After the initial panic (over the thought that I wasn't really registered for this race) settled down and I found out I was indeed signed up, I was more than ready to get to the start line.
I woke up about 3:50. I usually take a shower the day of races, but it was forecasted to rain all morning so I decided there was no point. After "taking care of business", and eating my normal breakfast (Vanilla Protein Energizer powder in chocolate Almond milk with a banana), I got my car loaded up and headed out. I got checked in (I still can't figure out why I can't find my confirmation or why I didn't get an email?) and got my transition set up.
I finally got up the courage to try starting with my shoes on my bike so I got them attached and rubber-banded in place. I also had decided to not wear sock. Since it was going to rain I didn't put any baby powder in my shoes because it wasn't going to help anyway! A simple transition is the best transition. It's not just for speed. Imagine if you knew exactly where your keys were all the time (maybe you do, but I surely don't). You wouldn't ever have to find them in order to leave. Stress levels would stay down and efficiency would stay high (at least with regard to leaving the house!). The less you have to think about what you are doing the better.
Then it was time to get in the water and warm up as best I could in the COLD air!! (I think it was about 60*, completely overcast and sprinkling rain every now and then...and of course the ground was soaked.) The water was totally opaque. I couldn't even see feet of the person swimming in front of me. I couldn't see my own hand a foot in front of my face. And did I mention it was cold?! I didn't swim more than a few strokes. I didn't want to have any negative thoughts stuck in my head...I had decided I would just start out nice and slow and then hold stead or pick it up at the halfway mark so I would use the first 100 or so as my warm up. Not to mention I was number 171 so it would be a while before I would start anyway.
Pre-race pep talk, prayer and the race started.
I don't know what happened, but when the guy said go, I WENT. My "dive" into the water was less than pretty, but only because of my hands. I was pushing the water instead of slicing the water. But as soon as my face went in, I started swimming as if I was being chased by a shark!!! I wish I could see the pace for the first 100...that had to be the fastest I've ever swam in my life. When I realized I was almost at the turn around I got really out of breath and had to force myself to slow down/calm down and remember to just BREATHE.
According to my Garmin data, IF the distance was correct, I swam the first 200 in 3:00...and that was after I slowed down little. And that's supposed to be meters!! (I'm really thinking it was short, but I haven't heard anyone else say that.)
Once I got to the turn around though, I slowed WAY down. I even breast stroked a few times to catch my breath. The second 200 was 5:46. Now, part of that was me getting out of the water, but even still...that was pretty slow for what I usually swim (it works out to about a 2:30 pace/100 yards).
This race includes the run from the water to bike transition in the swim time (because of placement of the timing mats) so the official swim time was 9:32, 6/23 in my age group. Last year for comparison was 9:16. Only :16 slower isn't bad. In fact, it gives me a HUGE amount of hope for what will happen with my swim when my shoulder isn't bothering me!!
I know it's silly, but I LOVE transitions. I know people who say they don't care about transitions but I'm not as fast in the swim/bike/run part so transitions can usually make a difference in my race. Not only that, it's something I do really well. Last year I had a pretty fast T1 (:46, 1st in my age group and 5th for all women). This year was faster.... :32!!! I had the fastest T1 of all women, and I tied for 2nd with the men (1st was :31). I'm proud of that. Again...I know it's silly, but it feels like an accomplishment!! :D
Like I said, I had my shoes attached so there wasn't anything to do except put on my helmet and sunglasses. (I didn't wear them because of the sun, it was to keep the rain out of my eyes and to keep from getting hit by anything.) I LOVED this...so simple and EASY.
I didn't have a "flying" mount. I wasn't planning on it but even if I had I might not have done it because the roads were very wet. Instead I mounted as usual and started riding. I was able to get my wet feet in my rain-soaked shoes fairly easily, but the strap didn't want to get tight. As I was fiddling with that I was passed by a small group of riders. It slapped me back into the reality of the RACE I was in!
This course is a simple out and back with only a couple of turns and naturally one turn around (but it's WIDE). I tried to push hard the whole time, but I know I held back a tiny bit because of the road conditions. I didn't count but I'm confident I passed more people than the number who passed me.
I had been practicing a flying dismount. Coming back in I was able to get my feet out of my shoes fairly easily. I don't take my leg behind me, I go over the top tube. I've done it a handful of times in practice, and (thankfully) I haven't fallen. However, in that moment, there were a lot of cyclist around me. With the wet roads I didn't want the first time I did fall to take someone else down with me so I stopped and dismounted as usual and ran in.
I finished the bike in 28:00 (last year it was 26:23) which tied me for 4/23 in my age group.
There are a lot of people in this race who wear tennis shoes. Their T2 is so simple...they take their helmet off and go. I had a little trouble getting my shoes on because they were full of water from the rain! But other than that it was smooth as silk. Bike up, helmet off, shoes on, grab my "stuff" and GO. (I had a race belt, water bottle and a hat in case it was still raining; I didn't take the hat since it had stopped.) :47-1st in my age group (last year was :54).
After I got out on the run I put my number on and settled in. My run hasn't been what I would like it to be, but I've gained 10 pounds since last year that I can't seem to get rid of (because I won't stop eating! :D) and I know that makes a HUGE difference. My goals were to 1) not stop running for any reason and 2) to push as hard as I could on this day under these circumstances.
It had stopped raining and I was HOT. I was so thankful I'm neurotic about carrying water with me because I was able to squirt myself several times to try to cool down. You aren't going to hydrate your body in such a short distance, but having a dry mouth really gets me mentally so I squirted a little in my mouth every now and then too.
I knew I was running hard when I didn't want to talk to people at all. I cheered for some people and I told pretty much everyone who passed me (and there were a lot of people who did) "great job" but I didn't care to talk.
My legs felt done. But I have been working on what goes on in my head when my legs "feel" finished. This run was about staying mentally strong...and I DID. If I had been able to have this mental state with the body/running legs I had last year, I would have completely smoked that run. I can honestly say I gave all I had to give, mentally and physically. 29:29 9/23 in my age group.
I had a little mental lapse on the swim but other than that, this was the strongest I've raced mentally in a long time (maybe ever?). I didn't feel like I was doing battle the whole time. I felt mentally solid, which is a new thing for me!! :D And, other than feeling "slow" (fatigued is probably a better word) my body felt pretty darn good overall. My shoulder was passible on the swim...it hurt a bit on the bike and I was aware of it on the run, but it wasn't a limiter.
A note about my age group. This race uses over 45 as the Master's group. The top three master's women came from my age group. So, really I was three down from where it looks like I was. So, 8/26 overall, 9/26 in the swim, 7/26 on the bike and 12/26 on the run, with the first place in both transitions.
Next up, my post race analysis.
Until next time...