Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whately Police Triathlon 2011

Yesterday was my first triathlon of the 2011 season. I feel no race report is complete without the context of the days leading up to the race.

Last weekend I headed to Montreal for a conference, along with 3 of my students. I have this to say about the drive from western MA to Montreal: Vermont is a lot bigger than it looks on a map. The conference was good, and the last night we were there, we went on a dinner cruise around the city:

This almost made up for the fact that I was cheap thrifty and got us all housing in the university dorms, where my room for 3 nights looked like this:

Before night fell during our cruise, we saw a rainbow--this was the only time it had rained in Montreal during our entire visit.

(No, this isn't a Titanic moment--I just had a fit of something and decided it would look better if I tilted the camera.) That's right, 3 days of gorgeous, sunny weather. At the beginning of the week, when I spent virtually the whole day inside, listening to talks. Whereas the end of the week, when I had a race to do. . . . yeah, you can guess how this went.

On the way home from Montreal I suggested we stop in Burlington, VT to get lunch, and then I made my students walk with me down to the waterfront so I could scope out what I believe is the site for AG Nationals in August.

I'm thinking not a beach start. Also, notice how the weather is getting kind of crummy?

We got back Wednesday around 3 pm, and at 4:30 I left with my friend Traci and our daughters to go to the Taylor Swift concert in Hartford. Taylor haters, you can stop reading now. It was awesome. Here are the girls, deep in some kind of glowstick-induced euphoria:

The only downside was getting home around midnight and having to get up for work the next day, which is arguably not a great prerace strategy, but whatever--this wasn't an A race for me. And, I mean, Taylor Swift.

Thursday I had my last real ride before the race, and it was raining. Not hard, but nonetheless steadily, and the radar (which I had been checking obsessively all morning) was just a big blob of green. Two things spurred me out the door: 1) when there's bad weather for a race, I like to be able to tell myself, "I've ridden in worse than this." 2) I had to take my bike back home on my car after work anyway, so it would get dirty enough doing that in the rain that I'd have to clean it anyway. So off I went, and it wasn't all that bad. Unfortunately, it kept raining hard enough that the beach where the race was going to be held was closed, so I missed my one opportunity to do some open water swimming there after work. Which meant I'd done exactly one open water swim this year before the race.

Fast forward to race day: it takes all of 15 minutes to drive to this race from my house, which is one of many things I love about this race. It's a sprint, and this was the 3rd year in a row I've done it. The weather forecast was crap--thunderstorms around 6 am (just in time to soak everything in transition), then maybe more rain. But in fact, the rain never materialized--it was just cloudy and maybe a little misty to start with. The transition area was a mud pit, but the race director had anticipated this and laid down straw on the worst parts, and it was actually fine. Truth be told, while I like sunny weather as much as the next person, I would much rather not race in it, so I was pretty happy.

This is a smallish local race--it's put on by one energetic woman and her crack team of volunteers, and I have to say, they do a better job of traffic control than (in my experience) some large race companies who shall remain nameless. To be fair, it's also in Whately, where cows are as likely to be a traffic problem as cars, but still. I knew tons of folks doing the race, including a lot of my teammates, so my prerace routine was much more social than usual. They don't have assigned rack spots at this race, but it's not an issue--people will move their bikes over to make room if need be. I know, what a concept. By the time we moseyed down to the water for the start, I felt pretty relaxed. I did a quick swim warmup, so I could pee in my wetsuit get rid of any open-water jitters.

The New Aggressive Me positioned myself at the front of the swim, and when our wave went off (all women and relays, 3 minutes after the wave of all men), I swam hard for the first 50 yards or so, then tried to settle into what I thought was a hard but steady pace. (Foreshadowing: yea on the steady, nay on the hard.) For some reason we had at least 3 different cap colors in our wave, which was apparently more than my small brain could process, but I thought I stayed pretty near the front. The swim is an out and back, and we caught the real stragglers off the first wave before the turnaround, then swam into the heart of the back end of that wave all during the second half. I had some trouble keeping things straight and steady when I had to start weaving around the men, but in general I was psyched about my swim, because New Aggressive Me didn't just slow down and let anyone cut in front of me any time there was some jockeying for position. I don't think I'll ever be able to just swim over people from behind, at least not intentionally, but I'm comfortable swimming under the same rules as running: if I have a line going, you don't cut me off without a body length to do it in.

I don't generally start a watch on the swim, because I feel like swim courses are all over the map in their length, and I don't need the aggravation of seeing a slow time coming into T1. So I exited thinking I'd had a great swim. In fact, I was a little slower than last year. Huh. But I was the 3rd woman in the swim, so this is one of those cases where I'm choosing to believe my intuitive sense of the swim rather than the actual time. Sketchy, I know, but it's working for me.

Here I am exiting the water:

OK, yeah, I'm  a little blurry. But here's the thing: the race director gets some friends to take photos, and then she posts all 800+ of them on Facebook, and you can take them for free. So I'm not complaining about a little blurry.

T1 was OK--not super fast, but not an utter clownfest. Unlike T2 (foreshadowing). I ran out in my shoes (no, don't have that shoeless mount down yet), got on the bike, and started chasing after the women I knew were in front of me (because they called out some names as I was in transition).

Again, Intuitive Bike went really well. I was able to keep my HR as high as I'm supposed to, which has been a struggle for me, and I felt like I attacked the rollers on this course much more successfully than in the past two years. I could NOT find those women, but I kept trying. When I passed my coach, she shouted "Go, B****!" much to the surprise of the other spectator near her. No women passed me. Um, until the last half mile, when my friend Alicia zipped past me. But other than that, no women. Reality bike, however, was only 30 seconds faster than last year. Hmph. But then I looked at other people's bike times, and it seems to me a lot of people were 1-2 minutes slower than last year. Wet roads? Who knows. But again, I'm going with Intuitive Bike. It was good. I probably slacked off a little too much in the last ~3 miles, when my bike ADD set in, and that's something for me to work on.

Here's a picture of my dismount, capturing my natural grace and poise:

Another thing I like about this race is that the run is an out and back, and it lines up with the end of the bike course, so near the end of the race you have a good idea where the competition is ahead of you. I saw the top 3 women in a clump heading out on the run, and they weren't that far ahead of me. I only knew who one of them was (last year she got 2nd to my 3rd overall), and I know she's an awesome biker but typically not as strong on the run. I was pumped to go after them. (Also my friend Alicia, of course!) And then I spent like an hour in T2, because I couldn't get my running shoes on my wet feet. OK, it was only 1:12, but it felt like an hour, and it was frustrating. I forgot to BodyGlide the openings on my shoes. I blame all that socializing in transition. Oh, also I slipped at the rack and fell on my butt.

Shaking off the ridiculousness of T2, I headed out on the run, and my legs felt great. (My feet didn't feel at all, thanks to the cold and wet conditions, but I am a New Englander, which means I am now used to running on sensationless blocks of ice during my triathlons.) I passed Alicia and then started hunting for the top 3 women. I saw them a bit before I reached the turnaround, and I really tried to push it, but in the end, I never caught up to them. I never actually got close enough to see them ahead of me on any of the longer stretches. It turned out I made up time on all of them, and I was about a minute back of the 3rd one at the end--in fact, she was the next finisher ahead of me. I don't think I could have made up a whole other minute on that run, so if I was going to crack the top 3, I would have had to do it earlier in the race.

I ended up 4th overall, and because the overall winner was the 1st 40-44, I got the 1st place AG award, although I know really I was 2nd. But it's just a keychain, so I don't feel too guilty about that.

My analysis of the race is this: if I had gone a bit faster in the swim, I could have seen the other women on the bike, and maybe in the attempt to keep up with them, I could have busted out a faster bike split. But I'm pretty happy with this as my first tri of the season.

After I finished I walked back to cheer on the rest of the finishers, and somehow I managed to lurch into a chainlink fence and cut my shoulder:

If you look closely, you can see the cut on my left shoulder while Alicia and I are slumping around in some kind of post-race stupor here. I look very cool still wearing my race number belt, don't I?

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