Monday, June 15, 2009

Race Report: U.S. Women's Triathlon Series in Naperville—Great Race, But Blah For Liz

As regular-ish readers know, I’ve had the very good fortune of writing mostly happy, rah-rah race reports. I’ve been blessed with a string of awesome, awesome luck and fast days (for me) for a full year now. But yesterday brought me back down to earth, yesterday humbled me, yesterday was a reality check. I did a sprint distance tri in Naperville, race number one in the U.S. Women’s Trek Series. The all-women race had just over 1,700 competitors—many of them first timer triathletes. The vibe was all feel-good and pumped up, especially because we were treated to mostly sunny skies after a very rainy, cold, day-before. But yeah, it wasn't a good day for me. (For a different perspective on the same race, check out the post I did on TOC's site.)


The good news
: I didn’t freak out! For me, this is a major victory. I’ve had a meltdown in the water before and it’s not fun. I felt chill during the whole swim. I’ll take it!
The bad news
: There were at least 50 women in my wave and because the swim was in a smally quarry, we couldn’t help but kick and claw at each other. As usual, I waited for the rest of the group to take off before easing into my Zen place–stroke at the back of the pack. But we were turning so much (six buoys to maneuver) that I never got into a rhythm.

The good news
: I had no trouble finding my bike. I’d done a really thorough walk-through before the race and I spotted my landmarks in the race and found my spot on the rack with zero problems. And I ran the whole time.
The bad news
: I have a tendency to feel VERY hyped during transition: heavy breathing, racing heart, etc. Today I’d planned to focus on getting my heart rate down and feeling calm and collected. I think this backfired. My focus on chilling was so successful that I totally extinguished my racing fire. The transition took me almost five full minutes—double my T1 was in the 5x bigger, more crazy, circus-like Chicago Tri last August. Ummm, note to self: do not remove wet suit in a slug-like state. Do not take extra time to debate wiping feet with towel. Decide in advance if you’re going to wear socks or not. Etc.

The good news
: No flats or mechanical difficulties! My bike (go Smokey!) was a lean, mean, fighting machine with no hiccups. I was riding fast for some segments, and it felt really good.
The bad news: Despite the above description, my overall bike time sucked. It was my slowest pace in ANY tri I’ve done. Considering I’m coming off the high of completing 100 miles, this is hard to swallow. Kate and I were riding last week and she gave some words of encouragement, along the lines of, “It’s short and you know you can push it!” Well, apparently my legs don’t know that yet. They scream whenever I turn into headwind or encounter a hill. I WANT to push through, but inevitably my pace slows to a snail-like crawl and suddenly I’m moving in slow-motion, bringing down my overall average pace. This is actually worrisome. I’ve put in a lot of hours on the bike but I still feel like a total novice. With running, I know if I’m pushing past my limit and I can gauge my effort accordingly. With the bike, I give into the voice that says "uh-oh" when I come upon the the hard stuff—my legs burn and I give in, believing I'm not strong enough and not up to the challenge. I’ve always known cycling is a weak spot for me, but never has it been exposed so disappointingly. Yicks.


The good news
: I found my stuff in the transition area and slid into my pre-tied running shoes, totally fine.
The bad news:
I knew my bike time sucked so I was definitely feeling bummed. I needed to just move on. You can’t run well when you’re on the verge of tears because you had a bad bike. Get over it! Toughen up!


The good news
: I was passing people the whole way. The beginning portion wandered along a shady brick trail and I found myself feeling very lucky to be running in these lovely environs on a beautiful summer morning. So, not all gloom-and-doom, people! Also, after getting passed on the bike, it was cool to pick off some women.
The bad news
: It just wasn’t clicking like I typically find it does on the run, the pace I naturally fell into was slower than I'd planned, and I didn't have the spark I needed to turn it up a notch. About a mile from the finish I saw another girl from my wave running a couple hundred yards ahead. We had stood next to one another in the bathroom line and again at the swim start. She passed me on the bike. I wanted to catch her so badly. I got within a few feet of her, but just couldn’t seal the deal in the last tenth of a mile. She looked strong and sprinted ahead, high-fiving a little girl standing on the sidelines, and I didn’t have the legs to surge past her, I just let her go. She finished three seconds ahead of me (yes, I looked it up). It was that kind of day.

I promise to shake off the experience and come back a happier person by the next post. You gotta have bad races to appreciate the good ones, right? For now, I'm dealing with those blah-race demons. Photo grabbed from andy_tyler at flickr. Posted by Liz

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