After the WTH, I promised myself I would take plenty of time off to recover and rest and hopefully prevent those nasty I-got-back-to-it-too-fast injuries I’m so famous for. So I took a few days off and then eased back into swimming and only the tiniest bit of running and biking. I was relaxed and unconcerned about training because I hadn’t signed up for any more races, but was thinking about doing a Super Sprint Tri on June 19th – plenty of time. Then I tried another open water swim. Seriously, I don’t know what’s going on with my head this season, but I freaked out again. I
analyzed it to death talked it over with IronHubs and decided that I’m going to keep practicing in open water, but take the pressure off myself by not signing up for another tri any time soon (or until I’ve got this under control, which ever comes first). But of course I wanted to keep racing, so I went and signed up for a series of three duathlons this summer, with the first one about a week away. And then we went on vacation. And then the weather took a turn for the ridiculous, with temps in the low 60s and a downpour of rain predicted for Saturday and Sunday. I think it’s safe to say that my expectations for this race were very, very low. I felt pretty good about coming in at 2 hours for a 3 mile run/16 mile bike/3 mile run event, and thought I might squeak in a little under, maybe 1:57. My very best case scenario had me crossing the finish line around 1:55. Spoiler Alert – I crushed every one of these goals!!
After obsessively checking the weather every fifteen minutes or so on Friday evening, I realized that no amount of fretting about it was going to change the fact that race day was gonna be a wet one. I slept better than I thought I might and got up feeling nervous but excited. IronHubs was racing the Sprint Tri (his first tri of the season), so we loaded up all the gear and got on the road by 6:45 for an 8 am start.
Run Leg #1 (3 miles)
Wishing IronHubs good luck and then lining up for the first leg, I started to feel really excited. Maybe it was the lack of open water, maybe it was the cool temps and drizzling rain (I actually really like to run in the rain and much prefer cold weather to hot on race days). No matter the reason, I started the day with a big smile on my face and I’m pretty sure it was there the whole race! The duathlon field was small, but not WTH small – I estimated 40-50 people, and the first person I saw was my age, so I knew I would have a little competition. Ha, ha! The race director shouted, “GO!” and we were off! The run course was exactly the same for the first and third legs of the race, and it’s a three-mile stretch that I’ve covered before in previous races. It’s a rocky, hilly, dirt road with no views of anything but the other athletes. My race strategy was to run the first leg strong but conservative, going mostly by feel and not trying to set any PRs. I looked at my Garmin once about a half mile in and I was going WAAAAAAAY too fast, so I reined it in and then kept it steady. I took the hills as they came and reminded myself to shorten my stride and keep chugging along – my motto for the day was, “High Cadence, Low Heartrate.”
About a mile in, I realized that I was running a very comfortable pace and was somehow near the front of the mid-pack. Well, that was exciting! And then I counted girls and discovered that I was 5th female – holy crow! Before I knew it, I was seeing the lead runners coming back at me and then all of a sudden, I was at the turnaround myself. At mile 2.5 I snuck a peek at my Garmin again and was elated to see an average pace of 8:33, exactly where I was hoping to be. Analyzing the numbers later, I found out that my splits were perfectly even (something I never do) at 8:33, 8:34 and 8:32.
3 Mile Run – 25:22, T1 – approximately 2 minutes
Bike Leg (16 miles)
I was really looking forward to this bike leg before the forecast of rain. After all that hill training I did for WTH, I felt ready to tackle the rollers on this course and was excited about riding a little more aggressively than I usually do. The rain, though, made me worry. I am a cautious cyclist already and not very experienced with riding in the rain (that’s what indoor trainers are for!), so I went out with the expectation of a slow-ish ride. My “A” goal was an average of 16 mph. The first few miles are mostly downhill with a few twists and turns and I’m not gonna lie, I rode my brakes and took it slow. There was nothing aggressive about my riding and I got passed by more than a few cyclists. Once we hit the straightaway section with all the hills, though, I found my groove and started pedaling away. High cadence, low heartrate. Every hill I climbed, I reeled in another rider. I felt strong. I barely even changed gears. People around me were struggling and I just kept feeling better. The rain was coming down heavier now and the wind had definitely picked up, but I didn’t let it bother me. About 6 miles in, I saw IronHubs coming the other way – what a boost! I was so happy to see that he was having a good day and looking strong on the bike.
After I made the turnaround at Mile 8, I realized just how much of a headwind I had been battling. How exciting to have a tailwind now! I had been leapfrogging with another rider for a few miles – I would pass him on the uphills and he would pass me back on the way down (he was a pretty big guy, he could coast the downhills and still pass me). I finally got fed up with it and passed him decisively at the bottom of one of the biggest hills. We had been chatting a little, so when I got ahead of him he shouted, “Wow, look at you go! Queen of the Hills!” I think that might be the nicest compliment I’ve ever received.
The last three or four miles of the course is a long, steady climb (with a headwind to boot), and while I was pushing through it I wondered briefly if I had saved enough for the final run. I was still feeling good, though, so I geared down a notch and just kept spinning. The screen on my Garmin was still set for the WTH, where my only concern was average speed, so my data fields were showing average pace, % grade and total distance. I had absolutely no idea how fast I was currently going or how long the ride had taken me. As it turned out, I was pretty slow in those final miles, but managed an average cadence of 93 rpms and an average speed of 17.1 mph for the ride – woo hoo!
16 Mile Bike – 55:29, T2 – approximately 2 minutes
Run Leg #2 (3 miles)
I hopped off my bike and ran to my rack to find that all my stuff had gotten completely soaked while I was riding. This should have been obvious to me from all that rain in my face on the bike, but…well, I’m a natural blonde, and it apparently didn’t occur to me that my shoes were getting wet back in transition! Ha, ha! No matter. I put on my squishy running shoes and decided against wearing the drenched hat and off I went on rubbery biking legs. During training, I tell myself all the time to just get through the first mile and then my legs will feel normal and this run was certainly no different. I fought the urge to slow down by reminding myself sternly that I was the world’s toughest ho-ho and I sure as heck wasn’t going to walk for a Sprint! Within a half mile or so, my legs found a pace I could live with. I saw IronHubs running strong and fast (no joke, his last mile was a sub-6 minute pace!) and was so excited that he was having a great day. We high-fived like the nerds we are and he went on to finish in an amazing 30th place overall. Out of 416. Yeah, he’s smokin’ fast!
The run course by this point was a slippery, muddy mess. The uphills weren’t awful, but the downhills were getting pretty dicey. I concentrated a lot on watching my footing and – no surprise here – keeping my cadence high. When I got to the turnaround, I had passed a few people and only one guy had passed me. I was actually feeling pretty good, so I made it my mission in life to stay on his back pocket. He was running really strong and looking at the numbers later, I sped up significantly to keep up with him. When we got to the final mile, I was feeling great – happy to be almost done, happy to still feel so strong, just plain ol’ happy! I hadn’t looked at my Garmin at all for this run leg, mostly because it was on the wrong screen but partly because I was holding it in my hand to keep it from getting any more wet. Trust me, this logic made sense at the time. In any event, I had absolutely no idea where I stood, time-wise, for the run or for the race as a whole. Imagine my surprise to come screaming into the finishing chute a full TEN MINUTES faster than I had expected!!! Woo hooo!!!
3 Mile Run – 25:07 (Garmin time, which I didn’t get started until at least a tenth of a mile into the run leg, so maybe 26 minutes?)
Finish Time – 1:50:37
The Best Part of All
After the race, it was so very, very cold that we took off before the results were posted. I felt really good about my time, but I wasn’t sure if it was good enough for hardware. Lo and behold, when I checked the results this morning, I saw this little gem:
I won my age group (and, in fact, came in 13th place overall)!!!!! So far in 2011, I have competed in two duathlons and won my AG both times! And this time, there were even other girls my age!!! Ha, ha! I tell you what, I could really get used to this “big fish in a small pond” thing. I love duathlon, I really
du, I mean, do!