Monday, August 26, 2013

Pigman Half-Iron

            My husband and I traveled down to Iowa for my big race of the season.  It’s been cooler out for the last several weeks, making it feel like summer has already ended, but now that we were traveling south for a big race, the weather decided to also heat up.  Race day had a high of around 80, but it was intense sun with few clouds in the sky and very little for breeze (nice for the swim and bike but making it a very hot day out there).  The race didn’t start until 7:30, and by time my wave started it was around 8am and things were warming up fast.  It was a time trial swim start, which meant that one person would start every 3 seconds, instead of in giant waves together.  It made it less clustered of a start, but it also made it more difficult to be able to tell your placement throughout the race.  The water was calm, but I had a hard time sighting so twice I paused to clear my goggles.  The giant buoys were too far apart and there could have been more of them.  I didn’t want to chance swimming extra so I figured it was worth my time to get a clearer sight.  I dropped a few seconds from my previous swim time at Chisago Lakes, though it was pretty much the same. 
            It was a long transition area, running up the beach, through the grass, and into the parking lot that served as a long, narrow transition where you ran by all of the bike racks.  I got out on the bike and focused on my watts and how I was feeling.  You could tell it was getting hot, but at least you always have wind while biking in order to help cool the body.  I went through 4 bottles on the bike as well.  I wanted today to be more about what I could do on the bike.  My plan was to bike harder than what I did at Chisago Lakes, where I felt like I was trying to be conservative so I could run.  For this my plan was to bike a lot harder and try to just hold on in the run.  Heat was also a lot bigger issue with this race that I needed to be aware of though, and that makes things a bit trickier.  It was an out-and-back bike course with rolling hills.  I got close to the turn-around and counted the females ahead of me.  I counted 7, though keep in mind that’s physical placement, not necessarily time placement.  After the turn-around, I passed 5 of them within the next 8 miles.  I rode a little harder on the way back, hoping to put some distance between us.
            I had a solid bike split, way better than I was hoping for, averaging close to 22mph and dropping more than 10 minutes from my previous bike time.  I just needed to run well now and this could be a very solid race.  I had a pit stop in T2 and headed out on the run.  I felt good for the first mile, clipping along at a quick pace and feeling optimistic.  If I could run the same split that I did at Chisago Lakes, I could go under 4:50 with my time.  I wanted a 7:20 pace, but as the miles wore on, I was just trying to hold on to a 7:30 pace.  There were some big hills in and out of the park, and one at the turn-around.  On the way out, the air was thick and stifling at times.  I took an extra salt tab at mile 3 and drank a cup of water at every aid station, and sometimes was able to dump another cup on me.  I held 7:30 for the first half of the run, and stayed fairly close to it for the next few miles.  There is a giant hill about 2.5 miles out though and it was tough.  My pace significantly dropped.  Another decent hill in the park in the last mile of the run, so close to the finish, yet so far.  My run time was about 4 minutes slower than what it was at Chisago Lakes.  My body was beat for sure.
I finished with a time of 4:52:08, a significant overall time drop from 4:58:51!  I managed to make the top 5 again, placing 5th overall for females, which was a small cash prize.  There was some very good competition at this race, some very fast women.   I’m glad I was able to hold on to some of them!  It was a fun race, though warm and pretty intense.  I had high hopes for the race, but tried to also keep realistic expectations.  I managed to surpass my bike goal and pulled off a significant PR.  I really didn’t have anything to complain about when it came to the execution of the race.  It was definitely a learning experience, and added to a great overall season.  Andy was my support for the whole weekend and race, as he has been at every race, taking pictures and cheering me on.  What a trooper!  And who would have thought that Iowa could be so much fun?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Return to Wausau

            This was my first time of doing a back-to-back with race weekends.  I just completed my first half-iron on Sunday, went into a week of recovery/race week with a long course race (.5mile swim, 28 mile bike, and 5.8 mile run) six days later.  My very first triathlon was at Wausau, so I always enjoy doing this one every year, despite it being the most challenging bike course I’ve ever done, with all of the intense hills.  I tried to hold back and keep it light for the five days of training between races.  The day before the race, I felt alright, but had a tight hamstring that raised a bit of concern.  I planned on the bike loosening it up for the run and decided to not worry about it.
            The weather was perfect.  It was sunny, a slight wind, and relatively cool, with a high of only 75 for the day.  It was chilly at the time of the swim, which did not allow for wetsuits.  Last year was my first time doing the long course for this one, and I had a horrible swim .  My goggles had fogged up and I couldn’t see where I was going.  My time was awful.  This year I dropped over 2.5 minutes from my previous time, and was the first female out of the water.  I felt good on the bike, and wanted to push it really hard for this race.  I wanted to see what I was capable of.  And of course, I was in it to win it. 
I wasn’t seeing much of anybody on the bike, much less females, until almost 10 miles in, when I was passed by female #9.  She was moving.  I was determined to not let her get out of my grasp.  I hung behind her for dear life.  This was exactly what I needed to push me.  She pushed hard up the hills, gaining some distance, and I’d gain ground on her on the descents.  I passed her up a couple times, only to have her pass me again shortly after.  I had about a minute on her with my swim time, but she made up for it on the bike, and we ended up coming in and finishing that leg together.  We rode hard, averaging around 22mph, and being the only females above 20mph for the long course.  It was a great ride.  I didn’t know where any of the other women were, but I knew she would be hot on my tail, so I flew through T2 and booked it out on the run.  I was hoping she had burned out her legs from the ascents, and I later found out that she was hoping she had burnt me out as well.
Normally the run is a 10K, but due to construction, it was cut a bit short this year.  I was cruising.  I didn’t know how much of a lead I had on her, or if there were females ahead of me to catch, but adrenaline drove me.  Hunger drove me.  I wanted this race.  Could the turn-around of this race take any longer to reach?  I saw the male leaders as I met them on their return and watched for females.  None.  This is where I wanted to be.  I hit the turn and saw #9.  I had a decent lead on her, but I wasn’t going to let up.  I’m not sure if I saw any other long course females when I was out there, as they are harder to distinguish when rejoining with the short course competitors.  I brought it home, exhausted, satisfied.  I ran the 5.8 miles at a 6:46 pace.  Had it been a full 10K, there’s a good chance I could have pulled off a 10K PR time. 
I was not expecting to be able to bounce back so quickly from my HIM.  I dropped almost 9 minutes from my bike split from the previous year, and my run pace was substantially faster.  Granted, when I raced last year I was 2 months pregnant and planned it to be a conservative race.  This year, I left everything out on the course.  I ended up winning by over 3 minutes.  A comment from my friend, “All the fast women are racing next week” (Nationals in Milwaukee).  It’s always good to keep things in perspective, and there’s never room for pride, just perseverance.