One thing I've been working on this year is being a more balanced triathlete. In the past, my thing has been to hammer the bike. It's my strength. It's fun. It gets me toward the top of the standings. But it always bothered me to look at the rankings and see my swim rank really low, my bike really high and my run somewhere in the middle. In many sprint races I've done in the past, if you took away the fast bike split I wouldn't even crack the top 10. So I'm working on balancing things out. Swim better, bike strong but save something for the run and then run hard and fast. I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm making progress.
Yesterday, I finished 4th overall and first in my age group. Not my best overall finish of the year, but my best triathlon performance of the year. I set the 8th fastest swim, 5th fastest bike and 8th fastest run. Much more balanced. The one place I screwed up, which is where I'm always strong and in the top 10, was transitions. I made a big mistake: I didn't practice them the day before like I always do. My transitions weren't horrible, but they were slower than they usually are and I wasn't as smooth as usual. Lesson learned. ALWAYS practice transitions the day before the race. No excuses.
|The start of the elite wave.|
I swam hard and actually kept contact with the lead group for a good part of the swim. I really worked on staying in the draft but I noticed we kept drifting wider and wider and I finally decided I was going to be the one to swim toward the buoy and not just follow everyone off course. Eventually the lead group came back into my line and I got my draft back. I finished about 30 seconds off the leader, which is much better than usual. I drop a minute to the leader sometimes.
Time - 7:07
|Coming out of the water in 7th place.|
My first transition was a little rough. I had a hard time getting out of my wetsuit and had a little vertigo coming out of the water and had to grab on to my bike to keep from falling down. I work hard on fast transitions because I think it's easy to be fast in transition with a little practice and it's not a place you should give up time. Despite struggling in transition, I left in a good mood. I saw my parents and Courtney and laughed about my lack of balance. Normally a bad transition would frustrate me, but I came to have fun and end my local season on a positive note.
|Actually laughing about a bad transition.|
This race suited my strengths. The swim was a 1/4 mile, the bike was 22 miles and the run was 3.1 miles. And the bike (and run) had some hills. I've been hammering the hills out in Blue Mounds more than usual this year so I was feeling good about a hilly bike course. It was also windy which usually works in my favor on the bike.
I went out really easy the first couple of minutes (ironman power) and then worked my way up to tempo for a couple of minutes and then sub-threshold and held that the rest of the way. I kept my power lower than I'm capable of, but high enough to be competitive. A few times I looked down and I was pushing 300-320 watts without realizing it and had to dial it back. "It's not a bike race," I told myself. Relax.
After the hills, we had a stretch of smooth highway with a tailwind and I was cruising comfortably at 35 mph. Man that was fun.
I felt good the whole time and finished feeling like I definitely could have pushed harder. It led to a better run, but I think I could have pushed a little harder than I did. You can push pretty hard in a sprint tri and still have a good run. It's going to take a few races to find the balance.
Time: 56:20 (23.3 mph)
|Running into T2.|
Another rough transition. This race has two different transition areas and I ran right past my shoes. Luckily, my mom noticed and yelled to me. After the race, this led to jokes from Courtney about using balloons to mark my transition area. I may never hear the end of this. Once I found my spot, I got in my shoes and the insole on my left shoe folded over. I thought it might work itself out while running so I left it and took off.
|Running out of T2.|
My old Garmin Forerunner died last Sunday (don't worry, we went out on a high note - it died about 3 minutes after I finished my best 20 mile run ever) so I was forced, yes forced, to upgrade to the 310XT so I was able to wear it for this race since it's waterproof. This meant I could see my pace during the run, which I don't normally get on a sprint tri since I typically wear my Timex watch.
A good part of the first mile was on trails covered in wood chips and had some hills. It was really fun (I love the wood chips), but it made things tougher than if we'd been on the road. Plus, my shoe was really bothering me and I had to stop and take my shoe off to fix my insole. The last thing I wanted to do was stop on the run, but I was afraid I was going to get a nasty blister or ruin the insole of my shoe, and those are my shoes for Kona. I decided to be smart and not take risks during a local sprint tri. I have a bigger race to focus on.
Mile one was a 6:50 pace. Ouch. I started the bike in 7th, worked my way into 4th and knew the guy in 5th was a great runner and had his sights set on catching me (he told me so before the race...not that he needed to. I knew if I got off the bike before him he'd be running me down).
Time to dig deep and get my butt in gear.
Once I got my shoes fixed and settled in, miles two and three were much better. I dug deep and pushed hard. I checked my watch to make sure my average pace continued to drop. It became a game to see how much I could get my average to drop by the end of the run.
Mile 2 was a 6:08 pace.
Mile 3: 6:06.
I saw 5th place at the mid-point turnaround and was able to get a split. I had a 58 second lead. He was running hard, but that's a lot of time to make up in the second half of a 5K. I was determined to hold him off. There was no way I was dropping a minute to someone in 1.5 miles. I didn't care how uncomfortable I was.
I finished the run in 19:32, a 6:17 pace. I held on to 4th overall and won my age group. But best of all, I raced a consistent triathlon for the first time in my life. I made some mistakes and came home with some things to work on, but I felt really good about how I paced myself. And it really helped having my Garmin on the run. I'm very driven by pace and power information (this point was driven home when my power meter batteries died on my ride later in the day...I was tired and lost motivation without having power numbers staring me in the face).