It’s probably kind of strange for the first post of a triathlon blog to be a race report, but this race kind of got me excited about writing, so here it is.
The Jordanelle Triathlon was my “A” race this year. And, actually, as I was trying to save money for the IRONMAN I wanted to do next year, it was my only race this year. As such, I felt a good bit of pressure to do well and not “waste the summer,” as I so eloquently put it during one of my more worried moments. As the day of the race approached, I became more and more convinced it was destined to go poorly.
For a month or two beforehand, I struggled with my appetite. I wasn’t eating enough, lost too much weight, and had low energy levels because I just couldn’t force down enough food.
About two weeks before the race, I gave blood after being heartily reassured by a Red Cross employee that it would not affect my race at all, only to read later that it takes 4-6 weeks for red blood cells to replenish.
The evening before the race, Rob and I biked downtown to watch the Tour of Utah. It was really fun to see the pros up close like that. I hydrated and stayed out of the sun, and all seemed well. Until I got stuck biking back to Rob’s pace in the worst rainstorm I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand. It was truly astounding. I’ve never really known what it means when people talk about “raining in sheets.” But now I do. It was like there were walls of rain blowing through. If I hadn’t been so worried about the race, it would have been an amazing experience.
The weather for the race site still predicted thunder storms throughout most of the next day.
So, still cold and wet, I went to bed that night after giving up all expectations that I had held for this race while training for it throughout the summer. You would think that this collection of experiences would end in a) the worst race ever because of the aforementioned issues or b) the best race ever because I finally let go of my expectations or some such nonsense. But life is not an inspirational sports movie, so in the end, I did… okay. Not great, but certainly not poorly either.
This triathlon had an early start time for an Olympic (7:30am), so I picked up Rob at his place around 4:45 (which means I got up around 4). Because of the location of this race, no cars were allowed near the starting point. So I had to ride my bike in about 3.5 miles (which I didn’t mind because it was a good warmup), and Rob brought in the rest of my stuff on the shuttle. The final pre-race tragedy happened when I was putting my bike in the transition area and noticed I was missing a water bottle (the one I had filled with Gatorade). It was just there, I thought to myself. I specifically checked that just last night! It hit me that the bottle must have fallen out of the backseat of my car. Crap. One bottle wasn’t really going to be enough. I panicked for a moment before I remembered a last-minute addition to my bag the previous night—the half-empty bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water to sip before the race. Crisis averted.
Once Rob got there with my stuff, I finished setting up my transition, gagged on the Egg McMuffin we got on the way up, forced down a gel with caffeine (first gel I’ve had ever had… verdict—nasty), and got in my wetsuit. I gave Rob instructions to yell out the temperature when I came out of the water so I would know what the wear on the bike.
Despite my time here, the swim went well. The course was a two-loop triangle. I started off strong, and as usually happens when I swim, my arms got tired right away and then a few hundred meters later felt great (which probably means I’m not warming up enough). I felt like I had a strong stroke, and I was swimming completely on my own which I prefer, even though it means I’m missing out on drafting opportunities. So, I was tired to first buoy, felt great to the second, then turned towards shore for the first time. The sun was directly in my eyes which I had been expecting because I had come up for a swim a few weeks earlier. I couldn’t see the third buoy at all, so I tried to sight based on the splashing of other swimmers in front of me. This led to my only mistake in the swim. I didn’t take the angle after the second buoy sharply enough and swam pretty significantly off-course. Once I realized this, I corrected and attacked the swim with a renewed vengeance. I swam the rest of the course harder than I probably would have and made sure to not make the same mistake twice. I was pretty perfectly on course as I headed back to shore the second time.
As I got out of the water, I heard Rob shout “54 degrees!” Perfect. That means I can hop on the bike wet and with no gloves or arm warmers and be fine. Then he shouted, “I think you’re the fourth or fifth woman out of the water!”
“Really?!” I shouted back. That surprised me. That’s a really good placing for me, and my time didn’t reflect it. I heard later that the buoys drifted and the course was long. Looking at my time compared to other people’s times, I’m inclined to believe that was the case. There were hardly any sub-30 minute swim times, and the fastest woman only came in at 26:39 (when usually a few women are down in the 21 or 22 minute range).
I rolled out of T1 feeling fresh and ready to ride. I knew what to expect because I had ridden the course. I knew the first half would be a false flat uphill, probably against the wind, before turning around and heading back down the climb. I had been training up Emigration Canyon which is about twice the incline, so I felt prepared for the course. I was right—upon turning out of the Rock Cliff recreation area, I was greeted by the aforementioned false flat and the expected light/moderate headwind. At that point, I decided to ride pretty hard. I knew that coming down would be easier, even if I went as fast as I could, and that meant my legs would have a bit of time to recover before the run. That was a good decision—it would have been easy to be intimidated by the false flat, not want to push it, and lose time that didn’t need to be lost.
The beginning of the bike consisted, as usual, of quite a few men and a few women zooming past me on their $4,000 time trial bikes. Ah, the pains of being a fairly strong swimmer who is limited by the bike! I will say, though, that fewer people passed me early in the bike than in previous races. I do think my cycling is getting more competitive.
I felt great until the last few miles of the climb, at which point I started watching my bike computer obsessively waiting for the turn around. And when I hit that turn around, I flew. Downhill with a decent tailwind—everyone’s favorite cycling conditions! So, I took advantage of it, got down in my drops (on my drops? Rob told me which is was yesterday, and I’ve since forgotten!), and shifted down to my hardest gear. I was feeling pretty pro, until about 4/5ths of the way through when all of the Absurdly Athletic 40-SomethingsTM started passing me (they had started in a later wave). Oh well. I knew to expect it. The best part of the bike was when I hit the short 10% grade descent. I just went for it and watched with awe as my speed kept creeping up until it hit 45mph which is the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bike by a long shot.
Overall, my time was a little slower than my last Olympic, but considering that course was downhill overall with only one small climb, I felt good about my time on this course. It was a much harder course than the previous one, and I think I was stronger comparatively.
The Run (5.7 miles)
My legs were pretty shot after the bike, and I could feel it as I ran out of transition. As usual, I had no idea how fast I was going. I always feel like a slug coming off the bike because my legs are just moving so much slower. I could have been running 7-minute miles or 10-minute miles, and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. As I left transition, I heard some guy cheer me on in such a way that implied I was going fast. I’ll take it. I must be doing fine. I wanted to hit an 8-minute mile, and when I passed the first mile marker, I glanced down at my watch. 7:58. Perfect. As I normally do, I grabbed a water and took a sip (to stave off dry-mouth) and poured the rest on my head to help stay cool.
The course was hillier than I expected. There was one longer, not-very-steep hill up the paved side of the road. That wasn’t bad. But there were also a few short walls when we were running on the campground trails. I wasn’t prepared for how much those would tire me out. Still, I was holding pace, crossing mile two at 15:30 and mile three at 23:30. Unfortunately, after mile three, the mile markers ended. Essentially, the sprint was a full 3.1 miles while the Olympic was only 5.7. The Olympic course was a two-lap convoluted lollipop, and the “stick” of the lollipop was only run once. The mile markers were for the sprint course. So, at mile marker three I had 2.7 miles left, and at mile marker one (take two), I had 2.1 miles left. I couldn’t track my mile pace, and that ended up setting me up for the one regret from this race—slowing down the second lap.
Passing the turn-off for the finish and having to start your second lap instead can be a big knock to your mental state during the run. It was for me during this race. Additionally, for some reason, the .6 miles between mile three and the first aid station/mile marker one felt really, really long. I went from feeling great to being frustrated. Frustrated people drop pace (which I promptly did). And I didn’t pick it back up again until probably half a mile left. I should have really started pushing it when I knew I was only one mile out. Mental toughness is something that I’ve struggled with at the end of all my triathlons so far, and I need to figure out a way to address it. In the end, my pace was 8:14/mile and not the 8:00 I had hoped for. Because I came to triathlon through running, I’ve been pretty frustrated that my running hasn’t been more competitive for me. It’s something I’m going to work on this winter.
I did pick it up the final half mile, though. I got into a good pace, passed one more person, and finished strong. I was pretty dead after the finish, so despite my frustrations with the run, I didn’t leave a lot out on the course. I did push myself hard, and I can see improvement, especially in the bike. After the race, I got to hang around, give Rob most of my pizza because I didn’t feel up to eating it, and wonder how all these women who had just finished triathlons still had perfect hair and make-up (I, on the other hand, could barely run my fingers through my matted and tangled mess of hair after taking out my hair tie). I also found out there were rattlesnakes (RATTLESNAKES!) right on the course that some race volunteer had to kill with a shovel while we were all running. This was a horrifying piece of information for me, and I don’t think I could have managed it if I had known beforehand.
I knew I had a chance of placing at this even, so we stuck around to wait for the results. I ended up taking second in my age group (to one of the manicured beauty queens), which I was happy with.
Overall Time— 2:44:41.4
2/12 in my age group (25-29)
9/59 out of the women
Here are my takeaways:
- I’m missing something in training. I don’t feel like I’m competing as well as I can. I think I need to get involved with some triathletes to help me figure this stuff out. Maybe it’s how I’m training or just how I’m fueling, but I know I’m not reaching my potential.
- I am so lucky to have the support system I do. I have a wonderful boyfriend who was in the car with me at 4:45am and cheering for me all day, even though it meant missing something he would have liked to do (watching the Tour of Utah). My dad was thrilled to hear about my race and let me talk his ear off with a play-by-play after I got home. Not everyone has this, and I need to make sure I don’t take it for granted.
- Now that this Olympic is out of the way, it’s time to shift focus to the Ironman. Everything from now until August 2016 will be preparing for that, in some way or another. And now that I don’t have this race to worry about, I can give myself permission to obsess over it.