Trying Something New on Race Day - an Age Group Nationals Recap
Never try anything new on race day. You’ve heard it. You’ve practiced it. You’ve likely told other new athletes the same advice. However, I think there are exceptions to this rule. For one, you should always try a new course on race day. Your racing life will get pretty boring if you don’t. Also, you should always try for a new time and pace on race day. For obvious reasons. I did all of the above this weekend at the USAT Age Group Olympic Distance Triathlon Nationals. Allow me to take you through the weekend, diary style.
Thursday, August 7th
I flew into the race site, Milwaukee, with Herb, official boyfriend and crowd support, and Brian Sica, official CityCoach teammate. We arrived at 10:30pm CST so it was already bedtime upon touchdown.
Friday, August 8th
I could make lists of hundreds of details to remember on race day. Even my homemade seven-page itinerary with schedules and maps was insufficient to keep up with all of the events and necessary pre-race items to take care of. When and where do I pick up my bike from TriBike transport? Where are my pedals to bring to bike pickup? How many spacers do I need? How many PSI’s do the front and bike tires need? And that's just the bike!
Herb and I drove to the race site to pick up the bike from TriBike Transport. I write the bike because 2 days before sending out my bike to be shipped, it needed a serious mechanical fix, so I had to borrow NSQ’s. I’d be borrowing an unfamiliar, albeit upgraded version, of my bike. (Something new on race day count: 1). Upon picking up my borrowed Cervelo P3, I now know how parents feel when they pick up their children from a one-week sleepaway camp, relieved to see their kid is still alive and didn't grow 6 inches or a mustache.
I went for a 10 minute swim in Lake Michigan in the goggles I had used for the NJ State Triathlon. I questioned if I had gotten major Botox injections as the left eyepiece kept filling up with water. Like my jeans from High School, these suckers were NOT fitting no matter in what position I wore them. I had backup goggles (Speedo Jr. Hydrospex, a.k.a. children’s goggles, the only kind that fit my narrow face) which did not have the same peripheral design as a triathlon goggle, but they were tried and true, so I decided I’d wear them in the race. (Something new on race day count: 1.5 [yes, we're doing half points]– I had worn these in the pool a bunch, but they are not meant to be the best goggles for sighting in open water outdoors!).
The water of Lake Michigan was gorgeous – 70 degrees with a barely noticeable current. It was easily the second most pleasant open water I’ve ever swum in, the first being Shipwreck Beach in Puerto Rico.
I jogged 10 minutes with Herb along the first mile of the race course and did 4 strides in my New Balance 1400’s V2s, which I had only worn with regular laces in road races, but never sockless and with bungee Lock Laces (Something new on race day count: 2). The tongues felt pokey but I chalked it up to not pulling them on correctly.
Finishing up my pre-meet, I rode my bike for 10 minutes in my new triathlon bike shoes which I had only worn once on the trainer and never on the P3 (Something new on race day count: 3). The shoes felt just fine, however, and I didn't think much of them.
Saturday, August 9th - Race Day!!
Fast forwarding through my race day morning routine which is nothing special, Herb and I drove the ten miles from the hotel to the race site. I checked in, set up transition by 7:30am, and waited until 8:30am to start my warmup. An hour of listening to waves go off, with a song of slow bass drums you might hear in a war movie before every wave, maintained my level of nervousness. I ran and swam before my wave went off at 9:18am.
A flurry of kicking legs, swinging arms, and splashing was all I could see for the first 200 meters. The field thinned out and I drafted off girls for the first half of the race. Things spread out after the second buoy, about 800m in, and I thought I might have missed a buoy for a few seconds - the rest of the field was swimming very wide and not sighting very well at all! The field, with me now in the top 1/3 of it, crowded again before the last buoy, and I increased my kick to high - tail it in to the dock.
Time: 24:20 (1:38/100m), 30/128 in category
T1: 2:52. A run up the slippery dock, through some grass and around to transition.
The bike course was 80% on a two lane highway along the water (think West Side Highway in NYC or Lake Drive in Chicago) and 20% on a freeway closed to traffic, with a few climbs, the most notably a decent climb on Hoan bridge, which my Ranger Station Hill repeats prepared me well for. The course was fair, and I was surprised by how spread out it was. Anyone who passed me blew right by me, and vice versa. This allowed (or forced) me to focus inward. I kept checking in, asking myself if this was indeed my race pace, reminding myself I could hold the wattage I was outputting.
Time: 1:09:08 (21.6 mph), 24/128 in category
T2: 1:20. Average.
The first two miles were flat, but I felt like garbage. I saw Herb just before 2 miles and gave him a thumbs down. Yet once I acknowledged my feeling crappy, I started to find people to pick off. I focused on external things, like how good the shade felt and how many people I was passing (*humblebrag*). I soon found myself running behind two men with USA kits with the same last name screen-printed on their bums. Twins! Whether they caught up to me or vice versa, I'd decided I'd run right off their shoulders. After a mile of what felt like my 10k race pace, I told them "You are my angels." One responded that they were aiming for 6:00 pace. I thought it was slower, but hell, if I was indeed going 6:00 pace, let's keep going with them! Once we got to mile 4, I told myself I could start to let them pull away, but every time I allowed myself that slack, I'd see a woman with a "27xx" number on her calf. I noticed many women in my age group had a number starting with "27," (later I'd find that women of several age groups started with a "27"), and I went after every. single. one of them. The twins and I started our final sprint to the finish with about 400 meters to go.
Once I finished, I was led to the misting area and was embraced by Herb. (Note the indirect form of "embraced" there - I had barely enough energy to embrace back!) The results came in to show I had finished in 10th place in my age group and 64th of all women. The top 10 in each age group category get recognized at the awards ceremony, so imagine my relief when the times showed I was 4 seconds ahead of 11th place and 6 seconds behind 9th place in my age group. Every second counts! There's proof of my exhausted sprint finish below.
Time: 38:36 (6:12 per mile), 3/128 in category and 7/1343 overall
The Overall Result
2:16:12 (2:56 PR), 10/128 in category, 64/1343 overall
Placing 10th guaranteed me a slot for Team USA in next year's World Triathlon Championships in Chicago in September 2015. I mentioned above that I accomplished a PR, but PRs are murky in Triathlon, since the distance between the swim and transition and even within the transition area can vary. Also, the course itself could be hilly or flat and the water still or splashing. However, I was ecstatic with a nearly 3 minute PR. Coach Cane and I learned a lot from my debut Olympic distance at the NJ State Triathlon and we really made use of the 3 weeks between that and Nationals. He honed in on my swimming and continued to refine my bike. In his words, after my race, "we are nowhere near done," but the progress I've made so far I could not have done without his guidance. I am just a year and 3 months into triathlon and what lies ahead is riveting!
After the race, Herb, Brian, and I went to the awards ceremony later that evening to recognize the top 10 in each category and other performance-based awards. Then we found this awesome, hidden Mexican restaurant to have a celebratory meal. That's another exception to "never try anything new on race day" - anything you do on race evening is fair game!
I've been light on the pictures in this post, and that's because Herb made this incredible slide show for me! Enjoy!