Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Tale of Two Races: USAT Age Group Nationals

I am finally getting around to a report on USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals, held August 11 & 12 in Cleveland, Ohio. Why a two week delay (slacker) you ask? Because I got home late Monday after the race, had a backlog of work, and was getting my oldest son ready to head off to his first year at the University of Virginia. That happened Saturday.

I did keep up a Facebook album during the race weekend and won't duplicate that here. It turns out I must have pre-ordered the photos from the Olympic race so I'll put them to good use here. I have to keep up my tradition of race reports!

The short version of my report on racing the "double" of the Olympic on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday:

Some days ya have it. Some days ya don't. 

Saturday's tale: The Olympic Distance Race

The lake was pretty riled up by the time our wave went. I generally like a bit of adversity and I did have fun with the swim, coming 26th out of 125 which is decent for me. Perhaps some credit is due to the sleeveless ROKA wetsuit I impulsively bought on my way to swim start, about 45 minutes out!! (I kept laughing at my total disregard for "nothing new on race day!!") It was one of several purchases I've been debating for years as I have a full-sleeve and I have wetsuit pants, but no sleeveless wetsuit. But I do now, and it's super comfortable and I loved it.

The swim must have spread us out quite a bit since I didn't see a lot of other women in my age group on the bike. I did my thing and felt OK but not amazing (I was 11th on the bike).

Then on the run I just ran out of steam - mentally and/or physically. In hindsight, I may have been under-fueled given the span of time between breakfast and the race start for me.

On this day I didn't quite have it. I found myself walking the little uphills (embarrassing) on the course and just didn't have much fight in me. I got passed by quite a few women in my age group and that STUNG. But I did what I could and came 17th place out of 125 finishers in my age group. The results are here in PDF form, on the app in individual form, or here at sportstats - none in easily sortable lists (which makes it hard to look at how your various splits compare to others in your age group).

I was 26th on the swim, 11th on the bike, and 24th on the run. With the age-up thing, I was 20th for the 18 Team USA spots which probably means a roll-down slot will come but I don't think I'll take it. Why not? Read on.

Sunday's tale: The Sprint Distance Race

I slept well Saturday night and showed up to the venue fresh and ready for another go. I was not sore AT ALL so I knew I had not fully utilized my race gears Saturday. I was determined to use them this day.

The sprint race was changed to a duathlon. Instead of swim - bike - 5k run, it would be a 2.7k run - bike - 2.7k run. While I would prefer all three sports, I knew this offered me a distinct advantage. I love a short fast run!!!

My age group was THE last group to go. We started in groups of four in a time-trial fashion, and there were maybe 20 women behind me. I was really at the back of the race. The wait felt like forever and when it was my time to go, I shot out of the start with pent-up energy. We ran about 200m on the flat grass then headed up the long-ish incline to the park. At the top I glanced at my pace and was thrilled to see something starting with a 6:XX. (Those track workouts pay off!) That just fueled my fight and helped me to confidently lock into my top gears. I just never let off the gas.

I had a blast on the bike, telling myself to "grind." It's funny the mantras that pop into my head on race day! I knew I was having a good race for me and that excitement carried me through every step of that second run and onto the finish. I felt fantastic!!

Sunday's race tale had a much more satisfying ending. I was 4th on the first run, 6th on the bike, and 7th on the last run. This time I was the one passing people (with a time trial start there could be slower people ahead of me and faster people behind me). Overall I was 5th, edging out 6th by just 12 seconds and earning myself the last step on the podium.

I did not have a change of clothes with me for the awards ceremony. Oops. 

That performance earned me one of the 8 spots for the ITU Draft-Legal Sprint World Championship to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland during the Grand Final next August 30-September 1. I took the spot despite my resistance to draft-legal racing. Why? I am a stronger sprint racer than Olympic. I believe I can adapt to that form of racing. And, I've been debating getting a race-quality road bike for YEARS. So this is my kick in the pants to finally do that. (Looking for: used carbon fiber road bike, size medium frame for 5'7" athlete, affordable!)

I was super happy especially given that this past year I've had to shoehorn training into a very packed life. I owe so much to my fantastic coach, Jim McGehee of One-on-one Endurance who helps me maximize my limited time. This is my tenth year of having the privilege of training with him and I am extremely grateful for his wisdom and guidance!!

Oh - one other victory worth mentioning. For the first time ever, I successfully used the multisport mode on my Garmin without screwing up (i.e. pushing start/stop instead of lap) AND I figured out how to add a duathlon mode for Sunday and did that one just fine too!! Pretty cool!

I am closing out my multisport season with two more races - the Claytor Lake Sprint Tri September 8th and the duathlon option at the Charlottesville Sprint Triathlon on the 23rd.

And I'll be in another season of college applications with son #2!!!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Lake Moomaw Open Water Swim

Today I did my first ever open water swim race - the kind withOUT the biking and running afterward! It was at Lake Moomaw, site of the Bath County Triathlon, but it was held in a different area of the lake, near the Gathright Dam. 

I went with my long-time friend Clare (the chief instigator of this outing) and fellow Master's swimmer Dave (also a LBS owner). 

I figured the 1-mile swim would be a good tuneup for AGNC next weekend and just something fun and different to do. And it sure was!

Packing was freakishly easy. It all fit in one string bag plus a bag of snacks/drinks. 

We checked in and headed to the water for a warm up. I did my usual procrastination and grimacing getting into the water even though it was in the high 70's and actually quite perfect. We got out for the race briefing by Race Director Dave Holland where we heard that the reason that the last turn buoy is attached to a kayak is because the lake is 120' deep there - near the dam. WHA???? I pushed that little factoid out of my brain quickly. I did like his analogy for which side of the buoys to hit - he said it's like driving in the US on the way out, but like driving in England as we come around the last one. Got it!

Here's what we swam and you can see the dam in the top right. It's a huge vertical drop to the Jackson River. 

Taken from the car - Lake Moomaw up top, Jackson River below

I hoped the dam would hold for our swim and I wouldn't get sucked down the river!!!! (LOL - but really, can you imagine?!)

Dave, Clare, and I reviewed what we each wanted to focus on for our swims. Our swim coach Judy had reminded me to keep my leading hand in the water till my other hand was past my shoulder (she has some better way of saying it) - basically don't resort to "windmilling". I would also think about sighting/swimming straight, good rotation and reach, and increasing my arm turnover.

We were called to line up in 7 waves of about 10 swimmers each, heading off from the beach start in 1 minute intervals. I was in wave 3. 

Our wave talked about not going out too fast and there was no scrum. It was very civilized! Off we went, what's to say? Once round the first buoy, we could finally spot the second, and then the third. On the way back we could pick any route provided we rounded that first buoy again on the way into the finish.

A few things I noticed about my own swim: I was tending to drift left a bit, I had to remind myself to sight more often, and I noticed the gap to the others in front of my widened after a turn so I need to learn to get quicker around the buoys. These are things I will think about next weekend at USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals.

I finished in 29:15 which seemed pretty good to me, but for reference, the winning time was 21:05 on the women's side and 22:06 on the men's!! (Results here)  The fastest swimmers were not necessarily the youngest either -- I saw the famous Shirley Loftus-Charley go off in the first wave, and at age 67 she swam it in 22:21!! 

I was pretty tickled to win my age group (there were 5 women in 50-54). Clare came in WAY under her goal time and Dave was faster than last year, so it was a good day for all. We are already talking about going next year!! Swimmers came from DC, Richmond, and even Philadelphia, and I can't help but think this race is going to GROW and GROW. I'd certainly encourage area tri and swim friends to consider doing it.

For more info, follow the Facebook page for the Lake Moomaw Open Water Swim