I don't know why I love this race so much. I am much better on flat courses, and I should probably make a flat course my "A" race, not this one! Of course, it's in my back yard, it's run by the awesome CTA, and it has the most energy of any race I've done. All those great first-timer women out there doing this really hard course are very inspiring to me. I guess I do know why I love this race.
I've done every IG, and last year I plateaued at 2:11, a minute slower than the year before. Granted, I was coming off of doing Eagleman for the first time and IG was relegated to B status, but it didn't feel as satisfying as I was used to. So this year it was my A race and I prepared for it using Joe Friel's book, "Your Best Triathlon." It is very detailed and I like not having to think too much about what workout to do next. I recommend the book to anyone who likes Friel's standby "Triathlete's Training Bible" and wants more detail. My goal time for the race was 2:05, with a 25 minutes swim, 1:01 bike, 33 minute run, and 5 minutes total for transitions. I left myself a minute for padding, so 2:04 was my push goal. Based on my training, I had good confidence I could meet those times, but they still required me to work hard for them!
I was thrilled that my husband wanted to come with me to the race for support. After a couple years of seeing me for just a few minutes in transition, I didn't mind that he preferred to sleep in the last three years. But he knew I had an ambitious goal that could place me top 10 in my age group, and seeing me win AG in Hagerstown restoked his interest. To make things even better, my good neighbor, and sometimes training partner, Gloria Serrao was coming with her husband Gary. It was going to be a social morning!
We arrived at 5:30, set up transition, and like everyone else has reported, we were very happy to be able to hang out under the club tent in the rain shower. I had a Gu Roctane 5 minutes before the start.
The IG swim and I don't have a good relationship. My pool swim times have steadily gotten better, but my IG time stubbornly stuck to around 28 minutes. This year I practiced the frantic start, and it helped. I kept in the middle of the washing machine instead of trying to skirt it and lose time. It was nice when things smoothed out and I could concentrate on Long and Strong (thanks Pam!). I'm not fast enough to worry about drafting, but it would be nice some day.
Time was as predicted, even with the time it took to dump the water that had pooled in my aero helmet (no vents in the bottom).
My peaking training did a lot of start pace work so I wouldn't go out too fast on the bike. It took a while to get my bike legs for some reason and they felt a little deader than they should on the hills. I thought I was keeping my power in the right range on the hills. Perhaps I didn't push the pace on 108 coming and going quite hard enough. Still, I was very happy coming into T2 knowing that my total time to that point still made my finishing goal possible. Nutrition info: diluted Cliff Shot energy drink on the bike. Stopped drinking 10 minutes before the end as it sloshes around on the run if I don't. It was great to hear my husband cheering as I came into transition.
Also as expected. I stopped wearing socks last year, and with the help of Tri-Slide, it feels fine. One shoe was a lot wetter than the other for some reason. Perhaps I dumped my helmet water on it. I forgot about it rather quickly.
As with the bike, I practiced my start pace the last week of training, and I'm glad for it. It makes a big difference later on those hills! I went without heart rate monitor or Garmin in the race, and I believe this also helps quite a bit. Your brain can hold you back if it's telling you the numbers aren't right, even if you are feeling up to it. It is a great advantage knowing the course so well. I planned the pacing for each section. 10:00/mi until the first small hill, take that one fairly easy, gradually speed up over the relatively flat section on the north side of the lake, eat a Gu, take the long climb up to and including Gatorade hill at a pace that wouldn't send my breathing and heart rate over the edge, which is probably like 12:00/mi, but I don't really know. Looked forward to the next-to-the-last-hill at the ball field so I could run normally on the flat before the return trip up the hill. The crowd at the hill was fantastic! I included in my race plan to smile up these hills, but I didn't need reminding. It was great to run through that noise! Since I revised my running style using Evolution Running, I enjoy running downhill more than anything. I let loose on the downhill and made up a lot of time, but still keeping my effort in check enough to save it for the last near-mile. At the turn coming out of the woods to the straight-away, my left hamstring decided to cramp up and I limped, then walked for about 20 seconds. A lady in my AG passed me right there. Trying to stay in focus, I "Embraced the Suck" (Yes, I put that great advice in my race plan, too!) and was going to limp as best as I could to the finish line. Luckily,the cramp eased up and I was able to run again. I attempted for about 10 seconds to gain on the person who passed me, but she was moving much faster. I ratcheted up the pace to what I thought I could sustain to the finish. Love that finishing chute! I gave a good fist pump knowing I gave it my best. It was great meeting my time goal, and I honestly feel fine that I just missed out on top 10. Thanks to Gary and Gloria for making it a fun morning, and of course to the awesome tent people (loved the much-needed smoothie!), course support people, water stop people, and mostly to my family for putting up with my sometimes obsessive behavior. Can't wait until next year!