Monday, June 11, 2012

RACE REPORT: 2012 Blue Lake Olympic Triathlon

When I started randonneuring, I would begin preparing for a 200k a full week in advance, obsessively worrying about every little detail.   Now I can run out and do a 200k with nothing more than a couple of gels in my bento box and a quick glance at the weather.

The same sort of thing has happened to me in triathlon.  I've done so many sprints and olympics over the years that I know precisely what I need for both distances without giving it much thought.   So there I was at 8pm on Saturday night, finally pulling my gear together for the next day's Oly tri at Blue Lake in Troutdale.

As always , I laid out the gear I'd need by sport, from head to toe.

Tyr Warm Wear cap
event cap - light blue for wave 8
foam earplugs
prescription swim goggle (Barracuda -4.5) in blue
Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit
Blue Seventy neoprene swim booties
Road ID neoprene chip band with timing chip attached
1 pre-race GU Roctane

Tifosi sunglasses with mirror
SIDI dragons
1 pre-bike GU
1 water bottle filled with Gu Brew
Profile Design Aero drink bottle to be filled with Gu Brew
2 GU on bike
Garmin 800

race belt with number affixed and loaded with 2 GU
handheld 5 oz water bottle
Moving Comfort run cap
Brooks Ghost 4 with Speed Laces
mp3 player
allergy meds

Also into my transition bag went 2 small towels - one to lay my gear on and one to dry my feet after the swim.

Then I laid out what to wear to the event:
tri suit (test-wearing a CEP compression tri suit)
bra (test-wearing a 2XU tri bra)
heart rate monitor
Garmin 910
sweatpants and wool top to wear to the start

Bags loaded, I was in bed and asleep by 10pm

The alarm went off at 4:45 and we were out of bed by 5am.  Quick breakfast of oatmeal with coconut & cinnamon, coffee and water.   Took some allergy meds.   Loaded the car and we were out of the house by 5:45.   Quick stop at Starbucks and we were underway by 6am.    Arrived at the venue at 6:30.

Scored a spot on the racks with some elbow room and set up my transition area.  I'm picky about how I lay things out and take the time necessary to have it just like I want it.  I find this to be a calming exercise.

The "learning" from this event ( I always learn something!) is that one's running shoes are not the ideal vessel for storing one's pre-run GU.  Mine decided to leak all over the footbed of my left shoe! (MMmm, peanut butter flavored footbeds...yum.)  Fortunately, the grass was dewy and a few strategic swipes later, the footbed was clean again.

Stood in the portapotty lines twice (typical), scoped out the flow of the transition area (all the ins and outs for each leg, especially in from the swim, since I'm so blind) and wandered down to the waterfront to see the lake.  The warmup area inside the buoys seems to have shrunk, leaving little space for athletes to do more than simply get wet.

At 7:45 I returned to transition to suit up. (Wave 1 at 8am, mine at 8: 30) Applied plenty of BodyGlide around the neck of my suit, grabbed my goggles and cap ( decided against double capping as the water was 64 degrees), sucked back some more allergy meds, stuck my ear plugs into my ears and deposited my regular glasses into my run shoes

Waded into the water with Jeff.  It was cool, but not cold.  The first underwater dip is always the hardest, and my HR spiked immediately.  Jeff stayed with me for a few minutes while I bobbed under a few times, then I took a few strokes.  The warmup area was so crowded that there wasn't a way to do more than a stroke or two without hitting someone or reaching the limit of the buoys.

The race was started in 10 waves, each 5 minutes apart, which seems like overkill for an event with only 375 participants.   Jeff was in 7, I was in 8 and friend Lee in 9.  We watched the earlier waves go while we warmed up as best we could.  Some of them were quite large.  My wave was by the far the smallest.  Women 40-44 were the sole occupants of wave 8 and there were only 13 of us!   We looked behind us at the huge group to start in 9 and started joking about how we we destined to get swum over by that hoard.

Countdown... and we were off!   It's a straight swim out to the first buoy.  My HR spiked immediately, of course, as did my rate of respiration.  Adrenaline flooded my arms and legs and made me feel a bit dizzy.  I started to get that gasp-y, panicked feeling I always get at the start of an open water swim. I  spent the first minute or two breathing only on my right, while I calmed myself down, slowed my breathing and tried to find a rhythm.   Eventually I settled into my usual bilateral breathing pattern and rounded the first buoy.     This turn brought us around heading due east, straight into the morning sunlight, and parallel with the shoreline.    I knew (I thought) that there were 4 buoys after that, three red & 1 green.   The presence of the green one was odd, but I didn't give it too much thought. Heading into the sunlight, though, I had a hard time finding *any* of them!  I paused a moment, finally spotted the next buoy, picked out a landmark above it, and swam towards it.   

Buoy by buoy, I made my way eastward.  It seemed to be going slowly, but I refused to check my watch.   After the 3rd buoy, I simply could not see the 4th, with the sunlight streaming in my face.  I felt like I was going off course, so eventually I stopped completely, popped my head out of the water, and finally spotted the 4th buoy up ahead.  Head back down, I swam towards it and after a few more course corrections, finally made it there.  Hmmm, this was the turnaround and it was red.  All the other buoys were red too.   What happened to the green one?

I headed for the swim exit, which seemed ridiculously far away.  I was having trouble sighting again, and eventually realized that the “missing” green buoy was a return buoy and that I should have been aiming for that to keep me on track.  As it was, I was quite a bit to the right.  I corrected again, and slowly but surely, found the swim exit.

Time to the mat: 33:23.  Official distance 0.9 miles, but my Garmin read 1.02 miles.  Bonus yardage or a long course?  Probably a bit of both.  :-)   I was 11th of 13 in my age group after the swim.

T1 - The run to the transition area was looooong.   I pulled my wetsuit off my shoulders and arms, but left my cap and goggles on.  Prescription goggles are the only way I can find my bike in the transition area AND not trip over anything getting there!    I found my spot, ripped off my goggles and cap, and put on my cycling sunglasses.  Ah, much better!  Off with the wetsuit, on with my helmet, socks and shoes.  I slammed back a GU and took off for the bike exit.   And ran.   And ran.  And ran.  Geez, Louise, I didn’t know I’d signed up for a cyclocross race.  The bike exit was faaaaaaar across a grassy (and kinda muddy) field.  My Garmin reports the total distance run from the swim exit to the bike mount as 0.28 miles!   No wonder my total T1 time was 5:05!

Bike:  I like the bike leg.  I always joke that I’m a cyclist who just pretends to be a triathlete.   Its a joke, but at the same time, it’s true that the bike leg of the event is the only one where I truly feel at home.  

Marine Drive is flat flat flat.  It has the potential to be very windy, but on this day, there was just a touch of a wind out of the west.  This gave us a slight tailwind to start on our way east, a slight headwind all the way west to the turn around, and then a slight tailwind again back to Blue Lake Park.  Lowlight of the ride was the several mile stretch of Marine Drive where the pavement had been ground down for an imminent repaving.  We got to do that in both directions.  It totally sucked.  Highlights of the ride were passing almost every female in my age group (and Jeff, who started 5 minutes before me, at mile 9.5).  Of the 10 women in my age group who were ahead of me, I passed 7 of them.  :-)  I, of course, didn’t know how many women were ahead of me (and knew they’d all be passing me on the run later...), but it was fun to take note of the ages inscribed on people’s legs as I passed by.   I passed *a lot* of people.  Yet, at the same time, I was careful to keep it under control.  I was given instructions to keep my watts under 175.   For the 24 miles, I averaged 158 watts at an average HR of 160 (this being an interesting # because the effort felt well below 160bpm.  I would have guessed I was closer to 150bpm, if asked).  This was a decent effort, but well below where I would have been had I been doing just a bike time trial.  I was well aware that I needed to run 6.2 miles after I got off the bike!   Consumed one 100 cal bottle of GU Brew and one Gu Roctane during the bike.  Official time on the bike 1:10:51.  20.66 mph.

T2 - another cyclocross run with the bike back to transition.  As I put on my running shoes, I became aware that my left glute was TIGHT.  Hoped it wouldn’t cramp on the run.  Off with the bike glasses and helmet, on with the race cap.  Sucked back another Gu.  More allergy meds (notice a theme?)  Grabbed my mp3 player, 6oz handheld waterbottle bottle, and ran out of transition.  Total T2 3:06

Run:  I don’t know what to say about the run.  I want to be all positive and upbeat, but really, that’s hard for me.  Why?  Because *running* is so hard for me.  It’s like I’m standing still while everyone on the planet passes me by.  Old people, young people, fat people, skinny people....they all run right past me.  It’s depressing, frankly.   The ugly statistics:

Mile 1: 9:12 165 bpm
Mile 2: 9:44 168 bpm
Mile 3: 10:04 169bpm (Gu at 3 mile mark)
Mile 4: 10:12 170 bpm
Mile 5: 10:38 170 bpm
Mile 6: 10:54 175 bpm
0.22 to finish 10:26/mi 181 bpm

Good Lord, it’s a wonder I didn’t have a coronary in the last mile.  Sheesh.

Total run time of 1:03:02, 10:07/mile, 6.22 miles, 170bpm avg (!)  It’s worth pointing out that my tested anaerobic threshold is 169bpm, so I was basically pegged during this run.  Not surprisingly, I felt kinda woozy the last mile or so, just trying to hang on until I crossed the finish line.  I was totally spent when done, and just leaned on a table for a few minutes while I recovered. Hung out for a few minutes waiting for Jeff & Lee to finish. They both did great and I was happy to be there to congratulate them.

Total time for the day was 2:55:27.  8th of 13 in my age group.  3rd fastest bike time in my age group, 3rd slowest run.  <sarcasm>What else is new?</sarcasm>  I know I’m supposed to believe that if I hold back *on* the bike, that I’ll run better *off* the bike.   But here’s the thing: I *did* hold back on the bike.  And I still run like crap.  Losing weight would help, I know.  And I’m trying.   But geez, it’s not like I’m distinctly overweight.  I could lose 10 pounds, sure (was 139 race morning, and could be 129 if I were really disciplined) but it’s not like I’d see vast improvements by losing 10.  I don’t know if it’s my form, my stride, or what, but it’s kind of a downer to feel like you’re standing still out there on the run course. (likely solution: run more, complain less).

I also don’t think the problem is nutrition.  I had a solid breakfast, and consumed calories steadily.  
Pre-swim: 100
T1: 100
Total = 600 calories over 3 hours.

Perhaps I could have handled another 100 calories or so without stomach distress, maybe that would have helped fuel my run more effectively.
I could probably have had more fluids.  Had most of a bottle in the hour leading up to the race, drank a full bottle on the bike, and had roughly 12-15 ounces on the run.  Would have perhaps liked a bit more on the run, but course support is not the greatest, and I didn’t want to get sloshy.

Allergy meds *could* be a factor.  Despite all the meds pre-race and during the race, by the time I finished I was in the middle of a full-blown allergy attack.  My eyes were tearing, nose was watering and I was sneezing. Might account for some of the elevated HR, but this *feels* like an excuse.

Before I headed home (31 miles on my bike, two hours!) I ate some food, drank a chocolate Muscle Milk (they are a sponsor.  the stuff’s not bad) and took yet more allergy meds.  Easy spin home, averaging under 110 watts.  I thought it would suck to ride home, but it actually felt good and helped flush the crap out of my legs.   I’m a bit stiff today, but not especially sore.

Next up:
Pacific Crest Half Ironman in Sunriver on Saturday, June 23rd.
10.5 weeks to Ironman Canada!


6-12-2012 Report edited to add:

It's been pointed out to me that I'm being too hard on myself. And that I should race for myself, not caring about what other people are doing.

I know that I can't control who else shows up. I can only control how *I* show up. 

This journey is about *my* fitness and how it changes over time. But I'd be disingenuous if I said I didn't also care about how I stack up against other women my age. But it's not really about winning or losing against them. It's more about what is and isn't possible for ME (which, rightly or wrongly, I benchmark by looking at what other women my age can do.) There's such a huge disparity between what I'm capable of on my bike and what I manage to eek out on the run. I find it very frustrating.  

BUT, in the spirit of trying to be a little more positive, here's what I think went well:

1) Pre-race prep was a snap. I know what I need, so I didn't stress over it.

2) I didn't have a panic attack on the swim!! This is a biggie for me, because I'm *very* prone to panicking in the water. I felt the adrenaline surge come on, managed to remain calm, and found a rhythm without hyperventilating and over-reacting. I'm hoping to carry that momentum to Pac Crest in two weeks. I had a terrible panic attack there 2 years ago, and do NOT want a repeat.

3) Had a great bike ride that was fast but felt easy. Love love love my TT bike. 

4) Looking for some positives on the run... well, that 9:11 first mile was a surprise. I felt like I was barely moving, but I guess I was! Um, well, let's see...oh yeah, I almost forgot. I *did* pass one gal with the #43 on her leg, so I guess I did pass someone in my age group on the run! um...I didn't cramp up, despite my tight left glute. um...I didn't throw up in the last mile, does that count? 

5) I enjoyed racing with Jeff & Lee and seeing them both out on the bike & run course at various points. Slapped some high fives with both of them on the run course as I was on my way back while they were still heading towards the turnaround. They both did really well.

6) No "mechanicals". All my gear performed well. My goggles didn't leak, my wetsuit didn't chafe, my bike shifted flawlessly, no blisters from my run shoes...

And perhaps the biggest positive of all:

7) MY IT BAND HELD UP!  I've been in PT every week since January.  I've foam rolled so much that I've worn a major dent into the roller.    Lots of stretching.  And it's paid off.  The IT band is not 100% (it's still a little tweaked today from the weekend's effort) but it gave me ZERO trouble during the race.  I forgot all about it, in fact.  Yay!