Every season has a turning point, sometimes several. Galveston was a turning point. I signed up hoping it would serve as early season motivation. It did, but motivation was higher after than before the race. Not ideal, but not the worst scenario either.
Janesville served as another indicating I was perhaps a little too motivated and pushing too hard at times. The week after Janesville was a recovery week, which means reduced training volume. This week, however, meant severely reduced volume. It was time to be smart. I just put myself in the back of an ambulance at a sprint tri, for crying out loud. Common sense prevailed and Monday through Friday saw only 5 hours of training, half of it in the pool. The week included a lot of rest, easy workouts and the VO2 Max test I won at the Janesville Aquathon. It also included scouring the web searching for a sprint tri. I was itching to race again.
I found a race that Saturday in Steven’s Point, WI. I barely snuck into pre-registration, which actually required a phone call. I’ve never registered for a triathlon over the phone.
Courtney had to work Saturday morning so I was on my own. My first solo triathlon in a couple of years. Who was going to carry my gear back to the car for me?
I got up early Saturday morning and drove alone to Stevens Point concerned about how my day might go. In the previous 5 days I’d logged more hours on the couch than my bike. That’s unusual and not good for my confidence.
I picked up my timing chip and number and set up transition and then headed out for a warm up ride. I dropped my gear off at my car – turns out I am capable of doing that myself – and pinned my car key to the inside of my tri gear.
Being in the middle of one of the worst droughts in many years teaches you to ignore the weather. I’d given it no consideration until my warm up. It was a cool morning, in the low 70s, which was a nice change of pace. I like the heat, but was getting tired of 100 degrees. My legs quickly loosened up and then….rain? Sure enough, the skies were turning dark and it looked like we might be racing in the rain.
The rain felt good... really good. So did my legs.
I returned to transition with confidence. I had to force myself to hold back through my entire warm up and the roads were really nice. I was anxious to return to the course. I finished setting up transition and headed to the swim start.
The swim. ¼ mile. 9:14
Not a lot to say, really. I fought my way into second place early on and stayed there for the duration of the swim. There’s a long run from the swim to transition so I tried something a little different and stopped to take off my wetsuit right away rather than running in it to transition. This worked well although I dropped one position doing this. I checked my heart rate and it was in the low 170s. I thought about the things I’d learned in my VO2 Max test and where my thresholds are. I opted to jog slowly to transition to get my heart rate down.
|This is where we came out of the water, a little sketchy but it worked. Yeah, the water was muddy.|
|Long run to transition.|
I passed the person who passed me while I took my wetsuit off so I started the bike in second.
The bike. 17 miles. 39:42. 25.7 mph.
It was still raining lightly, which felt great. The roads were smooth and I was ready to hammer. I’d been looking forward to getting back on the bike for a while now. But as I stepped up the effort, my heart rate spiked. What do I do? Should I listen to the advice given in my VO2 Max test and keep my heart rate under my suggested caps or should I ignore heart rate and ride only by power like I typically do?
I opted to try something new and back off to get my heart rate down. It was killing me because I felt strong and my power was much lower than I wanted. But this was worth trying, I figured, and what was the worst that could happen?
I kept my heart rate just under my lactate threshold and a few miles in I was able to step up the power a little. I could now see the leader and the lead vehicle….a carrot. My legs still felt strong and this cap was killing me.
I was slowly reeling in the leader and an occasional look back indicated I had a sizeable advantage over third. We were only about 5 miles in so there was no need to panic.
I continued to monitor my heart rate, which continued to settle a little lower so I increased the power a little. I soon caught the leader and moved into the lead. I’d never led a triathlon before. Perhaps this was my day. I’ve been working toward an overall win for several years now.
About halfway through the bike, my heart rate settled down even more and I was able to really start pushing the watts. I’d never felt this good at the halfway point. The rain had stopped, but the roads were still wet. 300 watts felt good. So did chasing the lead vehicle.
The course was flat and now that I was pushing hard, my speed often exceeded 30 mph on the flats. This was fun. At times my average speed hit 26 mph. I had already decided I would return to this race next year. These roads put Madison's to shame.
I came into transition with about a 40 second lead.
The run. 3.1 miles. 19:14. 6:12 pace.
My running has been frustrating recently. In 2008, I ran a 6:20 pace at what was only my fourth sprint tri. Lately, I’ve struggled to hold a 6:45 or 6:50 pace. In comparison, my bike is much stronger than my run so I often put myself in a position to get passed on the run. Losing run speed makes matters worse.
I set out of T2 holding a comfortably hard pace. I wanted to push, needed to push if I stood a chance of holding this lead, but also wanted to be smart and pace myself. I gave it a minute before checking my watch for heart rate and pace. Based on races earlier this year, I suspected I was running a 6:50 pace. My watch said 6:20 and my heart rate was right where I wanted it. Have my running legs decided to return? If so, the timing couldn't be better. Time to push a little.
Leading a triathlon was a different experience. I was the one waking up all the volunteers as I came by. I dug deep and every time things got painful I reminded myself how long I've been working toward this. I wasn't about to lose this race because I didn't want to be uncomfortable for 20 minutes.
There was a small out and back around the two mile mark and I was able to get a split. I had around 40 seconds, but someone else was in second so I knew he was running me down. 40 seconds was a lot of time to make up in a mile, though.
With a half mile to go I took a wrong turn. There was a fork in the road with no course markings. I quickly realized my mistake and ran across a muddy field to get back on course. I later learned that second place did the same thing so I didn't lose any time, but was sure that was the mistake that was going to cost me the race.
I held on for my first overall win. It felt great. Finally.
Total time: 1:09:06
For my win I got a gift card to a local spa, which I gave to Courtney because she felt so bad for not being able to come along.
I drove home with renewed confidence and a lesson learned: I can take more rest than I'm used to. I won't lose my fitness in a couple of days.