Monday, August 25, 2014

Race Recap - Cranberry Trifest Oly

I know, I know.  I said I wasn't blogging anymore.  A decision I stand by (for now).  But since yesterday's race, I've had a few people tell me they were going to miss reading my recap.  More importantly, Coach Sheriff got my in the habit of writing race recaps as a way to digest and learn from every race.  In fact, my recaps are how this blog got started.  Writing a summary of the good bad and ugly has become part of my process - I feel like I don't get "closure" until it's down in print.  So, without further rationalization, here it is...


How far back to go?  Well, my kids school starts this Wednesday - three days after race day.  My baby goes to kindergarten, my oldest to full-day for the first time. We went backpacking as a family two weekends ago.  After the trip, I got sick for several days (not related to our vacation - just the office bug and another bout of TMJ).  The semester at Northeastern University is wrapping up (final grades due the day after the race, final exam due the night before the race).  If you add all this up, I've had a lot on my mind.  I haven't neglected my training though.  Gypsy and I had a fabulous brick workout a week or so before the race.  My run paces were firmly in the 9:00s.  Last OWS with Gill a few days before and everything seemed good.   I even had a massage the Friday before the race, though to be fair, the therapist had to spend the entire hour trying to release my TMJ so the actual triathlon-related body parts didn't get much benefit.  Still, not having throbbing headaches and the ability to chew solid food is only ever a good thing.  

True, I did have a panicked moment when the athletes guide was released and I realized that I never registered for the blessed race in the first place!  (downside of doing everything way in advance - I had assumed I'd signed up at Christmastime with the rest of my schedule for 2014.  Not.)  But aside from that, I was pretty well prepared. 

Cranberry Trifest is down toward Cape Cod, so to cut down on driving time, we decided to stay at my parents house the night before the race.  This was to be a family affair - after the kids being upset they missed cheering for Mommy at NE Trifest in June, I had told them they should come to this one.  There is a playground right next to transition, and the race has the reputation of being family friendly.  

Feeding the parakeets at the zoo
Saturday morning I did a final 2 mile shakeout run.  Negative splits, pacing well - feeling good.  We packed up the car and the kids and spent the afternoon at a zoo near my parent's house (critter watching is a good way to stay loose) with friend Legos and her kids.  Then on to my folks house for dinner.  My mom even made me my traditional pre-race tuna pasta, which is a pretty big sacrifice for everyone else since I'm the only one that likes it.  Thanks mom!

Race Morning

I turned in early and managed to sleep the night before.  The logistics of a destination race get a lot more complicated when two bikes, two athletes, two husbands, and six kids get thrown in the mix.  The plan was that Gypsy (whose family was also spectating) would drive to my parents in the wee hours, we'd switch to my car (which had our bikes), and the husbands would bring the kids later.  I woke up before the alarm at 5 am.  So did my daughter, who begged to come with me and help set up.  Sorry kiddo - this is gonna be challenging enough.  Gypsy arrived right on time, and we got to the race venue about an hour before the race start.  Which should have been enough time to get our packets, get marked, set up transition, pee, practice swim, etc.  And yet, it wasn't.  It's a big race, and the time seemed to just slip away.  No time for the last potty stop, barely time to figure out the layout (bike in, bike out, etc.).  We wandered over to the lake just as the official were pulling all the swimmers practicing out of the water to get ready for the elites start.  

Still, the weather was perfect, the skies clear - not too hot.  It was a perfect day for a race.  I was rested, I was fueled, hydrated... except for my nagging feeling that something was off, I should have been fine.  My physical therapist Laura was volunteering in transition - I got one extra hug from her before going over to the start.  I said, "I don't want to do this!"  She said something encouraging.  I should have listened better. We also saw my swim coach Gill before the race.  He asked if we were ready - similar hesitation.

The Swim - 0.9 miles in 31:55

Cranberry has a reputation of being a shallow swim.  Shallow enough that last year, athletes were forced to get up and walk parts of it.  This year, the officials addressed this by moving the buoys into a zig-zag line around the perimeter of the lake, which added up to barely 0.9 miles.  Standing on the bluff overlooking the water, the effect was similar to my a toddler throws a handful of cheerios from a high chair tray.  Lots of orange dots everywhere in no particular shape.  But the theory was simple enough.  Swim around the edge of the lake.

The start format for the age groupers was a time trial start - with two athletes allowed into the water every five seconds.  I was thrilled with this, after the beating I took at NE Trifest I was not in the mood for another washing machine swim.  The men 40-45 and Clydesdales were in the wave behind ours, though, so I decided to aim for the middle of my AG.  Hopefully I wouldn't see those guys for at least part of my swim.  Gypsy gave me one more hug and went up to the front, as she's really come into her own as the competitive swimmer this summer.  Unbeknownest to me, the Jedi and my kiddos were there by this point and actually saw me go into the water.  That man is a miracle worker to mobilize two kids at 5:30 am for a 7:45 wave start.  Seriously.

The swim was shallow.  The depth ranged from "omg my hand just hit sand again...." to "oh look a fish" to barely able to see the bottom.  I kind of liked having something to look at, even if it did force everyone to kind of bunch together and then swim apart in places.  The buoy placement also made sighting an adventure - instead of a more or less straight line, every time you passed a buoy you had to change direction for the next one.  The men behind me did, indeed, catch up with me about half way through the swim.  The water was crowded (it really wasn't a big lake!), but I have to just say that, as a gender, men are jerks.  I'm sure there are some exceptions, and guys don't take offense if you are them, but in general where women seem to at least try to avoid hitting eachother somewhat, men seems to seek out opportunities to swim right over you.  Seriously guys.  It's not necessary.  Chances are that you're not sighting so perfectly straight anyway, and the speed you lose hitting me to should a deterrent.

The swim seemed to last a long time.  While overall pleasant, the constant looking for where I was supposed to be got old.  Plus, almost as soon as I hit the water I realized that I had never had to pee so badly in my life.  And that I am incapable of peeing while actively swimming.  An ability you think you'll never need, but.....

Finally came out of the water mid-pack of the pink caps (my AG).  Gave Laura a double high five (she was standing at the waters edge at this point), and walked up the very slippery steps, holding the handrail, to all the volunteers yelling "Walk!  Hold the rail!  People are falling!!"".  My watch when I left the water said 30:44, so the timing mat must have been at the top of this flight of stairs.  I saw my family (yay!) and trotted over to transition.  I had hoped to finish the swim in under 40 minutes, so was very happy with my time.  A PR, for sure.

Transition 1 - 3:43.08

This took a while.  Again, I'm not really sure where the timing mats were.  I was waaaaay on one side of transition.  The side away from the bike out.  I also didn't really run to transition like usual, and I seemed to be confused by my gear.  I remember saying out loud, "Put your shoes on", as I was about to leave barefoot with my bike.  I don't remember being winded from the swim at all.  So not sure what the explanation for this time is.

The Bike - 26.2 miles in 1:31:48 (17.1 mph)

The bike course for Cranberry is mostly flat, and very scenic.  While the "mostly flat" part sounds good, I actually had some concerns going in.  Where I live is very, VERY hilly.  Consequently, all my training has been done on hills.  Both uphills and downhills - obvious, but periods of intense effort followed by breaks is not the same as pedalling all out for hours at a time.

I'd incorporated a lot of flat sections into my recent training rides, and I'd set the goal of 18 mph for this race, based on my efforts in the weeks prior.  I felt good starting out on the bike.  Not too cold, not tired.  I still had to pee beyond reason (side note - I also can't pee on a bike, and really don't understand people who can.  Or choose too.  Around mile 3 I passed a guy who had gotten off to pee in the woods and was intensely jealous of that male ability....), but otherwise great.  

If I could have ended this race at the Mile 20 mark, I would be writing that this was my best race ever.  That I did everything I wanted.  I PRed the swim, and up until mile 20, I was pacing above 18 mph.  I hit all my nutrition, I drank all my water. 

But alas, the bike of an Oly in 26.2 miles, not 20.  My legs stopped wanting to turn over, and fairly suddenly.  My speed dropped.  I wasn't sick, I wasn't injured, my blood sugar was fine... I just couldn't get my legs to move.  I finished the bike knowing that I wasn't going to make my goal after all, and that I was in a world of trouble for the run.

Transition 2 - 3:11.4

Gypsy coming into T2

I know exactly why this transition took so long.  I could barely walk off the bike.  Laura was in transition again - I said "I signed up for the aquabike, right?"  I staggered the length of transition (again - I was at the end).  My kids beat me running from one end to the other.  I asked the Jedi how the kids were - great.  They had made signs for me, that they vigorously shook at me while telling me how great Mommy was doing.  I told my husband that I hoped he'd brought extra toys, bc it was going to be a while.  He asked if I was ok - I told him I was fried.  I paused to give each kid a big hug over the fence and kiss my husband.  Not sure if that counts as assisting your athlete, but I would have been cheerfully DQed for a hug from my kids at this point.  I heard my daughter yell as I ran away from them, "It's ok to run slow if you need to Mommy!!!!"

The Run - 6.2 miles in 1:11:34 (11:33 minutes per mile)

The BEST part of the run was that I knew there was a portapotty on the Run Out.  I've never stopped in a race before, but man.... that extra time was worth it.  The second best part of the run was Laura screaming my name as I was running out of transition.  Things like that really do make a difference.

I tried, buddy!
That ends anything positive I have to say about the run.  My legs would. not. go.  I tried to walk a little to pep them up.  Nothing.  I tried to focus on my form - I have a tendency to sit back on my heels when tired - if I lean forward I usually pick up at least 20 seconds on my pace.  Nothing.  My first mile was around 12:00.  Okay, that's including the potty stop.  Second mile 11:30ish.  As was the third.  I knew going into the run that my goal of 1:05 for the run wasn't going to happen, but somewhere after mile 4 my watch switched over an hour and I knew it was just terrible.  I never got faster - there was no second wind.  I gave up walking and just shuffled along.  I heart rate wasn't crazy high.  I started to get dizzy around mile 5.  I don't remember much else.

Oh thank god the finish line.....



My family was right there at the finish line.  Once I crossed it, I ran straight into Gypsy and Gill, who had been waiting for me.  Gypsy finished about a half an hour beforehand, and Gill did the aquabike so was there goodness knows how long.  Although I couldn't verbalize it at the time (or even really speak), I was so grateful that they had waiting so long for me.  They were right there at NETrifest when I finished.  I remember telling them before this race that that had been nice - I'm so happy they took my casual comment/request to heart.  Gypsy parked me in a chair, told me to put my feet in the really gross ice water kiddie pool.  Jedi and kids came over to the fence to ask if I was ok.  Some time passed.  We walked over to get some food, which I couldn't eat.  Laura checked in with me and high-fived the kids.

Gypsy and I at the finish.  

For the rest of the day I was sick, sore, and mostly a mess.  Ditto today, though starting to feel a little less so.  I haven't been this beat up in months.  I have very mixed feelings about the race.  I'm super happy with my PR on the swim.  I'm very happy with the first part of the bike, but I'm frustrated and frankly confused as to what happened.  Should I have biked longer in training?  20-30 miles is well within my usual comfortable distance.  Did I just truly give the bike all I had, and then there was nothing left?  I had been hoping for a much stronger run, based on recent training paces.  I'm used to having nutritional problems, but I've never experienced my body just politely refusing to move in the middle of a race.  I'm really just not sure what happened or what I could conceivable done differently in the last month or so to change the outcome of the day.  So.... simultaneously a really nice and really disappointing end to the season.

In the car on the way home, my daughter told me, "Mommy, you're a true triathlete.  It's not just about what you look like or how fast you are.  You keep going when it's really hard.  Plus you try to not bump into people on the swim, so that makes you a true triathlete". 

I swear I do not make these things up - the same kid says things like this and then immediately goes back to fighting with her brother over crossing of imaginary lines in the backseat.  Mystery of parenthood.  But still - that was pretty profound.  Yesterday and this morning my kids showered me with so many "Mommy you did great"s! and "I love you Mommys"!  I had great friends and cheerleaders yesterday.  I am glad I did the race.  I still don't know what is next - I'm still planning on hiking and relaxing this fall.  I can say with complete confidence that I have no desire to do a 70.3 or longer in the next few years.  I may have to come back to try this race again though, because the course really is beautiful.  I'd like a second chance to appreciate it, under better circumstances.

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