Sunday, September 19, 2010

From worst to first

I read a fair few triathlon blogs. They're right over there to the right. There are two styles of these blogs: people who are triathletes and people who do triathlons. Of course those are not the same thing. It takes a more than just your first triathlon to feel like you really belong in the sport.

Recently I noticed that I've crossed the divide. I'm no longer trying to become a triathlete, I am one. I'm no longer just "participating" in races, I'm racing. I came across this photo from my first race in Australia a few weeks ago.

That was a tough race. I didn't come DFL there (turns out I beat one kid and one grandma), but I did at others.

Contrast that to this weekend's Duxbury sprint.

It was my last race of the Boston season and a big team race with 14 of us racing for BPC. It's a sprint and given that it was only 6 days after the half ironman, I didn't have high expectations for it. Go out, have fun, then a big team end of season bbq as a reward. I haven't even done much since the half, I took Monday and Tuesday off from training, easy, drill-focused swim on Wednesday, strength on Thursday and rest day Friday. Didn't do a race plan. Riding over to the course the legs didn't feel like they had much in them, so I decide that those 5 miles to the course are actually enough of a warm up, even if they were 2 hours before the race.

We register and they don't mark our calves with our ages, which means out on the course, I can't tell whom I'm really racing. My coach remarks, that just means I have to be faster than everyone.

The swim has got to be the best spectator swim anywhere. We started on the main shore, and swam, along a bridge to the far shore. Spectators could just follow along, walking up the bridge. About 150 yards from shore, you could hear people cheering, it was great. Pushed it out to the shore. I saw a few pink caps ahead of me, but still felt like a solid swim.

Onto the bike, and of course the first thing you do is ride across that same bridge. It's a wooden bridge and about half a mile long, so not an ideal surface for putting on one's bike shoes. The ride was out and back. Not too far in, I get passed by a girl, I try to keep her in my sights. Three miles in, I see one of our coaches, Vic, on his way back in, looking fast. It's fantastic to see my teammates going so well. Just about to the turn around, I see another teammate Jeff, heading back. I wonder if I can catch him. At the turn around, I get passed by another girl, who is really fast. On the way back, I catch back up to the first girl, and she and I and 3 other cyclists, ride back together. Average speed 20 mph, on the nose.

The run is also out across the bridge, which seems to take forever this time around. I focus on picking people off, this includes my teammate Jeff, and pretty soon, I'm heading back toward the bridge. I get passed by one more girl on the run who's pace I just can't match. Strong sprint home, and it's all done.

My coach asks how it went, and I tell her it was ok, I felt pretty good, but that I got passed both on the bike and on the run, but can't know if they were in my age group or not. We head over and check out the boards for results. Nothing, I'm not on there. Oh, wait, they're posting updated results. There's Lauren, there's Christina, there's... me. Oh. My. God. It says I came first. Wait, go look at that again, am I reading that right? I get Patty to look at it with me. Yes, that's right 1st place in the 30-34 year old age group! Woo hoo! Hugs and high fives all around. Plus we've got more podiums on the team, Vic took first, Robyn took first, Christina took second and Jeff took second. Seriously solid showing. We all hang around for the award ceremony, which is painfully disorganized. Christina and Jeff both receive hideous water bottles instead of medals.

First time on the podium and first place out of 26! Looking at the official results, I had the 4th fastest swim, but passed 2 girls in transition. My bike was the second fastest in the age group, but because of the solid swim and transition, I was already in first coming in off the bike. 5th fastest run, but again, I'd put enough of a gap in, that I maintain my first place position. Oh, and, because this race is so late in the season, it qualifies me for age group national champs next year in Vermont. That was my goal for next season, so I'm gonna have to start thinking about not just going, but having a good showing there.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pumpkinman Race Report: All that hard work

Don't know how else to say this. I rocked this race. Not perfect, there's always room for improvement, but still this race far exceeded expectations!

First check out the venue. How gorgeous is that?

[special thanks to Carrie for the picts and to all the BTTers for all the support on the course]

I wasn't much worried about the swim. It was a little seaweedy at first, but you know, extra fiber never hurt. I've been swimming well and enjoying it, so I got in near the front and didn't get too fussed about going fast. Turned out it was a pretty good swim. Second fastest in my age group (of 23), and average of 1:31 per 100. My goal for the season was to swim 1:40s for an olympic distance swim. Crushed it.

This race was unique cause it had a massive hill climb out of the swim to transition. Looks like I liked it:
Then to the bike. This ride was all about conserving. I set a goal of averaging 18 mph. It was tough, there were times, when girls in my age group passed me that I wanted to go faster. I wanted to stay with them. But I stuck to my plan. Let them go and stayed focused on my own race.

I had borrowed my friend Noah's aero bar bottle to stay hydrated. Major advantage of this bottle is that it's refillable while you're riding. On the first loop every time I hit a bump the bottle would splash me. At just about any other race this would have been great. But when it's 60 degrees out, you just want to stay dry. After the first loop, I had drunk the full bottle and I had to pee. Good sign. I found a stretch of road with woods and hopped off the bike for a pit stop. I just couldn't bring myself to pee on my bike. I get to the water stop, and this time when I go to fill the bottle, I knock the valve right into the bottle. I guess I hadn't quite gotten it in right when I filled it that morning, so I stop again and fix out. The last 10 miles, I ease up the pressure and up the cadence. I feel good, if a little cold coming in off the bike, average 18.1mph.

And then I miss my rack... Too many friends cheering me on from the relay section. Oops.

To the run. I focus on one foot in front of the next, I focus on tempo. I start thinking about my friend Simone, doing the Ironman in Australia. Some one referred to her as "metronome" she just doesn't stop. I start singing to myself "Simone, the metronome" and it works pretty well. First two miles at an 8:45 pace. Great. The course is an out and back and out and back route. It was great, I kept seeing friends, high fiving all along the way. At about mile 10, I realized that my secret goal of hitting 5:45 was not just achievable, it was crushable.

Pure race bliss!

In the end, I crossed the finish line 5 hours and 40 minutes after the start. I held solid sub-9 minute miles on the run the whole way. 7th place in my age group.

I've been planning on spending next year focused on getting faster at the shorter distances and moving on from the halves, but with a solid half under my belt, I might just be tempted to do another.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Pumpkinman Race Plan: Third time's the charm

One week from my 3rd half ironman, and I have to say, I'm not all that excited. My last two races at Timberman and Cranberry were just fantastic. I loved getting back into shorter distances and going fast. Now contemplating the 6 hour event I'm entered into next week, it's hard to get pumped about it. In my first half, I hit the wall on the run and had to drag myself through the finish. At the Patriot this year, I got wicked dehydrated and struggled through most of the run. So now on my third and final half ironman for the season, I'd really like to just make it to the finish with a smile on my face.

The Pumpkinman is a unique race. It's a two loop swim, in a small pond, with a run back onto the beach between loops. Then there's there king of the mountain challenge with 250m sprint uphill to the transition. The bike is a lollipop course, with two loops around the lolli. Finally the run is 2 lap out and back course.

I'm not going to set an overall time goal. Instead, my plan is to swim strong and hold 18mph on the bike (actually 18, not at least 18) for the first 45 miles. The last 10 miles, I'm gonna take it down a bit, maybe 17.5. Goal being to save something in the legs for the run. I think I've got the hydration worked out (hello, camelback) and I tested my nutrition out today on the actual ride course. So here goes nothing. Check back next week for the smiling finish line photo.

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