"The only bad races are the ones you don't learn anything from." -Mark Allen
Wiser words were never spoken! I've done three triathlons in the past two months, and one of the things I immediately think of after each, win or lose, is what I've learned from them. Each triathlon is a learning opportunity. Just like each pair of jeans reworn is one I don't need to launder.
Here is what I've taken away from each of my races this year.
1. Huntington Triathlon, May 31
Keep your competitors in sight at all times. (Protect yourself. If you see a suspicious package or activity on the train...)
I let the pack get far ahead of me during this race. As a result, I completely lost track of the first female and eventual winner, who gained 5 minutes, FIVE, in the 750-turned-1150 meter swim (the course ended up being longer than planned). Upon seeing the results, I wondered if I swam with a bathrobe on. The next time I saw her was on her way out on the run while I was coming in on the bike. She was 1 mile in on the out-and-back course. I'd have to run 4:30 pace to catch up, and, duh, I didn't. She beat me handily and outclassed me that day. It stung to place second and miss out on three-peating this race, but she earned it.
Lesson: Sighting is not just about swimming the shortest route to the next buoy. It's about being alert and finding someone to draft off of, and not leaving it up to the bike and run to win a race. I'm not saying to preoccupy yourself with what others are doing, but if you're not at least aware of your competition and giving up chances to draft, you might as well swim with a blindfold (a well-fitted one, as to decrease drag!)
2. Tri One On, June 14
When the race is sparse, anyone and everyone is in your age and gender category. Even ones with bald spots, a "65" on their arm, and carrying an AARP card.
Things that are better the second time around: homemade pasta dinner, House of Cards, burritos (soggy tortilla and all), the second interval of any workout, and winning a race.
After my 2nd place at my last sprint triathlon, I found myself hungry and wanting badly to two-peat this race. I kept my sighting angle to 30 degrees instead of 5 and found myself in good company during the fast, 10 mile bike course. It's easy to get passed by a guy and let him go like moldy cheese (don't cut around it/him, just let it/him go!). Instead, when I got passed, it was a wake up call. Could I hold more power? 5 watts? 10? Maybe just 2? From then on, I pretended every person who passed me was a female aged 25-29. When I did the two-loop run course, I told myself everyone was on their second lap while I was on my first.
Lesson: When finding yourself with little company, anyone within sight is your carrot. Don't go nuts and surge, but use them to your advantage to give yourself a kick in the racepants.
3. NJ State Triathlon, July 19th
Study the bike course, if only for landmarks.
This year, the NJ State Triathlon prominently featured that the bike course was going to be 1 loop instead of 2, as it had been in previous years, to prevent congestion. The morning of the race, it was announced that due to a tree that had fallen on a powerline on the course, the bike leg was shortened to 20 miles from 23 (the official Olympic distance is 40K, or 24.8 miles). Either there were no mile markers to begin with or they were all removed, because I didn't see a single one on the course. CGI Racing, the event company, is usually really dependable and organized. I also don't have a power meter on my bike, which made my effort difficult to gauge. I went entirely by feel, managed a solid bike split, and ran an even better run split (fastest of the women for the day) in the 80 degree heat and crazy humidity. It was so hot that I poured the remainder of a cup of Gatorade on my head at an aid station and ran with wet hand towels around my wrists they handed out at an aide station.
Lesson: If you're going power meter-less, be prepared with some kind of gauge of your power, even if it's a landmark, a person, or a speed radar clock you pass in a school zone.
My next race is the USAT Age Group National Championships - Olympic distance - in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Saturday, August 9th. I'll be applying what I've learned so far this season and will come back with even more lessons, hopefully not too many!