I’m so excited to write this post because I had a lot of successes this weekend: my first time on the podium, some Olympic distance PRs, chasing my competition down, and never discounting myself or giving up. For a hot Labor Day race in Texas, I’m pretty psyched.
After ironman, I took some much needed time off for recovery (mentally & physically), and didn’t want to think about my next race just yet. So after some debating I picked a fall Olympic-distance race to round out my tri season. The Houston Towne Lake Olympic was a good pick – over three months out allowed plenty of time for recovery, it was local, and I had some friends that were going to be there too. And David was happy to join me!
Pre-Race: Started my morning early with my usual wasa crackers with nut butter, maple, banana & raisins pre-race meal, plus water with lemon. We got to the race site with plenty of time to set our things up, hit the port-a-potty and I even got in a little 10-minute run warm-up plus a dip in the lake to stretch out and swim a bit. I gave David a kiss goodbye and watched him swim away as his wave was 15 minutes ahead of me.
Swim: Rank 1 / 26 in AG!! 26:48, 1:47 pace. The water was pretty nice and cool, but murky. I was wearing my Roka Viper swimskin which I LOVE and is super fast. I had purchased it for IMTX but since IMTX was wetsuit legal I had not been able to wear this expensive suit and I couldn’t wait to use it in a race. Really, it’s the closest thing to having a wetsuit other than wearing a wetsuit. Anyway, the waves went off (women 39 & under for me) and due to the wide nature of the course people spread out really quickly and I find any groups for drafting. I thought the sighting would be pretty straightforward, but I think I was overly-confident and maybe not sighting enough, because I was swimming left and hugging the buoys/center of the lake the entire time. I started to get nervous during the swim that I was adding a lot of extra distance, but I refocused and stayed calm (no need to speed up) and remembered to let my form carry me. Overall, the swim went pretty fast (I had my Garmin buzzing every 500m). After some nice volunteers helped me out of the water, I looked at my watch and was stoked for a sub-30 minute time – a new PR for me by almost 5 minutes. Later I learned I exited the water first in my AG which is a HUGE accomplishment for me!! It also probably means there were no “true” swimmers in my AG, but who cares.
Swim gear: Roka Viper Swimskin // Aquasphere Kayenne goggles // race swim cap // Betty Designs tri kit // Garmin 910xt + HR monitor (worn throughout race)
Swim Nutrition: Sips of a water bottle with Infinit on the way to venue and during transition set-up // 0.5 Strawberry-Banana Gu 20-30 minutes before the swim start
T1: 2:01 – nothing too eventful, a little extra time taking off my Roka, but it was fairly easy to remove and I felt the time and ease it provided on my swim was worth it.
Bike: 4 / 26 in AG, 1:08, 20.5 mph (note the distance for this is slightly shorter than regular Oly – it was 23.5 mi, normally Olympic distance is 24.8 mi). Another PR for me – my fastest pace on an Oly bike yet! Of course, this bike was pretty flat and fast and we had little wind. I’ve actually dropped in wattage since IM training slightly, but I wasn’t too concerned. My goals for the bike were to go by RPE (Rate Perceived Exertion), and whatever I did “it had to feel good” as Marni had told me. Pacing on the bike would be the most important part of the Olympic race. So I was repeating in my head “this has to feel good, this has to feel good”. What felt right (strong but good and not hurting) for this distance was anywhere from 145-155 watts, though I didn’t try to hold a specific wattage too much. I broke the bike into 20-minute laps and they went by pretty fast – my goal on each was to drink 1/3 of my bottle with nutrition, which I did. The course was 2 square loops which provided for lots of straight roads that I actually really enjoyed from a time-trial perspective. I had no idea where I was ranked at that point, so I was watching the women that passed me for their age marking. One girl in my AG passed me fairly early in the second loop, then another one passed me near the end. I was a little annoyed that she was drafting off a bigger guy, but I knew it was out of my control. Maybe I could catch her on the run.
Bike Gear: Garmin 500 // Giro Aero Helmet // Oakley Radar Sunglasses // Giro Factress Tri Shoes // Betty Designs tri kit // Felt DA4 bike with Zipp 404s & Di2 (thanks David & Dad!!)
Bike Nutrition: 1 bottle with 1.5 scoops Infinit Custom mix (~220 cal) // 1 salt tab // 1 bottle of ice water used for cooling
T2: 1:36 – no issues here, I just grabbed everything (helps to use your mouth as an extra hand if you have a flask and you put on your bib belt while running out).
Run: 4 / 26 in AG, 51:49, 8:21 pace. Coming off the bike I did a quick assessment: my legs felt good, but this run would be hot one and I would need lots of ice. From my pre-race talk with Marni, I had been a little surprised at the slower paces she thought I should start at, but luckily my coach is smart and knew exactly what would be best for me. We had to adjust my paces for the summer heat & humidity. She suggested starting off at a half marathon pace (8:30-8:45ish) or what felt like 75% for the first three miles, then in the last three I could build to what felt like 90%. She warned me if I started off faster that the heat would hit me half way through, so we had to make sure to be smart about it. I also planned use my beloved walk-break strategy (it’s magic), taking 10-15 sec walk breaks at each aid station which were every mile.
Running out of transition the girl that had passed me most recently on the bike was just ahead of me then took off. Dang it, I thought, she’s probably a runner. But then I reminded myself: “don’t get discouraged or discount yourself, there is still plenty of time and you have to race your race and you might catch her at the end. No need to change your plan just yet.” I kept at what felt like 75% for the first few miles – 8:20-8:30 pace and had to tell myself to hold back just a tad. On the miles where I ran slightly faster than 8:30 I tried to take 5 extra seconds on my walk breaks. I also dumped ice water over my head at every one I could. By mile 3-4 it was really getting hot and I knew my HR was going up, so I was REALLY glad I did not start off too fast, it was starting to hurt enough as is. Finally just before the last mile I saw the girl I wanted to race down. She had slowed and/or I was negative splitting. I saw her signal the number two to a spectator and I thought – could she be in second place, meaning I’m in third?! Either way, I had someone to run down. This is not usually the predicament I was in, so I was both excited and nervous. I was catching up not too far from her when I took my walk break at the last aid station and she stopped longer than I did, so I just re-started after 10 seconds and didn’t look back. I felt like I had someone chasing me down which made for a really strong sub-8 minute pace on my last mile! Finally, with 0.2 miles to go I looked back and there were no girls in sight (yes!), so I pushed strong to bring it home!
Run Nutrition: 1 flask with 2.5 oz Infinit Napalm (sips every half mile) // water+ice at aid stations
Race Results: 2 / 26 AG, 61 overall, 2:30:45 – For such a hot race, I was really excited about my time (a 12 minute PR, though a flat course with a shorter bike), but I was even more excited that I had run my competition down and was smart about it. This was the perfect end to a strong triathlon season that started off with an ironman and ended with placing!
David had a strong swim and bike, but cramped up on the run very badly. We don’t think it was nutrition, but more likely that he changed to using one of my old road bikes a few days before and hadn’t adjusted the fit completely. And my friend Regina also got second place in her AG so I was really proud of her.
What’s next? Recovery and some unstructured workouts!!