Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Naperville Sprint Triathlon 2011

This is quite a bit overdue...but when I last wrote, it was just prior to the first triathlon of the season, which I signed up for a week ahead of time, mostly as a warm up for the olympic coming up this weekend, but also because I knew racing with such a great group of ladies would be a wonderful time!

Last year this was my first triathlon ever, and I flailed in the swim. Totally flailed such that I doggie-paddled the entire race. The venue is a quarry, 1/4 of which is too shallow to swim, and 1/2 of which is 15 ft deep and murky. This year, after what I believe to be improving my swim greatly, I was hoping for a much better time, and a great opening race.

The morning was fairly chilly, and a bunch of us met up in transition, after putting everything in it's place. My transition area was far far from the bike in/out, meaning I had to carry my cleats, or run in them- neither one of which was a desirable option. Before the race, I stood watching all of my friends go before me, and anxiously awaiting getting into the warm water. I chose not to wear my wetsuit for 2 reasons- the water was supposed to be mid-upper 70s, and I didn't bring it. Turns out I maybe could have used it for some comfort.

The coach suggested that I start in the middle of the pack, towards the left side. The reasoning here was that I am definitely not as slow as the slowest people, but I didn't want to get trampled, but I wanted to stay on the outside edge. So, I took her advice, and felt really confident leading up to the start. But, when they announcer yelled GO! the panic set in.

Last year, in the 2 races I did after Naperville, I waited a good 5 seconds before starting- both to catch my breath and to leave some space between me and the masses. This year, I decided I should give it a go battling it out. We had practiced mass starts in the pool, so theoretically, I was ok with this. However, I could not find my rhythm, and I could not catch my breath. I turned over to my back for a little bit, and would try and try again to swim freestyle, failing each time. I breaststroked a bit with my head out of the water, thinking, no this is NOT happening again this year. I have worked so hard and improved so much. I continued to do some combination of flailing, breaststroking and backstroking until I reached the area where I could stand. Ok, I told myself. Get it together. You KNOW you can swim this distance. So, after this regroup and talking to, I went back at it, and lo and behold, swam confidently. I started catching up to people, turned the buoy, and came back again. The last lap followed similarly, until I got to the end, where a mass of people started walking, prohibiting me from swimming to the finish. Done! I was disappointed in the swim start, but I was really proud of how I recovered from it this year, and successfully swam 2/3 of the course, instead of none of it last year. And, I dropped two minutes off my time, coming in around 17:07. One success!

Transition times were a little slower this year than last year. Last year, I was super speedy. I attribute this to being so disgruntled about the swim, and not having bike shoes. This year, I carried my bike shoes to the bike out, awkwardly tried to put them on, and hopped on to go. The bike course is fairly flat, and not too bad. I felt like I was doing great, passing many people, and zooming along. My speedometer had me going up to 20-21 mph at some points, which I thought was exciting! I felt really good during the bike, and had hoped to see a few minute drop in my time from last year, where I was riding on my slower older bike. However, my time was 1 second slower. How's that for consistency! However, I was expecting to do much better, just based on my new bike, using cleats, and having worked really hard throughout the winter. It is possible the course was windier this year. But, excuses aside, I maybe need to figure out how to push myself a little harder during the race. Lesson learned for next time! Final bike time 46:24.
The run started out uneventful, until about 2 minutes in. I was cruising along when I realized something was wrong. I reached up towards my head, and felt my helmet. Uhhhhh, oops? It took me a few seconds to figure out that in my hurry to swap bike shoes to running shoes, I just plum forgot to take it off! I contemplated my options quickly- a) go back and put it in transition (but no way was I sacrificing my precious running time), b) take it off and hold it (but that would get VERY annoying) or c) just wear it, and laugh about how silly I looked later. I went with option c, and have some very funny pictures to prove it. Throughout the run, as has been the case in each triathlon I've done so far, I felt like I was sluggishly moving along, and barely keeping a 10 min mile pace, while just praying I could get to the end. When I got to the mile marker and saw something like 8:20 on my watch, I was super (but pleasantly) surprised, and kept going with some renewed confidence. I pointed out my helmet head to a few people spectating, but was actually surprised at how few weird looks I got. Maybe they waited until I passed by. At least I kept a respectable pace throughout and didn't have to walk. I saw friends near the end, who laughed when I pointed out my silly mistake. I concluded this "safest" run ever at 24:42, which, at a sub 8 minute pace, I thought was fantastic. Maybe my running speed is coming back after all! Total time was 1:35:22- which was slower than my overall time last year, but last year the run was about a half mile short. So, I had an improved swim, a fine bike, and a solid run. Happy with that!
Helmet-head run

All in all, the race was a success. I now know the things I need to work on for the upcoming olympic and other races (including relaxing at the swim start, pushing harder on the bike, speeding through the transitions, and remembering to remove my helmet before the run). Plus, as an added bonus, I had a fantastic time with a great group of women I have had the pleasure of training with for 2 seasons now. :)
All the girls after the race

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Finally warm, and the start of my tri season!

Finally, summer has hit Chicago. Well, technically it's still spring, but the weather is WARM! I'm so happy- I could spend all day outside in the sun- and I mostly did that today. Despite the fact that I can barely walk as a result of Thursday's intense circuit training workout (seriously, I can't remember the last time I was this sore...) I woke up and went for a 2 hour ride in the forest preserves, a really beautiful pathway nearby that makes you feel quite removed from city or suburbs, filled with tons of other runners and bikers (and also roller bladers!). I even saw a couple deer- including a baby! I had such a ball - I ran on this trail a lot last year but didn't really bike it- it's amazing how much further you can get on a bike! I love it. I just spent the rest of the afternoon walking around by the lake, taking in the sun and all of the other outdoor-appreciating people. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home, and got back just in time for the thunderstorm. Phew!

Things have been picking up, in general, for me. May was an outstanding month (especially compared to April) rounding out with a wonderful Memorial Day weekend in Boston, visiting some of my favorite friends! The weather started picking up last weekend, and I sincerely hope the warm weather is here to stay, and there will be no finger/toe numbing bike rides in the near future.

Triathlon season is starting! On a sort of whim, I decided to sign up for the Naperville race-the same one that was my first race ever last year. I hadn't signed up originally for several reasons. In January, when I started to formulate my race plan (also pre-achilles tendinitis) I was riding high on the end of the last season, and wanted to hop right into an olympic distance race this year. The Naperville race, while something I will always hold near and dear to my heart as my first ever triathlon left some things to be desired- both personally and race-wise. Personally, I totally flailed in the swim- I panicked, could not relax, and ended up doggy-paddling the majority of it, even though in the pool I had definitely worked my way up to that distance. Race-wise, the bike and run courses were short, which was irritating, particularly because of my horrendous swim. I made up a lot of time on the bike and the run, but I could have done even better if I was able to continue with my stronger disciplines to their proper distances! The swim is also kind of weird- the quarry is half 15ft deep, and a large portion to shallow to swim, meaning that even the pros walk a decent chunk of it (I joked that my time was a lot better than it could have been because I can walk through water just as fast as everyone else! I wonder if my extensive pool running training will give me an edge this year hahaha).

Fast forward to June 2011. It is no secret that I struggled through the winter with my running setback, my frustration with the bike, and my 'bad form' in the swim. While I believe I have improved in each area over the last 6 months, and after Kentucky, I am certain I can handle the bike/run portion of the upcoming hilly olympic race, I started to get terrified of the .9 mile open water swim, having had no current open water experience, and really no long distance swimming (aside from laps, where you can take a breath at the wall). In my swims lately, I have been getting out of breath during the warm up, which makes me super nervous for the actual race, where I don't get the warm up laps to get me going and ease into a comfortable pace. So, talking with coach- we decided that adding the Naperville race into the schedule made a lot of sense: I already know the course, I have a vendetta out against the swim and am determined to do better this year, and it'll be a good warm up race for the longer one at the end of the month. Plus, most of my tri-friends are also participating, and I was planning to go watch anyway. I think that given the setbacks I have experienced, which have certainly eaten into my confidence, I will greatly benefit from doing this race again, hopefully seeing improved times, but in general, proving to myself that I can still do it. So, one week from tomorrow- first race of the season!