Race Report – 2019 Patriot’s Olympic Triathlon

This weekend, I finally returned to the race stage after crashing on April 20th. Early in the year, I registered for the Patriots Olympic Triathlon, and it was the one race I opted to not defer after my crash. I really wanted to have something to work towards. I knew it would be tough, but I was dedicated to completing it.

Of course, the incoming hurricane had something to say about it. We were very lucky to not get hit, but thanks to Dorian, the swim was cancelled. The rescue boat was required elsewhere, so we know about the cancellation mid-day Thursday (the race was on Saturday). There were plenty of angry athletes, but I was just disappointed. Obviously, the important thing was that people were kept safe, so I’m glad the rescue boat could be prioritized to where it needed to go. And I was glad to know early so that I could mentally prepare.

My biggest worry was probably the swim. My elbow and shoulder still hurt when I swim. It’s not bad, and swimming doesn’t make it worse or better, but it’s just something I’m going to have to deal with for a while. So having the swim cancelled removed that worry.

It also really removed another big worry, which was a super fast cyclist coming up behind me after the swim. The race turned into a time-trial start, all self-seeded. While there weren’t signs indicating where people should line up, I figured there wouldn’t be any crazy cyclists whizzing past. Sure, there would be some jockeying for position, but nothing like a slow swimmer/expert cyclist coming out of the water later and then trying to crush the competition.

This race, I also had my boyfriend with me as chauffeur, carrier of heavy things, captain of the cheer squad, anxiety battler, and all around super supportive person. I think that definitely helped as well. He kept me out of my head and prevented a lot of stress.

eric shark
He took his cheer squad responsibility very seriously.

He also very proudly wore the shark head, much to the delight of many a toddler. After the race, I asked him how many people he took pictures with, and he said something like “Not too many, only maybe ten or so.” TEN? That’s a lot of people to ask a random stranger for a selfie!

The race also had a half-distance before the olympic, so we got to watch the half athletes go off first, which was helpful in understanding how they were going to do the time-trial start. The bike didn’t actually use the original “bike out” path, so I was confused for quite some time until things got started. I was ready to leave and return the same way, so the description of how the time trial would start made no sense to me until I saw it happen.

I ended up lining up with some other friendly Athenas. We chatted and had a lovely time as we waited for our race to start.

For the start, we walked to the start line and were told to go in pairs in 15-second intervals. We walked/ran across the line and mounted our bikes. And then we were off.

patriots bike mount
Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall.

The start was a bit scary because we rode along a very narrow path along the side of the road (that would later be part of the run). There wasn’t any jockeying for position because there literally wasn’t any space for it.

Thankfully, that didn’t last terribly long, and then it felt like the race really started. I had done the race before, back in 2017, so I knew it was flat save for one bridge (that I had also ridden many times during Rev3 Williamsburg) so there wasn’t a lot of unfamiliarity here. Flat was a bit of a misnomer – there were some small rollers, and as someone who has done the majority of her training inside this year, they felt larger than they really were. My only goal for this ride was to at least try to stay in my racing zone – though I’ve not done a new FTP test since before my accident, so it’s possible that’s a bit high. My watch is set to beep at me when I’m out of the zone, and well, it did a lot of beeping! I wasn’t really watching my pace, but I knew I was doing well based on the time it was taking me to complete each 5 mile set (my watch beeps and gives me the time for each 5 mile “lap”). My only real goal was to keep to at least 15mph and I was absolutely doing that.

Of course, even with the time trial start, there were still a number of riders (male, of course) who came flying up from behind me. The whole point to the time trial start was to put everyone in generally the right spot pace-wise, so waiting til last to start is kind of a jerk move. I know plenty of people who do it running, and that doesn’t bother me, because there really isn’t much of a safety risk to a fast runner passing you, but as I can attest, a fast cyclist coming past you can cause all sorts of damage. Naturally, there was the expected shifting of positions, where I caught up to other riders or others caught me, but it was the number of riders who came blasting past that I found very frustrating.

Around mile 20, I started to get cocky. I hadn’t crashed! I had made it through the bike! Except not yet. No getting cocky now. I needed to finish the ride first.

And I did. Just under 24 miles (the course was a bit short the last time I rode it too) at 18.1mph.

Bike: 1:17:27

I was off the bike and running into transition. I couldn’t believe I could actually run into transition. I think I was just so excited to have not crashed.

In transition, I just felt like I was moving through molasses. I was sure I was in there for nearly five minutes. It felt like it took me forever. But it didn’t.

T2 (or T1, depending on how you view it): 1:45

I had looked at the run map for this race because I remembered that there was a weird turn and that the last time I raced, a bunch of people had missed it and ended up running a loop backwards. What I didn’t look up was what the course was like, so I had forgotten that a good chunk of it is through a wooded area, on a dirt path. It’s actually really pretty, but it also feels pretty darn deserted.

My goal on the run was to hold my intervals (1:1) and to keep to a sub-14 pace. I really wanted to be closer to 13, but I know where I’m at right now, and knew that might be pushing too hard.

The other thing I forgot about this race was how lonely it feels at some parts of the race. It definitely starts to feel like a bit of a mental challenge, when you feel like you’re the only one out there, no other runners, no spectators. I had to work hard to stay out of my head. I’m a slower runner – there’s no way around it. And I’m okay with that. But when I feel like I’m totally alone while racing, it becomes a mental game. So I just started doing race math. Each mile, how far under 14 minutes was I? How much time was I “earning” each mile? Whatever it takes, that’s what I did.

Look at that air!

I managed to ultimately keep a 13:09 pace, which is fantastic! I was super pleased with how well things turned out.

I made the final turn into the race and pushed myself to cross the finish line strong. I won’t lie – it hurt. But it felt so great to finally be crossing a finish line again.

Run: 1:21:42

Total race time: 2:40:56

I’ve never done a bike-run race before, so it was hard to say just what that time meant, but given that my main goal was to finish under 3:45, I’d say that even if there had been a swim, I would have been safely under that time. So all in all, a great race back! I also came in smack in the middle of the Athenas, which was an awesome place to be (and it was so great to see so many of us out there!). Now I have something to work towards for next season. And a great cheerleader to join me on the adventures.

Getting Ready to Race Again

While a normal summer for me is filled with fun and training and racing, this summer has been filled with fun, but slightly less training and zero racing. I’ve not raced since my crash on April 20.

But that’s about to change.

This weekend, I’m racing my last triathlon of the season (and hopefully the first one I will finish for the season). I’m headed back to Williamsburg for the Kinetic Patriot’s Olympic tri. Initially I had planned to do the oly and the sprint this weekend, but on the advice of my coach and my PT, pulled back to only one race. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I chose the longer of the two races.

Okay, I actually chose the oly for two reasons.

  1. I hate sprints. I don’t like going all out for an entire race.
  2. I wanted the challenge. I needed something to force me to push my recovery.

About that recovery. How’s it going? Well, things are improving. My elbow hurts every single swim stroke, which is fun. It also hurts when I ride. Doesn’t hurt when I run though, so maybe the run won’t be the part of the race I hate the most this time. I’m working with a PT to rebuild strength and it’s pretty shocking how weak my upper body still is. Considering that when I first got out of my arm brace, I couldn’t do a single press up (not a push up, but just pressing my upper body away from the ground with my hips still on the ground), the fact that I can now support my weight on my arms is pretty amazing. Over the winter, I’m hoping to be able to do some strength work to really rebuild and rebalance.

The race will be interesting. I’m definitely nervous, though not particularly nervous about crashing. I feel like it was such a fluke to get hit by another cyclist that the odds of it happening again aren’t high. Am I going to be nervous at bike mount, which is always crowded, and will it likely freak me out when other racers come flying past me? Absolutely. (Though my swim has gotten slow enough that it may not be an issue.) But mostly, I’m just nervous if I can actually do this. Can I make it through the swim? Open water isn’t like swimming in a pool. Of course, I can always stop at a kayak if my arm needs a break. Will I be fast enough to make cutoffs?

The thing is, the race could go incredibly well. I’ve put in the training. No, I’m not going to be setting any new PRs, but I could have a solid race. But there are a lot of unknowns that definitely have me nervous.

Sleepy pre-ride selfie. Mornings are hard.

But I want to show up. I want to see what happens. If I don’t finish, I don’t finish. I would like to not end up in an ambulance. But honestly, if I manage to cross the finish line under my power, it’s a win.

A long overdue update

I have opened this window to type an update so many times over the summer. Crashing my bike and ending up on the injured list for the second year in a row definitely threw me for a loop (figuratively speaking – there was no looping in my crash, just a direct impact with the ground).

To recap my injuries, in addition to some abrasions that left some cute scars, I managed to fracture my elbow and permanently dislocate my collarbone at the sternum (I didn’t even know that was possible). I had surgery to remove gravel from my arm and prevent a bone infection. I still have some bone bruises and my elbow hurts about 75% of the time.

I’m not going to lie, recovery has been slow and mentally challenging. Rehabbing my hip labral tear was mentally much easier because there were things I could do. I could push myself and really work for that recovery. This has certainly been slow going. It took a while, but while I’m not back to my full weight lifting routine (and won’t be for quite a number of months), I’m back to swim/bike/run and recently swam my first mile since April.

But that’s not to say that the summer hasn’t been fabulous. I’ve had a lot of great adventures and I wouldn’t trade any of it.

As you may remember, I was aiming for 70.3 Ohio this summer. For the second time in a row, I had to drop out of a 70.3 due to injury. But for the second time in a row, I still went to the race to cheer and hang out with friends. And that was worth every second.

I got to hang out with a bunch of friends and cheer many of them through what proved to be a very tough race, both physically and emotionally. Instead of wishing I were out there, I was just glad I could still be part of the day.

Landshark!

I’m not going to lie, there were definitely moments where I thought “Perhaps I should register for another 70.3 next year.” But at this point, I think I’m committed to racing local next year, mostly Olympics. I want to make sure that I’m properly rehabbing my arm and my shoulder and not pushing just to make a distance.

I will, however, likely still go to some of the big races to cheer on friends and strangers. It’s so much fun to be part of a big race environment, whether or not I’m racing. I’m lucky to know so many awesome people.

So next up, I am finally getting a chance to race this year. I’ll be racing the Patriots Olympic the weekend after Labor Day. It’s not going to be pretty, and it’s probably going to hurt, but I need to get back out there. I don’t want to go a full year without racing if I can help it. And of course, once tri season is over, I’ll be out doing running races once again. And looking forward to the 2020 season (and beyond).

Going for a Walk Streak

“Disclaimer: I received an annual Strava Summit subscription and Strava merchandise to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

I’m quite behind on blog posts. As those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter know, I crashed my bike in my last race. I’m still working on the race report from that day. It’s a more emotional process than I thought it would be.

In sum: I’m fine, my bike is fine, my race season is not fine. The next couple of months are going to be all about rehab and recovery, but I’ve been here before and I know I can do it.

However, one of the big issues in coming back from injury is motivation. I can’t really bike, I’m not allowed to swim, and running is right out. I can walk, however, so the BibRave Strava Run/Walk Streak is perfectly timed.

(Note, I’m currently putting Strava through its paces and will be doing a review later in the summer.)

“But Megan! You’re anti-streaking!” And this is true. In general, I don’t like run streaks. I think they encourage people to push through injury or illness just to keep up the streak. That said, I think a limited-time streak (a month, for example) can be a good thing. And I think a walk streak is a great idea. Obviously, if you have a lower body injury, a walk streak is maybe not a great idea. But right now, as I’m dealing with a broken elbow, I think a walk streak is exactly what I need.

Right now, I have zero training mojo. None. Mostly because I’m not allowed to do anything. But getting out and moving every day (or walking on the treadmill) is something I can do. It doesn’t have to be fast, and it doesn’t have to be far. But I’m giving it a shot.

Anyone want to go on a walk streak with me through the month of May? To officially join:

  1. Sign up for Strava.
  2. Join the BibRave Run Club
  3. Walk! (Or run, if that’s your jam.)

March Mileage Report

Spring! Spring is here! Allegedly.

March was a pretty darn good month. I got in some miles and went to Disney World. What more could I want?

In my “cooking more” goal, I have failed miserably. Sort of. I’ve started using the Hungry Root service, which is a meal kit delivery, only it’s for very busy/lazy people who want to eat well and don’t want to cook. So far, I’ve been pretty pleased with it and I may do a review later.

I’ve not been great about reading either, mainly because I’ve just been crashing in the evening. I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks though, as I go through my day, so it’s kind of a win.

March Totals
Swim – 14.7 miles
Bike – 108 miles
Run – 58 miles

My bike miles were way down this month, but that makes sense, as I took my bike in for a tuneup (I really need to be better about keeping my chain and cassette clean) and I was out of town, so there was plenty of time spent not biking. And of course, with that came increased run and swim miles. My coach is getting me ready for the Fort Ritchie Swimfest 4500 in May, so my swim workouts are getting long. I did the 4500 at Swimfest two years ago without swimming this much, so I can only assume it will be less painful this year. And maybe faster.

Next up, April, when race season officially begins. Yikes!!

2019 Totals
Swim – 30.3 miles
Bike – 381 miles
Run – 106 miles