Saturday, July 9, 2011

2/3rds of the way there.......

Today was day 2 of racing. Last night was the time trial and today was the 'international' triathlon. The distances were a little shorter than a traditional international race, but with the hills on the course it felt long to me. It was also the Wingman's first triathlon so I was nervous for him as well as trying to focus on my race.

We are staying really close to the race start so there is no need to drive over. We just make the 5 minute walk to the transition area with our stuff. First up was body marking then we made our way into transition to setup our stuff. After I was done with mine, I went over to the Wingman to check out his setup. We reviewed the in/out areas of the transition for the swim/bike/run segments. Before we knew it, it was time to line up for the swim time trial start.

The swim is in a very, very small lake so each racer goes in one at a time every 5 seconds. I had looked into the water earlier and could see there were small rocks in the water. In an effort to avoid the broken toe suffered in my last race, I knew I would go easy into the water. I wished the Wingman good luck and found my spot on the starting line. It took about 12 minutes before it was my turn and I stood at the top of the slope and when I was told to go, I ran down the slope and then slowly got into the water. As soon as I dropped down to swim, I realized the water felt FRIGID!!! I kept trying to swim but I felt so breathless from the cold water. They listed the temps as 70 degrees, but there was no way this area of the lake was 70. I just took it easy until I got a little warmer. At first I thought I made a mistake wearing the sleeveless wetsuit, but as soon as I got to the first turn buoy I was feeling better. The lake swim was weird as the water seemed to change temperatures in various sections. The swim itself is really short, only .25 miles so I was out in less than 10 minutes. Getting out was a challenge too. Plenty of rocks under foot made it a challenge.

I made my way up the slope towards the transition area. I passed up on the wetsuit strippers and got to my rack and got the wetsuit off quickly. I put on my socks, bike shoes, shades, helmet, and grabbed the bike. Once out of transition I mounted the bike and started my 20.5 mile ride.

Basically the bike course elevation profile is a big U shape. First half of the ride is downhill and the second half is uphill. I knew I had to bomb the downhill section as I would lose time coming back up. I was flying along and before I knew it, I was at the turnoff. After ~ 8 miles there is a small loop that you do before you come back out. Wingman and I drove the course yesterday so I knew where the hills were. This first one at the turn off was a doozy. I knew I would have to drop down into my small ring to get up it. It looked steep from the car, but it was much steeper on the bike. When I looked down at my bike computer, it said it was a 16% grade. You just don't find many hills like that on Long Island. But I just focused on spinning up.....ok, more like grinding up the hill. Once over the top I popped back onto my big ring and recovered with a slight downhill. The road surface was not too smooth so I was moving around a bit to avoid any bumps that would slow me down. Otherwise, the loop section wasn't too bad. Any uphill area was preceded by a downhill so you had some momentum to climb back up.

Before I knew it, I was flying back onto the main road. The uphill route back to the transition area was about to begin. It's roughly 8 miles of uphill riding. It's very misleading because some of it is a false flat. I looked down at my computer and it was telling me the 'flat' area was 2-3% grades. I kept the gear light and easy for spinning and kept staring at the computer for the distance. I so desperately wanted to get off the bike. The constant pedaling was wearing me down a little. I started to think "how am I possible going to run after this?" but I quickly got back into the moment and stopped worrying about what was coming. Before I knew it I was at the last climb which is the steepest of the last series of climbs. I just hammered over the top of it and once again re-introduced myself to the big ring. I had about a half mile to spin it out before I had to transition to the run.

My legs were feeling fresher by the time I reached the transition area. I was somewhat pleased by my bike time seeing as how I am not a hill rider. I changed my shoes, grabbed one last swig of my drink and made my way out to the run. I took it easy going out as I wanted to find my running legs. I focused on my leg turnover and keeping a steady rhythm. I was wearing my Garmin GPS, but didn't really look down to see my pace. I was going by feel. Once I hit the first mile marker I could see I had a good first mile. The time was better than I felt. As I went through the first water stop I took a gel and some water. Normally I would go without for 5 miles, but since I am racing again tomorrow, I didn't want to deplete myself too badly. The run course was pretty flat with only 1 uphill in both directions. The hill was steep for me so I power walked it to save some energy since I knew I could not run it any faster. After this hill it was mostly shaded. I ran along wondering how the Wingman was doing. I was also hoping that the turnaround was coming soon.

I kept on running and at the turnaround I had another gel and some water. I could feel my energy level picking up. I felt stronger on the 2nd half of the run so I knew my nutrition plan was working. I took advantage of this new found surge and tried to hold on to it. I don't think I was actually running faster, but I felt more power in my stride. I kept it going and was looking for the Wingman. Since the entire run course was an out and back style, I knew I would see him at some point. It was on my big downhill and his uphill where we exchanged high-5's.

When the GPS buzzed that I was 4 miles in, I was thrilled to know that there was only 1 more mile to run. I barely remember that last mile as I was focused on finishing (aka tunnel vision). I was getting closer to the transition area and could hear the spectators ringing their cowbells like crazy. I somehow found another gear and motored around the long finishing chute to a 1st place finish in my division.

I felt pretty good at the end of the race. My legs were tired, but otherwise not too bad. I think the bike course hills tomorrow will be challenging for me. I will certainly feel the fatigue of the entire weekend of racing while climbing back up the hills.

My proudest moment of the race was watching the Wingman cross the finish line of his first triathlon. It was a hard race with the hills, but he handled it well and he is welcomed into the club of triathlon finishers!!

Tomorrow is my last race of the weekend. It is a shorter distance than today (.25 mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3 mile run), but it will still hurt. I just hope I have some running left in my legs when I get off the bike.

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