Monday, May 21, 2012

Red Bank Triathlon race report

Calm waters in Red Bank Sunday morning.

Sometimes the hardest lessons in triathlon are the ones you learn on race day. Yesterday I had my first race of the season: Red Bank Olympic distance triathlon. Before the race, I felt calm and completely ready. I picked this race because it was three weeks from Eagleman and, I thought, a flat course similar to Eagleman.

Guess what. I was wrong.

Here is the course map provided. Looks innocent enough to me. But clearly I am not well versed in reading course maps. But before we get there, let's start at the beginning.

Race time was 7 a.m., my heat was set to leave at 7:16. Transition was set to close at 6:50. None of that happened on time. My friend Tammy and I showed up at 5:20, parked and set up our transition area. We walked around, looked at the water and around 6:30 did a warm up swim in the bay. Water was cool, but not freezing cold. My confidence was intact.

My transition area all set up and ready to go.

At 7:05, transition was still not closed, bikes were all over the place because the race coordinators did not set up enough racks. People had bikes and equipment all over the place, against gates, in patches of grass, it was chaos. All the athletes lined up around the dock until two people started screaming at us to move back. A megaphone would have done them some good. I don't know what time it was by the time my heat got in the water, but we were guessing that it was after 7:30. Waves were leaving every three minutes.

With some time to kill, my friend Tammy and I take some pre-race pictures.

I have never been a strong swimmer, but over the last six months, Joanna has helped me get stronger and faster in the water. This put me mid-pack when traditionally I would have been bringing up the rear. It was pretty awesome to be swimming with the pack, but about 1000 yards into the swim I got a swift, but good kick to my left eye. It jogged me a bit, but I held it together and finished the swim in 33:58, which is a significant improvement from my last Olympic swim of 46:23.

First lesson: Try not to get beat up while swimming in a pack. Maybe next time I'll swim a little wider to give myself some more space, especially towards the end. 

After the swim, we had to wait in a line to climb a ladder out of the water and run into transition, which I did, grabbed my bike, ran out and mounted my bike. I started the ride feeling great, like super great... for the first mile, until I realized this ride was not as flat as the elevation map may or may not have suggested. At this point I broke down mentally. There's no reason why I shouldn't have been able to climb those hills, I need to work on my climbing confidence.

My legs were heavy and I just kept thinking, "Seriously, this is going to take forever."

And it did. Every person I was ahead of in the swim caught up and passed me like I was standing still. The bike is supposed to be my strong event and yesterday I broke down. One hour and 51 minutes later, I finally made it back to transition for the run feeling defeated, but determined to finish.

Second lesson: Have a second person read the elevation map and maybe find someone who has done the race before you decide to register.

Starting the run I saw my family waiting for me, which lifted my spirits and pushed me along. I felt good running and was focusing on my form until I realized my armpits were burning. My tri top was actually giving me brush burns, so I unzipped the front and pulled my arms out of the sleeves. Yeah, I ran 6.2 miles with my top around my waist... but at least I only have minor abrasions on my armpits.

Third lesson: Best to test all equipment, even clothing, before a race.

About two and a half miles into the run, we head into some woods and this was welcomed as the sun was out in full force. At the same time, my legs start cramping, so I reach into my pocket to get an Enduralyte and I trip over a tree root, cutting up my knee and wrist.

Fourth lesson: maybe on a trail it's not the best time to stop watching the course.

A finishers medal is still cool!

In the end, I have a few scrapes and bruises, a bruised ego and a lot of lessons from which to learn. The good news is that I have three weeks to workout some of those issues and I'm so glad to have learned these lessons before my A race.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Triathlon speed suit: Do you wear one?

I've been obsessively tracking the water temperature for the Choptank River since Eagleman is only a few short weeks away. I'm fully prepared for the fact that it will not be a wetsuit legal race since the water temperature is currently 71 degrees. Ironman rules state the water temperature must be 76.1 degrees or lower to be wetsuit legal.

Because of this, I've been exploring the whole speed suit thing and I'm not sure exactly what the benefit of one is and if it's worth the cost to get one. Here are my questions:

Is a speed suit legal in ALL water temperatures?
Is there a benefit swim-wise for wearing one?
Is that benefit worth the cost?

What are your thoughts/opinions on the matter?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Digging deep to find my game face

Transition setup at Diamondman 2011.
As time ticks on closer and closer to race day, there is a tiny bit of panic brewing in my head. Truth is: I’m tired. Very tired. I feel like I’m at the point where my body is screaming for a day off, but it’s also the point at which I need to listen to my coach the most. I need to trust her. I’ve come this far following all of her triathlon and nutrition instructions and workout plans, now is not the time for me to fall off the wagon. So I trudge on, trying to keep my head in the game and focus on form and technique as the miles get longer and longer.  

Along with this physical exhaustion I’m feeling, I’m having some mental “game day” issues. You see, I have a reoccurring problem associated with “racing.” As race day approaches, I start to distance myself mentally from the event. Eagleman is less than 6 weeks away. SIX WEEKS! I think back to when it was six months away. I was calm, cool and confident. Now, as we get closer, my once cool demeanor is changing to denial.

I can remember specifically standing at the edge of the water before Diamondman helping my fellow athletes zip their wetsuits (by the way, an absolutely fantastic way to distract yourself if you need it) thinking, “I cannot believe I’m about to do this.” What a ridiculous thing to think when I had spent the last 6 months preparing for that exact moment. Even as the race started and I took my first couple of strokes through the water, I could not wrap my head around the fact that I, ME, of all people, was there.

This is where I am mentally right at this moment. I hope it passes.