I forgot to mention it here last week, but Saturday I participated in my second triathlon. This one was a longer distance than the sprint that I did in July. The international distance, from what I’ve gathered, isn’t set in stone like the Olympic Distance is, and this one was a 1/2 mile swim, a 20 mile bike, and a 6.1 mile run. I don’t know why they cut it to 6.1 miles instead of 6.2, but that’s what they did.
Since last week was my first week back at school, I didn’t have a lot of time to focus or get nervous for the triathlon that weekend. In fact, it wasn’t really until Friday afternoon when I was driving home that I started realizing that this was double the distance and I hadn’t really done any research on how to race this distance. I didn’t know about fuel or pacing, and I really just didn’t even have time on Friday night to worry about it. I texted Tori and asked her what her plans were and just figured I’d go with that.
I got up Saturday at 4am to head down to Fort de Soto, which is about an hour south of me. I wanted to get there by 5:45 to give myself time to get through packet pickup, use the restroom, and setup transition. I got there in time and got in the early line to pickup my packet, which later proved to be the best move. The line got long! I hurried to the restroom after that because my stomach was a little upset; I think it was a mix of nerves and poor planning on a random dinner the night before. Then it was time for body marking. There’s something just so official to me about getting that body marking. It makes me click into race mode.
Then I headed in to setup transition. I got everything laid out before I walked down to the ocean with Tori, Meghan, and Michelle.
We walked into the water when we figured the race wasn’t going to start on time. It was about 6:50, and the buoys weren’t even all in place for a 7:00 start. To our surprise, they called to all the athletes doing the International distance (there was also a duathlon and sprint tri) to come lineup for an on time start. We had to rush.
I decided to line up at the front again, even though all the men and women were starting together. There were 105 of us in the wave, but I just figured I’d take a risk going to the front. I was asking around to figure out how to maneuver the buoys and people were kind of looking at me like I didn’t belong in the front. One girl asked how old I was to figure out if she needed to worry about me. I assured her that I can swim but am not as strong on the bike or run.
They had us cross the timing mat and walk to the water’s edge before starting us. Then we were off. I ran for 15 or so seconds into the water then started dolphin diving for 3 or 4 repetitions. Then we were deep enough to swim and I started making my way to the first buoy.
The website tricked us. There were only three buoys in the water: the first red one, the red one that we turned around, and the yellow one. It was tricky siting all the way from the first red buoy to the far red buoy, and I almost got confused and turned at the yellow one on the map (because they were all red at the event). I was swimming in the front of the group and found myself stroke for stroke with another guy. I decided to just stick with him instead of trying to pull ahead since I wasn’t 100% sure of the route. He got annoyed with me on his feet and started kicking harder, but I wasn’t too concerned and just stuck there until we got to the finish. As I ran up to the beach I heard people saying, “Oh wow! White caps already!?” because a couple heats of the sprint has started behind us. I figured I was in the front of the group and later discovered I was 3rd overall out of the water for men and women! I was so excited with that, and it always makes me happy to have had a swimming background.
Swim: 1/2 mile, 12:56, AG 1/5, Overall 3/105, Gender 1/43
I ran the run up to transition and took a second to put my hair up into a clip. I then put on my socks and cycling shoes, helmet and sunglasses, grabbed my bike from the rack and was off. I probably could have taken a little less time had I planned ahead with my hair or taken less time putting on my socks.
T1: 1:36, AG 3/5, Overall 61/105, Gender 21/43
Then it was time to get on my bike! I’ve started loving this part most of all, which is good since it really gets most of the attention as the races get longer. I decided to see how I felt then set a plan on my speed. Luckily I had my Garmin set correctly to the bike speed and started thinking somewhere between 18-19 MPH was going to be a solid pace to keep for the ride. We had tail wind a lot and limited headwind, and I didn’t want to tire my legs so they couldn’t make it through the 6.1 mile run. After all, that was the part of Top Gun where I really just wanted to sit down.
The part of the bike I was the most nervous for was drinking water. I’m still unsure of taking one hand off my handlebars to reach for water and then look to put it back. I decided I’d ride the first 10 mile loop then go for water on the way starting the second loop. I reached down and got the bottle, drank from it a few times, and then reached to put it back. That was when I heard a noise and looked down to realize I had dropped it. Oh no! A man rode by and angrily said, “you should get a speed penalty for that!” When I tried to apologize he was having none of it. (I would like to here note that I later passed him on the run and bit my tongue to not say something back to him at that point). But, for the next 15 minutes I was just so worried that I had done something wrong! I didn’t know what protocol was and whether I was supposed to get off and go get it or if I was going to go get a penalty. I obviously hadn’t done it on purpose. I just remembered reading Emily‘s Ironman recap when she dropped her bottle and found another bottle on the side of the road and hoped that meant people dropped bottles sometimes.
When Tori’s fiance Patrick rode by I yelled to him nervously asking if I was going to get a penalty. Luckily he called back with a resounding, “No!” Whew! What a relief! He works for Ironman and race directs a lot of races, so I knew he knew what he was talking about. Now I could get back to sticking with my bike plan. I was continuing with my planned paces and didn’t feel like I was exerting too much effort. What I was worried about, though, was the stomach rumbles that I was feeling for part of the bike. I kid you not that I just prayed through that whole bike that my stomach would be settled for the run. Thankfully when I got off the bike I was okay to run.
Looking at the numbers I’m a little disappointed in how I did on the bike. When I race this distance again I’ll probably push the bike a little more knowing what I know now and knowing how I felt at the end of the race. But that being said, this was by first time and this was my best guess at how to pace myself!
Bike: 20 mile bike, 1:03:29, 18.8 mph, AG 2/5, Overall 81/105, Gender 26/43
I dismounted and got back into transition and all switched up and ready to run. I was out on the course when I all of the sudden realized that I hadn’t taken any gels or fuel on the bike and forgot to grab them heading into the run. I decided at that moment that I wouldn’t let that mentally faze me. I was just going to push another hour without energy. With my unsettled stomach I also thought it might be for the better.
T2: 1:04, AG 1/5, Overall 27/105, Gender 8/43
Then it was time to run! This was the part I was the most nervous about heading into the race because of my stress fracture come back. I was up to 8 miles so knew that I could do it, but I was just worried about how it was going to feel. I decided to shoot for 9:30/mile when I got out there and started seeing how good I felt.
I didn’t want to push too hard because I had two loops to do, of which half of each loop was on packed sand. At the time, though, the 9:30 just felt good. I felt like I could maintain it for a while. I took cytomax at mile marker 1 since I forgot the gel, and I threw the whole “no new on race day” philosophy out the window. I figured it couldn’t be too different from other sports drinks. Though it wasn’t delicious or anything, I think I actually liked it more than Powerade. It seemed less sugary; either that or it was really watered down.
I took water at the 1.5 mile marker, and when I turned the first loop onto the pavement to head back towards transition I felt an instant increase in pace. It felt so good on my legs to run on the pavement again. Even though the sand wasn’t loose, it was definitely a lot softer than a hard surface (duh!). It was a little hotter than the sand running, and I realized then that I had forgotten sunscreen (chalk this up to poor race day preparation). Oh well! I felt good!
When I turned to start my second loop I realized that I was going to be able to maintain the 9:30 pace, so I just took it mile by mile. I’ll dare say that this was one of my most zen runs ever. I just zoned out and turned it over. It was really just an enjoyable run. But when I realized that, I realized that I probably hadn’t pushed hard enough. When I got to the final mile I was absolutely ready to be done, but I think that’s the case with anyone with the last mile of any race. Your mind just prepares your body to shut off.
As I got closer to the finish line I picked it up a little bit even though there was no one to pass. I just figured why not? When I finished I rushed to the shade and got some watermelon to eat. They had a little print out of all of the splits, so I got that to start analyzing as well before heading to the tv screens to see that I had placed second in my age group! I thought this might be the case as I was racing, but I wasn’t 100% sure and didn’t want to bank on it in case one of the people without their age on their leg had been in my age group.
Run: 58:28, 9:25/mile, AG 2/5, Overall 50/105, Gender 17/43. I had passed a lot of people back on the run who had gotten me on the bike! Woohoo!
And even though there were only 5 people in my age group, it was still exciting to get to stand on the podium. It was the first time I’ve ever placed in my age group in anything, so I was absolutely going to relish in the moment.
Tori got third and had a great day as well!
Final Results: 2:17:32, AG 2/5, Overall 52/105, Gender 16/43
If I could wake up and have it be Saturday all over again, here’s what I’d do differently:
Swim: Nothing. I’m happy with it!
Bike: I’d push it a little more. I’d probably aim to hold 19-20 instead since we had more of a tailwind and it turned out that I had a little more energy left at the finish than I probably should have.
Run: Keep loop 1 the same but push loop 2 a little bit more. I should have started shooting for 9:15/mile as my continued state of zen held out and I continued passing people on the way back to the finish line.
Transitions: I just need to practice those. I don’t know where their timing chips were in all of this or how this run which was similar in distance to the Top Gun run to T1 is so much shorter in time. Oh well! I’ll take what I got for not and work on it more later.
Overall though I’m really happy with how good everything felt! It makes me really excited to race Rev3 in November since I’m for sure a distance athlete. It seems that the more time I get to spend doing athletic events the more I enjoy them. That bodes well!
What’s your favorite distance running race or triathlon and why?