A year ago I did my first triathlon in Verona and enjoyed every minute of it. Since then, my tri interest hasn’t waned and I’ve been training hard: swimming 3-4 times a week, running 20 miles/wk., and biking hard several hours a week. I’ve raced as much as possible this season with Crazylegs 8k, Madison Marathon Spring Half Marathon and Capitol View Triathlon so far this year. I love the thrill of a race and I’ve stayed uninjured and fit so it’s natural to want to pack in as much short-course racing as my schedule allows.
The Olympic distance at Capitol View Triathlon three weeks ago went very well for me, but also exposed a few technical issues I needed to work on. It was also an excellent indicator of where my fitness levels were exactly on that given day (I struggled in the second half of the run).
I’ve had two immensely useful swim lessons with Kari of Woodall Training. She has looked over my swim stroke and explained to me what needed to be fixed. Some of the tips have been easy to implement while others like timing and breathing have been more difficult for me to grasp. I’ll be going back for more lessons once I can perform what I’ve been taught so far. My lap times in the pool have gone down and my stroke is beginning to feel smooth and efficient as opposed to flailing through the water using tons of raw energy for speed.
My swim plan at Wisconsin Triterium was to line up in the front of the group and either swim with a small lead group or swim the short distance alone if the swim pack got split up (i.e. I couldn’t keep up). My wave ended up being about 70-80 strong and the swim leg was much tougher and crowded than I had imagined. A minute into the swim my googles got bumped and filled halfway with water. If I had been using my head, I would have rolled on my back, done a few backstrokes and cleared the water. Instead, I toughed it out and swam extra yardage with terribly impaired vision. It certainly didn’t help with my navigation and I was frustrated coming out of the water at 9:24.
Things got worse in T1. I dumped my googles, cap and wetsuit and tried to put on my helmet. The strap wouldn’t snap. Tried again, and again, and again. It just wouldn’t snap. I didn’t know what to do. I looked at my watch. Heart rate 173. Redline. Shit! Why wouldn’t my helmet work? My race literally seemed to fall apart and I was not even 1/3 finished. What seemed like two minutes later I pulled the helmet off and looked it over. The fasteners looked ok. Tried again, this time straightening out the straps. Click…. I was in. One strap had been inside out on my Lazer Tardiz aero helmet and once that was remedied I was off.
I took off on the bike and went hard. I felt like between the mediocre swim and the disastrous few minutes (??) in the transition area I was going to have a lot of time to make up. I actually remember thinking it was not going to be possible to do well in such a short race with such a slow start. I was riding at the top of my [biking heart rate] threshold and was going faster than I’d ever gone in a race. If I was going to have a slow overall time it was not going to be because I didn’t go hard enough on the bike split. To my dismay, I was seeing athletes whizzing by on their tri bikes heading back to the transition area and I was still heading out not not even 1/3 of the way done with the bike course! The earlier start time from the elite division wave was messing with my psyche.
3/4 of the way through the bike split I noticed the roads were wet. Hmmmm. It must have rained in this area recently I thought. A minute later I felt the sting of heavy waterdrops hitting my face. I’ve riden in rain before and it sucks. It makes handling and visibility that much more dangerous and going 30+ mph down hills wearing nothing more than essentially spandex underwear is bad enough. I continued to press on at about the same pace. Just slowing more at corners and keeping my fingers crossed a little more than usual this time.
Made it back to T2 in the rain, dropped off my bike and grabbed my running shoes. I was out the back gate. My plan was to run at the top of my threshold heart rate zone and only peak into the red zone on occasion. Nope. Wasn’t happening. I was about 7 or 8 bpm below where I planned to pace myself and I couldn’t go a step faster. I was breathing hard and at max effort for a pace that needed to be maintained.
About a mile into the run I could feel my sopping shoes starting to chafe my sockless feet. Today would be a gritty, miserable run. I was trying to get mile splits from my watch but somehow the settings weren’t set right (they were last time I tested them!) and I had no idea how to fix that. My form felt really good actually. I felt light on my feet and was consciously keeping up a high cadence run. That was one of the bright spots from a tough morning so far.
I passed a few athletes who were working very hard and felt a little guilty about it. I ran past a few kindly volunteers and spectators who would stand out in the rain all morning to help keep the race safe and fair. My hat goes off to them for their essential help. My dad and his wife Jane were at the finish line waiting for me as well and I’m grateful for that.
My goal for the run was 22 minutes. I knew from training runs I could hit that time if I executed properly. I figured if I stayed mostly out of my redline heart rate zone I could hang on to that pace for the course of the 5k. When I picked up the printout of my results I was pleasantly surprised–22 flat.
The next thing I was surprised about was my age group rank: 2. Every time I’ve raced a tri I expected to see a 1, 2, or a 3 next to my division rank since I always had given 100% out on the course but it never was. This time my goal had come true and my training had paid off. I was on the podium today.