Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Beginning of the End

A little over 10 years ago a friend at the gym, John, said "I'll do one if you do one".  Sure, why not? He did...I didn't. John signed up for the Pigman Sprint and I chickened out thinking I wasn't a good enough swimmer yet (I competed from age 7 through my freshman year of college, but hadn't be in the pool in a while).  After the race he told me how great it was, so I searched out a fall race and signed up for Troops and TriHawks (now called Iowa's Best Dam Tri).  While training for that race I discovered the CyMan sprint triathlon, and it became my first on August 14, 2005.

Things have changed so much in the past 10 years.  I upgraded from my mountain bike to a triathlon bike, knobby tires to aero wheels, a conglomeration of swim suit/bike shorts/cotton t-shirt/running shorts to a triathlon 'kit', happy to just complete the run without walking to just complete the race without having a mental breakdown, enjoying the journey to looking forward to the journey being done.

I'm ready for a change.  My body is ready for a change.  My mind is ready for a change.  I wish I loved going out for long bike rides, doing open water swims, race mornings, but I don't and never really have.  I tolerated it because I did well at it...I enjoy standing on a podium, which isn't what I'm used to from growing up.  Yes, I swam for a long time, but wasn't really good at it, just good enough to keep going.  I also love being in shape, healthy, active, whatever you want to call it (I was 40 pounds heavier when I graduated college).  With whatever I do I want to give it 100% and I don't want to give 100% to triathlon any longer.  I'm ready for a new challenge...that doesn't involve long bike rides and open water swim.  So, 2015 is my last year of triathlons.  It would have been 2014, but the World Championships is in Chicago (not sure when the last time it was even in the US) and it seemed like a fitting ending.

Anyway, enough about the end, now back to the beginning of the season...

Pigman Sprint
Sunday, June 7th

This race is typically my first triathlon of the season as it was this year. I've race it every year since 2006, which means I can compare year over year how I've improved...or not improved, which makes it a little scary.  I also want to do well at this race, not just my time, but my overall placement.  The problem with caring about placement is I don't have complete control over it.  Some years are very competitive and some years not-so-much.  This year definitely had a strong showing of women, with two professional triathletes towing the line.  The race gives overall awards for the top-5 and that was my goal.

This winter I've worked on my swim stroke (swim lessons with Megan) and tried to get back my running speed (after 2 months of not being able to run due to my lower left leg rejecting running).  I had hoped to see an improvement in my swim time, but it was right in line with the past five years (times vary from 7:17 to 7:25). Although, I did PR by a full second!  I guess I'll take that as a small win.  I came out of the water in 5th place.

I'm on the far left..not the best placement

On the bike, I just couldn't get my speed up.  I know lack of motivation was part of it.  At the first turnaround I saw Joanna, and my goal was to keep enough distance on her that she couldn't catch me in the run (we're friends and somewhat train and race together so I know her abilties).  And, that became my only goal.  I lost my motivation to even attempt to catch anyone ahead of me, and my time was 25 seconds slower than last year.

The run was more of the same...just don't get caught.  It wasn't until the last half mile that I realized the woman in front of me was quickly slowing down.  I also heard Joanna yell at me to get going, which I did in fear that her voice was coming from right behind me.  I picked up the pace, but it wasn't enough to move into fourth.  Had I given a better effort on the bike and run I think I could have made up the 10 second time difference between 4th and 5th place.  My run time was 20 seconds slower than last year, but much faster than all previous years, so I'll take that as a small win, too.  Maybe the next race would be better...?

Tim Doyle and I taking a Team Zoot pic.
My legs look nicely long from this angle!

Copper Creek
Sunday, June 14th

I've raced in 2012, 2014, and now 2015.  At packet pickup I took a look through the start list and saw the winner of the Pigman Sprint and another pretty speedy woman.  This race places to 3rd overall, and last year I had won it.  I had hoped to win again, but unless something happened to take out the other two women, that wasn't going to happen.

The swim starts with the elite men and women, and the teams, and is an in-water start.  We were treading water for several minutes, and during that time I pretty much stayed still while getting kicked repeatedly by Z3 teams (the average age is probably 14).  My goal of finding someone to draft off of didn't work so well and I pretty much swam the entire distance by myself and came out of the water in 2nd place.

One of the Z3 boys was just a bit ahead of my on the bike, and as soon as I passed him he passed back. We leapfrogged like this for over three-fourths of the 15.5 mile bike ride. It was frustrating. Each time he passed I'd have to drop back before passing him again.  Finally with about a mile to go I passed and dropped him.  Ugh!  I also was passed by the woman behind me.  Double ugh!  Surprisingly, I was over 40 seconds faster than last year, but last year was also a bad bike for me.

The chances of me passing someone on the run is pretty slim, and it was no different here.  I came out of transition with 2nd place a few seconds ahead of me, but she widened the gap VERY quickly.  Again, my goal was to not get caught.  At the turnaround on the run I was fairly confident I could hold on to third place.  Before the last turn to head back to the lake that we run around to the finish line, I looked back one more time to see what my lead was, and I didn't see her, took a few more steps, looked again, saw I had plenty of room...and missed the turn!  According to my Garmin it took me 30 seconds to figure out I was off course, and then 30 seconds to get back on course.  As I turn around, I saw myself drop from 3rd to 4th.  I also saw the huge barriers to direct people back to the lake.  Really?!?! I missed that!?!?!  I tried to catch up, but didn't have the speed needed, and ended in 4th place.

Reenactment of barrier.  I think there may have been cones as well.

Map from my Garmin watch data. Oops!

At least I had a good weekend traveling with Joanna, who came in 3rd.  And, the race has really good swag.

This year's swag.  Finis Torque Backpack.
Retail value of $64.99, and is my new swim bag.

Quad Cities Triathlon
Saturday, June 20th

Third weekend in a row of racing.  All sprints, but all slightly different swim and bike distances.  My last time here was 2012, and before that was 2006.  It's a great race and very close to home, so not sure why I haven't raced it more often.   My main goal was to prove to myself that I can mentally push myself through a race, and to get some momentum going into the rest of the summer.

The swim is a mass start for the elite men and women.  A few fast age group men joined in, too, which I wasn't a fan of.  I think they should time trial start with the rest of the age group men.  Anyway...the swim went well and I caught two of the elite men in the last chunk of the swim and came out with another guy right behind me.  This is a rare experience, so I figured I did well.  I did accidentally kind of ran over one of them (JJ Bailey I think), which didn't make him happy...he yelled at me, which I deserved.

Coming out of the water

Further out of the water

I was the first woman out of the water and made it out of transition without seeing any other women come in.  Good start!  Out on the bike I was pretty alone, which is a good thing.  At the turnaround I was happy with the effort I was putting out on the bike, but I didn't feel I had a large enough gap on the other two women in the elite wave.  I knew Joanna (yes, we raced all three races together) is a better cyclist and runner, and Jen is an AMAZING runner (she can run a 5k two minutes faster than me), and I needed more space.  The second half I slowly caught a guy ahead of me, and had a greater effort overall on that half.  Finally good things!

End of the bike.
About to take my feet out of my shoes to prepare to dismount.

The first 3/4 of a mile is grass and gravel.  Not ideal, but everyone has to deal with it. I'm glad I didn't check my run pace, because it was slow!  The turnaround is less than halfway through the run course. At that point I thought I'd be able to retain the lead, but didn't want to count either of them out yet.  With a little less than a mile to go the motorcycle that lead the winning man to the finish line came back to get me, which was awesome...except when I was close enough to smell his exhaust.  The best part was crossing the finish line with finish line tape being stretched out for me to run through.  Awesome touch!  Shortly after I watched Joanna cross in second place and Jen in third (Jen's run ended up being 1min 59sec faster than mine!).

Yeah for finish line tape!
Quick side note...while putting on my wetsuit my tri shorts rolled up.  I was a bit late getting down to the water, so didn't bother straightening them out.  There were so many photographers on the race course, which is nice, but I think the shorter bike shorts that look like they are eating into my legs add to my standard umpa-lumpa look.  Thankfully, that's really my only regret from this race. Anyway, back to the pictures...

Catching up at the finish line with bike shorts pulled back down.
Love the oversized checks...the real one that I can actually take to the bank is nice, too :)

After looking at my swim, bike, and run data when I got home, it reflected how I felt and how I had hoped I would perform.  I like to think I'm ahead of where I was this time last year...that all the training I put in this winter paid off.  I wish I could go back and change my first two races, but I can't..they are what they are.  Quad Cities gave me the motivation that I need to keep at this, if only for a few more months.

Articles on Quad Cities race:

Sponsor Plug:

Extra special thanks to Zoot Sports (love the race kit and shoes!), We Run, Core Fitness, and Geoff's Bike and Ski.  And, Daniel Bretscher Multsport for continuing to push me to be better.