Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Race Report: Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3

People, I owe you SO MANY REPORTS that I don't even know where to start.  The race reports are always the reports I refer back to the most and I know that I really need to record this stuff.  It was just an unconventional summer--we took a trip to Europe, lost a dear loved family member, and then I went to study the Constitution at Stanford University at the end of July.  In the meantime I completed three races: the Huntington Sprint Triathlon, the Vermilion Harbor Olympic Triathlon, and the Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 Triathlon.  How can I explain everything that happened to you?  Because there's a LOT.

Here's the short answer: I set a course PR--and several actual PRs, including my best 10k--in every. single. race. and after a previous 8 months of heartaches and disappointments and near-misses in my races, finally got the joy back that got me into this sport in the first place.

Related: I am SO not a runner at heart.  I always have known this, but it's confirmed without a doubt.

The long answer:  get your popcorn and buckle up kids, because this will be a long one.

I didn't even register for Rev3 until, like, 3 weeks before the race.  Things were just so crazy this summer...we had both the most amazing and worst summer ever.  It went so fast and was such a whirlwind of emotions that Matt and I felt like we didn't even get a break, which is insane considering the break we had.  Throw a few kids in the mix, preparing for our jobs which were changing significantly, and, well, spoiler alert: I didn't train as much as I'd like to.  I'm a broken record on that, right? But I've already made it clear that I'm not training as much as you or probably anyone.  And that's just gonna have to be okay.

I knew I was fit, and I knew I had made significant run progress, as evidenced by my performance in Vermilion.  So I went ahead and pulled the (VERY EXPENSIVE, ouch) trigger.

Now, if I'm going to plunk down that kind of change for a race, you'd better believe I have some big goals.  My previous 70.3 was when Emery was 6 months old (and that, my friends, is what I call a "poor life decision") where I somehow PRd massively with a 5:44.  I knew that I was much stronger than that this time around, so my "perfect day" goal was a sub-5:30.  Here's what that would look like:

Swim: 38 and change
Bike 2:50ish
Run 1:50ish
Plus transitions to get to a little under 5:30.

This is what I know, without a doubt, that I can do.  So I decided to go hard or go home and see what happened.

I headed out to Cedar Point to spend the night in a cabin with my friends Andy and Noelle and their families.  This was super awesome as it allowed me to get settled in without having to get up at 4am and drive to the start like I did last time.  We grabbed some dinner hit the hay early on.


I didn't get to start until 8:45.  Ew. I hate late starts, but the Full Rev swimmers started at 7 and safety and blah blah blah I get it but that doesn't mean I don't get to hate it.  I was one of the final waves, and speaking of waves, holy crap, they were picking up.  The lake is rarely calm near Cedar Point, but this was starting to really look bad. I did a little warmup and got tossed around quite a bit.  I breathed in and just tried to focus on my stroke and remind myself that this is my 6th 70.3, I've been here many times before, and I know how to swim in chop.
It's impossible not to look like an idiot in a wetsuit and cap. So I embrace it.
Andy was off 10 minutes ahead of me and it was hard not to notice the waves knocking over swimmers as they were wading out to the start line.  By the time my wave waded out, waves were so big that they knocked us over.  I seemed to time my jumps exactly wrong and ended up with a face full of nasty lake waves like three times before I even started.  We had to swim directly into the waves, and all of us were officially panicking.  It was very, very rough.
This is what I call "Less Than Ideal Conditions"

I heard the horn, jumped over one more wave, and off I went.

It was, without a doubt, the worst swim of any 70.3 I've ever done.  The chop was so horrible that sighting was virtually impossible.  I had to do breastroke often just to ensure that I was not going the wrong direction--as in completely turning around wrong direction.  People were PANICKING.  A jet-ski flew by me after a swimmer who was freaking out.  I caught some of the men in the wave--or two--ahead of me before I even got out to the first buoy. My arm went up to take a stroke and, on several occasions, was smashed down by a cresting wave.

The only thing I kept thinking was, "Breathe, stroke, glide, pull. You've been a swimmer all your life, and you're fine."  And I didn't freak out.  But people all around me were, and it made me scared to see them so panicked.  That's when bad things happen.

After the last turn, I saw a guy with his eyes closed floating on his back.  I stopped, screamed "HEY!" at him and when he didn't move I got really really worried and yelled, "ARE YOU OKAY?"  He finally heard me and said, yeah, she's going to get me, and waved in the general direction of the kayakers.
I know, those waves look innocent...trust me, people. Miserable chop.
I finally made it out.  I am smiling because IT WAS OVER THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU and I was just so glad to be out of there.
I'm laughing at A) my horrible, awful split and B) the fact that IT'S OVER
Please, please people out there reading: swimming in open water is no joke.  It is WAY different than a pool.  I am just so glad disaster did not strike and everyone came out of the water alive.  They pulled 60 people out of the swim on Sunday.  Training for the swim, and for the worst case scenario in open water, is absolutely vital for your safety, not just for your race. I'll stop lecturing you now.  I just can't help it: it makes me scared to see so many people who don't feel comfortable swimming get into situations like that.  It ain't right.

My time? 42 minutes and change. Embarrassing.

I said mucho swear words under my breath and literally could not believe I was already 5 freaking minutes off my goal coming OUT OF THE WATER.  That did not just happen.  Except, yes it did, and I'd better get moving so I can pick up the pieces.

The official time: 42:13
Age Group Position 3/23

You have got to be kidding me: I swam a 42 minute leg and I was 3rd in my AG?! Either everyone else is HORRIBLE or the weather messed with everyone else even more than it messed with me.  Because I am just not that good.  So, I'm happy I remained calm and kept my wits about me.

TI: 2:33

The Bike:
Rolling out of T1!
Okay! My best part! I can regain some territory here!  I took off and tried to hold a good steady pace throughout the bike.  I was flying by people initially and felt great.  It was a clear, sunny, beautiful morning, and really, Lake Erie is pretty breathtaking like that.  I soaked in the scenery as I tried to settle into a rhythm.  I focused on nutrition and taking in enough fluids while also settling my seasick stomach.  About 10 miles in I really tried to settle into the pace.

The course is mostly flat with some rollers and a little bit of false flat/wind to deal with.  But here's the deal:

I just didn't feel it.

For some reason, right around mile 25 or so, I felt flat. Just no pep.  Not the usual "I'm going to kick so much ass today" feeling like I usually get on the bike.  Yeah, there was a little wind, but nothing that I should have been letting get to me...I don't know what the deal was.  I think that swim might have taken more out of me than I wanted to admit, despite my attempts to swim smooth and remain calm.  I dunno, but for whatever reason, I got back to T2, looked down, saw "2:57" on my PowerTap and literally made this face:
So not impressed.  That was crap.  I'm much stronger than that.

Oh, stupid mistake, too--I forgot to take off "auto lap" on my Garmin watch, so it took all 56 miles as "laps" and right around mile 54 decided to say it was out of memory.  Awesome.  Because I ONLY NEED YOU FOR THE RUN.  So I fumbled with it and tried to clear the memory while I rode.  Not good.  Very annoyed.

Bike time: 2:57.31 (literally, the same time I had in 2010)
Age Group Place:  3/23

Now, I knew my big goal was officially OUT the window.  Poop sandwich.  BUT! I can still go under 5:44.  The run was where I wanted to see the biggest gains and where I should see the biggest gains, so I vowed to myself that this craptastic effort so far was not all for nothing.  I could still have a good run, and I'd set myself up for it with good nutrition and a day that was warm but not too hot at all.

It was time to get into beast mode. Finally.

I put on my racing flats, because I thought, hey! they might make me faster! (another "poor life decision")

T2: 1:22

Off I went--Andy had a solid bike and had caught me around mile 40, so I tried to keep him in my sight.  Man, he was moving though.  My first mile was 8 flat, and I knew that was too aggressive. I tried to back off a bit but felt good at 8:15s so I figured I'd hold on as long as I could and just risk it, because at this point, I had nothing to lose.  I passed my buddy Tiffany who was running the relay, and said, "I might regret this later!" and she laughed and told me to keep going.

I held the pace pretty well for the first 5 miles or so.  Somewhere in there I passed Andy, which confused me--turns out he hit the bathroom but then I was paranoid that I missed a turn!  I asked this girl next to me, "this is the right way, right?" and she assured me that it was. As I ran away she said, "Strong pace! I want some of your energy!" so that was a nice boost.  I tried to tell every single police officer and volunteer that I could thank you, because that's just a thankless and kind of boring volunteer job.

Around mile 6 or 7, I started getting that nauseous/sick/dizzy feeling.  Oh no, I thought.  Here it comes.  So I pounded a Gu and took a few eCaps just to try and get ahead of the bonk.  It was warm, but not hot--but the sun on the asphalt was really cooking things up, and I'm definitely a salty sweater.  It worked, and I managed to keep the pace hovering around 8:30-8:35.  My Garmin had the mile markers 0.2 miles off which is pretty significant and definitely messed with me, so I just tried to at least keep the pace consistent.

After Mile 9 or so things got hard, but good.  Like, people around me were dropping like flies.  But I wasn't! I was tired, and my legs were heavy, and I knew that I didn't have too much left, but I kept thinking, "just a half hour or so, and then you can see the finish line."  I can do anything for a half hour.  Right?  Except that at this point of the course it's extremely boring with nothing but old businesses and not many spectators.  So I tried really hard to just focus on my steps and my breathing.  Every step I made was one step closer to home, and I was ready for home.

The last 2 miles or so on the causeway leading up to the park.  Last time I did this race, it was hella windy and I might have said a few F bombs because of it.  This time, it wasn't too windy, just hot and isolated and OMG I AM READY TO BE DONE NOW THANK YOU.  My legs were starting to feel heavy, I was hovering now right around 9:00/mile pace, and I knew that I was running out of steam.  Due to the watch debacle I had no clue what my overall time was, so I just tried to go as hard as my body let me and figured I'd hopefully still have a shot at a PR.  I knew that my run wasn't going to be 1:50, but hey, the best I've EVER ran at the end of a 70.3 is 2:02.  And I was going to be well under that.  Victory is mine.

Making that last turn, I just had this stupid grin on my face.  I was so happy with that run--sometimes, it's a gamble and it's a fine line and I'm still learning, but sometimes, if you ease up on the bike just a bit, you can gain huge minutes on the run.  Maybe if I had rode harder, I would have blown up and lost 10-15 minutes on the run, because lemme tell you folks, I HAVE BEEN THERE.  It is not fun.  Part of what I love about the 70.3 distance is that it's so hard to execute perfectly, and it's such a learning process.  I know I can go a bit harder on the bike and still have a decent run, but to see an 8 minute gain on the run?  Yeah, that made my rotten swim and bike a little more palatable.

Saw my friends and they snapped this video accidentally--Patty was trying to take a pic, but I like it!

And then, saw Matt and the kids, and we got to do this:

Total Run Time:  1:54.49
Age Group Place: 3/23

Overall Time: 5:38.29
Age Group: 4/23 (don't ask me how it's 4...but it is, I checked, and the 3 spot went to a girl 5 minutes faster, so I'm not sure how it happened but it's all good)
23/153 Total Females
100/447 Total Finishers

70.3 PR by 6 minutes!

So it wasn't the perfect day I had trained for, but really, when is it?  Hitting that sweet spot is so tricky, and as my friend so eloquently put it, sometimes the journey is the sweet spot.  Given my life situation now, the fact that I can't train nearly as much as I'd like to, and that I keep getting older (funny how that happens), I am absolutely thrilled with this race.  I got faster. Again.  What I thought was a limit, quite simply, never was.  My first 70.3 was in 2005, and I went 6:33--and the swim was short, so that time should be longer.  My second was 6:47.  I have gone from solidly--VERY solidly--back of the pack, to this--a top 15% female finish.  And I'll never be a pro and I'm never going to win these things, but in the competition against myself? I'm killing it.

The first part of this season--well, the better part of the last year, actually, if I'm being honest--was spent frustrated and dejected.  And I hated that.  I hated that I worked so hard and made so much progress and was upset, because that is just ridiculous.  But maybe, just maybe, all of that work paid off in the past three races I've done.  I still owe you race reports, but the short version is:  3rd overall female in my summer sprint, and the fastest 10K I have ever clocked, 6th overall, and a course PR in the Vermilion Olympic.  

My heart is with triathlon, and I know this.  I sort of always have.  It is so nice to have the joy of the finish line again, and not have it laced in a feeling of defeat.

I don't know what I want to do next.  There's a tiny pull toward another BQ attempt, but I tell you what--I had so much fun in the past 8 weeks doing triathlons, that I am honestly not sure.  We'll see.

For now, I still have a pretty big grin on my face.  But oh, dear, those racing flats?  Let's just say my toes look like something out of the Walking Dead.  Trust me--you don't want to look.

Excited to have a little "off season" now, and so, so, so happy with the way these races played out.  On to the next finish line, wherever it may be.