Do ideal conditions even exist? I keep asking myself this question as I transition from the swimmer mindset to that of a triathlete. A huge difference between the two sports are the conditions in which you race. Swimming occurs in a controlled environment – a set pool length, similar pool temperatures, equipment (goggles, cap, suit…that’s it), standard race distances, etc. This does not exist in the world of triathlons. All races were not created equal. I love and hate this about my new sport. To explain this concept, I would need a completely different post.
Race conditions aside, what about everything leading up to the race? How much is in our control? Yesterday, I competed in St. Anthony’s Olympic Triathlon (1.5 K swim, 40K bike, and 10K run) with around 4,000 other athletes. Trying to fall asleep the night before, all I could think was, “Tomorrow’s going to be rough, these are not ideal conditions.”
1. I was stressing out about having two finals on Monday and Wednesday.
2. I went to a wedding 2 hours away (4 hours in a car does not = fresh race legs).
3. My stomach was full with a delicious dinner at the wedding that was not pre-race approved.
Finally, I quieted my mind and was able to fall asleep.
Race morning was hectic with so many people racing. Somehow I managed to get my bike and gear set up with time to get out of transition but wasn’t able to warm up. The race directors made the decision to move the swim and shorten the distance to 1000 meters. One woman said it was her lucky day but I was bummed. The swim is my time to get ahead and cutting off 1/3 the distance would make the difference of 1-2 minutes against my competitors….great. I forgot my watch…great. I left my gel in my bag….great. Anxiety kept creeping into my mind that I wasn’t focusing on the race and I kept trying to push out thoughts of “these aren’t ideal conditions”.
Finally, my wave was dashing to the water and I was sprinting to break from the pack. Three of us pulled out front and found our pace. The waves were relatively calm and I felt smooth until we caught the next wave of swimmers. Karma came my way from kicking somebody at the last race as I got scraped up by somebody’s goggles. Regardless, I love dodging people on the swim. Go around this person, to the left of that person in the yellow cap, watch out for their kick…doesn’t it sound like fun?
There was a long run back to transition and I passed the two girls who were ahead of me on the swim before we got to our bikes. Right about now I wanted my watch because my odometer has been acting up on my bike. This means I won’t know my speed and risk going too slow and getting passed or going too fast and killing my legs before the run.
Fortunately, every couple of minutes my odometer gave me a good reading of my speed so I started to refocus on the race. The course was flat, windy, and had a lot of turns. A few girls in my age group blew by me and I silently promised (again) to train harder on the bike. All in all, I was satisfied with that leg of the course and was excited to see how many of those girls I could catch on the run.
This season I have been really focusing on incorporating bricks into my training. This is a workout where you bike and then immediately run afterwards to simulate a race. It has helped tremendously because my legs feel fresher off the bike and I am not cramping nearly as much. Without a watch I didn’t know my splits so I just focused on keeping a steady pace.
It was incredible to be so close on the course to the pro and elite triathletes. When I say close, I mean I saw them on the back half of their run as I was heading out for my first half. Every time I wanted to back off, I’d see this incredible female athlete just killing the run. I was amazed at how effortless and even graceful they made running look. So basically, I didn’t back off like I wanted and caught two girls by mile 4 with one other in sight.
At mile 4, a 50-year-old male caught up and started pacing beside me. We ran silent for about half a mile and then he told me, “We’re going to catch that girl…be patient and then we’ll make our move at the right time.” Right about now I realized we had really picked up the pace and had no clue if I could last another 1.5 miles with this guy. Patiently, we made our move at mile 5. And then he points to another racer, “We’re going to catch that guy…”. What?!?! Dude you are killing me! You are crazy!
With half a mile to go my body wanted to fade back but then I remembered the wedding sermon from yesterday. Running is very much a part of both the bride and groom’s lives, so the pastor made a beautiful comparison of a few principles of running with principles of love from Corinthians. My favorite quote was, “When others think it’s too hard, it’s just right for me.” I made up my mind…I was going to stay with this guy no matter how hard I thought the pace was and I did.
To this random new friend, thank you SO much for that extra push. His motivation helped me run my fastest 10K off the bike and pull off 7th out of 104 in my age group. My 10K was 45:40 with a negative split! 23:35 for the first 5K and 22:05 for the second.
1K swim – 13:50 (1:23/100 m)
40K (24.8 miles) bike – 1:15:05 (19.9 mph) <—ouch, needs some work
10K (6.2 miles) run – 45:40 (7:20/mile)
Total time – 2:20:35
1. Don’t sweat the race conditions! Fortunately, I left my anxiety at the start line and didn’t let the little details affect my performance.
2. Get on your bike! My bike time just isn’t where I want it…only one way to change that (without buying my speed of course).
3. “When others think it’s too hard, it’s just right for me.” Don’t back off just when it gets difficult, enjoy the challenge. Pain is only temporary.
4. Finally, I love this sport.