August 18, 2014

Race report -- Thousand Islands Tri, Super Sprint

August 17, 2014
200m swim, 21k bike, 5k run
Breakfast: greek yogurt w/granola, OJ, tea, cantaloupe, toast w/butter and jam

Finish time: 1:18:23 (2/15 OA, 1/4 AG, 6/26 men and women)

This pretty much sums it up.

In my last race, I went out like a crazy person, hyperventilated, and backstroked most of the swim. I also hammered a little too hard on the bike and felt like I hadn't left enough for the run. Through that though, I had a great game of "pass and be passed" with a faster athlete -- who ultimately won. I came second.

New plan.
1. Lower the stroke rate and focus on getting maximum power through the whole stroke. 
2. Go a little easier on the bike to leave more in my legs for the run. 
3. Use the fresher legs to run faster.

Excellent. Fast forward to today's race. I want to win. Second overall was great last time, because it was my best result to date, and also because the winner totally ate my lunch on the run... there wasn't much I could do about it, especially having emptied the tank as much as I did on the bike. Time for redemption. The morning dawned cool and calm -- a welcome contrast to the howling wind and crashing whitecaps of the previous evening. I know the weather put off at least one potential super-sprinter... a woman in line with me at race kit pickup switched into the sprint du. At last year's event, I got caught in a long port-a-potty line and found myself with about 30 seconds to get into my wetsuit before my start. This time, I had my wetsuit on in plenty of time, and was the first short-distance swimmer in the water to warm up. The water was clear and the perfect temperature. As I warmed up, I stroked my way just past the first marker to line up the second turn buoy and an associated spot on land. I had plenty of time to chill out and find the spot I wanted right at the front of the start line. When the gun went off, I stuck to my plan. Strong and deliberate toward the first marker. A little traffic at the buoy as expected, then a nice straight course to the second marker. The flat water made sighting easier. I had a couple of slight course corrections from the second marker to the swim exit, as there seemed to be a slight current drawing south toward the end of Block Island. Apparently I had the second-fastest swim split, including T1 (there was one man ahead of me). I should be happy with that, and with how smooth it felt, as I've been trying to solve this short-distance swim puzzle for awhile. However, my split was 8 seconds slower than last year's time even though I felt like I was all over the place last year. Not sure what to make of that.

Swim split + T1: 8:03

On the bike, it was a very uncrowded course. Though it was open to traffic, cars were generally a non-issue. We had a short, steep hill at the beginning of the course, and a slight uphill for a few minutes beyond that. This early effort made my legs a little jello-y, at a time when I'm usually spinning in an easy gear after the swim getting the oxygen back into my lower extremities. The course was rolling and a bit breezy. I was conscious of every sensation in my legs, aware that I wanted to spare more than I did last race to tap into on the run. Even so, I was surprised to see my bike split was so slow. I don't have a bike computer, and haven't been using any kind of GPS device on the bike lately. Maybe it's something I should consider... as I was clearly slower than I thought I should have been. A minute slower than last year, which both drives me nuts and led me to substitute post-race vodka for my usual post-race ice cream. I didn't have other cyclists to pick off and pass like I did last year, which might have impacted things from a mental angle. Life's more important elements have cut in on my training, but it's time to do some work. Still, I was the first woman off the bike and onto the run course.

Bike split: 45:10

I left T2 knowing that I had work to do to hold off the stronger runners. There are always at least a few -- I joke that I'm the quintessential triathlete, in that I'm mediocre at all 3 disciplines. I don't have a standout strength to fall back on, or a discipline that I dominate consistently. It's been a challenge for me to find a balance, particularly at this shortest distance -- last race, the bike was pretty quick but the run as a result was not. It seemed this time I did the opposite. My run was my personal best 5k time, over 2 minutes faster than last year on the same course, and the closest I've come so far to my 25:00 goal for run + T2 (I don't wear a watch to track the pure run split). But in the end, I still got passed with about 2 km left to go. Unfortunately the eventual winner had the wrong body marking, so I thought she was in the sprint rather than the super sprint. Would I have been able to catch her, had I known? I doubt it. She was the better athlete on the day, and was simply faster. That said, our finish times were only 25 seconds apart. So you start wondering "What if that person at the swim exit hadn't gotten in my way dawdling and high-fiving? What if my wetsuit hadn't gotten hung up on my chip? What if I'd just pushed a little bit harder on the bike?" That last one is the one that's really grating at me. But of course, that could have made my run that much slower or worse.

Run split + T2: 25:11

2nd OA, 1st AG
Looking back at my "new plan" list, I actually executed it all. Smooth, strong swim -- check. Hold back a bit on the bike -- check (though that may not have been a great plan, in hindsight). Run faster -- check. At this point, I don't think any different strategies will get me to the finish line sooner. With the talented athletes in these local fields, I'm simply going to have to improve my speed if I want to be at the top of the heap. It just smarts to be so very, very close... 

New training plan, perhaps?

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