Monday, August 13, 2012

Steelman Olympic distance race report

The sun coming up over Lake Nockamixon.

Knock-knock. Anyone there? Yes, I have been MIA for the last two months because, I will be totally honest, I have a lot going on in my life right now. Most of it I can't write about, which absolutely effects the stuff I can write about and makes the stuff I can write about far less interesting. At least to me. BUT through it all, I managed to get in one final triathlon this season: Steelman at Nockamixon State Park in Quakertown.

Let me start by saying the two months since doing Eagleman my training has been less than stellar. In fact, I can honestly say I've been in the pool maybe twice and been swimming at the lake twice. That's a grand total of four swim sessions in two months. I've ridden my bike a little more frequently, once a week on most weeks, and I may have logged 15 - 20 miles running. Seriously, I was behaving as if this race wasn't going to happen.

Yes, every picture I have is before sunrise because I got to the part before 5 a.m.!

But as I stood among 2,000 athletes ready to start a race they actually prepared for, I completely questioned my sanity. I tried to remind myself that I did finish a 70.3 two months ago. I can totally do this distance. But the buoys looked so far away. Everyone around me was smiling in anticipation. I was shivering with fear. In fact, I spend the whole weekend fighting off the fear that something terrible was going to happen to me during this race. I was going to a race with no one. I had no support with me. Just me. Alone. I wrote my kids a note in the morning reminding them that I loved them, just in case.

Clearly, I was feeling out of my mind.

See those buoys? Can you see them? Look how far they look?

Back to the water's edge. Lake Nockamixon is actually a really beautiful lake, but on Sunday I didn't see its beauty, I simply focused on its size. With a water temperature of 80 degrees, it was not a wetsuit legal race, so I wore my skin suit. We had the option to wear wetsuits, but you'd be disqualified for awards. I sort of wish I had chosen to wear mine. I'm not winning any awards, but I wanted to try without it. In hindsight, I should've worn it. When the gun went off, I started swimming. It seemed to take an eternity to get to the first buoy. The next buoy also seemed very far away. I focused on swimming buoy-to-buoy. One after the other I swam passed them. None seemed to come faster than the next. I got out of the water and saw the :40 min mark and although that time was disappointing, I knew I had no business expecting to swim any faster than I did. My official swim time was :40:03

I will admit I heard nothing but horror stories about the hills on this ride. I had no expectations other than to ride as hard as I could. That's what I did. The climb out of the park was tough, but not nearly has hard as I thought it was going to be, and the rest of the course pretty much followed that same line of thinking. There were a few pretty good climbs, but nothing that was insanely difficult. During the first climb out of the park, the little packet in my pocket that held my Enduralytes fell to the ground. Fortunately, it fell right in front of a volunteer who ran to it and yelled what's your number, I'll get it back to you. I panicked for a second worried that I'd cramp like crazy without them. But sometimes you just cannot worry about things beyond your control. So, I just let it go and focused on the ride. My ride time was 1:31:22, that's a 17.7 mph average. I am happy with that.

I started this run waiting for my legs to cramp. Having no Enduralytes to help if they did, I was just waiting... but guess what. They never cramped. This was encouraging. I felt strong the entire run. It was a beautiful paved, shaded course through the park. I really enjoyed the run. Water stops were frequent and stocked with Gatorade, water and ice. I was feeling so good, I really thought I was going to make the 10k in under an hour. I was close, 1:02:43, but not quite. I finished feeling great. I was a little disappointed to not have my kids meet me at the finish like they normally do, but I was happy to see Joanna there at the end.

I finished this race with the time of 3:19:17. This is 15 minutes faster than my previous best Olympic distance time. Seriously, I cannot believe it. I didn't really deserve to PR during a race I wasn't prepared to do, however, I will take it. 

Overall, I thought Steelman was a great race and we were blessed with beautiful weather. As an athlete who is not finishing in the top half, it was nice to see volunteers at all the stations throughout the entire race. I hate when you're running and you come to an aid station that just has cups and coolers because the volunteers left. It's defeating, but this was not the case at all at Steelman.

I'm glad I did this race. I wasn't going to, but Joanna helped make it possible for me. Thank you Joanna. It was a great race to end a tough season. Oh, and as a side note, my packet of Enduralytes were sitting at my transition when I got back to it. How awesome is that?!


  1. Great finish! looks like a nice lake. The buoys always look so far away! :-)

  2. Wearing the wetsuit might have come back to haunt you on the run(dehydration and cramping). Despite the tougher swim it may have been a good decision in the long RUN. My swim this year was 2 mins slower than last, and it was much more enjoyable last year. Good finish!

    1. Very good point about the hydration. I think the obvious way to improve my swim would've been to visit the pool a little more often. :)

  3. Great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.

  4. Thanks for the post. I had been looking for something related and found your web site in the process.. I will definitely be back for more.

  5. So I'm doing Steelman this year, my first Olympic. I train in Pittsburgh, I'm curious if you have any elevation data for the hills?

    1. Last year was the first year they closed the road. Riders did two loops, the hills are significant, but as far as elevation data, I don't have it. There is a monster hill you need to climb just getting out of transition. The ones that are on the road are tough, but the road is straight and the downhills more than make up for the ride up. I'd focus on doing hill repeats once a week. Good luck! It was a really great race. I wish I was doing it again this year!