I find myself spending too much time on the prelude, but here is a snapshot of the pre-race happenings.
My boyfriend, his son, and I filled his car to the brim for a nice weekend in Oregon, Ohio for this race. The Cleveland Tri Club had a picnic on Saturday, the day before the race, and it was there that universe opted to let me know where I stand. I jokingly entered a drawing for a free entry into a half ironman, and the universe joked back by pulling my name as the winner. I haven’t decided whether or not I will use the entry, but I have a little bit of time. It was nice to talk to some different people and even get to hang out with a few people’s kids who were there for the weekend for Father’s Day.
Pre-Race: There was definitely some concern that the race would get stormed out or that it would possibly get turned into a duathlon. (Duathlon: a multisport race where they replace the swim with a run aka a race I NEVER intend on duing).
My boyfriend once again let me borrow his Zipp 404 (so SWEET of him). He put air in my tires and even lubed the chain for me. I didn’t really have a spare bag for my stuff for transition so I ended up using the dry cleaning bag from the hotel and another bag from a convenient store to take my stuff. We got there early so I had no problem getting body marked or getting my timing chip.
They set up transition long wise, and I have to say that I absolutely HATED it. Even before the race started, I had a hard time finding my bike on the rack. It was open racking so you could go anywhere, and I don’t think there was anywhere that would have been particularly easy for me to find my bike during the race.
They delayed the race by about 15-20 minutes because of the congestion of people getting timing chips or going through registration. It was kind of fun, I had lots of teammates there so we all huddled together, along with people from other teams, as we got excited for the few hours ahead of us. Two of my female teammates were also doing the sprint distance race, and we all agreed that our team would be well-represented. I think we all had thoughts that it was possible that we would go 1-2-3 in the overall, but none of us were willing to jinx it. It should be said that one of the women is coming off a foot injury, and well, I have only been training in one discipline, so we knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park (even when I tried to make it one), but that it seemed a genuine possibility.
I have never been so undertrained for a discipline in a race in my life. I stared at the buoys and kept thinking “man, that seems like a really long swim for a sprint.” The horn went off, and I hit the start on my 310xt and ran into the water. When I first started, it seemed like there was some water coming into my left goggle. I just pushed the goggles tighter on my face and kept going as it didn’t seem to be that annoying or that impeding.
I got into a pretty good rhythm, but definitely struggled with sighting. I think I did significantly better swimming a straighter line than on the way back to the shore. I was happy to run into a significant number of men on the swim, figuring I couldn’t be swimming that slowly since the group of men ahead of us had a 2 minute head start, and there were several groups ahead of them. Think about that, even if I was swimming my normal swimming pace (1:30 for 100 yards), and I don’t think I am anywhere near that shape right now, it should take me at least half the swim to catch someone swimming even a 2 min pace and that’s if I were in the same swimming shape I was in 15 months ago when I actually swam consistently.
Now, I have done sprints, Olympic, half and full Ironmans, and I have never come out of the water as tired as I did from this swim. As I jogged to transition, I saw my boyfriend with his camera out, thinking to myself “Duh! Who let him have a camera?” I asked him out far behind I was, and he said about 40 seconds. I thought to myself, “not nearly as bad as I thought” but I knew that I was already sucking air. Time: 14:28 (50th overall including men, 2nd AG)
It took me about a minute to find my bike. I ran past it, then I reminded myself to look for my aero helmet on my aero bars, but there was no black aero helmet anywhere near the vicinity of my area of transition. When I finally found it, I looked at my bike and didn’t see my helmet. I literally thought I was going to have to DNF this race as someone seemed to have taken my helmet. (Note: it’s not just that I don’t ride without a helmet, it’s also a USAT rule, no helmet is a DQ). Just as I was about to pull off the timing chip, I looked down and saw the helmet and sunglasses on the ground...I guess the wind blew it off the handlebars I got on the sunglasses, helmet, and shoes and made my way out of transition. Time: 2:12
The bike course is really flat, but there was some serious 20+ mph wind. I knew the course was about 13ish miles so I needed to get the speed up as quickly as possible. My watch beeped for the first mile, I looked down and saw 3:06 and thought, “NOT GOOD!” but with the mounting and getting around people and trying to get out of the park, and the nasty head/cross wind, I knew it was going to be a slow start. Then the watch beeped again, 3:03, which got a mental “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING MARIE!!!!” Simple math here: anything lower than 3 minutes is 20+ mph, anything higher than 3 minute is less than 20 mph. 2:30 is 24 mph, 2:00 is 30 mph. Seeing the second mile over 3 minutes was just not acceptable. After a time trial when I felt like I fell apart in a headwind, my coach said to me, "The moment you click into an easier gear because of the win, you just lost." I kept that thought in my mind, stayed in the aero position, and went on the hunt.
I passed lots of people, probably more than 50 people on the course including a teammate or two and many members of the Cleveland Tri Club. Going into the race, my strategy was and had to be to win whatever on the bike. I wanted the fastest bike split and knew I had teammates that would make me work for it. Having done a couple of time trials, I have also learned that while headwinds are hard, sometimes, people become too complacent with a tailwind as they look down and see a fast number and think they don’t need to push, they are already going pretty fast. It was in that stretch with the tailwind that I was yelling to a woman that I was passing left and apparently, she didn’t like my tone as she said something back about having the right to the road. I responded by passing her and not looking back.
I ended up passing one of my two female teammates maybe a mile or two out before transition. I kept up my pace but knew there was no way I would hold a lead on her through the run, at least not that small a lead. I ended up working pretty hard and managed a time of 35:44, 1st overall female split, 12th including all men, average pace 22.5 mph. I should say I had grand thoughts of 24+ mph on this course, but two things prevented that 1) the wind and 2) my undertrained swim.
No attempt at a flying dismount, there were just too many people plus I had just gone through a puddle, and I was worried I would slip and fall. ran to transition, racked the bike, took off the helmet, grabbed socked, stuffed my feet in the shoes, and grabbed my water and my visor and took off. Time: 1:00
I have never worn a heart rate monitor during a race before, and my coach was more than peeved with me for not wearing one for my last TT. I felt like I would wear one just for information purposes. As I started, I saw Aimee out there cheering for everyone, and it really was appreciated. The rest of the run, I literally kept thinking to myself, “just run back to Aimee.” I started out and instantly felt that “maybe I shouldn’t have laughed at the guy who suggested I do a brick workout a few days ago,” quickly followed by “oh, they call a sprint a sufferfest for a reason.” Within probably the first quarter of a mile, my teammate passed me, and I was pretty confident that was going to happen, but was a little disappointed it happened that quickly. Oh well, I kept running, and as it was a down and back, I kept looking for 1) Durno 2) Martha and 3) how many women were ahead of me.
I got to the 1st mile marker in about 8:17. I didn’t look, but that’s what my Garmin tells me. It was about that time that I first looked down and saw my heart rate—190, that can’t be right, that must be MAX heart rate, stupid watch default settings. A few minutes later, I looked again, and I saw 188. Clearly, 188 is lower than 190 so it can’t be a max field, that’s when I looked closely and thought absolutely nothing. It honestly didn’t make that much sense to me. I do actually run once a week, usually a 6-7 mile run. I shouldn’t be redlining it on this run, but that seemed to be the case. Oh well, I thought and just kept running.
I saw Durno on his way back and then eventually saw Martha on her way back and in the lead. She wasn’t that far ahead of me, but it’s like it mattered, unless she fell or decided just to walk, it wasn’t like I was going to catch her anyway. Now, I should say that I did actually pass a guy on the run, not sure if I have ever passed someone in the run of a sprint before, and I would like to thank that guy for the opportunity.
I saw another woman who I believe was either out in front of Martha or between Martha and Heidi, but by my count, I was in 4th, unless that one woman was in the duathlon (which turned out to be the case).
It was right before the turn around that Ken Beech passed me, assured me (again) that I was doing well, but I think he could tell that I was hurting. It was around that time that I opted to walk for 10 seconds. I needed to get the heart rate down. I don’t know why I thought 10 seconds was going to be enough time to do anything, but I couldn’t let myself keep walking. I ended up walking at least two more times, one time actually taking the time to let the heart rate drop down out of the 180s, but it jumped right back up as soon as I started running.
A little after 2 miles, teammate Mike passed me, and he looked like “eh,” and well, that’s all I could think. Slowly, but surely, I made it back to Aimee and to the finish line. I kept looking over my shoulder praying I wouldn’t see another woman behind me, not that I had a sprint in me to get to the finish line, but fortunately, no speedy women came up to pass me at the finish. My run time was a 26:23 for 3.05 miles at a 8:39 pace. I just read somewhere that there is no such thing as a good bike followed by bad run. I would like to point out to people that an 8:39 pace for me isn’t a bad run (as pathetic as that is).
Now, the cool thing was that my teammates and I managed to do something pretty cool: go 1,2,3 in the overall for the sprint. While there was no awards ceremony, we were pretty excited about it. It’s actually my highest placement in the overall, 4th a few times, but if there had been a podium, I would have been on it! I also won my age group by about 50 seconds, that woman was one heck of a runner, and I am just glad that run wasn’t much longer. This race did an excellent job of letting me know just how long I can stay in that pain cave. I posted these numbers of facebook, but they still blow me away. Average heart rates: 160 (swim); 181 (bike) 188 (run).
I have awesome race reports yet to write, hopefully I will get them up shortly.