Monday, July 23, 2012

A Tale of Two Races

My race schedule got off to a slow start this year. After Devilman in early May, I had a string of weekends made unavailable by various Commencements, my own 20th college reunion, and my husband's race schedule. The reunion probably did nothing to help my race readiness. But clearly the Class of '92 takes our parenting seriously:

To show that it wasn't all Bud Light and debauchery, here I am with my kids, one of our classmates, and his kids, after we all hiked up a mountain later that same morning:

At this moment my husband was busy riding his bike the 70 or so miles back to our home, and Kent's wife was wise enough to stay away from the whole reunion, so it looks like Kent and I are the happy parents to 5 children. None of whom have my hair color.

Finally, the last weekend in June, I was ready to race a local sprint. And then the day before I woke up sick--a weird stomach bug, body aches, plus a general inability to haul my sorry self out of bed. All day long I gamely drank water and told myself, "Maybe I'll feel fine in tomorrow." I eventually made it downstairs to the sofa, where I lay and watched reruns of House. Let me suggest that this is not a good show to watch when sick; by the end of it I was busy Googling "encephalitis symptoms." (Which I didn't have.) When, at 7 pm, I was unable to muster the strength to get out of bed and pack my bag for the race, I called it and didn't even set my alarm.

 I woke up at about 7:45 (the race had started at 7:30), and of course felt pretty much OK (though very weak and hungry). I sipped some coffee and then headed out the door to go catch the end of the race and cheer on my teammates and friends, since the whole thing is about 15 minutes' drive from our house. Here I am with some of them, plus my coach, who was also spectating, after the race:

First off, why do I never have any friends as tall as I am? My entire cross country team in college was 5'5". And I wonder why I feel like an ungainly oaf. But while my friends may lack a little in the height department (and to be fair, the 16-yr-old on the end there is actually taller than I am), they are a lovely crew. Several of them spent valuable breath and energy on the run asking me if I was feeling OK. I told them to shut up and start running harder.

I then had to wait another 2 weeks for my next race, an Olympic distance tri about an hour north of here. In the meantime, I lived vicariously through my children, who got to race every week in our local youth track program.

Finally, race day arrived. I had preridden the bike course the week before with some of my teammates, since the course was (thankfully) new this year. I wasn't even going to do the race again, because after two years I was sick of fearing for my life on the descents on the old course, which coincided with bike-eating ruts and potholes. But then they changed the course, so it seemed like destiny, and off I went.

I had big hopes for the swim this year. I swam hard all winter, and it paid off with much faster times for me in my pool workouts. I have been swimming regularly in open water this summer, both more frequently and harder than I ever have before. On race day the water was a balmy 77 degrees, so wetsuit legal, and when my wave started (the last wave of the day, the old ladies' wave), I swam hard to the first buoy. I could see some women had already gotten away from me, but I seemed to be in the front of the main pack. I rounded the buoy, and then. . . . at some point I seemed to be about 20 yards away from anyone else. The good news is, I had clear water. The bad news is, um, I was 20 yards away from probably where I was supposed to be. But I just picked a straight line from there to the next buoy and kept swimming. I felt like my swim went great--I was swimming harder than I usually do (my goal for the race), and I even drafted for awhile. I don't time my swims, because I don't want to get depressed by the time during the race, and this turned out to be a good thing. I left the water thinking, "That was a great swim!" In fact, it was 3 minutes slower than last year. Oops.

But blissfully ignorant, I charged into T1, made it out without incident, and tackled the bike course. There's not much to say about this part--I went hard, but not all-out-sprint-hard, and I was glad I had ridden it ahead of time. About halfway through I got passed by a women who looked about my age (I can't read ages on the bike), and we kind of leapfrogged each other for the rest of the bike. I felt OK about the bike, but I had no idea how it was actually going. I got a magnet installed on my race wheel this year, but apparently it was not close enough to the sensor, so I got no reliable speed information. In a truly awesome development, I had my bike computer on Auto Start/Stop, so the intermittent speed reading caused the clock to run all weird and slow, so even my time was off. I realized this after I went through the 5 mile mark in 14:56 (OK, 20 mph on an uphill section) and then the 10 mile mark in 23 minutes. As I neared the end of a 22-mile bike leg, my clock was reading 38 minutes. I realized something was wrong, and then proceeded to start cramming shot blocks into my mouth, since it was a ridiculously hot day, and the timing being off meant I hadn't taken in the electrolytes I had planned to. Oops again. I dismounted, if I may say so myself, rather gracefully, ran past a few (young) women into transition, and got back out again in less than 1 minute. And I found out from the results later that this was my fastest bike ever--I got close to 21 mph, when my previous Olympic best was 20.0.

The run was disappointing. I started out well--7:27 for the first mile--then slowed down. I don't know exactly how that happened, because apparently I was unable to take mile splits, but I just know that while I wasn't suffering nearly as badly as I was at this race last year, my legs were tired, and mentally I just kind of punted. It's an out and back course, and I could see that there was no one remotely near my age within a couple miles of me, so in hindsight, I think I just settled in. It's true that it was hot, and being the last wave in a race that starts at 9 am exacerbated this, but honestly, I was just kind of lame. Not much else to say about that.

I finished 2nd in my AG, which was a nice surprise, and although I felt cheesy getting an award with such a lame-ass run and such an abducted-by-aliens swim, the bike split made me feel more legitimate. I think one of my favorite things about triathlons is that, while there's always something to work on, in almost every race I can also find something to be really happy about.

I know how to fix the run (don't be such a lame-ass), but the swim mystifies me a little bit. I am relaxed in open water. I can sight pretty well. I am not fast enough to keep up with the fastest swimmers, but I'm also not nearly as slow as this time (and some of my others) suggest. In the spirit of that old adage about insanity being doing the same thing and expecting a different result, I need to try something different. In my next race I'm going to focus much more on following other people. I've always resisted this, because I don't trust other people to swim a good line, but it's become clear that while there's some chance I'll follow the wrong feet, following myself is 100% likely to lead to disaster on anything other than a straight out-and-back course. I may do an add-on sprint this weekend solely for this purpose, so stay tuned. (It's an ocean swim, though, so I need to remember to follow feet, not dorsal fins.)