This past Saturday, I completed the HITS Kingston Triathlon, my second swim-bike-run race of the season and my first Olympic-distance one. It was a pretty good outing.
The Tailwind crew
Originally, I was supposed to do Stamford a few weeks ago, but my bike crash altered those plans. Shortly after going to Lake Placid for training camp, I started searching for another pre-Nationals tune-up, and one of my Tailwind friends mentioned this race. Not only was it a short two-hour drive north, but it was also one month out from the Big Milwaukee Dance, and it was a more challenging (read: hilly) course. He also has a house about 20 minutes away. Sign me up!
Even though the HITS Series produces races nationwide, its Kingston inaugural event felt very much like a yokel local race. Combined, the sprint, Olympic, half-Iron, and full-Iron distances saw maybe 300 people, and the race director told us at the athlete briefing only 85 folks registered for the Olympic. (Also, the Iron Cowboy was there!) Therefore, it was small field, but that didn’t affect my race plan: work the swim, push the bike, and see how long I could hold it together on the run. My coaches gave me the go-ahead to redline the bike and ride at 85-95 percent, which made me excited in a twisted, sadistic way only endurance athletes would understand. Why? Well, I needed to see what kind of split I could throw down prior to Nationals. And two, the only reason it would make sense to hold back on the bike would be to run fast off it. Thanks to my bike crash recovery and lack of speedwork, I did not have the top-end speed that would warrant being conservative in the saddle. Basically, I was physically and mentally prepared to blow up on the run. (Spoiler: I did.)
Swim – 1,500m – 26:39 (2/6 AG and 5th female OA)
A two-loop route, this course’s challenges included the mass start and the Hudson River’s current. Let’s start with the mass start.
Only a handful of races I’ve done had mass starts—most notably Nationals—but even then, it’s a mass age-group start. At Kingston, there were a ton of burley dudes to deal with. Even though I’m a relatively strong swimmer, I situated myself conservatively because I didn’t want to get pummeled. So much for that. Hands down, this was the most aggressive swim start I’ve experienced—so much kicking, punching, and grabbing. At the turnaround buoy, one dude grabbed my shoulder and shoved me underwater! (“That’s some real ITU s***!” my friend told me after.) Luckily, my basketball instincts kicked in, and I was able to hold my own. Unfortunately, the Wall of Aggressive Dudes never relented because the 70.3 and 140.6 guys started beforehand; just as I’d swim away from one pack, there’d be another surge.
Second, we had to contend with the current not once, but twice. Gotta love loop courses! Initially, I didn’t think it would be strong, but I swam far, far left my first loop because the current pushed me toward the shore. My timing chip also came off during this portion, so I spent 30 seconds fumbling around and treading water trying to put it back on.
Overall, this was not a great swim, but it was effective from a tune-up perspective. Sure, the split was slower than I would’ve liked, but more importantly, it reminded me what it’s like to be in an aggressive open-water environment—and I was able to hang tough and stay mentally sound.
Transition 1 – 1:30 (1/6 AG and 5th female OA)
My transitions weren’t efficient at South Beach, so I focused on moving through these sections quickly. Case in point: I came out of the water with another girl, stayed on her shoulder as we ran into T1, and beat her out on the bike.
Bike – 40-K – 1:18:00 (1/6 AG and 3rd female OA)
As outlined in my race goals, I planned to redline the bike and ride hard miles. Although I was physically prepared to enter the pain cave, this ride ended up being much more mentally demanding than I anticipated.
Elevation profile (also #LetsTalkWatts)
I saw only four people on the ride: two girls who I passed, and two dudes who passed me. This meant I was riding completely solo without anyone in sight. The super fast dudes were ahead of me, and I figured I was in the top five for women. A few times, I even wondered if I was still on course because there were no signs, volunteers, or fellow athletes. That’s when it dawned on me: I am racing myself. This was a great opportunity to dial in and execute, but I had to work harder to stay mentally engaged and not ease off the gas just because no one else was around.
Focus on the feeling. Focus on the feeling. I don’t have a power meter, but I’ve spent enough time at FTP to know what it feels like, and I was there. I also focused on pushing a bigger gear and maintaining 90 RPMs as opposed to downshifting and spinning at 93-95 RPMs, which I do by default.
Overall, I felt strong, and I also felt like I was out there a long time. This is a decent split (and the woman who had the fastest bike and won the race is a pro so …), but I was not planning to spend 78 minutes at FTP; I was actually hoping for 70. Did this extra pain cave time affect my run? Probably.
Transition 2 – 0:50 (1/6 AG and 3rd female OA)
Get in, drop stuff, and get out.
Not sure what my tri shorts are doing, but …
While running, I fumbled with my watch and failed to press “start” at the right time, so I knew the distance would be off.
Run – 10-K – 53:10 (4/6 AG and 13th female OA)
So … there’s not much to say. It was a double, out-and-back course with each loop spanning about 1.5 miles.
In theory, this structure would make it easier to divide the run into mini sections, but in reality, I was again left to my own metal devices.
Where is everyone?!
The first loop was relatively OK. My splits were where they needed to be, and I spotted two blazing fast women making moves and heading back while I went to this turnaround. This meant I was the third female overall. And when I started running back, I didn’t see another women for a long, long time. I am racing myself, and it’s my race to lose.
Watts? Where?! Not totally sure what I’m doing here.
However, I knew if I executed the bike right—and rode at FTP for an hour-plus—then I would eventually cook on the run. It was simply a question of when it would happen: mile two, mile three … I really hoped I could make it to mile four, but the halfway point was where things started to go downhill. It was hot. My heart rate was jacked up. It felt like I was working much harder to hold my splits. I made the rookie mistake of drinking too much water, and my stomach was sloshing. Bottom line, I went into survival mode for the final three miles. There were cones set up on the ride of the road that I used to keep myself in it mentally. OK, make it to that cone. Good. Now get to that one.
And as the story of my triathlon career thus far goes, I yet again got run down in the final stretch. With less than a quarter mile left, the woman who eventually took third overall passed me, and I couldn’t answer. Some days you have it, and some days you don’t.
Official finishing time – 2:40:11 (1st AG and 4th female overall)
All and all, this was a productive outing. I reconfirmed I can handle aggressive swims. I also reconfirmed I can, in fact, “grind it out” at 90 RPMs on the bike. I proved I cannot ride at FTP for 78 minutes and expect to hit and hold my target 10-K race pace after. And I learned you sometimes need to race yourself.
Time to lock it in. Next stop: Milwaukee!