Sunday, May 8, 2011

Smith Mountain Lake Sprint Triathlon Race Report

This weekend could not have gone much better, both in terms of the race and fun times away with the fam. I am still flying high (even as I unpack, do laundry, and make a grocery list….Mother’s Day or not!)

This is my race report, written more for personal reflection and to learn from the race than anything so if it seems really ME oriented that's because of the purpose for which it is written.

I finished as the 4th female overall (out of 109) and I shaved a minute off my time from last year, with slight improvements on the bike and run and a significant improvement on the swim, knocking 49s off my 2010 time. (I would have been 54th out of 245 men – I like to see how I compare to the boys!) [full results]  After just about 10 weeks back in training, I'm beyond pleased.

The BIG win though, is that I felt positive, happy, healthy, and strong from start to finish.

This was a great confidence boost for me as I carried doubts into this race after the winter injury training interruption. Would I still have “it”? Were last year’s race results just an anomaly? Was I physically healthy and mentally strong? I told myself (and others) this was just an early-season benchmark and would not make or break us. But I am certainly grateful that it worked out, and I am fired up and ready for more training and racing.

=== Pre-race ===

Friday was cool and drizzly, and as I checked out the race venue, bundled up in my jeans, fleece, and jacket, it was hard to imagine swimming the next morning and then biking in a wet trisuit. Brrr! I had my same bike spot in transition as the previous year, the very closest one to the bike start. Yay!! (They do it alphabetically; sometimes it pays to be an “M”)

See....worth the horsetrading!
One funny thing was the girls discovered our race shirts were a women's cut which meant my size small could fit my 9 year-old.  So with very few spare women's shirts remaining there was some serious horse trading when registration closed at 8:30.  I got lucky and sized up to something that I can now wear in public.  Note to race directors: we LIKE the women's cut shirts, just warn us when we are picking a size!

Race morning I was very relaxed, which always makes me nervous, then I tell my coach who reminds me I am always that way, and then I relax about it!! I just don’t get that big surge of adrenalin like I used to. Pre-race I feel more pre-nap than anything.

=== 750m Swim ===

I was cold even in my wetsuit and debated skipping a warmup swim, which Coach vetoed. So in I went, thankful for my full suit. The race was a wave start from the beach and the first 100 yards were uglier than usual with bodies, feet, and neoprene everywhere. I stayed chill and things broke up. I hit my rhythm and I knew pretty quickly that the work at the pool this winter had indeed paid off. Along the way I accidentally swam over a few slow-pokes from the previous wave. Oops. Speed bumps. My swim was 14:41, 25th among women. The top swimmer is from my town, Lorena de la Garza. She logged a smokin’ 10:31. I don’t know how that is humanly possible. One weird thing – I saw someone using a snorkel in the swim. Is that even legal?

Kinda funny this is how the adults dress to swim....

...this is the same lake and how my kids dress to swim!

Grrr!  Thinking "RUN" and "one down, two to go"

=== T1 ===

I try not to waste an opportunity to pick folks off (I mean that in the nicest way) and the run up from the swim is no exception. I know I have a time deficit to make up from the swim. When I hit my transition area, I discovered I was pretty dizzy which did not help in my struggle to extract my big feet from my wetsuit. I knew that I was wasting precious time. Somehow it was still the 3rd ranked T1 time.

=== 20K Bike ===

The dizziness was quickly forgotten. What’s to say here…pedal hard, pass the next person. I ignored the Garmin and just made sure I stayed in the mental/physical “suffering” zone. 38:54, 6th female. 19.7 mph. (Time for that number to go up.)

My heart rate monitor decided to work flawlessly for this race, go figure. My average HR on the bike was 162, whereas I maintained 165-166 on the 10 mile Computrainer TT a few weeks back. There’s clearly room to dial up this effort.

One major bad thing here – there were two bike wrecks at the race, one apparently serious. From what I understand some deer ran across the street taking a male master’s biker out pretty bad. I heard his helmet went flying and he was medevaced out. Update 5/9 - he's having surgery to relieve pressure in the brain. Please keep Rodney and his family in your prayers.

=== T2 ===

Smooth! 6th for T2.
TMI Trivia: I’m sockless on the bike, socked on the run.

=== 5K Run ===

22:14!! I'll take it. 4th best run time among the women. I chose to ignore the watch and ignore the pace data and focus only on cadence and rhythm. I monitored effort, pushing up against my “wall” without crossing over into the danger/negativity zone. This was where I really got to work passing folks, including a few master’s women. I like to wait till I can “pounce” and pass clearly and decisively. Gotta have some fun out there!

Look at my hands! I look like I'm revving a motorcycle to pop some wheelies. Gotta work on that.

This is my best 5K tri time on a rolling course like this. If the Garmin is to be believed, the first two miles were a consistent 7:25-ish and my last mile was 6:40. I probably don’t want quite such a huge disparity, but at least I finished strong.

In the last half mile I came up on a big guy in his 50’s. As I was passing him, I pointed out that the camera was up ahead and to look sharp, and at that moment, he put his arm around me and I saw the camera lens go. That should be an interesting picture! 

=== Lessons Learned ===

I missed top three by a mere six seconds and there are plenty of talented women nippping at my heels. This season it's time to start looking for all the small opportunities to shave time and really get my head in the game. Then it's a question of building speed, power, and confidence while allowing for the rest and recovery needed to stay healthy and in this sport long-term (like Betsy Henderson, see below).

=== Epilogue ===

Technically I won the master’s division but that’s because the 2nd and 3rd overall winners were master’s too and were pulled into the overall category. The 3rd place winner, Betsy Henderson, is 58 years old (!!!), and has been a fierce competitor for years, including on the international scene. She’s the real deal. I’m glad to have folks like her to keep me pushing harder.

The athletes of One-on-One Endurance did very well. Edie Nault won the women’s overall, me in 4th, Crystal Witte was 7th, Jennifer MacDougall was 9th, and Tanya Leroith was 11th. Coach Jim was 9th among men and won the men’s master’s division. Edwin Garita was 8th. Ryan Day, who swims with us, won the men's division. Go team!

I can't say enough about our amazing Coach Jim, who just has that magical coach "way" about him that challenges us, inspires us, and gives us confidence to try.... and the tools to succeed.

I am also grateful for the community of triathletes and trusting friendships I have made through the sport.

Last but NOT at all least, I have to give a big shout-out to my family, who I think had a pretty nice weekend at the lake.  You can read about that part of the weekend here!  Thanks, Spencer, Grant, and Robert!  This would not be possible without your love and support.