Note: I wrote this before my Venice, FL race so it is written without knowing what would happen.
The new Venice, FL Rev3 half iron distance triathlon has been on my calendar for awhile. So why race an Olympic two weeks before? It was a late idea based on discussions with my coach. It’s almost a joke that I have a race with aggressive goals and don’t quite hit them and feel a bit disappointed after the race. Then, about two weeks later with nothing to prove, I race again and surpass all expectations (well…there were none). Really….it’s that backwards. So the idea behind racing Anderson was to have a race to work out the bad vibes from my body and brain, and then hopefully have a good second race at Venice, FL.
I don’t think it worked, and the jury will be out on that for a little under two weeks. We’ll see. But, I did have fun, and raced well at Anderson. I also learned a lot.
What I learned is I am learning how to race an Olympic race; and I LOVE feeling (and running) strong off the bike (after having a solid bike). And I am learning the effort I need to put in to my swim to have a strong swim, bike and run. And I am learning the feel of the effort I can put in on a race swim. And I am learning how I need to feel during a transition (and that I can’t think at that time).
And I have learned that I LOVE that sequence of events and those different, challenging feelings going through my body: arms, legs (quads especially), lungs, eyes, brain, ears. I love picking up on body clues and events around me and not having time to think it through but rather to know how to react and adjust. There is little thought or judgment….just trained reaction. For me it’s a bit of magic.
And the night before I admitted to my friend Monika that, as selfish as it sounds, in being nervous for the race, I was getting nervous that I would race and not capture that feeling: reaction, the proper burn in the race to finish strong in each event. I had felt it, and love it. I wanted to recapture it. I wanted, in short, to race and compete.
So let me back pedal a little bit. As mentioned, this was a late inclusion to my race schedule. Carlos was unable to join me (he seemed annoyed at this) because he was traveling for work (yes – a state employee working over the weekend. Georgia – you are getting your tax dollars worth out of my husband – in my opinion!). I could drive it alone, but didn’t really want to so I asked my friend Monika if she wanted to join me. To my delight she said “Yes.” I figured she could sleep in and relax. Yeah no – she was a BIG help on race day and before and I really appreciated her just being there.
I wanted to get there early enough on Saturday, the day before the race, to do the practice swim and not feel rushed so I picked Monika up at about 10 a.m. and we headed to Anderson, SC. We went straight to the swim area and I put on my wet suit. I decided to try my long sleeve suit following my friend Laura’s words that she wanted as much buoyancy as possible in a race. I suited up and headed out for a very short swim. I played with a few strokes and felt comfortable with the long sleeve for the race. I headed back in. As I stood up I was dizzy. I know I get dizzy when I swim in cold water. I don’t know where that line of where the dizziness begins is. Apparently it is somewhere over 67°F! I realized I didn’t have ear plugs. No worries – we still had to visit the expo and I could get them there. I was very grateful I had done the practice swim.
Next up: to the expo (and where T2 is located) and checking in and then back to the swim area and T1 (T1 and T2 are separate locations in this race) to rack my bike. I looked at T1 and remember thinking “Why the bike racks?” Then, like a bolt of lightning…oh…I will be leaving my bike here before I run! Duh. The logistics of having two transitions was starting to hit me. And here I will give Rev3 big credit – the volunteers in helping people “get” two transitions was fantastic. I experienced zero confusion and they patiently answered my questions and laughed at my obvious observations.
With T1 and T2 being separate, I had to be able to fit everything I took to T1 and didn’t wear out on the bike in my morning bag and wetsuit bag (two typical sized drawstring bags). I wanted to take my pump, but that really wouldn’t work in the plastic bags. Monika spoke up and said she would go with me in the morning and take my pump after. Really? Wow! That meant she was up early with me, and on the go for the race – no sleeping in I thought she would get (although granted, since we didn’t start swimming until 8:55 it was a relatively late (for a race day) wakeup call of 5:15).
Once everything was done Monika and I went to the hotel and settled in. We ended up listening (and kind of watching) the Ironman World Championship on her iPhone while we napped and chatted until we went to dinner. I also used my phone to look up people we know, and to look up more background information on names we heard during the feed, including some pros. It was actually a pretty interesting afternoon and a great way to relax before a race!
We also made plans to pick up Hartley the next morning and give him a lift to the race. He was also doing the Olympic distance.
We met Cristin, who was doing the halfRev the next day, for dinner and passed the evening relaxing and then headed back to the hotel to hear the men’s and women’s race winners and then went to bed. I didn’t sleep very well – waking up every couple of hours. Oh well – typical. I did at least get some sleep.
Sunday morning I woke up shortly before my alarm and started moving. I wanted to pack my T1 bag (removing all T1 items I had packed in my transition bag which works great when you have one transition area) and be sure it could fit in to my morning clothes bag once I got my necessary items out. Monika woke up and also got moving, and even made coffee! Marni, my nutritionist, had detailed my nutrition plan and I stuck with it. Glad it was one thing I didn’t have to think about, even if this was a test race. That may make it even more important as this will help in two weeks.
We went down for breakfast with many other people racing/supporting racers that day and soon headed off by 6:15 to pick up Hartley. My usual “what in the world am I doing here?” hit me as we arrived at T2. I was nervous and antsy.
We set up T2 and I noticed a lot of people put their gear directly in front of where they will rack their bikes. I was sure to move my stuff to the side so I could rack my bike without interference. We caught the shuttle over to T1 and the swim start. By now the sun was up, which was a relief as I had forgotten my headlamp. I set up my T1 (it looked so small), and was glad it wasn’t windy so I could just put out my wet clothes bag to throw my gear in after the swim. We saw Cristin before she headed out. She was ready. I kind of rushed off because I wanted to hit the bathroom and get my warm up run in.
I view my warm up run as “getting the junk out”. Since I have started it I have had zero problems on the swim start. It’s short and easy with a few drills thrown in to elevate my heart rate just a bit.
Soon we were suited up and heading to the swim start. We watch the collegiate men, then collegiate women started. Then it was Hartley’s turn in the men’s wave. Monika and I gave him a hug and he was off. My wave next. Time for my first beach run in! I said good bye to Monika, she wished me luck and I wandered up. She took a few pictures and two women asked her to take a picture of them and email it to them. Too funny! Monika did, so now they are set!
The horn went off. As soon as the water hit my knees I dove and started swimming. No problems. I ran in to someone soon, and within about 30 seconds after that, struggled to breath. I decided to flip on my back and keep forward progress. After 30 seconds I flipped back. That and about 2-3 breast strokes and I was comfortable and good to go. I even, a bit later, got kicked in the jaw and it didn’t phase me. Apparently once I get my rhythm I am OK. And the backstroke was nothing – I didn’t worry. I just thought to myself this is the race where the bad stuff can happen. I’ll be OK.
The swim flew by, even though, by my Garmin, it was about 0.3 miles long coming in at over 1.2 miles. Even if it is 15% off, the swim was over 1 mile. Everyone had a long swim time. Sighting was easy – it was overcast so no sun in my eyes.
I neared the beach. It was time to focus on transition. Once my hands hit the beach in my swim I got up and started to run. I saw Monika pass in front of me going from one side of the ramp to the other. The thought “I don’t think she saw me” passed through my brain but I was completely focused on breathing and transitioning from horizontal to vertical quickly so I didn’t say anything and just hoped she didn’t wait there forever. I figured she had seen Hartley.
Getting to my bike my wet suit was already half way off. I had watched the Olympics and knew how they got their suit off the rest of the way quickly and, although never practiced, I stepped on it just like them and it did come off very quickly. Not thinking I threw it and my cap and goggles in the wet back, put on my bike gear and ran out of transition. My transition time was long due to the wet suit and having to get my swim gear in a wet bag. But, I still managed to jump up 3 positions in my gender and 9 positions overall by the time I exited T1. When I saw that later I was thrilled. The “no thinking just focus” method worked again!
On the bike I started smooth. I wasn’t out to hammer it – this is my work the kinks out race. I also knew I hadn’t rested before this race, and I wanted so much to run strong. I rode smooth and strong. I felt comfortable. Throughout the ride I worked hard and kept a strong effort but was aware I was holding back a touch. Which was fine for me for this race. I enjoyed my time. I played back and forth with a woman a couple of times. I knew, by the way she rode, she had ridden (or driven) and studied the course and had a plan. And I had mine, and I know my race. No regrets in not riding the course. Eventually she passed me and I had my rabbit. I kept her in sight for a long time. I started sipping my drink. Remembering to keep my nutrition up was easy. I had it planned. I even took a couple of peanut butter filled pretzels so I could see how it worked in a race and have an idea for Venice, FL. I pushed my pace, but not hard. I believe could have notched it up again, but felt good where I was.
The course support was great – police at intersections, volunteers along the way. One time a car got in to the flow which annoyed me but they were out before I had to slow down behind them and I was able to pass the riders ahead of me without slowing.
As an aside, I have learned I enjoy small races because I can ride up front. There are few drafting worries when you are up there. Passing and getting a good position on the road are easy. I know it is not possible in every race, but I will take that luxury any time I can!
Soon I was riding in to T2. Nearing the dismount line I got my feet out of my shoes and got ready to dismount. Yup – second ever flying dismount attempt in a race. And…this time it worked! I ran in to T2 and went straight to my spot. I love Rev3’s bike racks – so simple and you don’t have to deal with catching your rear water bottles on the rack.
I still run with socks so had rolled them up so I could put them on quickly. I messed a little with them and decided that was enough, and got my shoes on, tightened the laces, threw on my visor and was gone. I was relying on course nutrition for the run. I knew I could do it. I did mess up a little with hitting the transition in my Garmin, but no big deal. Just have to get better at it. T2 was a little slower than I liked, but it was pretty good. Always room to improve!
I ran such that I was comfortable. I was working hard but not pushing a limit. Honestly, I felt like I could have gone on for at least a half marathon at that pace (which – I didn’t know what my pace was). We’ll see if I do that at Venice! It could have just been my day. I have gotten stronger, and am optimistic I can capture that ‘strong’ feeling on the run at Venice too. To run strong and not just survive is an incredible feeling! And so worth all the speed intervals, hill repeats, and strength training.
Anyway, the course was hilly. I kept running. I saw Monika out at mile 2. I didn’t respond much, but did smile. Again – I was observing what my body was telling me and looking ahead at what I had to do next and what I had to do to adjust my run. Since the run was short I didn’t plan to back off much on the uphills, but I did a touch, knowing I can get it back on the flats and downhills easy.
There was a turnaround at about mile 4. I turned around and shortly thereafter saw Hartley….behind me. If I hadn’t been focused you would have knocked me over with a feather. Holy cow! When had I passed him? I quickly estimated that even if he caught me he was still behind me, and most likely he couldn’t make up the time minutes in two miles. That was probably the most thought I had the entire race. I was at my pace and didn’t adjust a thing. He was running his race. I was running mine. I quickly dropped that thought thread as soon it may turn in to judgment.
Less than two miles to go. I kept going – knowing I had this. My body felt strong and good. I started looking for the finish, wondering how they would bring us back. As I came in towards the chute I upped my pace and ran it in strong. I felt great.
Once done I quickly recovered. I looked at the food and…it was there but didn’t appeal to me. I have yet to want solid food after a race. I always carry liquid recovery (chocolate milk) with me as I usually don’t want to eat for a bit, but know that I need to start the recovery phase. I wandered to the information tent to look at my time. There were some technical difficulties. While I waited in line, I heard Hartley’s name announced as he came down the finishing chute. Then Monika found me. I looked up my time and….first in my age group? 5th female over all? And an average run pace of 7:42 per mile? My fastest 10k so far? Holy Cow! I never felt like I had hit that or was putting in that effort, especially on the run. I was (and still am) stunned. Absolutely stunned. I am not trying to flaunt what I did….I am just still in disbelief. Someone pinch me. Is this repeatable? Holy cow (again)!
Monika and I found Chris and his family. I got to meet his new baby girl Caitlin, and talk with his eldest daughter Nancy Caroline about being a big sister, meet his in-laws and chat with Meredith. I was getting chilled, and so we soon parted ways. It had been a fun event. Very glad I had done this.
Monika was game for staying for the medal ceremony. We did gather my things, leave to get lunch, and come back for the awards ceremony. Good thing we came back early as the awards ceremony started about 45 minutes early!
So, I had my test race for Venice, FL. What does it mean? I am not sure. As I said – the jury is out if I “got the junk out.” I didn’t get much junk out at this race, unless you count the brief point in the swim. I may be learning to race an Olympic distance, but a half iron distance is another race all together.
It did hit me that I have gotten stronger, and now I am wondering if I can find the effort I need to put in to run strong after riding over twice the distance of an Olympic tri. I want to capture that strong feeling. That is my goal. I have done it after some long rides in training for Venice. So it is possible. I know that. The only way to do it is to train, and practice. So here I go. I will race as best I can on October 28. I am a bit nervous about my first ocean swim, but they have a practice swim and I will take it!
I will race my race. I know what I need to feel. I know my nutrition. And after I will measure it to see how far I have come and what I still need to do. I am a bit nervous and a lot excited.