This past Sunday, I officially kicked off my 2015 racing season at the South Beach Triathlon: I raced the classic distance (0.5-mile ocean swim, 20.7-mile bike, and 4-mile run), took second place in my new age group (female 25-29), and finished sixth female overall!
Any day you find yourself on the podium is a good day.
Although I’m bummed about missing the top AG podium spot—and cracking the top five—by 36 seconds, I’m satisfied with this outing; it confirmed training is going well, and it helped me learn an important nutrition lesson. And it proved I have zero patience for Walls of Dudes.
Even though this is my third year truly training and racing triathlons, I’m still figuring out how to navigate the taper. Especially for a shorter race, it’s important to stay sharp and not become a total taper sloth. With that in mind, I’d classify the week before the race as a “mini taper”: my swim workouts remained the same; my bike workouts were on the easier side, but still contained tougher efforts; and my run intensity decreased.
Another reason I love Tailwind Endurance: personalized race-week workouts. Unpictured: peptalk.
My confidence and mental game came and went during my mini taper too, especially after Wednesday’s CompuTrainer ride with VO2 max efforts didn’t go incredibly well. Earl knew I was feeling all the feelings and gave me a peptalk: “Confidence is a choice. You need to choose to be confident.”
One more pre-race happening that’s worth noting: Saturday stressed me out more than I would’ve liked due to bike mechanical issues. During bike unload at the team trailers, my rear tire had gone flat, and I needed a special-sized tube. One of my teammates went to the bike shop for me to get a new one, but it immediately blew out again when I rode. So then I wheeled my Slice over to the shop where a cute mechanic told me the rim tape was installed improperly, which caused the tube to puncture. There was also a hole in my tire. Seventy-five dollars later, everything was fine. Luckily, this didn’t affect my race, but it proved I need to step up my bike geek game.
Anyway, on Sunday morning, as I stood wetsuit-less the sand, I started to get in my own head–and immediately shut down those doubts. I am locked in and ready to rock. I’ve got this.
Swim – 0.5 mi. – 14:02 (1/43 AG, 3/249 women overall)
*Last year – 15:04 with wetsuit
Since this year’s race took place two weeks later than the 2014 one, a major concern for a lot of folks centered on wetsuits, especially because wearing neoprene was barely legal last year. I brought my Helix to Florida just in case, but assumed the swim would be wetsuit-illegal. Which is was. Which benefited me as a strong swimmer. Yahtzee—now people can’t hide in neoprene!
As outlined in my race goals, I wanted to set the tone early and race from the front, so I made sure I was one of the first four women in my age group to enter the water. (It was a time trial start, and groups of four were released at a time.) And immediately I hit a Wall of Dudes, a fixture that would remain constant for most of the race. (The Clydesales, males 35-39, and males 50-54 all started before my age group.) My basketball instincts kicked in; I made moves, created space, and swam over dudes when necessary—and settled into a rhythm. Smooth and strong. Smooth and strong.
As I came out of the water, I sensed it was a 14-15-min. swim, and my instincts were spot on.
Transition 1 – 2:47 (2/43 AG, 3/249 women overall)
I felt like Andy Potts coming out of the water. #fangirl
Dudes, watch out—I have watts to make!
Bike – 20.7 miles – 1:00:04 (3/48 AG, 7/248 women overall)
*Last year – 1:04:39
All right, let’s talk watts. Everything about the bike made me excited: another year of training, another year of experience on my Slice, and fun toys like an aero helmet and race wheels. And although it would’ve been awesome to go all-out, I knew my run would suffer. But I aimed to break an hour, and although I rode with a bike computer, I rarely looked at it. Instead, I focused on the feeling. And the feeling was awesome. I felt smooth and strong, I stayed mentally engaged, and I read and reacted to the course without having to think: I pushed on the hills, “touched” my VO2 max effort, and then settled back in; I shifted and surged seamlessly. It was really cool to execute a strong ride where everything felt natural.
The only times my mental game wavered was went I approached a Wall of Dudes. Like last year, the course was extremely congested, and it’s hard to execute your race when people ride two or three abreast. Yes, I was totally that athlete who yelled, “on your left! On your left! On your left!” And more often than not, those individuals would not move. In the moment, I became extremely frustrated because their actions (or inactions, rather) were affecting my race. Luckily, I was able to calm down, refocus, and make the best (and safest) moves, but unfortunately, this is probably a problem I’ll have to get used to.
Navigating the Wall of Dudes. The struggle is real.
Anyway, around mile 15 or so, and another woman in my age group appeared. I wasn’t sure if she was doing the classic or Olympic, but I couldn’t take that chance. All right—lock it in. We played leapfrog a few times, and as I surged, I caught up to one of my teammates who hasn’t seen me ride since last year. “Holy s***, you’re strong!” he exclaimed.
With about 10 minutes left, I tried to take a gel, but as I ripped open the top, the perforated part didn’t catch properly. My double latte goodness didn’t come out. In the moment, I figured it wasn’t a big deal. It’s only a four-mile run. I’ll be fine. Plus, the same girl made a countermove and passed me—and I didn’t want to lose time trying to take a gel.
As we rolled into T2 seconds apart, I wished the bike was longer. But then I realized something: I can run. I’ve got this. I’ve never felt this confident coming off the bike, which is huge progress. (All thanks to you, Coach Pat!)
Transition 2 – 2:13 (7/43 AG, 20/249 women overall)
Got stuck behind a Wall of Dudes wheeling bikes into transition. Nothing I could do there.
Run – 4 miles – 32:48 (4/43 AG, 18/248 women overall)
*Last year – 30:54
As I headed out on the run, I knew I’d have my work cut out for me. Not only did the woman in my age group beat me out of T2 by a few seconds, but the cloudy skies also parted and revealed a raging sun. (After the race, locals said it had been record-setting heat.) Luckily, one of my teammates who was spectating ran with me for a few seconds and helped me settle in to my target pace. Like on the bike, I wore a Garmin, but didn’t look at it too much: focus on the feeling. I’m working, but it feels sustainable. Don’t become emotionally attached to the numbers.
What is my left leg doing? Ha!
Within the first mile, I reeled her in, and we matched strides for a few seconds. Smooth and strong. Smooth and strong. At this point, I wondered if I should cruise with her or if I should make a move. Although I feel comfortable controlling the race on the swim and bike, my confidence isn’t quite there on the run yet. But I didn’t want it to come down to a sprint; I needed to put on a little pressure. I was able to create a gap, and as I hit the turnaround at mile two, my splits were on track. I spotted her about 20 seconds back, and I knew I’d have to hang tough for the final two miles. I was executing, and it was my race to lose.
Around mile 2.5, my energy levels tanked. My legs felt fine, but turning them seemed impossible. Why didn’t I take my gel?! She eventually caught me, and we ran together again for a few seconds. As she slowly started to pull ahead, I knew that was the move. I had to match it, or it was over. And I couldn’t. Her lead ballooned, and even though I could see her the entire time, that second wind—that double latte—never kicked in.
And the last half-mile was on the sand again, which was awful.
Official finishing time – 1:51:52 – 2nd in age group (25-29) and sixth female overall
*Last year – 1:56:11
Going into the race, I knew if I executed and everything lined up, I knew I’d be around 1:50 and crack the top five, but Sunday was not that day. Both the controllable nutrition hiccup and uncontrollable heat/humidity worked against me, but any day you get on the podium is a good day.
So what did I learn? My triathlon training arsenal—consisting of the Bearcats, Tailwind, and Coach Pat—is solid. Which I’ve known all along, but it’s a huge confidence booster to confirm I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing. It really takes a village, and I’m very grateful for the folks surrounding me—coaches, mentors, and friends. This race also highlighted the importance of sticking to the nutrition plan and remaining composed when facing tough conditions like heat and Walls of Dudes. In all seriousness, though, I’m satisfied with this race, and I’m pumped to keep working hard and improving. Bring it on, 2015!