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.

Coeur Team 2019!

As many of you have probably seen on my social media, I’m super excited to be back on the Coeur Ambassador Team for the fifth year!

This team has truly become a family to me.  I love all of these ladies and I’m excited to get to know all the new members on the team as well.  Every single one of these people is amazing, and if you see any of us out there training or racing, don’t hesitate to say hi.  Need advice?  Just ask?  Just need a friendly face?  You’ve got it.

Seriously, just knowing these people has made me a better athlete and a better person.  They’ve helped me push out of my comfort zone and do things I never thought I could.  They supported me through my frustrating recovery, and I’d like to think I was able to support some of my fellow team members in the same way.

This is always a tough time of year when triathlon teams are announced, as there is excitement and hurt feelings all at once.  It’s so tough when a friend doesn’t make a team they were hoping to join.  I’ve definitely had my fair share of rejections over the years.

But the thing is, there are great groups out there.  So many great groups.  Awesome Facebook groups, various forums online, and groups like The Collective Beat, which is Coeur’s community team.  I joined this team last year and met so many awesome ladies, and will be joining up again for 2019.  Definitely check it out and see if it’s right for you.  It’s filled with very uplifting ladies who have created a phenomenal community.

If you prefer in person, check out your local triathlon club or clubs.  Can’t find one?  Make one!  Or at least see if you can’t find some local folks to bike or run with.  Create a Facebook run event and see who shows up.  It sounds intimidating, but it’s really super easy, and who knows who you might meet!

October Mileage Recap

I’d say I’m officially back to running.  With the Army Ten Miler under my belt and some more double digit runs on the way, it feels good to finally be able to train again.  I’m still working to bring the speed back as well and I am so stiff the day after a long run, but that will all improve with time.

I’m also starting to think about my 2019 race season.  I’m still going to be doing quite a bit of rebuilding, but I’m hoping for some big things come mid-year.  I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned it here, but next year, I’m tackling 70.3 Ohio!  I haven’t done a 70.3 since 2016, so this is going to be real test of my recovery.   Mostly, I’m just excited to race with a whole bunch of friends and do a bunch of stupidly long training rides.

October
Swim: 3.8 miles
Bike: 117 miles
Run: 54 miles

Not too shabby!  Considering I had a choir concert in there with a ton of hours of rehearsal, this is some pretty decent mileage.  Of course, as it’s getting cold, it’s getting harder and harder to go to the pool in the mornings.  I read somewhere that even Olympic swimmers loathe the moment they have to get into the pool on a cold winter morning, so it’s good to know that feeling’s never gonna fade.

2018 Totals
Swim: 52.1 miles
Bike: 1430 miles
Run: 209 miles

I should probably stop planning races

I’ve been joking that in 2018, my body decided to fall apart.  Labral tear, ovarian cyst, and just lots of random aches and pains, mostly related to recovering from the tear and from surgery.  Last week, for example, my back randomly went into a spasm and it still kind of hurts over a week later.  Getting old sucks.

This weekend, I tracked a bunch of friends doing various races, from marathons to 70.3s to 140.6s, and it was just another reminder of why I love racing so much.  It was so fun to see the alerts pop up on my phone or photos from spectators showing up on social media.  I loved seeing everyone’s post-race posts.  Some people set PRs and met personal goals, others struggled, and a few ended up with DNFs.  But everyone was so very positive. Sometimes, a race goes great and sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, your race goes wrong.  I’m so proud of everyone, but especially those who chose to stop when they realized that continuing meant risking harm to themselves.

I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I want to race a 70.3 next year.  It’s a lot of training.  I did one in 2016, and loved it, but took 2017 off because I couldn’t make things work with my schedule.  I kind of regretted that decision, which was why I was scheduled to race 70.3 Chattanooga this May.  My body falling apart took that off the table.  And I still have a ways to go to be back in the shape I was this time last year, so part of me says to take another year.

The other part of me says “GO FOR IT!”  My recovery is going well and there is no indication that I won’t be able to race long a year from now.  I’ve got multiple double-digit run races already on the calendar for this year, and it’s the run where I’ve got the most work to do.  The next couple of months will certainly give me a good idea of where I’m at recovery wise and if it’s a good idea to try to race.

Honestly, I think my body will be fine.  The big question is whether I want to put in the time.  Training for a  70.3 is no joke.  It’s especially no joke when you’re a slower racer.  It’s a lot of hours.

But I do want the camaraderie that comes with a big race.  I want the challenge and the rush of the finish.

Let’s be honest. I’m going to end up signing up for something big.  I just have to figure out what.