Typical tri-blogs like thishere generally include, if not focus entirely on, race reports. With few exceptions –notably two of my three Ironmans—I haven’t written much about my races. A sprint or two here, my first swim meet as an adult there, some detail (because I remember minutiae), but lots of general musings about racing. I’m not sure why I skip over the obvious bloggystuffs –blogder?— like race-day demonstrations of the fitness (or lack thereof) that I train day in and day out (or not) for. Anyway, I only COMPLETED three triathlons during the 2013 season. Here’s the recap of those events:
Race 1: Breath of Life, Ventura, CA. sprint distance: there was an Olympic too. I got 2nd overall to a woman in a wave behind me. As I glossed over in an earlier post , at the time I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run an entire 3.1 miles. During the weeks leading up to the race, my “run” training was limited to going on hikes while Dusty was out running the trails. I would walk 15 minutes for warm-up, then run as the terrain allowed: usually only downhill and when there weren’t too many scary rocks and roots to stumble over. Well, a race setting and flat pavement make it a little easier to keep the cadence up, so I “ran” the run portion at one pace –something similar to my Ironman shuffle pace. Wheeeeee. So anyway, this woman from another wave was able to use me as a rabbit to chase, and put enough time into me (across all three disciplines, honestly) for the win. I was hoping to pull it off, but was pretty resigned that I gave it my best shot under the circumstances.
Race 2: USAT Age Group Nationals, Milwaukee, WI, Olympic distance. This turned out to be my longest race of the year. As a result (or consequence?) of not being able to train for any real race, nothing big or scary enough to truly care about or fear, I didn’t dedicate myself to my training plan or any consistency whatsoever. I did my longest run-walk earlier on race week (6.4 miles in anticipation of the 6.2 at the race), and I doubt I rode any further than 30 miles as preparation. I was woefully ill-equipped both physically and mentally for this thing. The other, hard truth is that I didn’t respect it enough.
- As a long-courser, short-course triathlons were always fun escapes or training days for me in the past. Although I’ve never been a great sprinter with a lot of powerful speed, the miles I had in my legs from training for longer, slower events would always carry me through to OK results.
Karin, ya genius, you basically had no miles in your legs after convalescing all summer.
- The qualifications for the event aren’t exactly stringent: you get barraged with e-mail invitations to Nationals by being in the top third of your field at any USAT-sanctioned race, or the top 40% at any regional qualifying event. I don’t intend to poo-poo those standards; it just… doesn’t strike one as being THAT selective, you know? So I thought “it’s no big deal, and that the competition won’t be too different from any other local race.” At worst I expected a few fast guys but mostly enthusiastic amateurs who were in it for the swag alone. Surely no one takes it seriously.
Wrong. Age Group Nationals is where (almost) “everyone looks pro but nobody is.” A lot of those age group guys and girls you’ve heard of but never met were there fighting for podium spots.
Reading between the lines here, you may get the picture that it was a less than fabulous race for me. It was embarrassing when the announcer rattled off my name among some of the “top competitors” in my age group: I had earned All American Honors in 2012 (which got me some kindabullshitty VIP treatment) but that was then. I fell behind on the swim by just losing concentration and not wanting to get an elbow or kayak oar to the head. I biked along without a computer to tell me how I was doing (having misplaced my Garmin somewhere back in Chicago earlier that week). When I saw Dusty slow-rolling back to transition, I almost called it quits too. I didn’t quit only because I thought I might have an outside shot at qualifying for Worlds 2014 in Edmonton. Well I got passed just a few times on the bike before the endless parade of women in my age group rolled by me during the run. My pace started out faster tan I knew possible, but faded (DUH!) as the miles and psychological damage continued. I ended up 38th in my age group, I think. No Worlds for me. Duh.
Lesson learned. I’ll never say anything disparaging about the goal of qualifying for this event or the competition there again. I’d also encourage anyone to head to Milwaukee in 2014 for a really good time. The venue is great, the course is fast, and the whole thing is a fun celebration of amateurs in the sport. Since each venue hosts Nationals two years in a row, it should be even better this year now that Milwaukee completed its dry run in 2013.
Race Three: Catalina Tri, Catalina Island, CA. A race in NOVEMBER on an ISLAND. Pretty awesome. I came to it 2-3 weeks after getting reënergized in Kona, which was also awesome. From what I heard of the small field, it seemed like a winnable proposition. Awesome! My race-specific preparation was less than awesome, however.
Catalina Island is basically a mountain popping out of the water: there are no shores or plains or plateaus. Dusty and I decided to bring our tri bikes because I hadn’t been fit or well-practiced on my road bike. Well, the bike course hugged the coast for two miles, then wound up the mountainside for 1.5 miles, then plunged back toward transition with a steep, winding descent for the remainder. Repeat that loop three times. I didn’t have a good choice, but I’ll take a road bike next time.
So THEN, I didn’t know what to expect for the run. You maaaaaaay have gathered by now that the run is my weak spot. Unlike the bike course (which we rode three loops of before the race), however, we didn’t scout out the run course. MISTAKE. I was second out of the water by a matter of feet, dominated the dojo on the bike course thanks to some power zone intel from Coach Steve and our amazeballs coaching software, then …set out for a three mile run on terrain that promised to be severely uncomfortable terrain for me: HILLS.
Well, like the bike course, the run course had it all: the first mile hugged the coast and was fairly “flat.” Then the road tipped up and I started to panic. It wound back and forth and arrows pointed me up the apex of another steep bend in the road. I decided to power-walk because I like keeping my heart WITHIN my chest cavity, thankyouverymuch. At this point I knew I held the lead, and I knew I was risking it. I reasoned with myself that I was only doing the best I could, but some woman come around me at any moment, or maybe someone from another wave would pick me off again. For the time being, only a few men were swinging around me, though. I continued to powerwalk/run until the road tipped down (my favorite direction), at which point I passed some pedestrians who clapped meekly and said “go girls!”
Wait, what? “Girls,” plural? I swiveled my head as far as I could and didn’t hear or see anyone, so continued on my way. Finally, the grade evened out and could discern the FINISH banner. I kept chugging. Dusty made his way out of the crowd and started politely golf clapping for me… but a few seconds later he bent at the waist and started SCREAMING and snapping his arm toward the finish line in a “for God’s sake, pick it up!” kind of way.
That’s when I saw her. She popped up on my left shoulder and started pulling forward. I put on my best flat-hand, Tom-Cruise-running-away-from-an-explosion sprint, but it was too late. She crossed the line 2 seconds ahead of me.
Ugggggggggggggggggggggh. It was kinda the worst, but kinda OK (she was really gracious about it, and said she was busting her ass trying to chase me down, and also there was beer), and kinda like… if I had only known it would come down to TWO SECONDS, I may have made different choices. On one hand, that’s the way it has always gone for me: I get run down. I’ve been able to train my way toward getting passed at later and later points during the race, but it seems inevitable. On the other hand, I should probably convert that “inevitable” feeling into one of “NOT THIS TIME!” at every race, no matter how small or how little I pretend to care about the outcome.
Yessir, after 2013, I’ll be working on reclaiming some race fitness, both mental and physical.
But I won’t give up the post-race beer.