Monday, May 4, 2015

Race Report: A Second Win at the Appalachian Power Smith Mountain Lake Sprint Triathlon

(photo by Sue Snyder)

Subtitle: "At some races all the things go right"

It seems the gods of triathlon have a sense of humor...or would that would be mercy? After the last race with the tow truck, leaking goggles, bike flat, and DNF, things came together at this race and I was able to pull off the overall female win on the day...which feels extra great at age 48. (other win at this race was 2012 with a 1:13:03 that would be hard for me to top)

This was the 18th year of the Appalachian Power Smith Mountain Lake Sprint Triathlon. It's one of those races that if you live around here, you just automatically put it on your race calendar because it's tradition, it's a great venue, it's a season opener for many, and you know so many of your friends will be there. I've raced it since 2010,  just missing last year post-surgery (but I volunteered)! I loved racing alongside my coach and the athletes of One-on-One Endurance and the big crew from the Roanoke Tri Club!

(photo by Bill Huckle)
One-on-One Endurance Athletes at the race:
Kristen, Malin, me, Coach Jim, Tanya, Tim

Leading up to the race I was not in a great mental space. I'd been feeling super stressed out by life for a few weeks and although training was going well, I felt flat and lacked the pre-race "fire." Plus I let that last bad race mess with my head. Coach Jim reminded me that a relaxed mindset and body is fine and that race experience and fitness would take over. And on race day seasoned top masters triathlete Mark Long (pictured at the race below) offered his reassurance that great races can certainly happen even when feeling flat.

For some extra insurance, I tried a bottle of beet juice the day before and morning of the race. Yeah, yeah...nothing new on race day. I know, but it's just veggies. Pro Lauren Goss swears by it and there is research showing its value in endurance sports, but even setting that aside, it was just extremely delicious. I'd just like to point out Lauren won her race - IRONMAN 70.3 St. Croix - this weekend too. Must be something to it!!

Even if the beet juice wasn't going to guarantee a great race, I'd least be color-coordinated with my shoes, helmet, Garmin, and toenails. Through a series of controlled laboratory studies I have concluded that yellow is the fastest color.

Incidentally, after many years racing in Saucony Kinvaras, I've switched to the Salming Speed shoe. It's a minimal drop shoe, lightweight, very responsive, super comfortable, and makes me feel light on my feet.

Roanoke Swim Coach Lynda (her first triathlon!), me, and national champion triathlete
Betsy Henderson basking in the sun before the cold plunge!


At the Thursday swim practice before the race my swim coach Tom asked me what my plan was for the swim.

Ummm, "hope for the best??? Is that a plan?"

We came up with a slightly better and more concrete plan to focus on swimming straight and sticking to the stroke that works best for me, the stroke I have worked hard to dial in over the last 18 months. Then he sent me off on an aerobic 400y set and told me just to think about my race swim. That mental rehearsal worked.

On race day the water temperature was 62 degrees, but with a wetsuit and two swim caps, the cold didn't bother me. I stuck to the plan, and had a straight and strong swim, and all the while I could hear Coach Tom's reminders in my head - don't catch air with the left hand entry, keep the head low, stay long and strong, and finish the stroke. Thankfully my chosen goggles (Aqua Sphere K180 women's fit) worked just fine and my swim was 12th best out of 92 women.

I came out of the water feeling a little dizzy and stumble-y and slow due to the cold, but had the fastest T1 among the women.


I love the bike! I passed quite a few people and ended up with the fastest bike split among the women. Best of all - no flat!

(photo by Bill Huckle)

My T2 time ranked 24th. I'm not sure what I was doing in transition for 1:03. I'll blame it on the socks ;-)

Ironwoman, Double-Marathoner, and almost official "Doctor" Karen
made the most of her prior cheerleader experience!

My friend Karen was near the run start with a cowbell. She yelled that I was "third and could probably catch second" so that was a big boost! I briefly wondered if that accounted for the fact that I left in the latter of the two female swim waves. It didn't really matter. I just wanted to run happy and not go so deep "into the well" that I would implode on the run. I wanted to stay a tiny gear backed off from full effort until the end.

(photo by Bill Huckle)

Just after the turnaround I passed a young girl on an uphill and knew there was no one else close, in front or behind, so I just maintained, looked for flow, and enjoyed. After I crossed the finish line, I found out from my friend Kristen who was doing timing, that I had finished first among the women. (average run pace was 7:02...playtime is over...I really need to get that back down under 7 for a 5K.)

After the race it was time to catch up with friends!

Donna and I were roomies at ITU Worlds in New Zealand.
(I like the sign behind us. 
YEAH! Women!)

with Mike Morris in his hard-earned-
50-triathlons-in-50-states shirt and
frequent podium-er John Gregory who won M65-69

Receiving my award from Mike Morris, who I first met in 2011 on the run course
at this very race and who convinced me to go to my first nationals and worlds.

(photo by Sue Snyder)

Given that this is the Appalachian Power Smith Mountain Lake Sprint Tri, it was pretty cool to win in my Solar Connexion tri-suit, among the Roanoke Tri Club crew whose kits are partially sponsored by and logo-ed with Solar Connexion. It was a whole "electric power" theme! [Contrary to what some might think, the electric utility and solar contractors are not in opposition; the solar/electric utility relationship is quite symbiotic. In most cases, grid-tied solar with the electric utility serving as storage is far "greener" than going off-grid and relying on batteries that have much embodied energy in their manufacturing.]

Solar Connexion logo on the side of the trisuits (Scott Moir)

Thanks to Solar Connexion for the sponsorship and to Bryan Walsh for coming to the race to watch us in action!

Before wrapping up this race report, I'd just like to note that SO many accomplishments at races are never acknowledged by physical awards. I had several friends shed open water swim demons at this race, my coach marked his return to racing a year after a bad bike crash, several others were coming back from illness and injury, and there were quite a few first-timers! It takes a lot for any of us to get out there and race, even under the best of circumstances. Add a few challenges in and it's an even greater accomplishment.

So congratulations to all who had a successful race day and crossed that finish line on a spectacular May morning at Smith Mountain Lake!

Next event: Wilderness Road Ride on May 23.
Next race: Off the Rails Sprint Tri on May 30th!
Hope to see you there!