Race Report: Tri 4 the Chesapeake Sprint Triathlon

Here it is – my last attempt to complete a full sprint triathlon for the year (remember, the first was a disaster and the second had the swim canceled).  I guess the third time was the charm because I actually did it!  I completed the Tri 4 the Chesapeake!

This was the second year for the race and the first time at this time of the year.  It was held at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD.  We were promised a nice swim, some challenging bike conditions, and a trail run and they certainly delivered!

Since this was such a small race (only 125 participants), everything was very low-key.  I left my house around 5:30 for the hour drive to the race site to pick up my packet and get ready for an 8:00 start.  Traffic and parking was a breeze.  I walked my bike to the main building where I picket up my packet and then walked 15 minutes or so to transition.  I saw my favorite sign along the way.

It's like they new I was coming!
It’s like they knew I was coming!

The transition area was by the visitors center.  They were using T-Blocks instead of racks and that worked really well except I was on the end by the curb and I had a lot of trouble keeping my front wheel straight and not blocking my neighbor.  The blocks were nice, though, and very easy to use.

My bike is at the far end, by the blue canopy. Picture from thttps://www.facebook.com/TransitionBlocks
My bike is at the far end, by the blue canopy. Picture from thttps://www.facebook.com/TransitionBlocks

There was bike support in transition and they helped quite a few racers before the start. There were real bathrooms inside the center as well as port-a-johns in transition.  I leisurely set up and got my wetsuit halfway on and then listened to the race briefing at 7:45.  After the briefing, we all made our way down to the water where there were two waves – men and then women (I told you it was small!).  I was a bit concerned as to what to do with my glasses as transition was a bit of a walk from the water.  One super sweet volunteer offered to hold them for me during the swim but I found a safe place to put them so she didn’t need to (but how nice was that??).

I had debated on the use of a wetsuit as the water was said to be 74 but, frankly, I could use what help I could get so I wore it.  I’m glad I did because it felt colder than I thought.  It was an in-water start so I had plenty of time to get acclimated before the horn blew.  The swim was uneventful. There were no jelly fish or sea nettles and I had no problems.  I didn’t really push hard as my top goal was to just finish the darn thing so I just took my time.  The only two issues of note were that the buoys were pretty spread out so I was all over the place and there werenot a lot of kayaks or boats out.  It was such a small group that I think they kept a pretty close eye on people but there weren’t a lot of rest options if someone needed it.

Before I knew it, I was out of the water and heading to T1.  I stripped off my wetsuit as I ran walked and was ready to go when I got into transition.  The bike out was at the bottom of a little hill and I cannot clip in on an incline.  I tried 3 times before I sucked it up and walked the bike to the top of the hill.  After that, I had no problems.  We were told that there were 3 speed bumps that we would cross twice (double loop course) and I was super nervous about that.  I cleared the first one and felt a bit better, passed the second with no problem, and took the third just fine.  I was starting to really get going when I noticed the group of racers ahead of me were stopped.  Apparently, one of the access gates had closed and the guy manning it was having some problems getting it open again.  We were just about to walk our bikes around the perimeter when it opened and we were on our way.  I wasn’t doing this race for an PR but it was still annoying to have our momentum shut down like that.  My next surprise was the hard right turn onto the shoulder of a busy road (I suck at hard turns) and then the rather large hill that was waiting for us.  After that, I just had the stretch of potholed and badly paved road to navigate before I got to do it all over again!  Luckily, the gate was open for the second loop and I successfully survived all of the obstacles.

The run was a nice 5K through the woods.  I’m pretty used to trail running but there were many newbies so the race director had spray painted any big roots or other hazards white.  It was pretty funny but very thoughtful.  The trail was very nice and I liked it a lot.  I only got into trouble once when I took a wrong turn and added a little extra loop around mile 2.  The wrong turn was across a little bridge and up a steep hill and I guess the lure of that was just too much for me to resist 🙂  I was quickly turned back around by a group I had passed earlier.  I was getting a bit tired so I tucked in behind one of the runners and just stayed with him until the last 1/2 mile.  At that point, I told him I was going to go for it and did my best impersonation of a sprint finish.

I crossed the finish line in 1:52. Not fast but hey, I finished!  I received a medal and went to look for snacks.  Thankfully, there were real bathrooms inside the building at the finish line (the same one that held registration) because my face was covered with salt and my eyes were burning.

I couldn't see a thing when I took this picture!
I couldn’t see a thing when I took this picture!

I hung out at the finish a bit and then made the walk back to transition to pack up, walk back to my car, and head for home.

Good

Small race, well organized, fun venue, everyone was super friendly and helpful

Not Good

The gate!  Do something about that gate before next year!

The food at the finish was dry bagels and hot pudding cups.  I would have killed for an orange or banana.  It would also have been nice to have a canopy over the food so the water wouldn’t be warm and the pudding hot.

Overall

This was a fun race, once I got over the self-inflicted terror of the bike.  I would do it again!  If you race it, plan on having fun and closing out your season with an adventure – it is definitely not suited for PRs.

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Race Report: Nation’s Triathlon Innaugural Sprint Triathlon

I finally finished a sprint triathlon!  Well, kinda.

Nation’s Triathlon offered a Sprint option this year and I signed up on the day registration opened.  It has a good reputation and I was eager to do something local and iconic. It was supposed to be a warm-up for SavageMan 30.0 but it wound up being my “A” race for the year.

On Friday, I walked up to the host hotel in Dupont Circle from my office for packet pickup and to visit the expo.  Normally, this would be a pleasant 1.3 mile walk but I failed to account for the fact that we were suddenly in the tropics.  By the time I arrived, I was an absolute mess and a bit stressed but the event was very smooth and easy to navigate.  I received my race band (which a volunteer kindly attached to my wrist), my nice race “premium” of a mesh back pack, my shirt, swim cap, bib, and stickers.  We had to dig through a bin of stinky neoprene bands that we then attached our race chips to.  I think I will buy my own band for the next race.  They literally stunk.

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The expo was a bit small but I did pick up a jar of Hammer Endurolytes because I was worried about how much I was already sweating.

Saturday, we had to rack our bikes in transition and be marked.  They had a new “transition clinic” at 2:30 but I missed it due to traffic.  We parked in the Lot A, as instructed, but saw tons of people parking on Ohio Drive, much closer to transition.  Lesson for next time, park closer! 

After the long and hot walk, I was quickly marked (but it didn’t last long since I was so sweaty) and racked my bike. 

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

We then checked out the swim course and headed for home.

So close...
So close…

Sunday I awoke to the good news that the weather had, indeed, broke and the bad news that there was a sewage overflow in the Potomac so the swim was canceled.  Nargs!   A canceled swim is disappointing but I will gladly take that over cholera!

I decided to park in the Reagan Building ($13 for the full day, easy and ample parking) and walk the mile to transition.  It allowed me to take in the monuments at night, something I never tire of seeing. Transition for both races closed at 6:55 so I got all set up and then cooled my heels.10644934_10152199424182470_4193431896785729613_n

Beautiful!
Beautiful!

My family joined me around 8 AM and we waited for my wave to start.  The race organizers had us start in our wave corrals  as if we had just come from the swim so we had to be barefoot, no helmet, etc.  One of the women racked near me started freaking out that they wouldn’t allow glasses (“since you don’t wear those to swim!”) so I hunted down an official who laughed and said to keep them on.  The legally blind girl (me) says “Thank you!”

We grouped up in bunches of 9 and were off when our whistle blew.  After all of the waiting, I wasn’t sure if I would be ready to race but as soon as we started running down the chute, it was ON!

T1 – swim to bike 3:28

This was a bit slow due to the long run along the length of transition and I was being careful of my foot/ankle situation.

Bike – 26.5 km, 16.1 mph – 25/54 for my division

It was a (mostly) flat and fast course.  This was, by far, my fastest bike race.  I really did well on the hills (going up, not down) and any time the wind was against us.  I like having something to push against.  I really slowed down on the descents and turns. Like, A LOT.  Need to work on that!  The fastest I could go was 22 mph but others were whizzing by like I was standing still.  There was a funky U-turn in Georgetown that had us go up a ramp, across the median, and then down a ramp and turn sharp to the left – all at the top of a hill!  I thought I would go down there but I did not.  There were two bridges and I never realized how horrible bridge joints are.  By the end of the second one, I was swearing with every bump! I was a bit thankful that I wasn’t doing the longer distance which required two loops!

Nations.bike
I had no idea I was by the Washington Monument until I saw this picture!

The course was a bit congested at times and I saw some bad manners on display, especially in the no-passing zones, but mostly everyone behaved appropriately.  Except the woman who illegally cut a corner to pass on my right as we were in a “slow zone” for a turn.  You can bet I picked it up and beat the pants off her 😉

I did not fall at the dismount but it was a close one!  I caught it at the last second and everyone cheered 🙂  

T2 – bike to run 3:09

Eh, I don’t know.  I sat down to put on my shoes and I also drank quite a bit and popped a couple of electrolyte tabs.  It is what it is.

Run – 5 km. 10.24 minutes/mile – 33/54 in my division

My legs were definitely jell-o at the start.  Knowing that my family was waiting about a half a mile in was the only thing that prevented me from walking.

My Favorite Boosters!
Little Runner, cheering me on!
I wanted to walk SO BAD at this point!
I wanted to walk SO BAD at this point!

It was heating up by then and I was thankful that I had brought my water bottle but wished I had brought my coconut water instead of plain water.  I was also missing my visor 😦  I ran behind a group from Team RWB who was carrying the flag and I just paced off from them until almost the end.  Right when I was finding my stride, we were at the finish and it was over!

You can see the evidence of my tip-over from Saturday on my right leg :)
You can see the evidence of my tip-over from Saturday on my right leg 🙂

I received my sweet metal, found my family, and went to the finish festival.  There was plenty of food and water available even though the International distance racers were almost all done by the time the sprinters hit the finish.  They even had turkey sandwiches!  🙂 

We collected all of my stuff and made the slow walk back to the Reagan Building.  My feet were not happy, I was out of water, but I was very pleased with my race.

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I still can’t say that I’ve finished a Sprint triathlon, though!  Good thing I have another at the end of the month 🙂

Overall – I would give this race an A-

Since it was the first year for the sprint, things weren’t very well communicated and there were a lot of questions that weren’t answered.  I also didn’t like the fact that I wouldn’t have known about the swim being canceled if I hadn’t seen it on Facebook.  They have everyone’s email and I can’t think of any better use for an email blast than that!

The shirt and swag was great, the food was plentiful, the finish festival was nice (they even had tables and chairs!), the port-a-johns were more than adequate.  Communication was the only strike. 

I would happily do this race again.

The Hard Push

For a very long time, I have carried around arbitrary numbers that would prove when I am a “real” athlete.  A kind of litmus test.  Mostly, there were just things that I thought I would never be able to do and would therefore continue to prove what a joke I am.  One is breaking a 30 minute 5K (3.1 miles) run.  Another is swimming over a mile.  The third is completing a century bike ride (100 miles). 

I am very proud to say that I complete two of these this weekend! 

On Saturday, I was feeling grumpy for backing out of the insanely tough Spartan Super in Virginia (crawling up a black diamond ski slope, in deep mud and rain, under barbed wire…) so I decided to push myself in other ways, as recompense. I started with an hour long boot camp class which featured a billion variations of burpees and a ton of squats.  I then went directly to a spin class which featured a ton of hills. Finally, LR and I attended our tae kwon do class (where I finally was approved for my belt-level fitness requirement.  About time!)  To say my legs were toast was a bit of an understatement.  I spent the rest of the day rolling and wrapping and icing. 

The Stick, a Voodoo band, and two lacrosse balls taped together
The Stick, a Voodoo band, and two lacrosse balls taped together

Sunday, I was a bit stiff but wanted to get a run in.  Our neighborhood is pretty hilly and, as usual, I started out way too fast (9:10).  I was still feeling decent so I decided to push a bit harder.  I slowed down at mile 2 for the monster hills (10:00) but then decided to see if I could break 30 minutes.  And I did!  By 12 seconds 🙂 

There it is!
There it is!

I also scared a few old ladies that I passed on the last mile.  I was huffing and puffing to beat the band!  Two things that I noticed – I have lost most of my shuffle and I’ve stopped kicking my ankles.  I also wasn’t completely empty when I finished. Quite a few shockers there!

I spent the late morning repeating my rehab treatment and I took Little Runner to the pool for some cannonball action.

His first time off the diving board
His first time off the diving board

I then loaded up the car and made the long trek out to Pasadena, MD (between Annapolis and Baltimore) for open water swim practice.  We did a lot of drills and some straight swimming and, before I knew it, my watch was showing that we had swum 1.37 miles!  With no freak-outs!  In fact, I actually forgot to panic even when I was hit by an unexpected wave from a passing boat. 

Don't sight on cargo ships :)
Don’t sight on cargo ships 🙂

Today, I can hardly walk from the muscle soreness (my foot is okay but everything else is screaming bloody murder) but I am very glad that I pushed hard and just let my body do its thing rather than imposing my own limits of “oh, I could never do x”.  It may be awhile before I hit my century ride and I have set new speed/distance goals, but I know that I will get there in time.  And maybe I feel a touch more like a “real” athlete today. 

Keep working until you are ready to finish your story.
Keep working until you are ready to finish your story.

Needing a “win”

I’ll be honest, I’ve had a really tough year, training-wise.  I’ve had to defer two big races and wound  up pulling out of my last triathlon mid-swim.  I’ve been getting my ass handed to me weekly in roller derby training.  I have been battling a lot of nagging injuries. It’s just been a tough season to swallow.

After the Montclair Tri breakdown, I cried and pouted and then decided to fix what I could.  I have spent almost every weekend since then driving way the heck out to the Chesapeake Bay so I could do open water training with a group.  I have been working hard and seeing progress but I was still worried about my upcoming experience at Nation’s Triathlon.  When I learned about the HarborFest event, I knew I had to do it!  750 m, with support, in the Potomac. Perfect training opportunity.

It was originally schedule for last weekend but was rescheduled due to the potential of bad weather.  Of course, the weather didn’t happen and that just left me feeling nervous for another week!

I arrived around 7:20, signed in, picked up my shirt, and proceeded to try to figure out the course.  They were offering a 5K (!), 2.4 mile, 1.2 mile, and 750 meter option.  Unfortunately, the buoys were not quite set so none of it made sense until just before we started. 

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Can’t get any calmer than this!

We began in waves, with the longest distances going first.  There was about 10 minutes between waves so I had quite a bit of time before my wave began.  It was a water start but we had to enter from a pier.  I was worried about jumping in so I took the weenie route and climbed down the ladder.  I was not alone and I am not sorry I did it!  The water was 82 degrees but it still took a minute for me to acclimate.  I did some bobs with deep exhales under water, per my swim instructor’s advice and that helped.  Before I knew it, we were off! 

The course was a right angle triangle with the pier and the shore making two sides.  I did okay sighting on the shore going out and even across the hypotenuse but was way, way off along the pier. I have no idea why it was so hard!  Oh, maybe it’s because that is where the weeds were the thickest and I was constantly stopping to scrape them off!  Seriously, that was some junky water!  I saw two snails floating on the water that were the size of a peach and I somehow managed to cut my thumb on something!  Gross!

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Maybe I was too distracted, sighting off the Ferris wheel.

I had absolutely no freak-outs during the swim.  I had to cough once because I felt like I was getting choked up like last time but I didn’t stop.  Honestly, this wasn’t as heavily supported as I thought it would be.  There were just a few kayaks and they were for rescue only, no breaks.  If I had known that going in, I might have canceled.  As it was, I’m thankful I didn’t need to use them.  I just focused on moving from buoy to buoy and then it was over!

When I exited, I saw that the elapsed time since the first wave start was 48 minutes. I don’t know what time I entered but, if the scheduled ten minute waves were accurate, then I swam it in 18 minutes.  I am more than happy with that!  Heck, even if it turns out to be 28 minutes, I’m still happy because my main focus was just completing the swim. 

At the end, I did not feel overly tired or queasy.  If someone said, “okay, now go and ride for 16 miles”, I would have been okay with it!

I desperately needed a “win” on my books – something where I trained hard and then performed as expected – and this definitely fit that need!  There is still more work to do before next month but I am not positive that I can finish my race!

Back to Work!

So, after my major funk following my DNF,  decided to put on my big girl panties and get back to work.  I am now signed up for an open water swim session every weekend until Nation’s!

My first session was two weeks ago, in a somewhat secluded river off from the Chesapeake Bay.

swim1 A coach was there with a paddle board and a helper in a kayak.  I attended with two of my runner/tri friends and another gentleman was present – a nice small group with good support.  We did some warm-ups to the various boat pilings and I was fine.  Then the coach said “let’s go out to that buoy and back” and I fell apart.  I made it maybe 75 yds before I started choking and coughing again.  Couldn’t get my breath at.all. and thought I was officially a non-swimmer.  The coach was right there and had me kick while hanging on to the paddle board (after I calmed down) for quite a bit and then I finished going to the buoy and headed back to the group.  On the way back, I had the same freak outs so I rolled to my back and did elementary back strokes until I could get it under control.  I just watched the clouds and focused on calming the F down.  I made it back but I was beat.  We did a few other little drills, some sighting practice, etc. in the shallow water but I was wiped.

On Saturday, I attended an OWS clinic with the same coach.  This time we were right in the shadow of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Sandy Point State Park.  We did some straight swimming but we working on sighting, cornering around buoys, and various stroke issues.  I felt much better after this session and didn’t have any “issues”.

On Sunday, I was back with the same coach AGAIN (she is going to get so sick of seeing me!) – but this time we were at another, wider creek that had much more chop due to increasing winds.

At the start. Things picked up as the session progressed.
At the start. Things picked up as the session progressed.

This was a larger group and it was pretty much straight swimming.  The coach set up a triangle course with the long side running parallel to the shore and completely stand-able with the point of the triangle further out (but I guess still stand-able in some spots due to the sand bars).  I decided to just stick to the shallow side and just keep looping it.  Each length was a bit over 100 yds and I was able to successfully go out and come back without standing or losing my mind.  I did not have to recover even once and that is with some decent movement in the water – there were times when I lost sight of the buoys due to the waves. I was slow as molasses but I just focused on my own swim and keeping it together.  I was able to successfully complete 5 loops.  I count Sunday as a huge success!

I know I still have a lot of work to do but I am not quite as anxious about September now.  I am also trying to remember how far I’ve come this year.  I have to remember that I have only been swimming freestyle, with my head below water, since January!  It’s not fair to my body to expect it to suddenly become some world-class swimmer overnight.  It’s working hard and I need to respect the process!

progress

 

Race Report: Montclair Triathlon

Lake Montclair is a private lake in northern Virginia. It is controlled by the community’s Home Owner’s Association.  It used to be the location for an annual triathlon (of varying lengths – sprint to almost international, from what I can tell) until some incidents a few years ago closed it down.  Through the hard work of the current HOA and a group of dedicated athletes, the Montclair Triathlon was back in business on Sunday!

The distance was a true sprint – 750 yds swim, 12.4 mile bike, and 5K run within the community.  The race was capped at 500 participants and I don’t think they quite hit that cap this year.  I’ll just put it out there now that I was not able to complete the race but here are some of the details for the event.

Packet Pick-Up

Packet pick-up was a low key event at VA Road Runner in Woodbridge, VA.  The race director gave a short briefing a bit after 3 where he outlined the course and explained the one tricky part of the bike course.  Everyone received a nice, light-weight cotton shirt with their numbers.  There were safety pins on the table but not in the envelopes – not a problem for me as I had a race belt but I saw several participants who were carrying their numbers on the run.

MontclairTri

The Swim

The weather was absolutely perfect for NoVA. High 60s, low humidity.  The lake was 79.5 degrees.  I saw a small number of people in sleeveless wetsuits but most went without.  The course was well marked with large yellow balloons every 100 yds, paddle boards or boats in between, and rescue personal around the perimeter. There were also residents who were spectating from their pontoon boats.

The swim, a water start, was seeded by age and gender so I was in the first wave – women under 40 – followed by men under 40.  This was my first open water swim so I swam out and back a few times, probably 50 yards each time, just to get the feel for things.  I was feeling good but decided to go to the back and outside of the wave to stay out of the main craziness.  Around 100 yds in, I was kicked pretty hard in the shoulder.  I gulped quite a bit of water and came up sputtering.  I spent the next 200 yds swimming with my head up because I couldn’t take a full breath.  I made it to a paddle board at the 300 yd turn and tried to catch my breath. Every time I tried to breathe deep, I started coughing and I know I had water in my lungs.  I told the guy on the board that I wanted to try to make it to the next buoy but I could only go about 5 strokes before I had to doggy paddle back.  I knew that even if I did managed to float my way to the finish, there is no way my lungs could handle the bike and run.

A very nice group was nearby on their pontoon boat and asked if they could take me back.  I was a crying, wet mess but the gave me a towel, calmed me down, and even offered me a Bloody Mary!  I wish I had gotten their names but I will be forever grateful for their kindness.

Back on dock, the medical personal checked me out a bit and sent me on my way.  I turned in my chip and sat in the grass for another cry while waiting to get into transition to collect my things.  I then packed out my stuff and loaded it in my car.  My car was on the dead-end side of transition so I knew I was stuck for a good 2 hours.  Instead of sitting and feeling sorry for myself, I put on some dry clothes and went to help direct athletes out to the run and hand out water.

The Bike and Run

While I didn’t do the rest of the course, I do know that the bike was a double loop with a significant hill (5-6% grade) at the start.  There were 17 police officers and 17 volunteers on the bike course.  The run was a single loop with three water stops (including the one at the start).  In other words, a very well supported course!

Overall

I only have a few qualms with this race.  First, I couldn’t find the start to save my life.  The neighborhood is very confusing with a lot of loops.  Quite a few athletes were local to the neighborhood or friends of locals and I felt like those from outside the area were at a bit of a disadvantage.  Just a couple of signs would have made the world of difference.   Second, the seeding on the swim was tough.  I do wish they had seeded by estimated times.  Third, the hill on the bike/run out of transition was very slick and I saw a lot of people slip and fall on it.  There should have been a mat on it to give a bit of traction.

Like I said, minor quibbles.  Since this was the first year, really, for this race, I give it a solid A.  I really do hope they are able to make this a yearly event again.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the cat who was hanging out and watching the bike/run exit.  He seemed quite amused by our antics.

Silly Humans!
Silly Humans!

The Hardest Muscle to Train

On May 11, I participated in a super sprint triathlon and had an absolutely disastrous swim (400 yd).  I don’t know what happened.  Maybe it was allergies, maybe it was the hype of waiting in line on the pool deck and watching everyone else go (I was seeded at the back), maybe it was the pressure I put on myself to not be passed – I don’t know.  All I do know is that I lost my shit.  Totally and completely.  I could hardly make it one length without hyperventilating. I could not get a breath to save my life.  I had to freaking DOGGY PADDLE at least a third of the distance and was almost the last one out.  A few times, I started to tear up but I knew if I let myself cry, it would be all over.  I thought about stopping but then I saw my husband and Little Runner and kept moving as best I could.  I went on to have a good bike and a great run (9:20 avg. on the run!) and was very glad I didn’t quit.

Afterwards, we talked about what was different about this race and one of the biggies was the fact that I didn’t swim the day(s) before.  Swimming is totally not natural for me and my body likes to pretend it has forgotten what to do at regular intervals. The only way to keep it in check is to get out there and swim.  So I did what any logical baby triathlete does, I ignored the pool for three weeks. Oh, and did I mention that I have a real sprint distance, open water tri at the end of June?  Yeah….

Yesterday, I finally forced myself back into the pool.  I swam 800 yds.  It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty.  I started freaking out a couple of times on the first few laps.  Every time I thought about the impending OWS, my lungs just shut right down.  To calm myself, I tried to pretend I was swimming in a beautiful bay with colorful sea life.  It helped.  I also just counted 1-2-3 for a bit, to keep my rhythm.  That helped, too.  I saw some posts in one of my tri groups that kicking too much can cause hyperventilation so I tried to slow my kicks as much as I could and still stay afloat.  By the end of my time (I don’t even know how long I was there because I didn’t want to freak out about being slow), I was much more calm and my strokes and breathing were even.

Which just proves that it was all one big mind fuck.  My body knows what to do!  It’s my mind that the problem child (as usual)!  If I can keep it occupied with other things, then I can go on and do my thing.  I think I need to think up some good mantras and some other visualization ideas before next time.  I have 750 yds waiting for me in 4 weeks and I don’t have time for this mental nonsense!  Instead of dwelling on that bad swim, I am going to focus on picturing good swims.  I’m going to focus on staying calm and being strong and not worrying about what others are doing.  If/when they pass me, so what?  I need to worry about my race and forget the rest.

I know it’s easier said than done but, with practice, I know I can do it!

Race Report: TIN Tune Up Tri

Yesterday, I ran, I biked, I swam, and I became a triathlete!  It took me over  year to get there, but I finally made it!

I decided that my first would be a super, super sprint that was also a reverse tri.  The group, Tri It Now, actively recruits newbies and has a very friendly and laid-back vibe.  I attended their clinic last March and was favorably impressed.  I knew that this super sprint would be just enough to get a taste but not so much that I would totally blow up if something went south – 1.5 mile run, 4 mile bike, 200 yard pool swim.

Packet Pick Up

I picked up my packet at the race venue on Saturday.  I also stuck around for the 45 minute information meeting where the director, Ina, reviewed the course step-by-step, demonstrated how to use their bike racks, how to lay out transition, and answered any questions.  This was extremely helpful!  I didn’t really learn anything new but it definitely helped calm my (considerable) nerves.

In my packet was the normal three numbers (bib, helmet, bike) plus some samples from Hammer (one of the sponsors), Advil, and various leaflets. The pick-up and meeting was super easy.

Race Morning

I woke early to pounding rain and cold temps.  Delightful!  We were hoping that the rain would lessen but didn’t have high hopes.  When we arrived, I set up my transition area right away.  The wind was so high that it was knocking over some bikes with the racks (the racks are short and only fit 4 bikes).  I chose a rack with another bike already there and set up at the other side/end.  I put my stuff in a white plastic garbage bag, in the hopes of keeping things semi-dry.  I didn’t worry about keeping the bike dry.  In the bag was my helmet, a jacket for the bike (didn’t use), gloves for the bike (didn’t use), a water bottle, my swim cap, and goggles.  I decided to run and bike in the same shoes since it was such a short race and I didn’t want to lose time.

After that, I went inside to obtain my chip and get marked with my numbers.  I was also able to leave a dry bag in the pool bleachers.  We then proceeded to the main gym for a review of some last minute course changes (the wind was knocking down signs and the rain made one part of the run a mud pit), the Pledge of Allegiance (they didn’t have the Star Spangle Banner with them that morning), and then we were off to the start!

Run

I was in wave 1 which included ages 11 (10?)-39.   There were 4 waves set at five minute intervals.  I took off a bit fast but quickly slowed when we turned into the crazy strong headwind for almost half the run.  At various points, I could hardly catch my breath!  I was so thankful for the turn-around!  Also, the rain had lessened to a drizzle so that part wasn’t too horrible.  There were a lot of puddles, though, and many runners were trying to mince their way through or around.  I plowed through.  We were going to be wet soon enough, what is a bit more?

Let's Run!
Let’s Run!

Expected time/Actual time: 15:00/14:27

T1

I put on my helmet as soon as I entered my area, decided to skip the jacket/gloves, swung my number around to the back of my race belt, and was off!

T1
T1

Actual time: 0:52

Bike

The course was pretty flat but there were 5 U-turns and several right turns.  That made me nervous.  There was also the wind!  At some points, we had about 30 mph gusting side/head/tail wind.  It was definitely challenging!  The decision to wear my running shoes was almost tragic as my left foot slipped twice because it was wet.  Luckily, I recovered!  There were all kinds of bikes on the course – from fancy racing wheels to commuter bikes with bins on the back!  I did well when there was a bit of a hill to push against or some headwind but the flats/down hills scared me so I braked and coasted way too much.  I need to work on my fear of speed!

I just shouted out "What the F am I doing?!"
Just before I shouted out “What the F am I doing?!” Sorry to any kids I scarred…

Expected time/Actual time: 20:00/21:23

T2

I dismounted at the proper place (they had a great volunteer working the mount/dismount line) and ran into transition.  I couldn’t easily spot my area as there were several white garbage bags flapping in the wind.  Once I found it, I racked my bike, took off my helmet, stripped off my shoes, socks, race belt, and shirt.  One of the my worries for the day was my hair.  It’s not long enough for a regular ponytail or braid but I need to contain it some way to get the swim cap on.  I wound up wearing my Moms Run This Town headband and then pulled it back into a low pony (elastic in the pocket of my shorts) before yanking on the cap.  It worked vary well!  I lost a few more seconds because I was confused as to where the swim exit was.  Thankfully, the boy working it saw my confused face and started yelling and waving his flag!  I then grabbed my goggles and was off to the pool!

Actual time: 1:26

Swim

We entered the pool by a side door and my glasses immediately fogged over.  I tossed them into a nearby window sill while walking to the other end of the pool where our start was.  Unfortunately, my prescription goggles also fogged over so I had to douse them with water as soon as I got to the start so I could even see.  I carefully slid in (I have been surprised by the depth in this pool before!) and started my laps.  It was a snake swim so we all swam in one direction to the end of the lane, touched, went under the divider, touched again and went back the other way.  Twice there were bottle necks where I had to wait for the lane I was entering to clear up a bit because there was literally no room for me to push off.  I was kicked a few times but it wasn’t too bad.

Everyone in the pool!
Everyone in the pool!

Estimated time/Actual time: 6:00/6:46

Total time: 44:53

After the race, there were complimentary massages (I passed) and some food – bread, clementines, fruit snacks, Power Bars, and Rice Krispie Treats.  I just grabbed a clementine and my finisher shirt and then hit the locker room to clean up.  Overall, it was a very fun race!

I wore my Orca two piece tri suit, a long sleeve tech shirt for the run and bike, wool socks, and Asic shoes.  My legs were cold during the run but I soon became numb.  I have a monster bruise on my leg now (must have been from the bike) that can attest to that fact!

Overall:

Things were organized and started on time.  Even with the bad weather, there were plenty of volunteers to keep us on course and I never worried about being lost (a real possibility for me!).  I wish everyone received a finisher medal but that just means I’ll need to work harder next time to place 🙂   Overall, I give this race an A!  I signed up for the next race in the series when I got home!

Done! Let's do it again!
Done! Let’s do it again!

Lessons Learned

  • Wear your bike shoes, even if it’s a short course.
  • Make sure your transition spot is readily identifiable.  I had a bright yellow towel that I was going to use but the rain nixed that.  I saw some people packing up later that had used big Home Depot buckets to carry their gear and act as a stool for the shoe change.  I’m doing that next time!
  • Make sure you are 100% clear as to where the various exits and entrances are for transition.  They may not be the same!
  • Open your water bottle or at least loosen the cap before you leave transition set-up.  I could not get my bottle open because my hands were so cold and my body was hopped up on adrenaline.  I wound up prying it off with my teeth.
  • There is absolutely no mental coasting in a super sprint!  I had to be constantly on and thinking about the next phase at every step of the way.  It was almost more exhausting than a longer race where you are able to mental check out for a bit.

Six Days

My first (super) sprint triathlon is in  6 days!  Gulp! How the heck did that happen?  I am so thankful that it is the super sprint distance (read: very tiny.  If a Sprint is analogous to a 5K then a Super Sprint is the kids’ fun run.) Even though it is a short distance, I am still extremely nervous!

We were discussing it at dinner last night and we all decided that the run would be a piece of cake. Did I mention that this is a reverse tri so the run will be first?  It is 1.5 miles and I’m not worried about that at all.  I just need to warm up properly before hand since it will be so incredibly short.  Even the 200 yd swim is not looming too large in my head.  Little Runner came to my swim session on Saturday and saw me really swim for the first time.  He was pretty surprised!  Up until then, he has only seen me goof around in the community pool.  We both agreed, however, that the crawl is by far my best stroke.

No, my biggest worry is the 4 miles on the bike.  Due to the Winter That Will Never End, I have only been able to ride outside twice.  I cannot clip in and out of my pedals.  Heck, I still have a problem even starting!  So, what am I going to do?  This is such a short race, I need to just pull the band-aid off and get it done.  The bike course is pretty flat but there are a lot of corners and U-turns.  I might be able to get into my aero bars but I’m okay if I can’t.  I’m also not going to worry about bike shoes and clips.  I plan to run in my Asics and keep them on for the ride.  In the first transition, I will only need to switch my bib to the back, put on my helmet, and get my bike.  I will likely lose a lot of time on the bike leg but I’m okay with that.  (sorry, just trying to beat that through my brain)

Breath in. Breath out.  It will be okay.  At least I am going in to this with just one truly horrible weak spot. The bike is taking longer than I had hoped but I know I will get there by summer.

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Never give up

FDR was Right!

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, 1933

If you have been following me for any length of time, it should come as no shock to learn that I have “issues” when it comes to bikes.  Some major mishaps in my younger years scared me more than was reasonable and I combined those experiences with a variety of other excuses to explain why I can’t ride.  I’m too fat big, I can’t see well enough, my balance stinks, etc., etc., etc.

When my friend loaned me her triathlon bike, I took it to the bike shop to be fitted and felt like an utter fraud.  I had no business putting my fat ass on that lovely ride.  So I didn’t.  I tucked it away in my treadmill room and refused to look at it when I was using the ‘mill. I wouldn’t even make eye contact.  Finally, in January, I had enough.  I was going to ride that bike, come hell or high water.

I jokingly said that I was “sneaking up on it” but I knew I had to make my own peace with it before I could ever ride it.  First I bought a trainer, set it up, and installed the bike on it.

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CycleOps Fluid Trainer

Then I learned how to inflate the tires.

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Don’t let the smile fool you.

I took it for a test training ride and I still felt like I was completely out of my element.  Next I bought a cadence sensor and installed that.  Took it for another ride.  Starting to feel better.  Then I rode some more.  After a 90 minute session, I decided that I needed to try it outside (duh, duh duuuh!)

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So scared!

I knew I needed some place that I could just focus on not falling down and not have to worry about cars or sudden hills or spectators so I took it to a nearby park and ride lot at 8:00 on Sunday morning – as close to deserted as anything in this area ever is.  To say I was scared to death would be putting it mildly.  I literally sat on the bike, hanging on to the side of my car, unable to go forward or even shift on the saddle.  I thought, okay, there are two ways this can go.  I can scramble off and run home with my tail between my legs, giving up on triathlons forever or I can ride the damn bike.  Guess which one I chose.

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I did it!

Not only did I ride it, I rode it in the aero position!  I did 5 miles around that parking lot.  I practiced braking and cornering.  Starting and stopping.  There was even a nice hill from the lower lot for me to practice my shifting.  I didn’t fall off.  I didn’t hit any parked cars (almost hit a parked commuter van but pulled it out at the last minute!)  I didn’t even hit the Metro bus that suddenly came barreling into the lot from a side road!

While I was riding, I was grinning like a maniac.  I felt light and free!  I couldn’t believe that I had allowed my own fear to hold me back for so long!  I knew about halfway through the ride that I needed to buy that bike and make her officially mine.  She was named Ruby before, a very nice, sweet name.  But to me, she is Kali – goddess of time, change and destruction.  Fitting as she his helping me destroy some more of my long held, and unfounded, fears.

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Kali’s most common four armed iconographic image shows each hand carrying variously a sword, a trishul (trident), a severed head and a bowl or skull-cup (kapala) catching the blood of the severed head.

Two of these hands (usually the left) are holding a sword and a severed head. The Sword signifies Divine Knowledge and the Human Head signifies human Ego which must be slain by Divine Knowledge in order to attain Moksha. The other two hands (usually the right) are in the abhaya (fearlessness) and varada (blessing) mudras, which means her initiated devotees (or anyone worshipping her with a true heart) will be saved as she will guide them here and in the hereafter.
(Wikipedia)

Kali and I are going to do great things together!  I can’t wait until the next cold snap passes and we can go longer and start working on speed and distance!  I also need to practice the clipless pedals.  I decided that using flat pedals would be enough of a challenge for me on the first ride but I know I need to start working on those skills so the habits are ingrained early.

Onward and upward!