Thursday, July 29, 2010

Couples Triathlon Report

I figure that I should probably post my race report before my next race. So here we go...

Several Sundays ago marked the second race of the Texas Tri Series, Couples Triathlon, and my first chance to truly measure my progress as a triathlete. Last year was my first venture into the tri world and Couples was my first race. While my final time was not as fast as I had hoped, I still walked away with two PRs and probably my best raced race.

Like all tris, the morning came way too early, but the butterflies were starting to flutter so the sleep cleared my eyes relatively quickly. Two pieces of peanut butter toast, some Ovaltine (yes, I eat like an 8 year old), a banana, and a glass of orange juice and I was ready to start loading up the car and getting race drinks ready.

My friend, Ginny, and I had decided to carpool to the race and as luck would have it, she was right on time getting to my place at 5:30 while I was running a good 10 minutes late. Oh well, this is the beauty of planning on getting there insanely early; you have time to run late. But we still managed to get on the road slightly after 5:45 and made it to the parking lot just after 6. The racks were largely unpopulated at this time and it was easy to get a prime spot and get your transition area set-up without having to shoe horn it in someplace.

After getting Beva, my bike, put in place and everything laid out for the race it was time to chit-chat with my teammate, Padre, Stacey, and some other friends and training companions that I ran into before going out for a mile jog to warm-up before heading down to swim start. On the warm-up jog I quickly realized that I had made a tactical error in wearing my Brooks T-6 racing flats. The run course is on grass and dirt roads within the park and were still quite soaked from the recent rains and my shoes were struggling mightily to find traction. Oh well, it wasn’t like I was going to be the only person with this problem.

As I was heading back into transition to put my now slightly soggy shoes I saw an old high school friend that has been doing tris for quite some time. Outside of Facebook, I haven’t seen Coop since high school; so it was great to chat briefly after all of these years.

With the shoes back in transition, I headed down towards the lake with my disposable water bottle, a packet of salt tablets (part of my nutritionist’s new game day plan), and plenty of butterflies. No matter how many times I race, I still get nervous at the start and I seem to get more and more addicted to the feeling. With 15 minutes to go I popped the three salt tablets and started sifting my way down to the start line with Padre and got ready for the mayhem that was to come. Finally we were let into the water and then the gun went off...

At The Rookie Tri in May I went out really hard on the swim only to find myself stuck with a bunch of people doing the same and ultimately had a freak out resulting in me having to back and side stroke for a bit to regain my breathe. This time around I decided that I would just go out at my pace and let the lead pack go, and just pull away from the bulk of the group as the swim progressed. As I approached the first buoy I could feel my chest tightening up, but I was able to reassure myself that I am a very strong swimmer and that I can swim this distance in my sleep. Just relax, find your stroke and trust it. Miraculously this little pep talk worked on my ever-cynical self, and low and behold, I started to pull away from everyone around me and feel more relaxed. As I rounded the second buoy my goggles had become fogged to the point that I couldn’t see the buoys ahead and sadly the pack had thinned to the point that I couldn’t rely on them to bring me. So I just raised my head up further out of the water and was able to make out the finish line and figured if I swam straight at it I would probably manage to stay on course. Luckily this plan worked as I refound the buoys and made my way to shore. Out of the water in 14:46. Not too bad.

Transitions have never been a strong suit of mine, but I keep trying to improve them. So I ran a little faster than I would like up the hill and into T1, grabbed a cup of water from the volunteers and dashed towards my bike. Typically I try way too hard to clean my feet before putting on my shoes but this day I decided I’d settle for just knocking off the major clumps of debris. What do you know? It helped! Got my sunglasses on, strapped on the helmet and started to trot to the bike start. T1-2:10

Bike has always been the weakest of the three sports for me, but I have been working on it a lot this year. So as I was getting everything adjusted for the ride I heard the distinctive griding whirl of a carbon wheel bike coming up from behind me. “Great, already starting to get passed by everyone!” I thought, but alas, after I got settled, I passed that bike up and never saw him again! Of course several bikes did ultimately pass me, but I think that I passed as many, if not more. Finally, I was holding my own on the bike. The loop around Decker is known for its hills, and particularly this nasty little gem on Blue Bluff Rd that starts immediately after a 90* turn. Luckily I knew of this hill and put my bike in an easy gear before I even got to it and was able to attack it without frantic shifting or falling off. The rest of the ride went by uneventful expect for the end when I went to grab my water bottle to take my second round of electrolyte capsules. It wasn’t there! So, I either littered or gave someone a very nice insulated Camelbak water bottle. But I was out of Accelorade so I had to forgo the electrolytes. Oh well. Unclipped and headed into T2. Bike-32:58

Racked Beva, threw on my socks and shoes, grabbed the race belt, and started working on the bandanna. As I headed out of T2 the volunteers were advertising they had Pure Sport so I grabbed a cup of that in hopes that it would make up for my lost electrolyte pills. T2-1:24

As I finished swigging down the Pure Sport and adjusting the knot on my bandanna I started looking for my stride. It really was a lot like a trail run in that watching your footing was a premium. I could feel my stomach starting to foam from all of the Accelorade I had consumed on the bike and started to get a littler nervous about what might be in store for me, but I kept pushing along. As I approached the first water stop, I was passed by a few people that had names on their tri jerseys and realized that the pros were closing in on me. Instead of demoralizing me, it actually gave me a little bit of a pep and I now had fast runners to try to keep up with. Eventual Women’s 2nd place overall winner, Natasha Van Der Merwe, passed me just before Mile 1. She seemed to be going at a good pace for me so I just latched on to her for a few minutes. As we got back to some of the more technical trail running type terrain I started to feel my stride and passed her up, but she never got far behind me and was definitely pushing me all the way in. The better part of the last half mile of the run course is up a fairly steep hill that starts at the bottom of the dam. My legs were feeling none to fresh by this point, but I could see people struggling up ahead of me and tried to pull them in and make my charge to the finish line. Finally the hill was crested and I had the flat stretch to the finish line! Run-21:01

I was honestly a little surprised to see the clock when I crossed. I had stopped paying attention to my watch so really had no idea where I stood for the race. My goal was to break 1:10. The swim had gone well, my transitions were reasonably quick for me, and I really felt that I had pushed the bike as hard as I could. So when I saw the clock read 1:12 I was a little disappointed. But after I got to think about it for a little while I realized that I had ran my race exactly the way I had wanted to. Perhaps I could have pushed a tad harder on the swim, maybe I need to learn how to leave my shoes on the bike; but I ran this race smartly and did everything I could to do my best. And I walked away with two PRs! Last year I finished Couples in 1:25:46. This year I did 1:12:21. That is not too shabby of a boost. And, I have only raced one 5k in my life, but it was a 21:37 at the 2008 Jingle Bell 5k.

I know that I still have a lot of work left to do if I am to continue to achieve my goals this year in the Texas Tri Series, but this is probably one of the races that I am the proudest of. I just raced well. Hopefully I’ll post more about training and life in the coming weeks. In the meantime, run friendly!

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