Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The single triathlon race report

Half my life ago, I was 19. And that summer, I finally got up the courage to compete in, er... complete my very first triathlon: Mightymite. Every summer since then has included at least a few races, and I wasn't about to break that streak this year just because I was pregnant half of the summer.

The perfect race to help me extend the streak was a sprint in nearby Conway, which happened to be the last race I did last summer. It would be a good comparison. Last year I had my hip pain, though it wasn't as bad, I had been swimming more than once a month, and I had actually been on my bike with other people, doing a few hills and intervals occasionally. This is not to say I was in good shape; I feel that state has eluded me for a good 6 or 7 years now. 

The past year I have been relatively consistent in not swimming, but I did ride my trainer through the very end of pregnancy (can't get much closer than 3.5 hours), and running has been up and down, depending on the finicky joint. I have been somewhat reliably lifting weights (which my quad size is quick to advertise) for several months. This triathlon would be an interesting experiment.

When Hunter was the same age-- 12 weeks-- I did a triathlon up on the mountain in Ruidoso, and he and Jeremy traveled the hour up there with me, since the baby wasn't going to take any substitute for fresh squeezed mama milk. This time I made the half hour trip alone, leaving at least one of them sleeping, after I had fed Josie and pumped another cup for her second breakfast. She takes a bottle!

Arriving in the pitch blackness of the early fall morning, I had a harder time finding things like a parking spot and my gear, but an easier time finding a spot to pee right in front of my car by a tree. Score one for darkness. I estimated I would have plenty of time to set up and get in some good long warming up, but instead I chatted the time away after running to my car to get my wetsuit, which was very surprisingly legal. That was a super exciting development for my super undertrained swimming muscles. 

Feeling like such a newbie, having not raced in a year, I was asking people in various lines what they were standing there for, to make sure I was in the right place, and I was getting more information than I actually needed from real first-timers about things such as how I needed to have bar end plugs and my helmet checked. Their sweet consideration was much appreciated, and I just hope I'm as accommodating to beginners when they need help.

I jogged back and forth across the starting area with Greg and then handed off my extra shoes and engagement ring to Chenin. Thank goodness she was there to spare me some worry! Lining up with the other sprinting women, I wondered how only a handful of us had remembered or been optimistic enough to bring a wetsuit. And I always bring a wetsuit when the temperature has dropped below 80F in the past month. It proved to be the key to a calm swim with a complete lack of panicking on my part. Did it matter that I took almost 2 minutes in transition to get it off over my chip? Not to me. But I made a note to put my chip under my wetsuit next time. Newbie.

Onto the bike, I didn't have any data to guide my effort, since my power tap is on my training wheel, obviously, and I use my fancy Zipps for racing. They're probably the only nice piece of equipment I race with these days, except for Jeremy's aero helmet that spares me from the weird cone-head look. I was passing men and women all over the place on the bike, and I knew some were doing the Olympic distance, which had started 20 or so minutes before us sprinters. Others, like usual, are just half-way decent swimmers unlike my neoprene-clad-yet-sinking-flailing self. Still, it was motivating to be passing and not passed. I was  hoping to not be embarrassingly slow compared to last year, and based on some quick looks at my speed, it seemed to be going well.

Heading back into transition I was prepared for the dismount part, which I admit I had to practice a few days before to make sure the flying part of it didn't send me flying straight into the pavement. The part I didn't practice was how to hit the right button on this new garmin to stop timing the bike and start timing transition. I fumbled around and heard a beep, not realizing until I was exiting T2 that the wrong button was pushed. Ah well. 

Chenin alerted me to the fact that I had two girls ahead of me and one right behind me, which motivated me to run like I was being chased (by something very slow, but alas). The little off road section at the beginning was making my pavement running legs a bit wobbly, and my first mile proved to be my slowest. I saw Greg a few minutes before the turnaround and told him I was coming for him. Then the two girls I was chasing appeared one at a time. I knew the first one was way out of reach, but second place wasn't much ahead. 

I alternated my thoughts on the way back between being determined I could catch second place and giving up on her. I could see her ahead and it seemed she was getting closer one minute, then the next I felt like I was making up no time on her. She was running scared, looking back as she turned corners. But I just couldn't cover the 20 seconds that she beat me by before the end. That's one advantage to frequent racing: you learn how to hurt just that much more when you have someone to catch. It's a skill that I've forgotten. Or maybe I was just happy enough to be out there. 

My run split ended up being 33 seconds slower than last year for a total time that was 31 seconds slower for the same 3rd overall female placing. Seems my wetsuit+ T1 and bike splits evened out. Hey, not bad! Maybe there is something to this "having a baby increases your VO2max" thing. Or maybe it was just a sprint, and how much worse could it really be? Either way, I'll happily hang my plastic framed award, er...printed certificate? right over the baby bed as a reminder of my accomplishment.