Today was my first race of the season. The past 4-6 weeks have been a whirlwind as I've dealt with the sacroiliac joint issues. Two weeks ago, I wasn't sure if I could race or not because the discomfort was pretty constant. After a good bike and run on the course last week, along with encouragement from my coach, family, and Team Trakkers, I decided to go for it. Last night, I painted my fingers and toes Trakkers green for a bit of inspiration (thank goodness my awesome husband humors me...even if he thinks I am a total geek).
Rain, rain, and more rain. I woke up at 1:30am on race day to the sound of pounding rain. I started to mentally hyperventilate (What will the rain do to the race? How will I keep anything dry in transition?..). I think I was up for about an hour, and finally fell asleep with 90 minutes left to sleep. Tommy woke up with me (he had to work), so I got a nice send-off. He snapped pics of me getting my gear ready to go.
It was soggy and muddy at the race site. The bike out/in was a steep hill, which was turning into mother nature's version of a slip-and-slide. After debating, I set up my transition with a grocery bag containing bike stuff and one containing run stuff. I decided it was totally worth a little extra time in transition to have dry shoes. Of course I was happy to find out that one of our tri club rock stars also used plastic bags in his transition area (if the really fast guy does it, it must be a reasonable idea).
Our awesome Mid-Maryland Tri Club friends had a great tent set up. It was motivation to get out of the dry car and hang with friends before the race. I couldn't help but get pumped.
Between the weather and my injury, I had seriously revised my goals for this race:
3. Finish without any major injuries
4. If all of the above happened, try to finish faster than Luray last year (I've only done two Olys before, and Make-a-wish was completely flat).
The Swim: (36:28 ouch! 76/86 division OUCH!)
Wow. This is where I lost the mental game today. I have done the training, have had open water practice this year, but I still couldn't get it together today. I didn't
"panic", I just couldn't get comfortable. I did breast stroke a few times, but kept reminding myself it was easier to do freestyle the whole way. Talking to Coach Mike after the race, I wonder if my wetsuit sleeves weren't pulled far enough up. My arms were so fatigued (out of proportion to what I usually feel in the pool). I got to experience the "washing machine" phenomenon twice, as the wave behind us swam up to me (not all of them, but A LOT of them).
T1: (2:30) (10/86 Division)
If my swim was going to be sub-par, I might as well rock transition. I had a great spot two racks in (further to run my bike, but it turned out to be a great location). I thought the bags would slow me down, but I wasn't far off the fastest T1 time in my age group. That felt great when I looked at the results. Duct tape on the bottom of my bike shoes was a huge help in keeping them from getting mud-caked going up the hill.
Bike: (1:30:07) (29/86 Division)
I felt great on the bike....time to catch up with some lot of the ladies in my age group. One of the benefits of being caught by the mens swim wave behind me is that it gives me motivation on the bike to catch up with them, too. I passed a fair number of people, and played "leap frog" with a couple of guys. There were a couple of pretty fast female cyclists that I passed on the bike (I was super pleasant to everyone, but I kept thinking to myself "I'll get you, and your aerobars, too!"..only because my road bike and I were jealous). I knew I had to save something for the run, but was really happy with the bike (especially because of the wet conditions and puddles everywhere).
T2: (1:44) (33/86)
The first goal was to not fall down the hill on the way back into transition. I found my rack easily, but the label with my name on it had slid off of the rack. Thankfully my bright green raincoat on the ground reminded me of the spot. I practiced going sockless last week, and I was able to get my running shoes on quickly (thank goodness for TriSlide to keep my feet comfy). (What I didn't truly realize, until someone pointed it out on the run, was that I had my green Trakkers kit and visor, the green Saucony Fastwitch 4s,and green nails. Even if I wasn't fast, I looked good!). I was happy with the T2 time and headed out for the run.
Run: (58:08) (49/86 Division)
I knew this wouldn't be pretty as soon as it started. With my SI joint problems, my glutes tighten quickly and vigorously on the right side. All I could do was keep talking to myself and try to get through it. The run at Columbia is a bit of a beast. Within the first half mile, there is a sharp turn and steep uphill. I was thrilled when I could run the whole hill. I kept going pretty well until mile two, and then lost some steam. It hurt, and I knew that the breaks in training related to the injury over the past month hadn't helped. I knew I could finish, though, and I wanted to finish strong. There were amazing volunteers EVERYWHERE. Lots of tri club friends on the bike and run cheering, and there was a great Howard County policewoman at the halfway point who cheered everyone on as they went past her. I'm a talker (shocking, I know), so it helped me to talk others along during the run). In life, it seems much easier to help someone else with their problems than think about your own. Tris aren't really any different. If someone else was walking, I would cheer them on as I passed. The times I had to walk on a steep hill, someone would cheer me on (a very tall man passed and said "You walk faster than I run"...I later passed him when I started running again). I saw Coach Mike right before and right after the toughest leg of the run...a huge help. I just wish I had a little more in the tank and a little less discomfort. I always like to put it all out there at the finish line, but a Mom had her two kids meet her for the finish and they took up the entire chute. I ended up scooting around them (I don't want to ruin a photo op, but our family motto is "finish strong" and I wanted to do just that).
I met all of my goals, but was really disappointed with my swim performance. I know tris are about you competing WITH yourself, but today I didn't push as hard as I could have on the swim. I don't know what happened, but I know I can improve. The MMTC tent was once again amazing...great food and an excellent group of friends.
Despite the weather, this was an amazing race, with amazing friends and a great group of volunteers. I am thankful I could participate for the first time. Two weeks until Rev3 Quassy!!! Many thanks to my family, Coach Mike, and my Trakkers and MMTC peeps for all your support! I am so very lucky!!!