Some people like to dust off the cobwebs with an early season sprint or olympic tri to get back into the swing of racing. Not me. All of my A races are short course, why not use this tune up race to do a distance that I don’t usually get to fit into my schedule? And so Coach Matt Mauclair thought it would be a good test of early season fitness to sign up for a low key local half iron distance race at Lake Raystown Triathlon. Raystown is also an awesome event because you can win some great stuff like an LG aero helmet, gift cards to American Adventure Sports, and serious discounts on Enve and Louis Garneau gear, so that helps to tip the scales when deciding what races to sign up for. With no pressure or expectations for this race, it was pretty relaxed start to finish. I stayed with a group of fellow PTCers in a cabin immediately in front of the transition area, making race day logistics a piece of cake. It’s a nice feeling when inflating my tires (on a finicky disc wheel) was the most stressful part of the day.
Swim – 32:19 – 1.4 miles – First out of the water!
Calm lake, mild temperatures, this swim was so lovely I almost forgot about the whole racing thing. This was my first race in my Blueseventy Helix and it certainly delivered on its reputation as an unbeatably fast wetsuit and as comfortable as swimming sans wetsuit. I was immediately out on my own with an occasional kayak or jet ski escort, so this swim was just about being smooth and efficient through the water. I was first out of the water with a few minutes on the nearest athlete and a time of 32:19. I always look at triathlon swim times relative to my competitors instead of absolute times, since courses are hardly ever the correct distance and vary greatly being with/against current, wetsuit/non wetsuit, etc. Based on the reports of some other athletes, this swim was about 1.4 miles putting me at a sub 1:20/100yd pace. Definitely feels like masters at the Y with Coach Matt is transforming me into a distance swimmer!
Bike – 2:58:39 – 56 miles – 3rd fastest bike split overall
Unlike the swim, the bike was quite eventful. It was a rainy day and the first and last 14 miles of the course were constantly up or down or around a tight bend. It was a lot of being cautious and a lot of shifting. Being first out on the bike is kind of cool, but kind of crappy because you are the first one to run into all the issues. At one point, there was a big black lab loose on the course. I love dogs, but this guy seemed to have a serious hatred for people on bikes. He comes flying out of this front yard and starts chasing me down the road, barking and growling. Luckily we weren’t going up a hill and I was able to sprint away faster than he could run, but that goes on my list of top 5 most terrifying race moments. After a lot of rolling hills, a big climb, and a slow windy downhill, the course becomes peacefully boring, straight, and slightly downhill, then slightly uphill. A great opportunity to sit in aero and prepare for the climbing on the return trip. On the backside of the one big climb around mile 43 on the return trip, you descend 1 mile at a 8% grade, then make a left turn onto a side street. This again is where being first on the bike sucks. You totally surprise the volunteers directing traffic. I was already riding my brakes on this downhill, trying to control my speed on wet roads, when I get a last minute “turn left now!” directive from the volunteer at this corner. Stupidly, my first reaction is to slam on my brakes and actually try to make this sudden left turn. I almost could swing it, but felt my rear tire start skidding and straightened out again just trying to keep my bike upright. A split second later, the 1st place male comes flying past on my left, also missing the turn, and nearly colliding with me had I actually been able to make that turn. Add another one to my list of top 5 most terrifying race moments. The rest of the bike was the same up/down/twisty-turny section as on the way out, and I started to really feel like I overcooked the bike a bit. All I wanted to do at this point was soft pedal the last 10 miles and get ready for the run, but those annoyingly frequent up hills were allowing no such thing. By the end, my legs weren’t just tired, they were in PAIN. I started thinking it might just be best to skip the run altogether.
Run – 1:44:33 – 13.5 miles – 3rd fastest run split overall
I have an unfortunate history of my leg muscles cramping off the bike, so I took T2 slowly and tried to keep my muscles under control. Once they start seizing up, they don’t usually quit, and I felt like I was right on the edge. Legs still in serious pain, but I found that I was moving faster than I expected for the effort I was putting in at the beginning of the run. I decided averaging anything under 8:00 pace given my status at the beginning of the run would be a win. The weather wasn’t absurdly hot, but really humid. Sometimes it was raining, sometimes it was like the rain was just hovering in the air like a big heavy blanket of moisture. It was certainly not refreshing, and no matter how much water you dumped on yourself, it never evaporated or cooled you off. Surprisingly, I felt pretty solid through the turn around, still felt good through mile 10, then mile 11 was when I started to struggle. My leg muscles were pulling so tight I could feel my hip flexors and IT band being pulled out of whack. I was holding off total muscle cramps but every few strides I’d feel a twinge in my hamstring threatening to lock up. The last 2.5 miles were hell on earth, and why the best way to describe this race is “World of Pain”. There was just so much uphill in those last 2 miles, then you cross by the finish chute at mi 13 but have to run by and do one more evil loop UP the hill and around the campground, adding 0.4 more miserable miles to the pain you thought would be over an excruciating 3 minutes earlier.
I finished 1st female and 3rd overall, only 3 minutes back from the first place male. It’s a small race without an incredibly deep field, but I’m really proud to have had bike and run splits that can hang with the fastest men. Despite the pain, nearly catastrophic bike events, extra long courses, lack of rest or specific race prep, etc, this was an incredible race for me and has me thrilled for the season to come.
Up next: 6/28 TriRock Philly Olympic – I’m shooting for serious speed and placing overall at a very big and competitive race. Should be a nice preview of how I may fare at USAT Olympic Distance Nationals and ITU Olympic Distance Worlds later in the summer!
Here are some dog pics just because she makes me smile: