Last Sunday I decided to jump into a local sprint tri to see how my body was doing. (Just to catch everyone up to speed, a few weeks ago I had a bizarre race at Rev3 Williamsburg where my heart rate was sky high but I was barely pushing endurance watts and endurance run pace and I ended up with an IV after the finish. The following week I found out from my doctor that my ferritin and hormone levels were scary low. Since then I’d been taking things very,very easily and letting my body rest). I figured a sprint triathlon would be short enough where I could really push my body to get an idea of how “recovered” I was without sending my body further down the overtraining hole.
The day before the race I headed up with my man to go bike the Mascomaman course. Our plan was to take it very easy and slow and just have fun. At the last minute we decided to leave from our campground, which would tack on “just a few miles”. Needless to say, I’m no longer allowed to plan cycling shortcuts without checking the elevation profile first.
Due to my poor planning, we ended up biking 75 miles with between 5000 and 9000 ft of elevation gain (depending on what software program you map it with). Oops!
The morning of the race we woke early and drove the 45 minutes from my house to the race venue. The race was set at Fort Taber Park, a beautiful (and flat!) area of New Bedford (which used to be a huge whaling city). We got registered, set up our bikes, and headed out for one loop of the bike course. After previewing the flat course I was pumped and my body was switching into race mode. Unfortunately, the temperatures were also rising very quickly and the high humidity just added to the effect.
Before the race I was waffling on whether or not to wear a wetsuit. I eventually decided to opt out. On average, wearing a wetsuit saves me 1-2 minutes on a 70.3 swim (2000m), so for the 400m swim in this race (it actually turned out to be longer than that, but that’s irrelevant) I would have saved anywhere from 12-24 seconds, which would probably be negated in slowing me down running to transition and stripping my wetsuit in transition.
I managed to get a decent warmup swim in before the race, gulped down a gel, then jumped into the wave of all women under 34. I positioned myself right up front, amidst a sea of wetsuits. The swim was a beach start, and I managed to run my way right to the front of the pack at the gun (my beach starts are getting so much better)! Right away I got on the feet of a larger girl with an amazing kick, and I held on for the duration of the swim. My effort could have been higher (felt like an Olympic effort rather than a Sprint), but my focus was to just get out of the water in the main pack and then pass everyone in transition. And that I did. Running into transition I passed two girls struggling with their wetsuits, and then passed another 2 in transition. The final girl I passed was in the first hundred meters of the bike.
Total swim: 8:75 (yeah, umm, we can go ahead and say this swim was NOT 400m)
Once I got on my bike I tried to settle in and find power. Again, my legs had a hard time getting my power up to my “normal” range, but I was flying and passing people like crazy. In fact, I only recall getting passed by 2 people on the bike, and those were fast guys from the previous wave who were on their second bike loop. I knew I was flying, but since the watt numbers weren’t up to normal I wasn’t sure that I was in the lead on the bike (turns out that since I lost some weight since last season my watt/kg ratio is actually HIGHER this season, but I didn’t know that until I calculated it after the race). It also turns out that I had the second fastest bike split of all the women, including the elite division! Fist pump! The day was quickly heating up, and inside my aero helmet it felt like a furnace. I kept telling myself “it’s just a sprint, Laura. Redline it the whole way. No sissying out this morning”. I kept pushing and pushing and pushing and was suffering pretty badly. I choked on the first sip of water I tried to take in, and spewed the contents of most of my bottle in the process. Altogether on the bike I was only able to get in two tiny sips of water. Not ideal, but fine for a sprint.
Total bike: 31:46
I got back to transition, slipped in my shoes (sockless for a sprint), grabbed my visor, and put on my race belt as I ran out of transition. Time to get down to business. The first mile was interesting. My body rollercoastered most of it. I would go from feeling crappy one minute to fine the next, and some negative self talk starting creeping in. I was waiting for when I would get run down. Suddenly, I realized that not only was I not getting run down, but I was also PASSING people! What? Me pass people on the run? As I continued the heat was becoming unbearable. I decided not to look at my Garmin whatsoever: no pacing info, no heart rate info. Mission? Run. Redline. And no matter what, do not get passed by your boyfriend who started after you.
The first 2 miles is an out-and-back section, which allows you to get a good view of your competition. At the turnaround (mile 1.1) I grabbed some ice for down the bra and doused a cup of water on my head (I don’t drink water during the run in sprints) and that gave me such an amazing kick. A faster man from a wave after mine started passing me, but I decided to pace off him and hold on for dear life. I was feeling strong and felt like I was towards the front of my age group. At mile 2, however, this feeling quickly turned from “wow this sucks but I’m doing so well!” to “I WANT TO DIE. RIGHT NOW”. We ran around the back of the park in full sun, no breeze, and extreme agony (the temp at the end of the race read 96 degrees). I was totally cooked, but saw a girl ahead of me with a “33″ on her calf. Since I still had something left, I decided to try to pass her. I hung behind her for a bit, and passed her at a fast surge (that’s a racing tip for y’all: pass someone faster that you intend to run and that will help discourage them from hanging on, especially if they’re hurting). Once I surged, I thought “you know, you only have 3/4 of a mile left. Try to hold it”! I fought and pushed and ohmygodithurtsomuch and iwanttojustbackoffateenybit but I kept reminding myself “it’s a friggin sprint. It’s supposed to be PAIN and SUFFERING the entire time. Suck it up, princess”. The final coup de grace in the race is right before the finish (with the finish in sight!) you have to do one extra out-and-back on a pier. I’m sure the view is gorgeous, but all I could see were the shoes of the person right in front of me.
Once I turned around at the pier I knew I was absolutely tanked and that finish needed to come NOW. I gritted my teeth, started at the ground, and gave one last push to the finish. Total Run: 23:41. Total finish? 1:07:01. Not too shabby for one overtrained, under-ironed lady!
And the best part? I got on the podium! First in my AG!