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?

Friday, June 17, 2011

B**** on a Bike

Many things have happened since I last posted, very few of which are interesting to anyone but me. As usual, that will not stop me from sharing them.

On Memorial Day weekend I had back-to-back days of group training fun.  Saturday I did a group ride with 5 other triathlete types--people who don't get all worked up about riding in a paceline with aero bars. I was pushed more than if I had ridden by myself, without the kind of testosteronefest that seems to happen in some group rides.  The next day I did my first open water swim of the season with an overlapping group of local triathletes. Here we are getting ready to practice some starts after we swam about a mile:

I have the pink cap. Here we are right after we started our mad sprint to the buoy line:

You can't see me here. Because, as the 2011 version of triathlon me, I am being Aggressive in the Swim.  With a pink cap, just to be all ironic about it.

The post title refers to this phenomenon of mental aggressiveness, more specifically, to its lack in my biking. The next time I met with my coach (who is sporting the yellow cap above and whose feet I chased around that pond--if by "chased" I mean "lost sight of after about 20 yards"), she told me I need to be more of a b**** on the bike. And as usual, she's right. I have no problem being aggressive on the run. I may get beat, but I start out the run in a triathlon assuming I'm going to pass everyone I see, and then I work hard to do it. I don't pass nearly everyone, and there are all kinds of people I can't even see, they're so far ahead of me after the bike. But I am a b**** on the run. Also at home sometimes, but that's not really relevant here. I need to have that kind of attitude on the bike as well. I think I'm starting to get it on the swim, and to be honest, it's easier to develop that attitude when people are whacking you in the face and swimming over you. We are all b****es on the swim. But on the bike, as my coach astutely realized, I don't really think I'm all that good. I am not sure I deserve to pass people. This is ridiculous, because objectively speaking, while my run still tends to be better than my bike, I'm not that bad on the bike either. So I'm getting in touch with my bike b****.

And in that spirit, last week I did the club time trial and, for the first time, broke 22 mph. OK, it was the short TT (only 9.2 miles), but this is a start.

In between all this b****iness, I did stuff like go to soccer games, where I got a horrifying glimpse of the future 8 or so years from now:

That's Charlotte and her friend Greta, waiting out a thunderstorm in my car.  Here is Charlotte running in a track meet--she's doing a youth track program that has a little meet every week. She is running the 400.

Charlotte is not so much a b**** on the track--in one of her 800's, she ran for the second lap alongside a little girl from another team (in the second lane the whole way! what is she thinking?), and after they crossed the line together, she jogged over and told me proudly, "I made friends with that girl from the purple team!"

Last weekend I went to NJ to visit my good friends Cherie and Marcus. The youngest of their children was recently diagnosed with leukemia, so I went down to visit and also to run in a 5K that was a fundraiser for the cancer center where he's being treated. I had a great time with their family. Here I am doing some serious crafting with the kids:

Here is Team Lukie, which includes both runners and walkers.  I'm not in the picture, because while I was totally in the spirit of this being a charity run and all, I did need to get in some kind of warmup.

Cherie has a big family, and I consider them like my 2nd family, only without all that baggage you get from actually spending 18 years living with people. It was awesome to have her parents cheering for me during the race, just like back in college when Cherie and I were teammates. Here is a picture her sister-in-law took of me during the race:

It feels a little gross to say this, given that I was running in honor of a 21-month old with cancer, but yeah, I was kind of happy with my time. Here is Luke, who couldn't come to the race because his little immune system is being blasted by chemo, with his mom:

He was very excited to see all the "Team Lukie" t-shirts with his picture on them. He also gets very excited by his father's ipad:

And that pretty much covers it! Except that I also got pink handlebar tape on the cow bike. This weekend I am off to a conference in Montreal, assuming I can figure out where I've stashed my passport. Next weekend is my first triathlon of the season. I plan to be a total b****.