Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Execution


The day before the race felt like Christmas morning:  the anticipation was huge.  I'd like to think my attitude was endearingly exuberant, but Paul might beg to differ.  We each had taken Friday off from work, but I had told him we didn't have to leave until 10am.  I awoke at 7am in a hurricane of activity:
  • Went to the park to practice my transitions one last time
  • Mounted the bike on top of the car
  • Showered
  • Finished packing
  • Ate breakfast (with coffee)
  • Re-watched the relevant portion of the webinar on bodymarking and equipment stickers (I had watched the whole thing earlier in the week along with the full recording of the bike course - what can I say, I like to be prepared.  It paid off:  no fewer than 3 teammates asked me about the location of the race numbers)
  • Decided that we needed an audio book for the drive
  • Scoured the internet for a book and the car for our FM transmitter dongle (no, our car does not have one of those fancy audio-in ports)
  • Decided we were better off with a book on CD
  • Looked up bookstores on our route
  • Called our local bookstore to discover that they were both open AND had an ample supply of books on CD
  • Giddily greeted Paul and offered to go to the bookstore to pick one up before our 10 am departure.
I thought my phone was on its last leg in March when the ear speaker died, but I've soldiered on with it on speaker phone or using headphones.  Last week various portions of the screen became non-responsive, leaving it far less functional than I would have liked.  Standing in the store and trying to look up Amazon reviews for these audio books with a keyboard that would interpret "It's murder, my son" as "Is mrdr m sn" (which even google can't decipher) was the last straw.  I cursed myself for not replacing the phone the day before and vowed to replace it on my return to Boston.  I grabbed a book based solely on its cover and price (always sure signs of quality), and returned home to get Paul at 9:45.  Only to discover that he had already read that book.  So back to the bookstore to exchange for another book.  A book we discovered when we went to play the first disk was 21 hours long.  An inauspicious start, but from there things became much less fraught.

As we neared Burlington, Paul asked me about my goals.  I told him I wanted to execute the plan.  Although I've adopted the practice of writing the relevant power and HR numbers on my gel flasks for races, this one included, I had inadvertently committed this race's plan to memory.  I recited it for Paul.  He pushed back, "Yeah, but what time do you want."  I really didn't have a goal number.  I wanted to break 2:40, I wanted to PR, but anything less than 2:40 would make me happy, particularly if I felt like the race itself had gone well.

Panoramic shot of the swim course

Pre-race with my honey
We made a quick stop at the expo, where Paul scoped out the goods while I waited in line for my packet.  Then got the heck out of there to limit the race hubbub's intrusion on my pre-race calm.  We headed up to the beach for a quick swim, bike and run to refresh the muscle memory.  I'm so glad, I got in the water.  It was choppy, reminiscent of swimming in the ocean north of Brisbane.  Walden just can't prepare you for this.  I convinced myself that because the actual swim was in a protected bay, that this would be worst that I could expect from the actual race.

The only real error in planning on Friday was going to the fabulous Farmhouse Tap and Grill for dinner.  It's just cruel to go to a place with 30 beers on tap and local cheese plates on offer the day before a race.  We returned there Saturday night to fully enjoy their menu.




Race morning, we arrived at transition to sunny skies and WINDY conditions.  There were white caps even within the protected area.  We watched many waves go off and adjusted my sighting plan to account for getting blown around by the wind.  Once in the water, I found feet quickly to follow.  Out to about the halfway point, I was on those feet.  I did my best to find another set, but at some point, I was just out there either by myself or passing men from the wave ahead of me.  But I felt strong.  I came out of the water and hit my watch through my wetsuit (I keep it under my sleeve so I can get the wetsuit off easily), I wouldn't find out the final time until after the race.
GPS of my swim

Swim:
26:59 (1:39 pace, 1:37 faster than last year)
Rank in AG: 37 / 95

The bike was all about being in the moment, hitting my power and heart rate numbers, and not gunning it over the rollers, so I still had legs left for the run.  My coach had admonished me not to get competitive with others in the race to the detriment of my overall time, focus on my plan an execute.  As I got passed by girls in my age group, it occurred to me, I must've had a pretty good swim.  In many races, I narrate the ride to myself:  I'm already writing my race report in my head.  In this bike, there was no chatter, there were numbers to hit, and that water to drink and sometimes gel to take but otherwise, my head was blissfully quiet.  It's the most being-into-a-race that I've ever been, and it was awesome.

In the second half of the bike, I had a little trouble stepping the bike up to a harder effort because of the rolling terrain.  I also had the signal on my power meter go out a few times (I'm thinking a loose wire is the cause, and I'm not thrilled about having to replace it.), but it didn't faze me during the race.  I've done workouts where my power meter's battery has died, and I've still gotten them done.  A little less data wasn't going to impact this race.

Bike:
1:17:56 (19.1mph and 4 seconds slower than last year)
Rank in AG: 66 / 95

Run course elevation
On the way out to the run
This run course starts with a beast of a hill, then is mostly a gentle downhill to the finish.  I had expected that no matter what I did my heart rate would sky rocket on that hill, then I'd need to focus on getting things back under control.  Although it did increase dramatically, it didn't get into the red zone.  I thought, maybe I'm not pushing hard enough on this hill, but this feels like the speed I should be running.  Cresting the top of the hill, I fell into a really comfortable pace and cadence.  I kept thinking about staying relaxed and swinging my arms.  I felt great.  I checked in with my heart rate, and it looked good.  My first mile was my slowest and also the only one over an 8 min mile.

As I fatigued, I had to work really hard to keep my cadence up.  When I hit the mile 5 marker, I switched into my last gear, and brought that mile home in 7:27 (my second fastest mile of the run).  I saw the finish line and I sprinted, passing people left and right.  Final time was 46:45.  This is my fastest 10K on record, stand-alone or as part of a tri.  And it beat my time at Quassy when I had such a slow bike and really put everything I had into that run.

Sprinting to the finish

Run:
46:45 (7:32 pace, 5:34 better than last year!)
Rank in AG: 49 / 95

I crossed the finish line 6:11 faster than last year, and though clearly most of that time came from the run, I think I've made improvements on the bike as well.  I pushed the same time as last year but at a more conservative effort, allowing me to run on legs that weren't completely thrashed.

Last year, when I came to this race, I was plagued with doubts.  Did I really belong at the National Champs?  This year, I was confident.  Not that I was going to win or make the national team, but that I was going to have a great race.  I thought going in that I was going to let the best in the country spur me on to a PR.  In the end though, I was immune to the competition, focused on my race and my plan.

Post race with my honey
Finally, I can't take all the credit for this improvement.  I get great support, and not just from my team, and from A and R.  My fiance Paul forgives me when I wake him up in the morning to train, is understanding of my absence for half of the weekend as I get in my long runs and rides, and schleps both me and my gear to and from races.  I started training with Coach Alan almost exactly a year ago.  I went through a pretty structured process of researching, shortlisting and interviewing coaches.  I wanted to find some one who would take the guesswork out of my training and who cared about my races (almost) as much as I do.  I found these qualities in Coach Alan.  To say that my training programs have been detailed almost misses the point:  they have been perfectly tailored to meet my goals.

I took a look back at the goals I sent to Alan on Sept 5 of last year:

  • Be injury-free-  Ok, this took some work considering I had already injured my leg (which became the stress fracture) when we started training together
  • PR at Newton Chilly Half-  DONE 1:40:02 a 6 minute PR
  • 6 mos: Increase power on the bike- DONE. 2011 AGN = 133W, 2012 AGN = 152W
  • Qualified and race at AGN- obviously DONE
  • Place in the top half for my age group at AGN-  Close.  57th percentile for my AG (an improvement from 68th last year), needed to shave a little more than 1 more minute off to break into the top half.
  • Set a PR for an Oly under 2:35-  I almost wanna give myself a pass on 10 seconds, but I've still got one more oly of the season to go, so I'm not gonna close the book on this one yet.
Thank you, Alan.  Thank you, Paul.  I couldn't have done it without you.

2 comments:

rebekah August 21, 2012 at 4:55 PM  

Congratulations! So happy for you, and so excited to see you so happy. :) What a killer year!

Shannon August 23, 2012 at 4:45 PM  

looking strong!! you've been working hard, glad you had a fantastic race :)

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