There was so much awesome and so much more that I learned. This was probably my most successful race ever.
A couple of things going into the race:
I never posted a race plan on my blog, so I'll go through those details too. In other words, this could be rather long.....and boring. The forecast was supposed to be hot and windy. Liz and I adjusted my fueling/racing plan based on this. The day before, the forecast changed to cloudy and no wind. BONUS.
As it turned out, the day was hot and windy (during the second half of the bike course). Even though the forecast had moved around, I decided to "plan for the worst" and hope for the best. This was the best thing I've ever done. Many of you know that fueling for an OLY bike has just been a thorn in my side. Last year at SOMA, I nailed my nutrition and was hoping for a similar outcome. Another interesting little twist: the bike course has no aid stations. None.
So. Another weird thing. I couldn't get a straight answer on how long the bike course was. In the athlete guide, on the website and at the athlete meeting, there were 5 different distances. Again, plan for the worst, hope for the best. I love being on the bike. I'll never complain about having to ride longer, but it does take fuel (especially when the course has none).
Transition set up.
Transition opens stupid early, like they all do. The woman next to me starts explaining to me how to set up my transition area. Like most triathletes, we all have our own patterns of behaviors. We keep doing things over and over so they become habit and on race day, we don't have to think about it.
I said to her, "I think I'm good. Thanks." She went on. I finally left to just get away from it for awhile.
This is really judgmental of me, but she had a really sweet bike. Let's call her FiFi. FiFi was really lean. Very fit. I kept thinking to myself, "Why do you even care? You will be LONG gone before I even finish."
At the same time, I would never say things to other athletes unless they ask. Let them do their thing. That's what they've practiced. That's what they know. On race day, some athletes like to talk. Others want to be quiet. Some people dump their bags and some have a meticulous way of setting up their areas. Respect the other athletes.
The plan for the swim was to go out moderately and negative split. Actually, that's the plan for the entire race.
The race has an olympic, a sprint and a super sprint. The Oly race started first. I was the last wave. That meant that the sprinters and super sprinters going after me.....well, they plus my age group were probably going to collide at the turnaround points for those distances.
I lined up in the front. All women +40 were in blue swim caps. I lined up in the front of the swim. Yeah, I know that's a little cocky right? I mean ALL women over 40, and I line up at the front?
For the first time in a long time, I was nervous at the start. I really wanted a successful race, and I was so worried that I wasn't going to be able to pull it off....that I was going to screw up something. Not really a vote of confidence, but sometimes that happens. This is the Oly distance. It's a hard distance for me, and I feel like I'm still just a newbie at the distance.
When the gun went off, everyone took off. The women you're just talking to and joking around with are now beating the shit out of you.
I was instantly passed by by what seemed to be half the field, but I knew that they were all going to pass out in due time.
Sure enough by 300m, they were all dropping back. By 650m, It was me and two other women (that I could see). I didn't know or really care where I was in the +40 women. I had these two women with me, and I was going to try to drop them as soon as I hit the the next buoy.
Looking back, I should have gone a little faster at the beginning, but that's because of what I found out later.
What I found out was that when the oly, sprint and super sprint all collided, it was mass CHAOS. We hit very new triathletes who were doing the back stroke. We ran into the slowest sprinters. We were already passing the slowest men from the Oly. It was crazy.
I held my line. I wanted to get faster. I felt like I had "faster" in me, but I had to be strategic at the same time. I saw one guy swim right into a buoy. Another backstroker cut right in front of me going horizontal.
When we made the last turn, I saw an opening. I had a straight line to the exit. I didn't look at my garmin. I felt good about my swim.
I grabbed the volunteers hand and up and out of the water they pulled me.
I went TEARING down the runway to get to T2. I saw Mr. Tea. He yelled at me "YOU'RE TOP TEN OUT OF THE WATER."
Top 10? Wait. There's no way I'm top 10. I'm almost always 1 or 2. Whatever. It's time to RUN. And I ran to transition.
I PASSED PEOPLE RUNNING TO TRANSITION. All I knew was that whatever I had to do to make this a great day, I was going to make it happen.
That's a first.
I get to transition. I told Liz ahead of time that I was going to take my time. I wanted to reapply sunscreen. Well, I spent a little too much time there as I stared in disbelief.....the simple fact:
ALL THE BIKES WERE STILL RACKED.....EVEN FIFI. EVERY BIKE IN MY AGE GROUP WAS SITTING THERE.
Now, I've never....not once....podiumed at an Oly. BUT, I knew I had a really good swim, and the shocked look on my face must have been obvious because a guy on the next rack said to me, "you had a great swim."
And the thought stayed with me. FIFI's bike was still on the rack. She might pass me sometime today, but for right now....i beat Fifi.
I see Mr. Tea. I think I yelled at him. I'm not sure. All I know is that I'm ALL geeked up.
Most of you know that I got a new bike last week. What you probably didn't know is that I had not been able to ride it outside. I had NO idea what it was going to be like.....until yesterday when I took it for a spin around Tempe.
Let me say this. Me and Deus Ex Machina were made for each other.
As I hop on, I noticed that I wasn't getting any power or cadence info. Ok. That's fine. It usually takes a few seconds.
A few seconds later, I got nothing. I think back. Did I calibrate? Yes. Um. I'm at a loss. This is now the 2nd race that I will be racing without power.
I start doing some quick calculations. I didn't want to follow HR. (With the heat, it might be elevated). I decided to set a goal of 20mph. Based on my 70.3 last year, I thought I could pretty easily manage 20mph but anything above and beyond that is what I wanted. 20mph was the minimum speed.
My goal was to take the first 10-15 minutes building. Then, go for it.
This was really really tough for me. What was 171-182 watts going to feel like on my first ride outside? Was 20mph going to be hard enough?
It was all I had to go on. Demi can corner like no bike I've ever had. She climbs like a a GOD.
The men that I didn't catch on the swim, I would look, plot my strategy. (sharp turns, narrow passing lanes)....
The only people that were catching me were the men in the sprint race. There were no women. I would catch woman in the previous waves and pass them.
At this point, I'm averaging over 20mph. I'm fueling according to plan. THEN, I see a pack of men. Clearly they sprinkled too much testerone on their Wheaties. I could make a move to catch them, but I had a feeling I should hold back for a second.
Just then, a guy from behind makes a passing move on a narrow section. I think to myself.
That's when I see the rider behind HIM, ALSO make a passing move.
And I SCREAMED, "NO!"
No one yelled out "passing" or "on your left. The guy in the middle got malachi crunched. He swerved into the guy passing. The collision of those two sent a 3rd rider down.
Four bikes down, immediately in front of me. I saw bikes flying and athletes skidding across the ground. I SCREAMED to the guy I just passed, "CUT RIGHT! CUT RIGHT!"
We both swerved into the lane of traffic.
We make our way around the accident and back into the race lanes. I didn't look back, but I'm sure bikes were stopping. (They had to). And I was hoping there was no more damage other than bruised egos.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. I never saw another woman in my AG until the woman from Havasu (Karen) passed me. We talked for a bit. She came in 3rd at Havasu, and I came in 3rd too. (Different race distances).
With 10 miles left, the wind hit. It was like riding into a wall. I saw my pace dropping and dropping and dropping. Liz had said to me, "Your speed will drop. Don't worry about it." But without power, how do I know if I'm going hard enough? Maybe I should be going harder? I stayed aero. And I pushed it.
As I came around the corner to head to T2. I glanced at my watch. 1:14. Wait. How's that possible. That's a 10 minute bike PR. I hopped off my bike and went RUNNING once again into transition.
Mr. Tea. has a HUGE smile. I had told him to look for me at around 1:30, but he got there early. All I kept thinking was, "EMAIL LIZ. TELL HER WHAT I DID!"
I threw my stuff down in transition. I stared again.
FiFi's bike was still not in.
Fueling: 450 Calories, 36oz of water and 1400 mg of sodium.
As I exited T2, I yelled to Mr. Tea. "Did you see what I did? Did you see it?" I think he was laughing at me.
I took off running.....or MY version of running.
So, the run. What I learned today, and this is a big deal....is that I space out on hills. I start plodding along. When I get to the downhill, I don't pick up the pace.
Even though, physically, I CAN. My legs felt great. I just plain space out.
I noticed this after the first loop. It's hot. I'm taking water and walking through the aid stations. I'm throwing ice down my shirt.
I get to the top of a hill....and I start to plod along the down hill.
WTF? SO. HELP. ME. Don't make me go all
Are you willing to just THROW AWAY a PR?
Well, yes and no. The run was 6.5 miles. Although, I'm not sure, I think that's a PR pace.
But the biggest thing for me is that I now know that I have to keep my focus. I knew I wasn't afraid of running out of energy or blowing up.....but I couldn't quite figure out what I was doing wrong.
Also, I learned that my body is very strong. I was running, and I could physically feel the difference. That, to me, is a really big deal. I've never really felt that way before.
Now that I know that I can fuel correctly on the bike, and that I fuel correctly on the run (300 calories), and that I'm physically capable of running a 10k off the bike.....I'm ready for the next step.
I know it probably seems like I'm a slow learner and that I should just be able to run faster. You might be right. But, I'm really happy with my progress. There were a lot of issues that I've had to work through and some might be very basic to those of you that are runners, but I've had to learn them. On the other hand, there are things that completely come naturally to me on the swim and bike; things that take other people a long time to learn.
I can't begin to say how happy I am with this race overall. I have a sprint next month and then another Oly in June.
Although I think I did a pretty good job on the bike, I'd like to see if I was on track with my watts. A PR is great, but what if I can do better? The swim will be what it will, honestly. There are a lot of factors with the swim. Is the course measured correctly? Did I swim straight or go off course? Today's 1500m felt SO SHORT. Because of that, I think I have more speed in me. The run: I'm happy with taking baby steps. I don't know what my next goal will be, but I know that I'm strong enough to run a 10k. I know that I have to work on my focus. Focus comes very naturally on the swim and bike. I don't know why I have to work so hard on the run, but I do.
I know this was very very long. I'm very very tired.
Thank you all for all your encouragement, calling me out on my own bullsh*t and being the best cheerleaders around (when I really need it).