28 September 2013

2013 Giant Acorn Olympic Triathlon - Race Report

Oh I know, when a race goes well, I PR writing the race report every time, I like to have the good stuff fresh in my mind. And when it doesn't go so well, hmmm, I take my time :)

Anyway, this morning I raced the Giant Acorn Oly tri down at Lake Anna State Park in Virginia. They used to hold this race on the nuclear side of the lake, where Rumpus in Bumpass was held, but this year they moved it to the state park where Kinetic takes place. I've raced the Kinetic races a few times so I had a general idea of what the bike would be like (rolling hills with a few longer climbs and decent pavement) and what the run would be like (gosh darn 1 mile long hill at the beginning of each of the two loops of the run). I wasn't as focused as I should've been this week in terms of getting my mind ready to race - I kept forgetting I had a triathlon this weekend. There was no taper on the schedule and Jen put some paces in my run workouts "for fun" that did not feel fun at the time, but they did build up my confidence  I did, however, do a decent job with eating mindfully this week (portion control, really - I have yet to break my streak of having at least once slice of pizza a day and last night I downed almost a pint of Ben and Jerry's for extra good luck on today's course) and getting a decent amount of sleep (but I could always use more sleep, who doesn't?). I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of my race results for the day; I felt recovered from Vegas and these past two weeks have been solid in terms of training and I'm back in the triathlon season mindset, which is important. I didn't know a whole lot about anyone else racing, but I set a goal of trying to be in the to be in the top 5 overall because why not? This is my first oly of the year and truthfully I'm not great at the shorter stuff because I'm still learning how to find that extra gear (but each race seems to show something of an improvement, which is encouraging).

Let's go on a side tangent for a moment, which is relevant, I promise. Even though I'm not great at Olys, I had a relatively high expectation for what I could do today in terms of racing the other girls on the course. I think alot of that had to do with the fact that it was a local race and recently I've found myself in the mix towards the front at the local races. Therefore, I feel more confident and don't write myself off before the race even starts, like I do at the bigger and more competitive stuff like Vegas. Having confidence and belief in my abilities makes me try harder, dig deeper, and my brain has much less space for excuses and cop-outs. I think this was a key to success today and I need to learn how to translate this confidence and belief in myself to the larger and more competitive races if I want to truly grow as an athlete. End tangent.

So the race. With a 9am start, I slept in until a little after 5am and ate my bagels when I jumped on the road at 5:45 to make the 90 minute drive to the race site. Like usual with SetUp even races, everything was well organized from the parking to packet pickup. I had my transition area set up pretty quickly and had plenty of time to get myself into the wetsuit. It was strange to have a half-empty bento box on my bike (my plan was to eat a gel at the beginning of the bike and maybe one towards the end if I was feeling bonky - but I know when your body is working hard, like it does in an oly distance, it's difficult to take in and digest alot of calories). After shimmying into my sleeveless wetsuit, I did a warmup swim and then lined up for Wave 2.

The swim: 1500m-22:59 (hahaha either I've acquired super swimming powers or that swim was short!)
The first hundred meters or so was full of kicking and hitting until all us girls age 39 and under sorted ourselves out. I felt a little out of control for the first bit of the swim, like I was swinging my arms furiously and climbing over people and trying to go as fast as possible (the joys of short course). About halfway to the first turn buoy, I felt more settled in a rhythm and my swim stroke felt more efficient. I was sighting just fine and staying on my intended line. I saw plenty of red caps in front of me, but I couldn't bridge the gap to reach a group that was just ahead. I ended up doing the swim mainly on my own, no drafting off of fast feet this time because I just couldn't find anyone. I felt good during the swim (not really 22:xx good, hence why I'm pretty sure the swim was short) and definitely out of breath by the time I got out of the water. I had no idea where I was in relation to the rest of the girls in my wave and my age group, especially because those collegiate girls can SWIM, so it was time to keep working.

T1: 2:21 - a bit of a run to transition, I quickly won the wetsuit fight, and then a run out to the road.

The Bike: 25 miles - 1:13:25, about a 20.5ish mph average
The bike climbs for about a mile when you first leave transition and then it levels off and has rolling hills with a few shorter climbs and all righthand turns. I passed a few girls on the climb and once I crested the hill, I got into my aerobars. I took a Gu Roctane before we even got out of the park and washed it down with Skratch. My goal for the bike was to stay focused and chase the girls ahead of me and not let up on the pace because it was quite possible that any girl could be hot on my heels. I drank some Skratch every 10 minutes or so and popped a salt tab about halfway through. Overall my legs felt pretty decent. I passed a few of the super swimmers, especially towards the beginning of the bike, and was passed by one girl who was HAULING and there was pretty much no way I could keep up with her. I stood on a few of the climbs, especially towards the end, and knowing that there were still girls ahead of me (no idea how many) made me keep working and get complacent and take it easy. Towards the end I was ready to get off the bike, I was breathing hard, my legs could feel the miles (and I had no idea how they were going to handle the run since I rode the bike HARD and there is no such thing as overriding the bike in an Oly, apparently). The last two miles were flat and downhill into the park and I picked up the pace, not content to sit back and relax. As I came in towards transition and passed the first mile of the run, I counted how many girls were running up that hill and saw there were at least six or seven. Lots of work to do and I had no idea if I'd be able to reel them in but it was time to try.

T2: 1:14 - put my socks and shoes on, threw a gel down my sports bra, grabbed my visor and race number belt to put on while on the go. No time to waste!

The Run: 6.2 miles - 42:51, about a 6:57/mile average
Having run part of this run course in previous races, I knew the first mile started with a steep hill right out of transition, which flattened out a little bit but continued to climb up for about a mile. We'd do this hill twice through two loops so I didn't expect to have my fastest 10k run. I wanted to get up Mile 1 and Mile 4 in under 8 minutes and then hope I'd make up time on the remaining miles which were flat or downhill. The first mile clicked by faster than expected - 7:36 and I was thrilled to see that my legs had shown up to the party - now all I had to do was keep my mind focused and NOT GIVE UP. In the last few miles of the bike I had passed a couple Navy girls and I knew they came into transition just a minute or two behind me. Even though they weren't in my age group, it became my sole goal of the run to hold them off, especially when I reached the turnaround on the first loop and saw they were NOT far behind at all. Mile 2 clicked by in 6:52 and while I've rarely run sub-7s in an Oly 10k, I wasn't worried, I was going to run myself into the ground to hold off the Navy girls behind me. I passed one girl in my age group in Mile 2 and with the course not very crowded yet, I could tell I was pretty far from the next girls ahead of me. Mile 3 was downhill (yaaay 6:35) and I was breathing hard and felt a little out of control at that point and pushed the thought out of my head that you need to run that whole loop AGAIN, you are going to blow up. Instead I told myself that I just need to get myself to the top of the hill at mile 4 and the rest would be easy - flat and downhill. Sometimes you just need to make your mind believe untruths to keep the momentum going. Going back up that hill was painful and I felt like I was taking the smallest slowest steps up the steepest section. I wasn't looking behind me because that would be a waste of time and energy and why not just race convinced Navy girls are going to catch me so I don't let up - at least maybe I would end up with a PR? I made it to mile 4 in 7:30 and discarded my gel at the next aid station - only two miles to go, no time for bonking. I made it to the turnaround and saw that one of the Navy girls was still just a few seconds behind me. At that moment, I felt it in my mind - I could take the easy way out - she's not in my age group, it doesn't matter if she passes me. You're at least in 6th or 7th so it's not like you'll be missing out on top 5 anyway if she passes you. The other girl you passed in your age group is a good minute or two behind, you can let up and go easy to the finish. Or I could set my jaw and make that choice that I'M NOT GOING TO JUST LET HER PASS ME. It matters to me that I don't give up, that I look the other way when presented with the easy way out. I wanted to race with grit and determination, something I feel like I so rarely do, especially at moments when there is no crucial age group or overall placing at stake. It's those times, when place isn't at stake, that it's easy to say it doesn't matter and settle for the mediocre. These thoughts, wanting to race with grit, stuck with me through to Mile 5, which clicked off in 6:55. I could feel the wheels starting to come off. I couldn't even manage a smile or a thank you to the volunteers as I rounded the corner to start the last downhill mile to the finish. I didn't see any 2nd loop girls ahead of me to reel in and my mind was filled with don't let up, don't stop, don't give up because I wanted this (I don't even know what this is, I needed to finish knowing that I didn't give up). We hit the last tiny downhill and my quads were spent. I hit the trail and I felt like I was running like Phoebe from Friends, much pity to anyone running near me and my flailing arms and legs. I hit mile 6 in 6:26 and with every breath for that last quarter mile, don't let up, don't stop, don't give up, just kept running through my mind. I must've looked like a madman with crazy eyes as I ran into the field and down the finisher chute - I know she must be RIGHT THERE. And then, I crossed the finish. Before the Navy girl. She came charging across the line 4 seconds later.

Final Time: 2:22:36, 2nd AG and 7th OA. A PR by about 6 minutes!
Even though I missed out on the top 5, I'm really happy with how the race went, especially the run. I've never run a sub-43 in an Oly tri (I don't even know if I've run a sub-43 in an open 10k) and having the goal to stay ahead of the Navy girl absolutely pushed me to a new run PR and new overall PR. That run was painful and hard but I felt like I was in it the whole time, laser focused and making all the right choices and not giving in to excuses. In short, I didn't settle and I can walk away from the finish line knowing that I truly did leave it all out on the course and I raced a smart race. This was a competitive field for sure, those ladies today could swim bike and run like it was nobody's business and looking at the overall results makes me realize just how fast and talented so many of them were and that makes me even happier with my top-10 finish. Thanks very much to Tri360 for always keeping my bike in fabulous working order and thank you to Skratch for your awesome hydration products! Thank you, of course, to Jen for her fantastic coaching and helping me find speed after a season filled mostly with long-course. And congrats to my friends who I saw out on the course - Rachel and Sarah and Jeff! Everyone looked so strong and happy to be out there! Great day!

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