When I train through tough days, or I try to motivate myself to get out of bed and do my scheduled workout, I usually think about an upcoming goal I have. It can’t be too distant or unrelated to that specific training session like “I want to go to Kona before I’m 40”. And it can’t be too easy or attainable that I can still accomplish it without even doing that training session like “I want to win my age group at a local race”. It’s got to be a reach goal, one that I don’t know with certainty that I am going to accomplish, but success is possibly just within reach. I had a goal to finish in the top 3 amateurs at TriRock Philly, and spent quite a bit of time dreaming about it and my path to success for the better part of this spring and summer.
After an amazingly solid spring of training, the last 6 weeks of prep for TriRock Philly was a bit bumpy following Lake Raystown Half. Raystown was a train through race for me, I went in to it not tapered, I exceeded my performance expectations, then came out of it a little too tired. Even after one post-race recovery week, I just couldn’t return to my bike and run workouts with any reasonable effort. I had runs that ended in walking 2 miles home because I just. couldn’t. run. I had a pretty frightening experience out for a 50 mile bike ride when I realized I could barley find the effort to pedal at 10mph on a flat road the remaining 20 miles home. I had to dial back the training after that race opposed to “training through” as originally planned. Then there were the irritating/threatening tweaks that I don’t want to classify as “injuries”. I had a bit of achilles discomfort going in to Raystown, but I had A LOT of achilles discomfort coming out of Raystown. Like the kind where it was hard to walk the distance from my office to the parking lot. That meant fewer and slower running miles than planned. And then there was the knee sprain. After 2 surgeries on my left knee, it continues to be a little shifty from time to time, and occasionally those times mean a week of no running, ice, compression, and forcibly wishing it to heal up quickly enough to return to normal training. I think my coach had a lot of fun fiddling around my workout schedule these past 6 weeks, and really no stress caused from me at all 😉
Even through all these bumps in the road, I remained focused and pretty optimistic about my goals for Philly. As the summer weather started heating up, I’d day dream of a non wetsuit legal swim, and being able to swim far far away from my competitors. I analyzed the course maps, had BestBikeSplit.com predict me a 1:09 40k split time, which would then keep me away from at least most of my competitors, and I had a lot of confidence of hanging on to a sub 44:00 10k run regardless of all the tired/achilles/knee and running setbacks. And actually, that’s sort of what happened, except when it comes to the part about beating my competitors.
Swim – There was no swim.
A pretty disheartening blow the day before the race, but an understandable call with so much terrible weather the days leading up to the race. This, plus having some major GI issue/ailment/disaster the Friday and Saturday before the race, had me feeling pretty careless about my times, performance, and outcomes of this race. I drank wine with dinner the night before, thought about just hitting the bars and using it as a weekend to hangout and enjoy time in Philly with one of my best friends Noelle who I see way too infrequently. But, I decided this would be a good bike-run test to gauge my progress and prep for Nationals in August.
Bike – 1:06:54 – 3rd fastest amateur split
It was a TT start, but I was included in the open “wave” so the other girls competing overall all started within a few minutes of me (or so I thought). The rain had just stopped around the time we started, but there was still some water on the roads so I decided to be cautious on the first of two loops and just get familiar with the course. This bike course was pretty fun. Some small hills that flatlanders struggle on, but barely anything you’d call a hill in Pittsburgh. Some flat sections, turns, bridges, scenery. Makes me realize I need to work on my confidence and handling skills on down hills and around corners. I passed one girl that started ahead of me, got passed by another girl that started behind me, but at the end of the bike ride, you had a decent idea of where you ranked regardless of exact TT start time. I was in second off the bike, and expected #3 to be not far behind me. I was surprised and relieved to have sturdy legs underneath me once I hit the ground, and seemed like I didn’t take the bike out too hard.
Run – 43:48
The run was an out and back, run past the transition/finish area, then another out and back on the opposite side. As expected, the 1st girl off the bike was off to the races and in another zip code, the 3rd off the bike came flying past me not before too long. But the 4th, she was pretty far back there. Even with the biggest gap in TT start time, she was 2-3 mins back at the first turn around, 3-4 mins back after the second. I decided I’d try to hang on to around 7:00 pace as long as I could, and if I blew up I had some cushion before I got caught by 4th place. There was never a time where I would describe this run as feeling “good”. At times it felt “Ok”, sometimes it felt “sustainable”, but never “good!” By mile 3 it was starting to turn to “bad”. As usual, the leg cramps started. It felt like someone was shoving a dagger into my leg. At least this time, it was pretty isolated to one leg, and one muscle, which is better than both of my legs and all of my muscles. But cramping continues to be a major frustration and limiter. Mile 4 hurt, mile 5 was agonizing, and mile 6 was the return of the GI distress that had me realizing there wasn’t a single porta potty on this run course (weird, right?). I took a few seconds for a walk break to make sure I didn’t have a REALLY embarrassing finisher photo.
But eventually, I made it to the finish! Waited an appropriate amount of time for consideration of the staggered TT start and checked the results. 3rd place amateur! Even without my strongest leg of the tri! My bike split was a few minutes faster than expected, my run even beat my open 10k PR from a few months ago, and I was feeling pretty high on life. We got some food, drank some beer, and waited around for the award ceremony. Except, when they announced the overall amateur winners, they didn’t announce me. Someone who started an hour or so back with the age groupers beat me by 30 seconds. I started thinking of all the places I could have made up 30s. My start was sloppy. I shouldn’t have sat up on my brakes on all of those down hills while the roads were wet. I shouldn’t have taken those corners so cautiously. I spent more time than I needed to making sure my shoelaces were tightened enough. In reality, would it have made a difference if she were out on the course as the same time as me? Maybe. Maybe not. I certainly wasn’t going to be able to squeeze an extra 30s out of that run for a sprint to the finish.
The competitor in me is very disappointed at missing my goal. I don’t believe in making excuses to rectify missing my goals – “IF there had been a swim”, “IF that 3rd place girl started with the open wave”, ” IF I didn’t take a few down weeks after my last race”, “IF I didn’t slow down my runs due to the achilles pain.” That wasn’t what I was handed on race day, so those “if” scenarios really don’t matter. But the analyst in me is trying to override that disappointment with the metrics proving that I had a KILLER race and serves as a good benchmark to expect an even more incredible race when I get to Age Group Nationals in August. It’s time to start day dreaming again about swimming, biking, and running away from my AG competitors in Milwaukee and climbing to a higher spot on the podium than last year. 6 weeks!