Monday, September 21, 2009

Make-A-Wish Tri is in the books!

My “rookie” tri season really didn’t come together until late May/early June. I attended She Does Tri camp, and decided I definitely wanted to get a few events in this year. Luray International was to be my first International distance (after two sprints), with Make-a-Wish following a month later. I thought Make-a-Wish would be my “A” race (I say that loosely as “A” performance for me is a C-minus for many…but I’m ok with that). After two illnesses in between the two races, I felt over-rested as opposed to well-trained, but wanted to go with it.

My kids, sister, and I travelled to Bethany Beach on Friday since my Dad and Grandparents live there. On Saturday, I went to packet pickup and ran into Scott Fisher. We hadn’t met before, but I tend to be a bit chatty (not shocking for anyone reading any of my lengthy race reports), and through the course of our conversation I realized who he was (“You are the dentist, right?!”). I knew Ducky would be there, and Mark Yost was volunteering with his sons. It is so nice to have MMTC buddies at an event. I took my sister on a drive of the bike course (where I missed two turns and started to wonder about my navigational skills…though the one road wasn’t marked). My grandma is the queen of carb-loading, so we had a great dinner at her house. Grotto Pizza was donating to Make-A-Wish on Saturday, so we got pizza to go with the Mac-N-Cheese and Ziti (somehow I’m thinking greasy pizza is not the best pre-race food).

Race Day:
The morning was a bit brisk, and I was worried about being cold on the bike. I decided to wear my tri suit, and sacrifice a few seconds on T1 throwing a bike jersey on. Every star in the sky was shining brightly, and you could hear the waves crashing even though we were almost two blocks away. It was one of those moments you just have to soak in before the craziness of body marking and transition set-up. I saw several friendly faces on race morning since some of the Montgomery County Firefighters my husband works with were racing (one of them has participated for years and raised over $10,000 for the event). Several of them were tri newbies, so it was nice to focus on helping them. (As so many race reports have stressed, helping others definitely takes your mind off your own stress).

The finish point for the swim was set, so we had to walk to the start 0.93mi down the beach. The water was fairly warm (71 degrees), much warmer than the air. Thankfully the sun had come up and started to warm the air a bit.

Goals for the race:
1. Survive the swim and finish strong
2. If #1 happened, try to beat my only other international time of 3:10
3. Have fun on the bike and save something for the run.

Swim: (1.5K- 34:15…ouch! 288/379 overall, 13/15 age group)
The swim is my weakness and I know it. I can swim the distance, but I am slow! I wore a wetsuit for this race, and experienced that constricted feeling at points. I thought the water looked calm, but as we watched the elite wave go I quickly realized that it was fairly rough. As we entered the water, my timing chip started to feel loose. I stopped to ensure it was secure, and then started to swim. Right away I had that “poser” feeling. I know my bike and run are strong, but who was I to think I could complete an ocean swim?!?! I told myself that not finishing wasn’t an option, and kept plodding along. The blue caps in my wave seemed to get more distant. If I tried breast stroke for a few seconds to calm myself and sight, I got mouthfuls of salt water. Freestyle was actually the easiest stroke to do, so I went with it.

About 1/3 of the way through I settled in a bit (though I kept swinging wide between the buoys). At the halfway point, the wave behind me (the 40-ish men) started to overtake me. I just dug in and did the best I could. The one saving grace was different colored buoys, so I knew when I got to the last one. Turning into the shore and getting out of the water was much different than the other swims I have done. I just rode the waves and swam as long as I could. I ran up the beach, but did walk up the ramp (you then had to go down a ramp that I was worried could be slick). The run up the ramp and then down the ramp counted toward T1 time.

T1 (4:20, 175/379, 7/15 age group) I decided not to rush transition, worried that the bike would be chilly and wanting to get some water in before I started (I want tri bars next year just so I can have one of those groovy water bottles that sits between them!). My time reflects my leisurely pace in transition. I was trying to move quickly, but also being methodical about things. I was so glad to have survived the swim that the rest was gravy.

Bike (25.5 miles, 1:15:15, 89/379 overall, 2/15 age group- average pace 19.8mph per race results, 20.3 per my computer)

I was really looking forward to the bike. The course was nice without major obstacles (and almost totally flat), and I knew I could pick up some lost time from the swim. This is where I need some input. I have always been a rule follower (some would say “goody-two-shoes”), and hate breaking the rules just about as much as I hate getting in trouble for breaking said rules. This was a no drafting race, and since I have become friends with Kim Larson (Team Z member and USAT official), I have heard her explain these rules on a few occasions. I saw people get penalties for drafting at Luray and want no such part of anything that could get me a penalty (I already do enough damage to my time on the swim!).

I was on my own for the beginning of the bike, but around mile 3 I ended up near a group of men from the 40+ age group, as well as a couple of younger men who started ahead of me. They were riding at a 20+ mph pace, which felt great. Trying to respect the drafting rules, I tried to get ahead but kept getting sucked back into the group (I am not a seasoned cyclist when it comes to racing, so it took me a while to figure out that it was futile to try and get ahead…they always caught up). If I tried to hang back, I was riding my brakes and slowing myself down substantially. Just when I got 3 lengths behind someone, someone else would come up and get right in front of me. Needless to say I decided to go with “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. I wasn’t thrilled with this strategy, as I would have preferred to be alone, but wasn’t sure what else to do. In the last few miles of the race, the “pack” grew larger and larger…to the point it was downright out of control. People were riding three abreast, and there was no room to pass unless you crossed the double yellow line. I followed the rules to the best of my ability and tried to stay out of the mix. I broke away in the last mile or so, but got caught before transition. I probably wasted a lot of energy trying to get away from the group, but again was kind of stumped. Any input from more experienced triathletes is much appreciated.

T2: (1:32, 87/379, 3/15)
I redeemed myself a bit on this one, though my time would have been better if I hadn’t run two racks beyond mine (and my brain just wasn’t registering where my rack was). I ended up picking up my bike and running to my rack. I had put on a jersey for the bike so I took that off to run in my tri top (left the Hammer Gel I had stashed for the run in there, though!).

Run: (10K, 53:25, 8:36 miles, 165/379, 4/15)

I got started on the run and hoped that my knee and SI joint would be kind (I have been nursing injury all year). The run is flat, and goes right past our house. The out portion was no fun (South on Route 1 toward Fenwick), as I just wanted to get to the turnaround. I was running side-by-side with another female, and kept pace with her to the turnaround. I had increasing knee discomfort, so I told myself I would let her go at the turnaround. I was so happy to see a young volunteer handing out Hammer Gels, and sucked half of one down at the halfway point. Mark Yost was at the water stop with his sons, which was very cool (I don’t think he saw me, though). At the turn, I realized how many females were behind me. I was sure I was further back since I was one of the last of my wave out of the water and I didn’t feel like I had passed that many people on the bike. I guess I must have been “in the zone” (or in a daze from the lack of oxygen to my brain!). I allowed myself to walk for about 30 seconds but it didn’t help my knee any. Sea Colony became visible in the distance, and I knew I didn’t have too far to go. Traffic was slowed on Route 1 because of the race, and a lot of the bikers (it was Bike Week in Ocean City) were cheering us on. I also had a little girl in a minivan cheering me on.

During the bike, I revised my time goal a bit (at Luray, I let myself slack on the run a bit because I knew I would meet my goal). This time I lowered the goal to 2:50 so that I wouldn’t have an excuse to slack. This strategy worked, and I met the goal. My children and sister met me at the finish, which was awesome (they saw me on both ends of the run, but I did not see them…bummer). We eventually made it to the post-race picnic, and I was shocked to see my place. I honestly did not expect to finish well (I’m not Kona-bound or anything, but happy with how my “rookie” season ended).Of course I am wondering how the heck I will do a Half next year, but I’m registered so I’m going to have to figure it out!!!!!!

Time: 2:48:55 Overall place (either 145 or 166/379..can't quite figure it out)
Age group place 3/15

Lessons learned in my first year of triathlon:
1. Joining Mid Maryland Triathlon Club was the best money I’ve ever spent on fitness (awesome camaraderie, great resources, and I heard about She Does Tri Camp through the club)
2. I love cycling and should have picked it up again a lot sooner!
3. I am addicted to the sport of triathlon and will make the swim my goal in the offseason
4. I have LOTS left to learn about the sport!

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