This weekend I was in NJ for the Bassman International Triathlon
.6 mile swim, 31.1 mile bike, 5.1 mile run
This winter my training was based around some goals I set for my 'A' race in June. But the winter stretched out a little too long. I was stuck indoors for far too long and it was giving me a bad case of cabin fever. I was unable to continue training to the levels I was doing weeks earlier due to burnout. I was in need of a race. Badly in need. Danielle and I talked things over and figured Bassman would be a good training race for me. For me, a training race just means a super hard effort at set paces, etc without worry of the outcome. If I crash and burn during the race, I learn what went wrong and how to not repeat it next time. Or I can just bury myself and see how I perform. This was basically the plan for today. I shared a quote I found with Danielle: "The race is only a vehicle to bring out what is there already." Bassman would show me what fitness I had.
Before the race I got a message from Danielle and she gave me one thought to focus on for the race. No time goals, no power goals, just a thought.
On Friday I snuck in a quick open water swim to get used to the cold water temps and my wetsuit. It was a good swim and I had Danielle accompany me on her paddleboard in case I ran into trouble.
Knowing I had this swim under my belt, I wasn't worried about the lake temperature in NJ. I got an email from the race director saying it was 60 degrees in the lake. I knew I would be OK as my swim Friday was in temps just under 60. Except on race morning the dreaded announcement came out that the lake temp had dipped a little to 52 degrees. 52?!?!? Oh boy, that'll be a cold one. I grabbed a second swim cap so I could wear two of them to keep my head warm. I had my full sleeved wetsuit for this race. The asked us to get into the lake to 'warm up' and get used to the water. The worst part of it for me is when the cold water goes through the zipper and hits my back. Takes my breath away. I splashed some water on my face and swam a little. I was doing everything I could to prevent myself from hyperventilating once the gun went off.
When the race finally started, I was swimming comfortably. Well, as comfortably as one can when they are shivering and teeth are chattering. I was keeping my eye on the swimmers around me. I was anticipating people stopping or breast stroking and interrupting my rhythm. I wanted to be done with the swim as soon as possible. I did get caught in a few packs which made it hard to move around, but I kept going. The swim was a quick one (compared to last season) and I made my way up to transition to get ready for the bike. I felt great coming out of the water so I didn't lose much energy there.
I quickly changed and headed out on the bike. I've had some trouble lately hitting my power numbers in my workouts, so I was hoping that this race would give me a little boost/jump start to bring my numbers back up. I tried to get going right out of the gate, but I knew that was a mistake. My feet and legs were a little cold from the swim. I needed 1-2 miles to get my cycling legs under me. Once I got my rhythm, I pushed the effort. The bike was a two loop course with the 2nd loop being longer than the first. The course was flat which is good and bad. It's good for me because I am terrible at climbing hills. It's bad because you don't get any chance to use the downhills to recover. This meant I was going to be pedaling nonstop for 31.1 miles. I had no downhills for relief. I had to bury myself. The entire time I kept repeating Danielle's words in my head - I could hear her voice asking the same question over and over. And my response was to keep pounding the pedals and turning over my legs.
As I finished the 1st loop I grabbed a water bottle from an aid station and took a long drink. It was time to put my head down and bury myself for the 2nd and longer loop. My legs burned with each pedal stroke, but I couldn't let up. Not now. I kept pushing and pushing. Occasionally I looked down at my garmin to see what my effort was. The power numbers were not what I was hoping for, but the speed was faster than I anticipated. We lucked out with no wind on the ride but again, there is good and bad. No tailwind to assist and take some pressure off, but no headwind to slow me down. This bike outcome was going to be all me - no excuses. The last 10 miles of the bike I was flip flopping positions with one guy. I would ride up into the 'draft zone' and have to commit to making a pass. After a while, he would pass me. this went on for the last few miles. It was good for me as I wanted to keep up with him and also to hold him off from passing me to early. On his last pass he said "come on, we're almost there." One last time I heard Danielle's words and buried myself. My legs were in fire by this point.
Over the last two miles of the bike I started to think a little about the run. I was hoping my legs would hold up for the run. But I dropped the thought and figured I'd worry about it when I put my running shoes on.
By now I was in transition and getting ready to run. The Wingman was there cheering me on. When I came out to run, he told me where he thought I was in the standings. I told him 'no way, I think I'm in the back of the pack'. My legs did not want to turn over as I talked with him. He ran alongside me for a few yards to try and convince me that I might be in a better position than I figured. What if he was right? Crap, that meant burying myself again. Could I attempt to chase anyone down and improve my standing? Or do I have to run hard to hold off any challengers? Again, Danielle's words echoed in my ear. It was time to move.
The run surface was pavement and packed trails. I'm not used to running on the trails so I knew I would be a little slower. I tried to keep my pace up, or at least the effort levels. I had no clue where I was in the standings, but I certainly didn't want to lose a chance at doing something great. Once again, I had to turn myself inside out and give it everything I had. I was incredibly uncomfortable and was keeping an eye out for the mile markers. I knew as the run went on, I was getting hotter and my pace slowed down. But I had to try and make a go of it.
I was never happier to see the marker for mile 4. Only 1.1 miles to go then I could sit down!! I just had to keep pushing. I felt miserable out there, but that is what I had to do. I was fading and my pace was slowing.
The last 1/4 mile flew by and I was in the finishing shoot and thrilled to be done. After I crossed the finish line, the Wingman was there to great me. I was desperate for some water. I grabbed a bottle and found my results. I saw that I finished 1st in my age group. I was stunned. I actually asked the timing guy to explain to me if the results were correct. There was no way I could be 1st. He said as far as he knew they were correct.
In my wildest dreams, I never thought this was possible. It was a good test to see where I am at right now. I still have a lot of work to do to improve my bike before my big race in June. Plus it was nice to have a quick race to break up my training. I left everything out there today on the bike and run course.
I've earned my rest day tomorrow, but it's right back at it Tuesday. Not much rest for the weary.