August 17, 2014

Race report -- National Capital Triathlon, Super Sprint

August 2, 2014
200m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Breakfast: Bagel with cream cheese, tall 1% chai, water

Finish time: 1:16:47 (2/27 OA, 2nd in AG, 6/50 men and women)

My early season this year was packed. With training volume, as well as with racing. This was owing to the fact that Tremblant 70.3, my biggest race of the season as well as my first half-Ironman distance, took place in June. Three weeks later, I did my first Olympic in Toronto... essentially coasting on the fitness I'd amassed before Tremblant. Fast forward another 3 weeks. My training volume has dropped off steeply. I'm spending more time snuggling my kids and making pancakes, and less time pounding the pavement and mashing the pedals. By the time I got to Toronto last month, training was feeling more and more like a chore rather than something I looked forward to. My ankles ached, and regimens of ice and foam rolling to fend off injury were starting to get old. I had purposely not registered for any more races past Toronto, as I wanted to see how my body was holding up and what I felt like doing next.

I decided on a super sprint, at one of the local races I'd done last year. Nice, civilized start hour (none of this 6:50 a.m. stuff), a course where I could compare my performance to last year's baseline, and a distance where I knew I could back off on my training frequency/volume and still be ok. I really like this distance -- I don't lose so much time on the swim, you can usually avoid multiple laps of the same scenery, and it's over in about an hour. Which means I can get down to the business of eating ice cream and drinking chocolate milk that much sooner. Not to mention, you have the rest of the day free to do other things without feeling like you need a wheelchair (hello 70.3, I'm looking at you).

On the morning of the race, I arrived in plenty of time to set up my gear, get my wetsuit on, and get a swim warmup in. Yes, I wore a wetsuit for a 200m swim. If nothing else, it acts as a barrier against whatever nastiness is causing the (seemingly perpetual) no-swim advisory at that beach. Best quote of the summer last year came from someone at the same venue. Overheard as I was heading into the water: "I wonder what e.coli tastes like?" My friend, you're about to find out.

The swim was interesting. The whole season, I'd been focused on slow and steady endurance. On this particular morning, I took off at the sound of the gun -- not bothering to sight or even breathe for several strokes. Bad idea. Before long, I'm hyperventilating... and swimming toward the beach rather than the turn buoy. I got myself straightened out, but couldn't slow my breathing enough to put my face back in the water. OK, backstroke it is. Interestingly, I don't seem to swim much slower on my back than I do on my front -- which probably says something about my freestyle ability or lack thereof. Plus, breathing is good. I glanced to each side every so often to confirm I was swimming the same direction as the rest of the crowd. Then I flipped over and managed a front crawl around the buoy and toward the shore. Normally I'll swim till it's almost ankle-shallow, but not this time. You know that dream where you're trying to run away from something, but your legs feel like lead? And the more desperately you want to go fast, the slower your legs move? Right -- so that's what exiting the swim leg feels like when you stand up too early.

Wetsuits. They make you float. They shield you from goose poop soup. What's not to like?

Swim split + T1: 8:27

On the run to transition, Kathy Bradley (a fellow competitor, and usual winner) passed me. I passed her back with a quick transition, and headed out on the bike course. I hammered hard, trying to hit a goal speed averaging 30 km/h. This is where having three turnarounds and two 90-degree turns is annoying... you have to bleed off so much speed. I stayed ahead of Kathy till the final 100m or so where she passed me -- but I was quicker at the dismount line and beat her into and out of transition.

Bike split: 40:54

Kathy is an insanely fast runner... at this point, I just had to see how long I could hold her off. I only made it about 900m before she blew by me like I was standing still. Oh well... that was fun while it lasted. lol I had spent a lot of energy on the bike, and my run did not feel strong. I got a slight side-stitch and ran through the discomfort. The late start, while giving me more time in bed, resulted in a run leg under hot sun in nasty humidity. After the turnaround, it was some time before I saw another super sprint woman -- but I still was driving toward a goal of 25 minutes for the run. I didn't make it... though it's hard to tell how much of my run time was spent in T2, because transition time isn't split out at this event.

Run split + T2: 27:27

Overall I was happy with how the race turned out. I came close to, but didn't quite hit, my 30km/h goal on the bike. I'm hoping to be that slight bit faster at my next race, on a course that doesn't have as many turnarounds. I missed the 25 minutes I wanted on the run. But that said, I took several minutes off last year's bike time, 2 minutes off my run, and about half a minute off my swim (even though the run to transition -- included in the swim split -- was about 50m farther this year).

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