Let me begin this be reminding all of you that we live in South Mississippi.
My house is nestled between a marshy swamp and The Gulf of Mexico. So when a fellow racer told me at packet pick-up that the race course was so hilly, she actually had to talk herself into staying on her bike when she previewed the course, I thought she was full of crap. Or maybe riding her son’s BMX bike or perhaps just not in all that good of shape. Looks can be deceiving you know. Well…not here, not this time.
The climbs started coming out of the lake, after the swim, and didn’t end until the last 200ft of the run, to the finish line. There’s not a whole lot one can do when they find themselves in such a situation except dig deep, cuss like a sailor and find that mental image that keeps you pressing forward. Dory, from Finding Nemo, was mine. “Just Keep Moving!” , “Just Keep Moving!” I figured there was only 1 way in and only 1 way out.
I’ll break it down and hopefully you can gain some insight and maybe even a tip or two if you haven’t gotten to your 1st race yet. I find it’s always helpful and far less painful, to learn from someone elses mistakes as opposed to your own.
Distance as mapped by course creators, not necessarily by me: 1/3-1/2 mile swim (appx 650 yards), 16 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.
Time 1:40:01 (damn that last second)
1/3-1/2 mile, appx 650 yards was what I was told it broke down to in “pool language”. When I tell you wearing my wetsuit was a game time decision, I am not exaggerating. I went to the truck and retrieved it 15 minutes before the race started. That’s 5 minutes before transition closed. I got that bad boy on lickty split and went for a quick 100 yard dip to wrap my mind around the temperature, the mud and the lovely lily pads. I was pleased to find the lake actually, dare I say…nice. So, I informed AquaDoc, who WAS NOT wearing a wetsuit and thus to chicken to do a pre swim, of the conditions and got in formation. It was a time trial start, every 5 seconds, and I was #8. I kept repeating, “left of the buoy”, “left of the buoy” and ran down the incline and did what felt like a belly flop into the pond. I was off. It was my 1st time swimming in a wetsuit and my 1st time swimming in open water so there was a bit of sensory overload. I noticed several folks had already rolled onto their backs to view the horizon/sky and a few were having trouble staying on course. I kept left of the buoy, cut my turns as sharply as I could to avoid covering extra distance and “just kept swimming”. As I approached the waters edge, I put my feet down too soon and still had to swim another 15-20 strokes to the shoreline. Then my introduction to the hills began. I clawed my way up the sandy, muddy incline in my now 2 ton wetsuit. Exiting the water and finding level land was harder than the entire swim. It took me forever to reach the timing pad and even longer to find stable footing so I could start running and removing all my crap. My wetsuit came off quicker and easier than I ever imagined. I was the 1st woman out of the water and the volunteers were kind enough to tell me this 1000 times. They love to give you extra mojo!! Time 10:18
my swim start, that’s me w/ the wetsuit closest to the shore
No unexpected problems or issues. My shoes were already clipped to my bike so the helmet and shades went on and I was geared up, ready to ride in a jiffy…or not. Time 1:58
AquaDoc gettin’ his gear on
We exited transition to a..SURPRISE…hill. So having my shoes clipped in and NOT being an expert at a moving entry was not the best plan. I fumbled with them for what seemed like an eternity and simply and could not get my feet in place. It was a bit embarrassing. I finally stopped and got 1 on then had to climb the hill riding the top of the other because I just couldn’t get it to cooperate. As I reached the peak of that climb and was about to make a sharp right, I finally slipped my foot into the shoe. My heart rate lowered and I was finally able to peddle with some power. The course was pure
hell rolling hills, have I mentioned that? As I was tackling one, I had the delightful pleasure of being able to view the next, and next and next. I was averaging 3:24 min/mile, heart rate hanging around 168 bpm and speed between 18-22 mph on the hills and 24-26mph on the flats. Unfortunately there were not very many flats. Since I don’t have a power meter this is what I had to utilize technology wise. I felt like I was working within range and kept pushing. Other than that, it was all based all on feel. And I was feeling it. My mind was racing as fast as my legs, working through the gears as I went up and down the hills. Then, all of a sudden I felt like I slowed to a snail’s pace and heard “hissing” from the front tire. It sounded like a puncture, and let me remind you…I can’t change a flat so this was my absolute worst fear! I slowed down to near nothing and observed my tire, but could not see any reason for a problem. Finally I made the decision to GET OFF my bike…Yup, I dismounted (at the bottom of a hill nonetheless), flipped Lola over and gave her a quick physical. She seemed fine…no punctures, cuts or anything to cause air to leak. I got back on and made my way back up the hill , ever so SLOWLY since I had absolutely no momentum. The hissing continued for about 5 more miles. I looked down as I was climbing and my eye caught sight of the culprit…a sticky, used GU wrapper had lodged itself in my front derailer. I must have hit it on the course and it had found a new home. I was able to reach down and remove it. PRESTO…the distracting hissing was gone and I finally knew, without a doubt, there was no flat. I picked up the pace to try to make up time. The last 2 climbs into transition were torture. I dismounted and made my way to my little piece of heaven. Time 56:11 (avg pace 17.1 mph)
AquaDoc cruising along nicely, 3wks post-op
Facing the hills with confidence 🙂
I was damn tired. I felt like I had been beat with a stick and left for dead. I had a bucket in transition to step in, after the swim, to clean my feet. I promptly pitched the water, flipped the bucket over and sat my ass on it while I slipped into my shoes. I needed a second to get my head straight because I knew what was coming….I had just tackled it, on a bike! Now I had to do it on foot. Time 2:27 (stop laughing)
There’s not a lot to say about the run. It was a repeat, for the most part, of the ride except a few parts were even steeper. I tried to recruit spectators to run for me, but much to my disappointment, they all refused. The number of people walking parts of the back half surprised me at first, but later I completely understood. I walked 2 of the steepest grades and for the first time, during a 5k, was totally ok with it. I calculated the cost/benefit ratio and figured the energy conservation would help me more than any added coins in the ego jar. Quite frankly, I did not give a rat’s ass. I even cheered those folks who ran by me and encouraged them to run the rest of the way. I imagined that they were part of a relay, or bad swimmers, or even slow cyclists. They had to be bad at something to still be able to run like that, right?? I felt surprisingly good coming to the end, but was quite ready for it to be OVER. The finish line was a very welcome site! Time 29:09 (avg pace 9:24 )
I know I can! I know I can! AquaDoc and the final hill
South Mississippi is pretty damn hilly
Wetsuits are NOT difficult to put on or remove if done correctly
Folks, in general, really HATE to swim. I love it, so mentally it’s great that races starts with the swim
It is imperative to master slipping into your shoes while riding, or DO NOT attempt it
Be prepared for anything and everything to go wrong with your bike technically and know how you will handle it. Have a plan. I’m taking a bike mechanics class in a few weeks. I want to know it ALL
No matter how many brick workouts are completed during training, the legs still rebel on that 1st mile. If you sit and breathe for even a second, it is 10 times worse. DO NOT SIT!! Jog in place, stretch, dance, but don’t rest!
Always remember no matter how bad it feels, it will feel worse before it’s over, but you WILL make it. Push those negative thoughts out of your mind, dig deep and keep on moving.
It is possible for something to be both miserably hard and insanely fun at the same time
The finish line gets prettier after every race
It will take you a few days to fully recover, so light workouts should be planned until mid-week
I personally was surprised at how well I did on the bike. I was a swimmer growing up, so I had no qualms about the water and felt I would do fine. I really didn’t push myself, in the lake, because I had no idea how much I needed to keep in reserves. The run is my weakest link and although I’ve been working incredibly hard on it, I simply can not even begin to compete with most of the ladies out there in that aspect. They are a fast group. I will NEVER catch anyone on the run. I’m very proud of my 9:24 pace, I worked damn hard and earned every bit of it. It’s a personal victory for me, but I also know, that in the future, I will need a big cushion from the swim and bike to hold them off. Now that I know, I can prepare. Strategy!
I missed 3rd in my age group by 40 seconds. I personally feel the lessons learned, by having mechanical issues and being forced to get off my bike for a few minutes, were far more valuable than any prize, but I need to know how to get my bike leg to be the best it can be. So, I spent the past few days talking with some coaches, cyclist and more experienced triathletes about how I can perfect this aspect of my race. While they felt my average pace would have been at least 18-19 mph (not too shabby for a hilly, windy course) had I not dismounted and had shoe issues; my biggest obstacle is my bike itself.
My rear brakes are constantly riding the tire so there are some potential mechanical issues, my tires are stock so they are heavier than the norm, and my bike isn’t tri specific….hell, I don’t have aero-bars yet. This was actually the 1st suggestion. It was the general consensus that my average speed would increase, without any additional effort, by 2-3 mph with a set of extenders. So if I can get my average speed to 20-21 mph or higher on the hills, then I should have a big enough lead after the 1st two legs to hold off those speedy ladies on the run. While I’m not a fast, I can maintain a decent pace and will hopefully just get faster by increasing my strength and hill work.
This is what I enjoy most about racing. I love breaking it all down to the nuts and bolts, studying the numbers and analyzing the data. It’s how I write training protocols, know what to work on, and how to develop a strategical plan. It really is about trying new things and then testing it all out on race day.
Saturday was a terrific day and loads of fun. I was thrilled to participate, grateful to be healthy enough to do so, and it was all made that much better by the fact I got to take part with my husband. He is the definition of positive and the ideal person to have next to you in transition! I look forward to taking part in many more events with him.
A great big thank you goes out to everyone for all the words of encouragement and positive vibes. I used every last one of them, with not a single one to spare!
Train Happy, My Friends!