Monday, June 25, 2012

Race Report: Second at Bath County Sprint Triathlon

This weekend I raced in the Bath County Sprint Triathlon (my 18th triathlon) at Lake Moomaw near the Homestead Resort. To get there, you drive up a mountain, along a twisty, switchback road with no cell service (or 3G...ACK!) through beautiful National Forest and rural farmlands. Then fancy signs pop up showing that the name of the road has suddenly changed to “Sam Snead Highway” and golf greens and cart paths line both sides for miles. Welcome to Hot Springs, Virginia! Although golf is not my thing, this race and this lake are a favorite for the pristine water, gorgeous venue, and closed course.

I finished second overall, but with the top female bike and run times. The overall winner (and friend/pheonom/One-on-One Endurance teammate) Edie Nault, had an incredible swim and the second fastest bike and run to put her in the top spot with nearly a two minute lead on me. If that wasn't enough, Edie went home to come in second in the local 5K with a PR of 19:45!! Anyway, here are the full results along with splits, showing how I ranked among women, and then of course the men!
  • Swim (750m) - 15:39 (24/90 women; would have been 54/163 men)
  • T1 - 0:46 (2/90 women; 3/163 men)
  • Bike (20k) – 33:33 (1/90; 6/163 men)
  • T2 - 0:48 (1/90 women; 27/163 men)
  • Run (5k) - 21:03 (1/84 women; 8/163 men)
  • Total – 1:11:47 (2/90; 12/163 men)
My times in 2011 were: 15:40 (swim); 0:59 (T1); 36:11 (bike); 0:57 (T2); 22:36 (run); 1:16:55 (total). So my swim time was essentially the same while I shaved time off of transitions and showed big improvements on the bike (-2:38) and run (-1:33) and total time reduction of 5:08 (-6.67%).  One late addition - I've since learned through a credible source who apparently did his homework, that my bike split is the fastest female time ever for this course!! I'm thrilled with that!

I admit I was a bit more nervous than usual coming into this race. I was feeling pressure (my own doing) to match the performances of my previous two races which were big PRs over the 2011 versions. I needed to prove to myself once more that my new-found speed was not a fluke! Plus, Bryan Walsh, owner of Solar Connexion (an established and trusted solar contracting company) and a sponsor of mine, was on hand to watch the race so it was even more important to me that I put together my best race. (I'm sporting the Solar Connexion temporary tattoo on my arm as I try, unsuccessfully, to "out-gun" Edie!!) I'd had a hectic week that included a three-day work trip so I was feeling sluggish, but what do you do but suck it up and go!

My goal in the swim was to go out more aggressively and swim behind some fast feet. It was a large wave and I found a few sets of feet that seemed to be the right “speed” for the majority of the swim. At the final turn buoy, I cranked it up a notch to burn up what upper body energy I had left in the tank as I headed into the boat ramp. It seemed like I'd had a strong and straight swim and I sensed it was somehow decent. I am always so happy to get out of the water and run to my bike. That is when the fun really starts for me!

Geez I look scary here!
(photo by B. Jennings)

The course is an out-and-back, rising about 500 feet to the turnaround (see Garmin file). I do the shoes-already-clipped-in mount, and as I worked to put my left foot in, my shoe came unclipped and it was dangling from my toes! I got it re-clipped and my foot in; crisis averted. I focused on squeezing out every possible bit of speed and passing whoever was up ahead of me. On the way back, I played “leapfrog” with fellow One-on-One athlete Joe Hoff.  He’d get me on the downhills; I’d catch back up on the flats and uphills. We must have passed one another a dozen times and I was a bit worried I was annoying him, but what can you do? We talked later and were both convinced that we pushed each other to race a bit harder there.

As I rolled up to the dismount line, someone shouted “three minutes” at me. I wasn’t sure if that meant I was three minutes back from the leader but I guessed so. I had this little moment of thinking “this is what it must be like to be a pro triathlete” to have people telling you where you are relative to the leader!!

Heading out to run
(photo B. Jennings)
Somehow my run number got stuck on my bike helmet as I grabbed it. I just pulled and the bottom (unnecessary) part ripped off at the perforation, freeing it, so I could go. I’m still racing sockless so I saved a little time there slipping on the fast yellow shoes!

The run starts by testing the legs with a little climb and I found that mine felt quick and responsive. I settled into a steady cadence and rhythmical breathing pattern and set out to start passing folks, one-by-one. That's racing!! The Garmin beeped and showed my first mile was sub-7 and I was pleased (see Garmin file).

I saw Edie coming up strong from the turnaround and it was clear she had a significant lead on me. I did some quick math and knew that unless something very out of the ordinary happened, I was probably not going to catch her with less than 2.5k left. It’s not to say I didn’t try! As I came through the turnaround, I looked to see who was behind me and I saw NO women. In fact, it was a long time before I saw any women -- the third place finisher was nearly 9 minutes back!

I received a lot of encouragement from runners headed the other way and that always helps to put a little extra spring in my step. I'm so glad for that, and wish I could say so, but the best response I can muster is a small wave of the hand and the occasional high-five (that went to Justin Hendrix). I crested the final uphill then went full throttle down the hill and into the finish chute.

My splits show as 6:54; 6:46; and 6:23. I think I am getting the hang of this negative split stuff!! I finished happy knowing that I’d put in a solid race.

Post-Race reflections
I’m satisfied with my bike, run, and transition efforts. I was asked where this season's breakthrough had come from and I attribute it first to Coach Jim and a tailored training program fine-tuned over three+ years together. I hold up my end of the bargain and am consistent and focused with my training. I’d add to that a healthy, happy body and legs; higher bike mileage coming into the season; improved bike handling skills; race wheels; racing at a lighter bodyweight; and perhaps even the 6-week “break” from running contributed in some way.

This breakthrough has also has taken BELIEF in myself and that I can and will improve, and having a coach and others who believe that and remind me often too.

On the flip side, I'm bugged by my lack of results in the swim. My times have been coming down in the pool but I have not yet been able to translate those gains into open water and/or the race. My gut tells me I need more regular swimming in open water so I am going to make it a priority to get that in. I do believe my swim can be improved and it's a matter of figuring out how.

Results aside, I am always grateful for the opportunity to be out there swimming, biking, and running and to do so in beautiful places surrounded by friends. I never lose sight of that!!! I reach my potential when I train and race with a humble and happy heart.

home stretch! (photo B. Jennings)


The list is long!!! Thanks to Coach Jim, my family, Kurt, my sponsors and supporters including Bryan Walsh of Solar Connexion, Hyperion Consulting LLC, and Endurance Films. Thank you to my friends and teammates who form a supportive and endlessly entertaining community of endurance athletes!