I am very behind on keeping myself up to date on happenings along the way to Ironman, but I want to try to keep events and thoughts in chronological order so that I can hopefully look back at some point and see how it my experience was built.
Still recovering from foot injuries, and having not run in nearly a month, I bounced early from work on Friday August 19 to race over to Pacific Bicycles and register for the Beaver Lake Triathlon at the last-minute, in person. I hated having to register so late, it made me feel very unprepared and underwhelmed at the looming race (tomorrow!), but it was a necessary evil to ensure that I didn’t overextend myself post injury. I knew I didn’t have it in me to just give up my registration, so I forced myself to play things by ear and train with the intention of racing even if I might not.
On race day I woke up feeling less nervous than usual. Maybe it was the late registration and less time to amp myself up (aka freak myself out), or maybe it was knowing I’d have friends to greet me upon arrival, but I didn’t feel like the day was about racing. Maybe it was knowing that there was no way I’d have my best race having not trained my run, or maybe it was that I decided to give 200% on the bike and swim and let the run just take care of itself with what I had left to give.
Whatever it was, all I know is that we arrived nearly 1:30 before start time, and all of a sudden officials were ushering us out of the transition area on to the beach to begin the swim. I hadn’t even been able to get in the water first!
The Swim – .25mi // Time: 6:20 // 1:26 min per 100 yards
I started in the 9th or 10th wave and as they called our group to get set up to go I noticed that I was in a wave made up of what was clearly a competitive swim group. Quite a few girls without wetsuits, all with broad shoulders and a confident air. They totally owned the water. Well, crap, I thought. As the airhorn went off and I dove in I tried to convince myself I could hold my own… It’s only a quarter of a mile, so JUST!KEEP!SWIMMING!
The glare from the sun made the first buoy difficult to see, but as soon as I rounded it I realized that I was no longer surrounded. In fact, there was absolutely no one swimming anywhere near me. Not sure whether I had pushed myself in front (doubtful) or whether everyone else was faster than me (likely) I sighted the second buoy and heeded my own advice. When I rounded the second buoy I nearly mowed over a lone swimmer splashing around doing backstroke, and I really hoped that person wasn’t in my wave and had gotten to that point faster than I did!
After the second buoy I sighted the home stretch and came in pretty well, though with a bit of an overly rounded path I could have cut some distance with better sighting. But that’s what next time is for, right?
With the swim said and done I came out of the water ready to bike!
The Bike – 13.9 mi // Time: 44:45 // 18.5 mph
After a bit of a snag in T1 I came into the bike feeling strong but disorganized. I thought I had started my new Garmin, but hadn’t, in transition I nearly rode off on my bike with my race belt waving in the wind from the handle bars, and this was my first race with real pedals and shoes (cage-free) so things felt strange. I could have transitioned better, but so it goes. Luckily my mishaps didn’t cause my mindset to waiver, probably because I had no expectations for the race.
The bike course wasn’t as memorable as the swim for me, especially in hindsight, but what I do remember is lots of hills, panting like a dog, and loving that at every downhill I had someone to spot off of to measure my speed.
In the first 1/3 of the race there was a girl in the pack in front of me who looked to be in my age group, and not having any clue how well I came out of the swim my goal became to try to stay with her. There weren’t that many other racers around, and certainly none from our group, but soon enough her pace became slow and awkward so I decided to pass her. She didn’t like it too much and leapfrogged me, but less than a mile later – and while going uphill at that – she slowed to a crawl and I took full advantage.
And then there was a hill. And then I passed some guys. And then there was still a hill. And then I passed some guys. And then there was a new hill. And then some guys passed me. And then there was more of that same hill. And then I passed some guys.
As I came in on the bike I knew I had gained some steady footing to catapult myself as far forward as I possibly could have. Without more preparation I could not have pedaled one bit faster, couldn’t have attacked one single hill harder, and couldn’t have utilized the downhill any better to my advantage. Finishing that leg knowing that my cycling went as well as it could have was a good feeling.
The Run – 4.3 mi // Time: 33:03 // 7:40 mile avg
I felt great coming off the bike. My transition was smooth, I had biked my heart out, and I was ready for my favorite and best leg, until I remembered that I hadn’t run in over a month. “Slow and steady, slow and steady, wow I’m stupid, slow and steady,” I thought as I followed a strange start zig zagging through the park, between some trees and up a trail. A couple running together was clipping along comfortably in front of me, and though they didn’t look like they were going to hold the pace I decided to pace off of them for as long as they’d hold it. It’s always easier for me to find someone pacing how I want than to set the group myself.
About a quarter-mile in I passed a girl with a big 27 on her leg (my age group), but she looked like she was hurting so I didn’t worry about her catching up to me later in the game. My focus was on keeping up with the couple until my legs fell off, and no doubt the girl was one of those excellent swimmers who does not excel at running.
If there’s one thing that this race confirmed it was that my body adapts to the run somewhat quickly if I force it to. If I give in and let my body recover it certainly does, but if I hold a pace that’s pushing it but raceable there’s a specific moment, maybe 1-2 miles in, where my legs catch on and my body locks in and once again I’m a runner. And I own it.
The rolling hills were tough, and by this time I had given up on the Garmin so I had no clue how I was pacing. I decided to race with my all, keep my pace and focused on the fact that with a 4.3 mile run there can’t ever possibly be THAT much left!
On August 20 I raced in my second triathlon ever, the Beaver Lake Triathlon. A short but hard course, I went in excited and confident but also nervous. I’ve committed to IMC 2012 but this is only my second triathlon? I better do well here or what the heck am I doing?!
I am happy to report that I did well. I placed 1st in my age group (thanks to the true winner getting the overall race award) and 6th overall.
I go back and forth as to how I attribute my great race and success that day. I’d like to tell myself that because I stayed calm and kept this one focused on fun that I truly did the best I could. But I also know that since my obsession began in June that I’ve worked hard, really really hard, so my success wasn’t my lack of “amp”, it was hard work.
Maybe I do belong in this sport?