I was sure it was going to rain. I wondered what would happen when the thunderstorms forecast for 9 am opened up while we were all on the bike course. This morning at about 5:30 am I stood in my bathroom, eyeing the bottle of sunscreen, and I kid you not, my thought process went like this:
I don't need sunscreen, because it's going to rain. Maybe if I don't put on the sunscreen, it won't rain, just to teach me a lesson with a bad sunburn. Come to think of it, I'd rather have rain than hot sun anyway. So I'm putting on the sunscreen. Only I don't want it to rain too hard, so I'm not going to put it on my legs.
And indeed, it did not rain. There were huge storms to our south and east. A friend of mine did a 10-mile running race in CT and got rained on. I had a muggy, cloudy day that burned off into full-on sun by the start of my 7.2-mile run. And no, my legs didn't get burned; I think they must be fairly well shadowed by my a** or something.
As I explained in my previous post, there were a lot of little things suggesting I was not set for the race of my life. But I got lucky with the big thing, which was my prerace sleep. My husband and kids left early for our visit to my in-laws on the Cape, which meant I had the house to myself. And the key part here is that our cats are kind of psycho and decided they would wait downstairs all night for my husband to come home, rather than sleeping like they normally do in our bed, where the older one spends half the night sticking his whiskers in my face and engaging in other non-sleep-conducive behaviors. So I had a terrific night's sleep and didn't even wake up when I had a dream about oversleeping the alarm and missing the race.
My main goal for this race was to not feel miserable on the run, something that has mostly eluded me at the Olympic distance. The extra challenge here is that this is a race with weird distances--the swim is short (0.63 miles), and both the bike (30.4 miles) and the run (7.2 miles) are long. The idea of not feeling miserable on a 7.2-mile run seemed kind of implausible, but my plan was to load up on electrolytes during the bike. I am a huge sweater--like I will come in to the gym after a run, and people will ask me if it's raining, when it's not. My sweat is also very salty. I felt like the particular brand of misery I experienced during my last Olympic run was a kind of dehydration/lack of salt misery, so I planned to violate all kinds of racing wisdom and totally change my nutritional plan for this race.
Onto the race: my stomach still felt a little off, but I spent the day before shoveling food into it, so at least I wasn't hungry. The swim here is in a river (and I use that word loosely--maybe more of a creek?), and it's a funny up and back and up again along a buoy line made of milk jugs. So sighting is not a big issue, though I still managed to swim into the buoy line twice. My wave was the last wave of the olympic distance race, which goes off before the sprint distance. I felt like I swam well, minus the close-up encounters with the milk jugs, and when I got out of the water the announcer said I was the 3rd woman in my wave. Which sounds really impressive until you realize there were like 15 people, max, in that wave. Since results are up, I know that my time was 18:29, which ranked me 25th overall in the swim.
The bike course for this race is 4 loops (the sprint is 2), and on the first loop we had the course to ourselves before the sprint waves came out. So it was actually kind of deserted--I passed a bunch of people, but it was easy not to draft, to say the least. Since I wanted to have a good run, I was purposely conservative on the bike. The course starts out with a decent but short uphill, then after some flat and downhill stuff there is a 90-degree turn into a covered bridge, followed by a short but very steep switchbacky hill. Then more flattish stuff, then repeat. For most of the first loop I was actually a little panicked--my legs felt tired, and I was having trouble imagining doing this all 3 more times. And then I got into a groove, which is often the case for me riding--it just takes me awhile to warm up. One thing you can say about a 30-mile ride is that it gives you plenty of warmup time. Just as I zipped past the transition area and saw sprint athletes coming out onto the course, it occurred to me that I was having fun, and from then on it was like a different race. I was downright perky. I looked forward to the hills. I looked forward to the covered bridge, which usually scares me. There is a volunteer who stands at the entrance to the bridge to warn everyone to slow down and go single file, but he also has a sound system and a microphone, and he plays a nonstop dance mix. I can't remember all the songs I heard on my trips around the course, but somewhere in there I got the Go-Gos, which was truly inspiring.
My only complaint about the bridge/hill combo was that the race photographer was stationed right at the start of the hill. I'm sure it's easy to get shots of bikers when they're going more slowly, but I'm not really looking forward to a set of photos that show me shifting down into my easiest gear. Although you could argue that said photos capture my general approach to biking.
The middle two loops of the bike were more interesting, because the course got crowded with sprinters. I had no idea who I was passing, but I just kept chugging along, and then on the 4th loop suddenly everything cleared out again and it was back to the spaced-out race we had started with. Toward the end of that loop we paralleled the sprint run, and I got to see my teammate Joellen charging in to claim first place in the sprint among the women.
I got my feet out of my shoes pretty early, because there is a downhill right before transition, and I had visions of sailing down that hill and not having enough time to de-shoe. I think my dismount was a little vigorous, because one of the volunteers said, "Whoa!" And now I also see that I seem to have bruised a different toe on my previously-disfigured foot, and this is the only way I can think of that I did it. This shot doesn't show the toe that well (it's the middle one), but it's sort of a nice shot of our younger cat, who doesn't torment me at night mostly because I think he doesn't like me that much.
I didn't feel that toe at all during the race, but now it's pretty sore to the touch. Plus it also got a huge blister. I am pretty much expecting my entire foot to just up and fall off one of these days.
I felt good about the bike--I kept my HR mostly where I wanted it (a bit lower than I typically aim for on a sprint), and I didn't think I had zoned out for large chunks of the ride. My bike split wasn't relatively speaking as fast as my swim (ranked 41st overall), but I managed 19.8 mph. I've done just over 20 on the sprint when the swim was canceled, so this seems like an improvement in an absolute sense.
Speaking of improvement, I made it out of T2 in under a minute! I think this is a first for me this season. Of course in doing so I forgot to grab the shot blocks I had planned to take with me, but by the time I realized this I was out of transition and had no desire to go back, so I just told myself I'd drink whatever Gatorade they had on the course, and off I went. While I was in the running chute out of transition I saw Nancy's family (she was doing the sprint and had a great first race post-knee surgery) and yelled at them, since they didn't see me.
I could tell from the start that the run was going to go well--my legs felt fine, and I just naturally settled into the right HR. I didn't look at my pace at all, and I only looked at my HR occasionally, because when I'm not feeling like the undead, I pretty much know how to run by effort. The only challenges were that a) it was hot and sunny by this point, and there's very little shade on this course, and b) we were so spread out that it was like 400 meters between every person I passed. But I was just so freaking chipper. I joked with people I passed, I did a little cabbage patching when I got to the covered bridge dance club, and I just kept focusing on the next person I could see in the distance. I was a little confused about how the course ended, and if there was a 6-mile marker I missed it, but I felt good enough to pick it up in the last couple miles. I sort of wish the people who were right ahead of me in the overall standings at the end had been actually right ahead of me, instead of way ahead of me since they started in earlier waves. I definitely had something left at the end physically, although mentally I was ready to be done--this is just kind of a long run for me. I ended up running 55:45, which is about 7:45 average (though my pace varied a lot, according to my splits, based on the topography), and good for 25th on the run.
Overall I finished in 33rd place, 2nd in my age group, which I was really psyched about until I realized there were only 3 of us in the 40-44 division. This was a really small race--more people did the sprint, and definitely fewer women opted for the olympic. But the good news is that my team swept our AG. Go us.
We ended up 2nd in the state club championship, losing to another local team that is ginormous. Here is our 2nd place trophy, stunningly displayed on the faux mosaic stool my daughter painted at camp last week:
I really, really wanted to beat that other team--they're just kind of a juggernaut. After the race I started shamelessly recruiting new team members for next year, because basically we just lost on participation. But our uniforms are better looking, so that's kind of a moral victory.