Monday, June 29, 2015

The Race to the Race: My CST Report

The Race to the Race. A friend of mine has a blog with that title and, right now, it kind of sums up where I am in life as well as my race experience this weekend.

The California Sprint Triathlon was this weekend and I had big plans for it when I first signed up. It's a Regional Championship so the first five finishers in my age group qualify for Nationals. I had finished fourth last year and I really wanted to be on the Podium this year and I really want to qualify for Nationals someday.

It's always risky to have goals that depend on how well other people do, but at the beginning of the year this seemed like a reasonable goal. I even had a plan. All I had to do was swim an extra time a week and do more speed work and less LSD on the bike compared to last year. Add that to my Half Marathon training that I was in the middle of and I could shave off 5-10 minutes from my time. If I did that, I'd be happy even if I didn't get the placement I wanted.

Then real life struck.

I started having trouble with the left side of my body (Piriformis Syndrome was the official diagnosis) and had to cut way back on my training. I even took the entire month of March off!  I had to stop training for the Half Marathon and did almost no running from Feb. through May. Then, my daughter had a concert the night before the race, which meant a late night. And, to top it all off, the week of the race, I started waking up every day with a backache!

So instead of showing up at the start line rested, raring to go and confident in my training, I showed up undertrained, with only four hours of sleep and a sore back.

My goals for the race became about surviving and just seeing how it went. I still hadn't given up on my original goals (I'm stubborn that way), but they seemed fairly unrealistic.

Swim

My swim went really well. I had no issues sighting and only a little trouble getting around some people who swam the whole way on their back, sculling. (It's hard to breath when the person in front of you is shoving water into your face.) My back was bothering me even though I had taken something for it and I was worried how that would impact the rest of the race, but I still felt fast.

I even got the swim finish completely surrounded by yellow (2 waves ahead) and orange (1 wave ahead) caps, with no purple (my wave) caps in sight.

I was very excited by how well everything went until I looked at my watch. I was almost a minute slower than last year!

T1

Then my T1 seemed so slow and, for the first time in my entire life, I got my timing chip caught in the legs of my wetsuit. However, I arrived to see a teammate already there and left before her so it probably wasn't as bad as it felt. (It was only 15 seconds slower than last year as it turned out.)

Bike

On the bike, I just couldn't get going. I hadn't been successful at doing more speed work because of my injury, but I did end up doing two very long social rides instead. (So basically the opposite of my plan.) I had no idea how this would impact my bike fitness. Plus, the course was enough different from last year that I had no sense of how fast it was. So I was flying blind and just hoping to rustle up some bike speed from out of nowhere.

But every time I looked at the Garmin, my speed seemed slower than it should be. For the second half of the course, I was able to manage my cadence better and this helped. I really pushed too. It was only 8.5 miles so I didn't even try to save my legs for the run. I just pushed and pushed.

In the end, I beat my bike time goal by slightly over one minute. But my 14.9 mph average was not what it needed to be to be competitive and was disappointing.

I was happy that I had remembered to take the Garmin off the bike and get it back onto my wrist before descending into the park though. (I screwed that up last year.) Plus over the course of the ride, my bike started feeling better and better.

T2

My second transition also felt slow though nothing particularly went wrong and it actually was okay. I've had better but also worse.

Run

The run felt like crap the entire time. Just complete and utter crap.

At first I was barely moving and I knew it was from not doing enough brick workouts. So I just grit my teeth and pushed and pushed.

By the time I got to my teammate Jackie who volunteering at the turn into the skate park, I was actually running. She was doing a little dance as she cheered on the runners (and pointed to where to go) so I did one too! She had written some encouragement on the sidewalk and one of the messages said "Happy Birthday, Rachel". So, as I headed into the park, I told myself "You're name is Rachel. It's your birthday and, no matter what happens, you will PR this race because the bike course is 3 miles shorter than last year!"

This silliness helped me feel better even though everyone was passing me. And I do mean everyone. A friend I saw coming in from the Olympic bike course when I was running on Stanley even passed me at his mile four!

However, most of the time when I looked at my watch, my pace was better than I expected. And my average pace seemed higher than last year (though I couldn't quite remember). I tried not to get too excited because all my longer runs lately would be fast in the beginning but then around mile 1.5 to 2, I'd completely run out of steam.

But then I got to mile 2 and, unlike the last few times I ran longer, I still had some gas in the tank. So I pushed and pushed and was able to get to the finish line 50 seconds faster than last year!

I was pretty close to my overall time goal too. (I was over it by a minute which is also how much slower my swim was.) So I was happy enough even though I came nowhere near qualifying for Nationals, let alone the podium.

Conclusions

All in all, this was a weird race. How things felt and how I did were not in sync. The run felt awful, "I'm going to die" awful. But it was my best leg. Transitions felt slow but weren't. The swim felt great but was just okay.

I'm not sure what to take away from that. Except to keep pushing and not let your brain limit you. I really wanted to give up a few times when it was clear it wasn't going to be my race, but I didn't and I ended up with a PR on the leg that felt the worst!

I had made a decision two weeks ago to pretty much train through this race (though I did take it easy on race week for a mini-taper). I think this was a good decision. This was supposed to be my A race for the first half of the year, but it just wasn't happening. Using that time to continue to get fitter instead is going to serve me better in the long run.

So I am thinking of this race as my "race to the race". I am looking ahead to the ITU World Aqualthon Championship. I have 2.5 months to get to where I want to be for that one. It's going to be tough, but I'm not ready to give up on it.

The Stats

Swim: 22:00, AG: 8/12
T1: 1:45, AG: 4/12
Bike: 33:52, 12/12
T2: 1:13, AG: 3/12
Run: 35:03, AG: 7/12
Overall: 1:33:55, AG: 9/12, Gender: 89/139, Overall: 237/316

Looking over these stats, as usual, my bike leg is what killed me. Maybe I should work on that?
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