I was a complete mess before this one. My first tri ever was last year’s Columbia, and it coincided with my first ever OWS. A buddy of mind told me that if I swim in the pool with my eyes closed, it’s basically the same. It wasn’t the same. So, after a 39 minute back stroke, I finished the race in over 3 hours. So for this year, I made it a point to get out to Gunpowder, Sandy Point, and that Racine swim, coupled with a better swimming schedule in the pool. I also had a marathon 3 weeks before, so I knew that I was in running shape, and was just hoping that would carry over to the bike. But I was still very nervous, especially for the swim. I think it’s natural though and I hope it’ll get better with the more races I do.
Up at 4, had my normal breakfast of onion bagel with butter and cheese and a nice bowl of frosted flakes. I read everywhere of people eating “healthy things”, but I just don’t for breakfast, I usually carb it up. Lots of cereal. And, this was the last of the frosted flakes, so all this sugar poured out on top; and it was so good going down. Anyhow, it’s just what I’m used to; I need to have food in my stomach before a major event/race or I’ll be a mess psychologically. So I figure I’m not going to change anything now. Got my gear in the car, and hydroplaned to the park. Sat for a bit, ate 2 small bites of a powerbar, drank a little water, and swam to the transition to set up and hope the rain would stop sometime soon. The rain certainly wasn’t helping my nerves.
Swim – 29:22
Spent some time at the tent, my wife was volunteering, an hour wait after the pros went and the 15 minute delay, I started my walk out to the water. Apparently I forgot that you cannot stand at the start. That was no good, treading in water waiting for the countdown. But I remember some advice of going under, exhaling slowly, rising up, and repeating. It helped me get acclimated to the blindness and muck of Centennial. I started near the back; too many stories of people swimming over you and getting kicked, so I figure after my swim debacle of last year, I’ll just hang loose on this one. Not a big problem, but I found myself on my back twice in the beginning while waiting for the pack to thin out. Finally it did, and I was able to get into a decent rhythm. I breathe every stroke and always to my right, and it was much easier to site when you just have to make sure that someone is to your right and watch them. I kind of panicked a bit in the beginning, but it didn’t last long. I think the OWS training swims that I did really helped calm myself down. It was smooth up to the turns. A few kicks in the head and a few course corrections to get by some people, but nothing major that wasn’t adjustable. I think my main concern was keeping my rhythm going; it’s just so much easier to relax when I don’t have to think about too much. Stroke, breathe, stroke, breathe. Finally, after the turns, I started passing people, which really boosted my confidence. Near the island, I did a few 10 stroke ‘sprints’, followed by a 10 stroke relaxed pace. Finally I reached the best part of the tri for me, feeling dirt after a stroke and realizing that I made it to the end. I put both hands down, flipped my feet under me, took the second to make sure I could stand, and started moving to the T1. I got to the ramp at 29 minutes; a huge relief compared to last year.
T1 was fine, but because of the rain, I kept my shoes and socks inside of my tub (I use a laundry detergent tub to sit on, and store stuff for transitions. It makes it much easier to get my wetsuit off and shoes and socks on while sitting) got those out, popped them on, and took the bike and was off. Luckily, the bike leg wasn’t an issue today. I typically stand up on the up hills and attack them hard and that was my plan for this race. I knew with the rain, standing up would mean my rear tire would slip, but that was actually rarely the case. I went pretty hard on the uphills, and just recovered on the downhills, and with the little flats that we have, I just tucked into the aero position and hammered it. If my computer read over 30mph, that would mean no pedaling for me and that made it so much easier to get a breath back. The biggest issue was that both my helmet and bike sticker flew off (this caused a slight headache when I was trying to leave the transition area after the race as my bike wasn’t marked at all). I pumped the brakes on the sharp turns but really didn’t have any issues. Took a gu when I got back to 108, and maybe had 4 gulps each of water and powerade during the ride. Nothing substantial. I felt really good.
Bike – 1:16:06 – 20mph
T2 was fine again, easy enough to rack, change shoes, grab the belt and move to the run. My last few training runs involved an acute stomach cramp, so I figured pre-race that I would go hard on the bike, and see what I can do on the run. I felt ok going up the first hill (I guess the drummer guy was supposed to help, but I found him really annoying, I hope he wasn’t MMTC related, he just didn’t do it for me) and when I got to the first mile marker, I was at 7:26 so I knew I was in a good place mentally and physically. But I still didn’t push it. I figured that could have been the adrenaline, but when I hit 7:25 on the second mile, I realized that I was poised to hit a pretty good time and decided that I’m feeling good enough to push it. Miles 3 and 4 are the roughest for me. The hills were tough, but I just kept moving, leaning into the uphills, head down, loose hands, and just letting gravity work on the downhills. I didn’t take any water in, but dumped a cup on my head at each stop. I guess I could have used some water, but I didn’t feel like slowing up, so this made more sense for me. Then after the last hill I had a Centennial training run moment. I came upon a group of 3 guys, running next to each other on the path. 3 abreast? I had to go way over to the left to pass them, but whatever, I was on the straight-away now so it was easy to refocus on the finish. I actually sprinted quite hard for the last 0.2 or so. I guess that meant I had too much left and could have pushed a bit more on the run, though I’m not sure, it could have been the vision of the finish line just the same.
46:33 – 7:30 pace
2:36:32 total, beat last year by 26 minutes.
Oh, I also think hearing the MMTC support throughout the course was a huge boost mentally. It was great and gave me a huge grin even after that big climb to the gas station circle.