chattanooga, so my friend both had the same goal. qualify. both of us had challenges with heat in chattanooga, or whatever the cause may have been, and at chattanooga, he learned of a sprint triathlon that was taking place one week after our race, and was usat regulated, which means if we placed in the top 10 percent we would qualify for nationals..those are some tough odds. competitive and crazy as we are, i signed up kicking and screaming inside feeling like i had just had enough and was defeated. i do discourage ending anything in life on a low, and knew i had to get back in the saddle with a new goal. i am so grateful my friend michael (pictured above)sent me this link, (and that he is as crazy as i am and an awesome triathlete). this race was exactly what i needed.
i did not know what would happen from such a quick turn around from one race to the next, but another friend and amazing, successful triathlete recently raced through training with no taper, and her coach told her it will only effect her if she uses that as an excuse, and she ended taking first place. i kept that in the back of my mind as i raced, as well as her valuable advice after my struggles with chattanooga - saying don't ever give up. those both kept ringing in my ears during my sprint. knowing my friend michael was out there racing with me, out for the same goal kept me strong and focused. for me, accountability is everything - i hold myself accountable, but if others are aware as well - that pushes me even harder.
i stayed with my michael and his wife the night before the race, and arrived promptly at 5:30 am. in the parking lot i saw a girl who looked around my age and while she was sizing me up and i her. something told she was going to be one to watch on this race. after entering transition, i noticed quite a few serious looking girls in my age group and i began to think this may be quite a race. when it is a small race, and sizing up is happening that early, you never know what to expect.
average temperature at the start were in the 70's so not too hot, thank goodness.
i had to really think about my nutrition on this race with it being a different distance than what i was used to. while it was shorter, i still need calories to keep my body moving with strength. after getting some advice and doing some research, i devised a plan: the usual race regimen pre-race, oatmeal, and a cliff bar 2 hours before race start, and then 200 calories per bottle comprised of cytomax (electrolytes and energy) and carbopro pre race(begin sipping the bottle about 45 minutes before swim start) and for the ride. the cytomax has some energy added to it,and it worked out nicely. i sipped gatorade at every water stop, which was a first but going forward will become a habit as i usually only do water.
so this is my first sprint, and the distance was 500 m swim, 15 mile bike, and 3.45 run (but they only time it as a 3.1). i had a time in my mind, and that was 1:30. i did not know what to expect and after my key learnings from chattanooga, i set my timer on my watch, but switched the face only to show me the time, i did not want to deter my mental state by watching if i was going to make my goal or not, i just wanted to race as hard as i could.
the lake was slimy and murky, and i was lined up right next to the 'girl' who i first saw in the parking lot. i figured well, maybe i can draft off of her, there we so many girls in the wave start that went beyond my age group, the last thing i wanted was to be in the back and have to swim over people to get out, i would rather be swam over. the horn blew, and the girls were off, and my 'girl' was out of sight in an instant. it was an in-water start which was a new one for me, so that was a bit odd to get acclimated to (and it needs some practice). needless to say, my plan to draft off of the 'girl' went out the window. i have to say, i struggled a bit on the swim. i went anaerobic very quickly and had trouble getting a rhythm needing to breath every stroke. i lost my focus a bit with all the flailing about, grabbing and kicking of the other swimmers. i was sure i would end up with a black eye, but came out only with some scrapes.
thankfully i made it through the swim, on my estimated time, and quickly realized the concept of a sprint was to sprint, and go as hard as you could without stopping. interesting in the water, not so easy.
a bit of a run with the bike out of transition and then was off. from the start of the bike i was realizing a lot of burning in my hamstrings but continued to brush it off and not focus on it, instead focusing on pressing as hard as i could on the bike. gradual hills, up and up and up with a bit of downs. i saw the 'girl' on the way back as i was still on my way out, and realized she was a fast one, and was ahead of me. we were told the bike was up on the way out and alot off fast downs on the way back. the only fast downs i found were the last 3 miles. had to reassess my nutrition, and take my last sips of calories and electrolytes about 5 miles out from t2. i did manage to take an extra sip or two 3 miles out which came back to haunt slightly on the run.
off the bike and onto the run. the run was supposed to be non-technical trail running, all flat except for one hill. i struggled out of transition for about a half of a mile. i still needed a couple of breaks in the first mile, but refocused and kept hearing the words don't give up replaying in my mind and knowing my friend was out here battling as well, kept me going. i wanted to know i gave it everything i had and knowing i was upset i took a few second breaks on the first mile frustrated me, so i raced onward instead of letting it defeat me. the run was two technical trail loops and then a third loop that took another route. 70 percent of this run was on grass and dirt trails in the hilly woods. whomever said this run wasn't technical, and flat as a pancake needs to relearn what flat means. at the start of the second mile, i felt the extra sips of my drink coming to repeat on me and thought they were about to escape. fortunately that went away leaving the second mile as the strongest for me, and was completed fairly quickly. the third was a route i thought i had figured out,and then it took us off to an area i did not for see coming. my mind started to wander in confusion, but had to shake it off . at mile 2.8 was a hill and i was really getting tired at this point and ready to finish. on that hill just about 20 feet ahead of me, i saw a girl with the age 33 on the back on her leg. she was in my age group, and as much as i wanted to stop and take a break on this hill, i couldn't knowing i have an age-grouper just in front of me. and to my surprise, she ended up stopping to walk half-way up the hill, and i knew she was pacing slower than me on the run, but this would be the only chance to truly pass her and get distance while she walked. it took everything i had and i barreled up the hill and kept going, looked behind and she was no where in sight. i finally saw the 3 mile marker, but realized i had no idea where the finish line was. i heard a man say as i passed him that it was a 3.45, not 3.1(brilliant), and as i came out of the trail, i finally saw the finish line across the lake, with probably .4 miles to go. it felt like it took forever, and i wanted to stop but kept going, and going. i heard my friends screaming at me as i approached the finish line but did not lose my focus. i finished. the volunteers bent down to take off my timing chip. my heart rate was so high my head was spinning and i could not wait to walk it off. they were taking so long to get that chip off my ankle. finally walking and able to regain my composure and breathing and i felt great. i looked down at my time, and realized i hit my 1:30 mark and did not even know it.
what is amazing, is after 5minutes i felt great, unlike olympic distance that i cannot eat for hours after the race and feel completely spent. this was great - i could eat, talk, walk - nothing like it. what further amazes me, is that on the run, it still felt like an olympic distance from the level of fatigue that ensues from pushing yourself to your anaerobic threshold.
unofficial results were posted. at that time, i was 5th, and 18 seconds away from making it to nationals. defeated, but still feeling good about my performance today and staying out of the medical tent. i knew i pushed, but regretted the few seconds of rest i took on mile 1. i need to stop that. i was told that once you start taking breaks, you keep taking them. don't allow it. you can keep going.
we knew the results posted were unofficial, so stayed for the award ceremony. my feet and legs were beginning to swell from standing still and they start the announcing from oldest down. i was not really paying attention until all of a sudden i heard my name called up to the podium for an award. i did not know, but had placed 3rd place in my age group. i was elated, but had to wait until the next day to email usat to see if i had qualified for nationals, and to my excitement i did. i qualified for the age group nationals race in tuscaloosa in september. but the bitter sweetness was that my friend did not. the person who pushed me to race this race. his age group is unbelievably competitive, and mine will be equally as bad next season. the 'girl' ended up coming in first in our age group.
so i am off to race age group olympic distance nationals race september 25th in tuscaloosa, alabama and will be signing up for another sprint in october. for now, i will be enjoying weight training, and maintaining my swim , and improving my bike, and run.
i am so grateful for all the amazing friends i have that have helped to share their knowledge with me, share crazy with me, and continue to challenge me. you know who you are.