11 October 2011

Waterman's Half Ironman - last one of the season!

At the beginning of the year, I was looking for ways to stretch my season out as long as possible. Triathlon in November? Sign me up! But then my schedule changed a bit and some scheduling conflicts appeared and instead my season was going to end the second weekend in October (and no, not at a race on some tropical island - I'm saving that race for when I'm 80 and the rest of my competition is in a nursing home). I figured I'd be disappointed ending my season early, but by the time October came around, I was ready to be done. Truthfully, I've not been 100% plugged in since Lake Placid. I've enjoyed all the races I've done since then, and PR'd on each one, but there was a lack of focus on my part during the training and I think it showed, despite the PRs. I chose not to resist the sweet nothings being whispered by the ice cream in the freezer or by the chocolate bars at the store down the street. I also made this a few too many times:

It's an atomic calorie bomb.

I didn't get enough sleep and didn't make training the priority it should've been. I stopped reading the mental focus books that had been such a big part of my early season. I wouldn't go so far as to say I was burnt out - I was still having fun. But other things were worming their way up on my priority list and I simply let it occur. This is something I want to work on for next year.

So, after that little intro, ready for the race report? Watermans was a small half ironman taking place up in Marbury, MD, less than an hour from DC. This also happens to have been the site of my very first road triathlon back in 2007. That one was a sprint and I distinctly remember during the run thinking that anyone who did more than a sprint was crazy. Race day dawned perfect - sun, coolish temperatures (I think it only got into the high 70s) no humidity and very little wind. The great thing about this race was how small it was (3 swim waves!), the no-frills attitude (got my packet picked up, body marked, and transition set up in about 10 minutes flat), and the 8am start :)

I wanted top-5 overall. It was a small race so I figured that maybe I had a shot. I'd read that the water temperature was 64 so I pulled out the long-sleeve wetsuit (I think I was still traumatized from the temperature at Galway 70.3). Turns out that 64 was way warmer than whatever it was in Galway and I could've totally gone with the sleeveless. At least the full wetsuit kept the fields of seaweed from touching my skin - ewww. The wave, even though it was all women racers, was small. Just the way I like it. After the gun went off, it didn't take long to find clear water and be on my way on the two loop swim. Almost immediately my arms felt fatigued. Was the full wetsuit constricting? Was it general lack of swim fitness from missing too many AM swim sessions? Who knows. By the second loop, I got into a rhythm and my arms were actually feeling better. Sighting was no problem and neither were crowds. Unfortunately, my swims are terribly predictable and I finished in almost the same exact time as the rest of my 70.3s this year. Maybe next year will be when I finally break through the elusive 35:00 barrier. I had no idea where I was in the pack of girls but I ran to T1 like I stole something.

The timing mats turned out to be broken in the transition area so there isn't a record of my only fast transition times this whole season. I got on the bike and started looking for the girls ahead of me. I found a few, but not before I was caught by the speeding bullet that is Kendra (who ended up winning the ENTIRE race - who, one year ago, had never clipped in on a bike or been to a swim practice - if that's not rockstar, I don't know what is). The bike course was hillier than I had expected, but it wasn't terrible. The roads were in decent condition and didn't have alot of traffic on them. All good things. I rode on my own quite a bit because competitors were so far apart from each other. Throughout the ride, I felt really decent. Kept to the usual nutrition plan of a Hammer gel every 15 minutes for the first two hours (then every 20 minutes for the last hour) and a sip of water every 10 and a Saltstick tab every 30. This has worked great in all my other races and Watermans was no exception. But partway through the ride, I don't know if I let my head get to me, or if I really was slogging through molasses, but I just felt slow. By the time I finished the ride, I was convinced this was my slowest ride since Quassy even though it shouldn't have been because it wasn't all that hilly. I never remember exactly what time my Garmin says when I start the bike, so I can never calculate the bike time while riding. It's probably for the best, since it usually keeps my head out of the game, but lately I've had myself convinced that I rode super, super slow and I get off the bike all pissy. Whatever.

As I rode back into the park towards T2, I only saw a handful of girls out running. This was heartening. Maybe I wasn't as far behind as I thought. I had another faster-than-usual transition time on my way out to the run. The run was hilly - comparable to basically every other half ironman run this season (except for Wildflower, that deserves its own category, and Galway which was pancake flat - but there were 30mph winds, I don't know which is worse). There is always the lofty goal of running a 7:xx pace in a half ironman run - a lofty goal that I've never achieved. Oddly enough, the closest I came was at Quassy which was RIDICULOUSLY hilly on the run. My watch also crapped out on my at Mile 2 on that run and beeped at me every 2 seconds and refused to show me my mile splits - I think I need to run without knowing my mile splits from now on and run purely on feel. I've come to believe that the body is capable of much more than what the mind allows it to do. But I'll measure progress in small increments. No stopping and no walking and be consistent. I took in a bit of a Hammer gel during the run and had water at every other aid station. On the first loop, I counted myself as 6 back when I got to the turnaround. As I made it around the turnaround, I saw two girls not far behind me and both were looking strong. I had a talk with myself and kicked it up a notch - I didn't want to finish the race having any regrets. Mentally, I felt like I was in a good place throughout the run. No I wasn't getting the splits I wanted, but it could've been worse, and at least I was hitting around the same times each mile, with a few exceptions. As I approached the turnaround, with about 3 miles to go, I passed one of the women in front of me - putting me in 5h place. One of the girls that was behind me was slowly gaining so I just put my head down and ran. With the exception of a little nausea and dry-heaving action 1/2 a mile from the finish, the rest of the run was uneventful and I held off the girl behind me. I finished 5th overall and 2nd in my age group, with a shiny new 5:23 PR time. I'll take it.

This was a great race to end my season on. A few days after the race, I was looking back at some of my old race times and it hit me just how far I've come. The time for my first half ironman was a lovely 6:16 or something like that. I was on my bike for almost 3.5 hours and thought I was going to die on the run. I seriously considered getting a refund on the full iron-distance race I was already signed up for and proceeded to tell everyone and their mother "I'm done with this crap" for the rest of the afternoon after the race. Breaking 6:00 seemed unfathomable and I figured people who got times like 5:25 were Kona material. I never in a million years thought that I'd be getting times like the ones I got this season. And the best part - I feel like I can do even better. I think it's an absolute possibility that I'll shock myself next year and manage to go even faster. Part of this is the physical training, but part of it is mental. Not only believing in what one is capable of, but learning how to shut one's mind off so the body can do what it was trained to do. I still have alot to learn, but that's what makes every race fresh, new, and fun. That's why we keep coming back, right? You don't know the limit to your potential and every race is way to find out what you're capable of. Alot of this realization has been thanks to my awesome coach Jen who has given me not only great workouts, but lots of stuff to think about in terms of the mental aspect of the sport.

The race was also a perfect way to catch up with old and new friends from Team Z and elsewhere. I think I scared poor Katie by ambushing her outside the chip pickup tent ("You're Katie - I read your blog, I LOVE your blog!"). Gina was wonderful enough to lend me a chip strap because I forgot mine again - my ankles thank you Gina! And Lauren executed a great race and is totally ready for Cozumel. It was so nice to see Dawn and Kendra and I'm looking forward to racing with them next year :)

And so the season is over. I've yet to buy a can of frosting, but I'm sure that'll happen soon enough. I'm off to Africa on Saturday for a two-week work trip to Burkina Faso! Do you know how long I've always wanted to write those words - "I'm off to Africa for work!" I think I've been dreaming about that since I was a little kid, traveling to places completely different than anything you'll find in the US. It opens your mind to other things that are out there, but also REALLY makes you appreciate what you have at home. Like electricity.

Sidenote - every time I try to tag my post with the label "triathlon", it automatically adds in the tag "Living like a feral cat." I need to find whatever posting I gave that tag to - I'm sure it's probably an interesting read (and, sadly, probably has to do with how I live when Mark is away on a business trip).


Lauren said...

oh my god i want that brownie ice cream goodness. yummm.

It was nice to see you this past weekend! congrats on such a great race!!!

ADC said...

Great race and great end of the season. And yay for work trip to Africa. I still think my 'I've been on a work trip to Pakistan' is kind of cool, but not sure that US immigration guys like seeing it in my passport every time I visit.

Caroline said...

Lauren - the brownie/oreo cookie/chocolate cookie concoction is amazing! Congrats on executing the perfect race in prep for Cozumel - I'm so excited for you!
Angelina - I need to sign up for Skype so we can chat! I didn't know you've been to Pakistan, that's so cool! Coming to camp in March????

JV said...

Great work on the PR!!! Funny how perspective changes, I also wanted to break 6 hrs so bad and now the goals are so diff. Now you can shoot for sub 5 :) What are you planning next year?!I have to get thru IMFL and then will be planning 2012, can't wait!

Caroline said...

Jaime - Sub-5 definitely seems unattainable right now, just like the sub-6 used to. I guess we'll see, haha! GOOD LUCK with IMFL - taper is coming REAL soon! I hope you have the perfect day and perfect race - you've worked hard to earn that! So far I have Rev3 Quassy, IM Lake Placid and 70.3 Worlds in my plan for next year. Definitely going to add a few more races.

Katie said...

Ok, whatever that first thing is, can you make it for me? Please?

So glad you had a good day and a great end of season!