Every spring since the beginning of my triathlon journey I have raced the Pigman sprint triathlon. Most years, including this year, it’s my first triathlon of the season. It’s also my first chance to see the impact of the hard work, or lack of, that I put in over the winter. In 2011 I was training for the Kansas 70.3, which was the weekend after the Pigman sprint. With the half-ironman at the beginning of the summer, I had a great base going into Pigman. That was also the year we did Ironman Wisconsin, and then promptly lost motivation for training. It wasn’t until the middle of last summer when I switched to Daniel Bretscher for training that the interest in training returned.
The Marion Half Marathon and Macbride duathlon were slight glimpses into the outcome of my training, and it looked good. But, they weren’t triathlons, and they weren’t races that I could use to really compare my fitness from year to year.
Leading up to the race, I’ve been busy with training and other life things that I didn’t have as much time to stalk the starting list as I have in previous year. I think this helped keep my nerves down as I didn’t really know who I was competing against…except for one triathlete, Heather Lendway. She not only won her age division at Age Group Nationals last year, she was the fastest overall female. If she showed up for the race I knew I had no chance of beating her. The race places to the top-5, so I hoped no more than 3 other fast women would register. I also didn’t create any expected hopes for my times. Let the cards fall where they may.
Friday night we hauled the camper to Palo. My job during camper setup is to keep the water spigot open. This involves me sitting still for about 10min on the handle of the water pump thing. Thankfully a few days earlier we had picked up some Bug Soother! The gnats were horrendous! Sprayed some on, and I wasn’t touched! I could see them swarm around me. It was kind of surreal.
Campe with a loft a the campground...interesting.
Slept in Saturday as long as I could, then relaxed a bit before a quick bike, run, packet pickup, and a stop at Peck's Nursery for a few garden plants.
The line to get into transition always starts early in the morning, and I arrived with at least 25 people ahead of me. Good enough. I was racing elite and there is usually plenty of room on our racks. One of several perks of being in the elite waves. Typically I spend most of the pre-race time socializing with others, but Daniel gave me a warmup to do which would eat into a lot of that time.
I knew the traffic coming into the park was not going to be fun to deal with, so I brought my trainer and did my bike warmup at the camper after a short run. Then, back to transition to start the dance of pulling on the wetsuit. This was the first race with my new wetsuit, and it's a little snugger than my old one. Not necessarily a bag thing, just takes more time to get on. Time was already getting away from me, so my swim warmup was cut a bit short. I still was able to get in more swimming, biking, and running than I ever have pre-race.
The elite women take off first, followed by the elite men. The time between the two is meant to equalize the field, and the first person across the finish line gets a bonus cash prize. Makes things a little more interesting. So, my wave had 5 of us. I had hoped that I could keep up and draft off at least one of the women, but no luck. Our swim finish times were about 40 seconds apart from each other. When I came out of the water I knew I was in third, and was told the lead woman was a minute and a half ahead (she ended up with the fastest swim of the race..including the men!).
As I was coming into transition I could see second place leaving. T1 was a little bit of a struggle with the tighter wetsuit. I also haven't learned how to mount my bike and then put my shoes on, so I get the pleasure of running through the entire transition area with my bike shoes on. Never fun.
I could tell I was gaining some time on the second women, and ended up catching in her the first few miles. Now, I just had to keep up that pace. At the first turnaround I saw that I was continuing to gain time on her, and fourth place was a decent distance back. At the second turnaround it looked like I was extending my lead over third and fourth, and loosing ground to first.
Last year the men started catching me as I was riding by the lake in the park. It was nice to get into transition without being passed yet.
I love my Zoot shoes, but still need to practice putting them on in T2. Everything else went well. As I was leaving transition I saw third place come in. I figured I had a few minutes on her. Hopefully good enough for a 5k. At the first turn I spectator let me know that the lead woman was only 3 and a half minutes up. Only?!?! Yup, catching her is not gonna happen.
The run is an out and back with a turnaround at halfway. Usually I feel pretty crappy running the entire time, but this year it didn't take much before I got into a good groove. I've been working a lot on my form over the winter, and I felt it was helping. But, I didn't wear a watch, so had no clue if I was actually running really slow. At the turnaround it seemed third was closing the gap, but I didn't think there was enough distance left in the race for her to catch me. But, you never know, so I kept up my effort.
I looked over my shoulder a the last turn into the final stretch and couldn't see any women behind me. It's all downhill from there, so no reason to let up then. I crossed the finish line with Wes Anderson. If the race truly is gender neutral with the staggered start, then I'm very honored to be the female version of him :)
Photo finish with Wes Anderson
In all, I was very happy with my race. Comparatively to my previous PR, I'm further ahead than I expected to be. My swim is a little lacking, but maybe I was able to draft in 2011. I'll just thinks that why I wasn't much faster this year :) The bike course was slightly different this year, with a full turnaround instead of four 90-degree turns in Palo. That probably slowed my down a little in 2011, but not almost a minute. The run has by far been my greatest improvement. And, for that, I'm very happy.
I'll take a 2 minute PR :) Looking forward to see how the rest of the season goes! Event got a little writeup in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.