrown at me in stride and handled them calmly.
- I found a new favorite pre-race breakfast: cold pancakes with peanut butter and a banana. Also quite delicious after the bike…
The things I learned:
- I need to step up my run training so that my run fitness is better and that it won’t be such a struggle.
- I need to continue to work on my mental skills and have confidence that I can do more than I let myself believe that I can.
- If your shoe feels weird on the pre-race ride, stop and check it out immediately!
Overall, I had a great experience and I would definitely do this race again. It’s a beautiful course and is very well organized (although they could stand to have someone announce the slower folks coming across the line, I thought that was pretty crappy… ) Sorry for the crazy long report, but that’s the price you pay for reading this long-winded girl’s blog. 🙂