HITS Series Olympic Distance Naples, FL

This may be the harder of the two to write. After my great race on Saturday, I realized that I had had a spectacular race for me. I did it: I raced a half. The thought of just doing a race (and not racing it) was not appealing to me. But then again, this race was not about me. It was about the Georgia IronTeam and doing a training race as a team. And so, despite being somewhat jealous when I saw Kevin, Lauren and Chad at the start with their coffees and in street clothes, I geared myself up to race as best I could, and decided it was my challenge to get out there. And I knew that, once we started, I would have fun too. I may not be able to fully yank my head out of racing mode, but I can see beyond my own experience! I knew it would be fabulous to have my teammates out there on the course with me.

Race morning I woke up before my 4:30 alarm (start wasn’t until 7:43 for women so I got to sleep in compared to yesterday. Woo hoo!) and I started getting ready.

This time I made sure I had my ear plugs. I got dressed and started getting ready. I tried the whey powder with my oatmeal instead of using soy milk for a morning protein source…It worked! No shaky feeling later and no having to grab some extra almonds. Hooray! And also, it didn’t bother me on the race. I think I may be on to something here for me.

Susan and I chat as we eat and get ready, going over items. We decide to leave our wet suits at the room and come back for them after setting up transition and I get my warm up in.

All goes smoothly. Susan and I meet up at our room and put on our wetsuits and head to the beach. We see Heather and Jason on the way down. They hadn’t realized, as many teammates didn’t, that I was racing both days. I wasn’t trying to leave people out, I think I just didn’t want any extra attention that weekend. Doing the half was enough!

Jokes were exchanged about what I would do for this race. And I kept saying “I wasn’t racing it.” Not sure anyone believed me. In my brain I could see me trying, but…not fully racing it.

There was the pre-race athlete meeting. And then the HITS race director has an optional prayer for anyone who wishes to join. I was standing on the fringe when all of a sudden I realize my ear plugs were in my jersey pocket and my wet suit was zipped up. I started cussing a bit and Jane (yes, Jane again – a race morning angel for me this weekend) was behind me getting my ear plugs before I knew it. I totally forgot where I was until someone at the prayer reminded me. I felt bad. I never meant to be disrespectful, but I did get lost in the moment and forgot where I was. I kept thinking “Not a great way to start a race.”

Jane got me zipped back up and we were good to go. In reality there was no need to get upset – we still had a couple of minutes before the men went off, and 3 minutes after that was the women’s wave. Reminder to me on timing!

Some of the ladies from the team gather and we have our own quick prayer and thanks.

I was ready, and we were waiting. The men take off.

Soon it’s the women’s turn. The horn sounds an….race mode on: I know how I am racing this one.

Swim

The swim is a two loop course 750 meters each loop. Such a short course makes it hard to get a rhythm, but, I still find I am enjoying this swim. Holy cow! All this time in the pool and focusing on form is paying off!

I swim, I fight. The sand bar is there again (and on the return leg) and I keep the same method as before: run until the water is just below my knees, swim until my hands reach the sand. I let the tide push me in on the return leg for each loop. It works. My overall pace was a little slower than yesterday, but still much stronger than any race before.

Soon I am in and heading up the beach.

T1

This T1 was longer than yesterday. My wet suit was not coming off as easily. It was really stuck on my garmin and even my right hand without the Garmin, so it took me an extra 50 yards of running and pulling at it to get it off my arms and around my waste. But, I got it! I run in and my transition area is right at the swim in. I hear calls for a wet suit stripper and I take her up on it. It probably wasn’t a great idea as it took her some fighting to get it off. I have done faster on my own by stepping on it. Lesson learned – only go to wetsuit strippers if there are two! Otherwise I am better off on my own. I grab it and go get ready for my bike. Again – no thinking just going and throwing swim gear in a general direction. I get a swig of water (I didn’t want to carry any extra water bottle on my bike for the Olympic) and spit it out. I put on my shoes, shades and helmet and head out. Soon I am at the mount line.

Bike

I decide to spin again, but this time only for about 1.5 miles. I keep it up and start passing people. Once I decide to ride I change my gears until I drop my cadence to about 90 and I realize my legs have it in them to race it somewhat. I think about it and decide to keep a power zone similar to yesterday so I can run semi-respectably knowing the run will be the hardest part. I had actually thought about this before, and was rather pleased my legs were up to task.

The ride will be easy with the tailwind back home and the terrain being flat. And so I hit it. I take it up a notch a few more times than yesterday because today I have to pass more people. And there is a bit more traffic since it is a little later in the morning. We only have the bike lane, but can go in to traffic to pass. And most cars stay out of the right-hand lane. Again – the police were amazing. I still stay alert.

Here is where the fun begins. I would pass a teammate, and sometimes they would pass me back and stay ahead, and sometimes I stayed ahead. Regardless, it is always fun to see teammates on the course and always makes me smile. I just feel camaraderie, which makes me feel good.

I pass PJ and soon he passes me again. I laugh thinking that he is probably thinking something akin to “Like hell I am letting her beat me on the bike.” True or not, it entertained me a bit, and I kept my power zone.

The ride seems very short. About mile 10 on the way out I look to the left and see a fellow racer on the ground and being attended to. I about got sick realizing he had gotten hit by a car. I hear the police cars coming and soon hear the ambulance. By the time I returned on the way back there was no sign of the accident. Wow…..

Mile 12.4 soon came and we made the U-turn. I was feeling good and knew – time for the tailwind! I knew to take advantage of it I had to keep my power up. it’s easy to coast with a tailwind.

I played back and forth with a couple of riders. I wasn’t passed much or often, but I was. No way to put this without sounding cocky but, knowing I was not putting in an Olympic effort but a half iron one, I was surprised that I wasn’t passed more. But I took it and rode with it!

This time there was no riding out of site of other riders, and I was able to always see one ahead of me which was comforting. So I barreled through the intersections, well controlled by the police, at a bit of a faster pace. At the few entrances/exits not patrolled by police I was highly aware, and a couple of times sat up and pointed at the drive and made eye contact so I knew they saw me. It makes me feel better.

Flying dismount accomplished both days sucessfully
Flying dismount accomplished sucessfully both days!

Soon I was heading in again. I see transition and so take my feet out of my shoes and get ready to dismount. A relatively uneventful, but fun ride. I felt great. I know the run will be slower than I like, but I am ready to put in a respectable effort, even if it isn’t as fast as it would be if I was racing just the Olympic.

T2

I run in to transition down the aisle and to my spot. I take a little longer today in transition than yesterday. It’s all a mindset, and I had set myself up for that one. I still moved fast, but not yesterday fast. Socks, shoes. I grab my sunscreen and hat and move on out. As I run out I put my hat on and apply some sunscreen. I am on my way.

Run

I feel pretty good. I but sluggish in the legs, but I do not feel defeated. Time to have some fun. I head out and start to keep an eye out for people coming back in. The West Point/Army tri team was having a phenomenal race. They were the first several racers that I spotted on their return after I was about 1 mile out.

After the first water stop a guy passes me and I stay behind him for almost the rest of the race.

At about 2.5 miles I start to see a few teammates: Michael (ok – coach here), Jeff, Jim, Rich (in his tutu), PJ. I reach the turn around. At each water stop and do a quick 5 second walk while to take in Heed. On the return I get to see the rest of my teammates – and we cheer each other on. Everyone looks fantastic. I pass Mary and Rachel and Mary says something like “What does it take to kill you?” (or was that after the race, Mary?). I just beam and move on.

After the last water stop I pass the guy I had been behind all race. At about 1.2 miles out I start to pick up my pace. It feels really good. Crud…I should have picked up my pace all along. Sigh… Live and learn. Next time! I come running in feeling strong and good. I make the last turn and as I am coming in the guy I had just passed does an all out sprint past me. I wasn’t expecting that.

And so I finish with an overall time of 2:37:58. Not my fastest, not my slowest. A fast bike made up for a slow run. I had a solid swim. Woo hoo!

I learned that I could have pushed the run up one more notch, and I think I would have been fine.

I saw my teammates at the finish and we hung around cheering others in. We dissipated a little and I went to where people had been yesterday, and some teammates were now. It’s shaded there, so it had my vote!

We cheered people in, and then headed over to the awards ceremony. The TNT ladies dominated the race! Woo hoo! I took third in my age group. My age group was a bit competitive. Or at least we were well matched for each other! I have been in races where second and/or third was 2:50 or so and about 20 minutes behind first or second place, but the top 5 were sub 2:40 (well, fifth was 2:40:16…close enough!) and within 11 minutes of each other.

Results

Swim: 30:05 (again – long run to the mat to register T1) – 28:22 by my Garmin
T1: 1:45
Bike: 1:09:02 (21.7 mph)
T2: 1:38
Run: 55:26 (8:57 pace officially, but per my Garmin the course was long – 6.5 miles and I had an 8:31 pace. Regardless, slowest 10k in awhile).

Kind of funny that I want to justify my run and swim times I know. Oi…vanity!

Synopsis

Overall – this was an amazing weekend. Personally it reminded me of so much, especially how grateful I am for my team. And what an amazing group of friends I have.

As a racer it made me realize how much I love racing and that I still have a ways to go, but I keep getting better and better at it.

I podiumed in both races
Weekend hardware

And I realized how far I have come since last May at FL 70.3. I still have a long way to go, but I have covered a lot of quality miles these past 12 months. I have worked on nutrition, form, strength, mind set and so much more. So far I am having a fabulous time. I am grateful for a healthy body that lets me race, and race strong. I am learning to race hard, and rest harder. And am looking forward to my next race and applying some lessons learned.

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