AKA yet another race that I didn't really train for
AAKA my last local race in Houston
AAAKA the race in which I won a shiny!
This one was close to my house - so I got to sleep in a bit (5:30). Rolled out to the race, ate my usual 1/2 of a protein bar and a diet coke. Racking was open by row and for once, I was the closest rack to the bike in/out. Yay! I hate hate hate running in cycling shoes. The racks were a mess, most people put their bikes facing the exit and then put their bags in the space where opposite bikes were supposed to go. Sloppy racking is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Ran into a few friends and debated the merit of wetsuit use for a 500 m race. C (who is amazing and wins overall masters for every race she's entered this year) said that the water felt warmer than officials claimed and was going sans suit. I went over and got my chip then decided investigate the water temperature situation. I waded in knee deep and confirmed that yes, the water was warmer than the 73 degrees that officials were claiming - it felt more like 75 or 76. There was none of that shock you get when you hit cold water. And since this was only a 500 m swim, a wetsuit really wasn't worth the hassle, even with the wetsuit strippers.
Transition closed at 7:15, so I wandered over to the lake and ran into my swim coach and his relay team. Hung with them for a while, ran into some other swim team friends. My wave didn't start until 8:03 and the race started late, so I had time to kill.
I've swam in this lake 2x before, once in a wetsuit and once w/out. Its a real simple counter clockwise rectangle course. We wade in and I notice that there weren't all that many people in my wave - maybe 30-40 people. I wanted to see how hard I could go but not completely redline. The gun went off and it was a pretty smooth start - no jostling or crowding. I did have one girl hang with me for the first 3 buoys but I had a feeling she would get tired and drop off, while I just got stronger. Sure enough, just before the turn buoy, she cratered and I kept cruisng along, focusing on my kick. For me, a strong kick = fast swim. Its easy to forget your kick in distance swimming, so my job was to stay focused. Coming into the finish, there weren't all that many people to swim through or much scrambling. Getting out of the water, though, was very awkward, as the pond base was slimy clay and they only had a 4x8 ft piece of plywood for the "ramp" out. I ended up losing my balance trying to stand and had to bend down and grab 2 fist-fulls of nasty clay. I think I still have clay under my nails a day later.
Pretty basic. Kept a good job to my bike (heard a go Boise! [my Boise tri kit]) and saw that most of the bikes were on the rack. I didn't really see anyone in front of me or near me in the swim, so I had a feelilng I was close to the front, if not at the front of the pack. Pretty clean T1, although I fumbled more than I would have liked with my socks. I may want to consider ditching the socks in the future.
The bike course took us north up FM14XX past I-10 and then an out and back east/west along Hwy 90, then back south. We had a pretty good wind from the south, so immediately, I was zipping along easily at 20+ mph. Which is nice in terms of getting your bike flow and HR down, but sucky because you know its going to hurt coming back. The course wasn't awesome, mainly because we didn't have a dedicated lane to ride in - it was mostly shoulder. And all of Hwy 90 was chip seal with some pretty decent pits. Once I got on Hwy 90, I wanted to stay slightly uncomfortable, in terms of speed and pacing. I wanted to stay in Zone 3-4 and get some decent speed, staying around 18 mph. When it came time to pass someone, I'd drop a gear and get up to 19.5 mph, stay there for 1-2 miles, until my legs started to feel fatigued, then drop back a gear to 18 mph. I repeated this ~5 times over the 16 miles and I think the speed boosts helped to keep me sharp and focused. No one in my AG passed me on the whole bike and at the turn, I really didn't see anyone close behind me. This added to my motivation to keep pushing and see just how hard I could go.
It was pretty crowded coming into the bike in, so that was interesting. Pretty smooth for the rest of the transition, except my sunglasses somehow got tangled up in my helmet. I stayed on target though, only putting on my shoes, and carrying my garmin, visor, and drink out with me onto the run.
Run is always my weakness and to make it worse, it was hot out. I hate hate hate running in the heat and have a hard time really pushing. My goal today was to PR for the run - meaning I needed to be under a 10:00/mile pace for the first 2 miles, not walk at all, and kick it into gear for the final mile. I decided to race in my Newtons, hoping that they'd give me an edget. A bit risky, since I've never run "fast" in them, but I've been doing all my short (up to 7 mile) runs and bricks in them, and have been feeling pretty speedy in them.
The run first took you on a crushed granite loop around the lake then onto sidewalks and city streets, then more granite, then streets to the finish. Around a 1/2 mile I got passed by 3 people in my AG. They were flying, not much I could do. I needed to stay on target with my pace and just push, no matter how uncomfortable I got.
For the first mile, I was around 9:45/mile (at least when I looked at my watch). I was running faster than I'd wanted to and was torn. Do I keep going since it feels ok and hope I don't crash or do I make myself slow down. I don't know if I made a conscious decision on what to do - I think I pretty much played it by ear. I do think I slowed down a bit for mile 2, I did see 10:xx/mile a few times. Once I got to the last mile, I focused on light feet, short strides, and speed. It was hot, my lungs weren't happy, but I was going to PR on the run. To add motivation, no one else had passed me, and at the turn around, I didn't see anyone in my AG who were even close. This put be at best in 4th place (assuming I was first out of the water). I was not going to allow myself to crash and burn - I was going to hold my position or do my best possible to keep it. I don't know what my pace was in the last 1/2 mile, but I suspect it was somewhere in the high 8:xx/mile area. I'm certain my finish line pictures will be funny - I was fighting a side cramp and breathing hard. But I finished STRONG and held my position. Mission accomplished.
500 m swim, 16 mi bike, 3 mi run
Swim: 9:34.5; 1:55/100 meter pace (PR for tri suit)
Bike: 53:27.8; 18.0 mph
Run: 28:05.1; 9:22/mile pace (PR!!!)
Swim: 2/21, 145/541 (I think my overall rank is a bit low due to the number of wetsuits in the race)
Bike: 4/21, 300/541
Run: 9/21, 347/541
Overall: 5/21, 245/541
I did some number crunching, and I was 2nd going into the run by more than 1 minute. It really shows how strong my swim leg is, since I was actually 4th in my AG on the bike.
Nutrition-wise, I think I over did it a bit. I had 2 scoops of Infinit and 2/3 of a Hammer Gel. I ended up with side stitches on the run. Nothing terrible, but still, they're never fun. I think if I didn't have that last gulp of gel, I could have avoided the side stitches.
I did this race last year and was hoping to compare 2009 to 2010. They changed the bike course a bit (and added 1 mile) and changed the run (although I don't think they changed it substantially). In 2009, I used a wetsuit and had a PR on the swim but was 45 seconds slower in T1 than 2010. This year, I was actually a net 15 seconds faster on the swim, even without the wetsuit. So, not wearing the wetsuit was actually the right decision. Also, my 2009 finish time was 1:35:45, vs 1:34:15 in 2010. The course was 1 mile LONGER and I finished 1:30 FASTER this year. Go me!
And the best part.... awards were 5 deep. Meaning I got a SHINY!!
Every emotional for me - this was my last local race in Houston. Very amazing that I not only PR'd but got HARDWARE.