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.

Rumpus in Bumpass, aka Swim, Bike, Crash

On April 20, I was scheduled for my first triathlon of the year. (Yes, it has taken me a while to get all of these words out.) I’m not typically a fan of early season racing. I like to get in some good practice swims before I race. However, last year, I was registered for Rumpas in Bumpass as a warmup for Choo 70.3. Obviously, thanks to my labral tear, that was out, but the race company had an awesome deferral policy. That meant that this year, I had an already funded race entry for the race. Might as well show up, right? Right.

I had mixed feelings going into the race. I was so thankful that the weather was supposed to be nice. Was I prepared? Yes and no. I hadn’t done any OWS swimming, and I hadn’t ridden my bike outside yet. But I had put in the work and I was excited to start the season and see some friends at the start line.

Race morning was gorgeous. All the rain had cleared the area and things looked amazing. I was feeling good. I got everything setup in transition and hung out with friends as we waited for race start. I wedged myself into my wetsuit. It felt good. I hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I figured things would be fine. I didn’t have an issue with wetsuits.

Cue foreshadowing.

I got in the water early and tried to get used to the cold. It was in the mid-60’s. Not awesome, but not too bad. Two men’s waves went off, then it was our turn. Racing! Yay!

I struggled to get comfortable. Why? Probably the cold and the fact that every year, my first OWS of the year sucks. I need to remember this. Future self, do some practice swims before racing! So I got myself into a spiral and realized I had two options. I could quit or I could figure out how to get out of my wetsuit and keep going. So I pulled up at a jet ski and took off my wetsuit in the water. It was not easy and I was gasping from the cold. But once it was off, I was going to finish this race. I am way too stubborn to quit, and I was pretty proud of myself for getting through a really bad moment.(Ominous music continues.) With the pause and the lack of the wetsuit, I was now behind the pack, but not too far off. There were plenty of swimmers around me, and by the time I finished, I was coming out with the first wave of sprint swimmers as well (they had a shorter swim course, naturally).

The trek to transition was through ankle deep mud. Do not recommend.

At transition, I ran into another girl I had met earlier, so I shared my foot rinse water bottle with her, got geared up, wished the girl luck, and headed out.

(This part is harder to write than I thought it would be.)

The race was a two loop course for the Olympic racers and single loop for the sprinters. There was a slight straightaway, then you joined the loop with a lefthand turn.

I made the turn and merged in, found a solid spot on the right, but there were racers flying past me on the left, both sprinters and olympic athletes starting their second loop. There were definitely people riding in groups, not necessarily in packs, but just situational things where riders were riding a few across and not really following the rules. That can just happen racing. Unfortunately, those rules exist for a reason.

I was barely a mile in when I heard yelling behind me. I shifted farther to the right, as I had been riding about a foot out to stay out of the gravel and junk on the side of the road. That was the wrong choice, as the guy coming up behind me was attempting to pass on the right.

(Yes, this is a complete rule violation. However, because I’m not sure what was all going on around me, I suspect there was a cluster of riders to the left as well and he made the best decision he had in a bad situation. He didn’t know I was going to also try to get out of the way by shifting right. I’m choosing to believe this was just an unfortunate situation and not a blatant attempt to flaunt the rules.)

Always wear a helmet. Always.

The other cyclist hit me. Thankfully, I wasn’t going super fast. I flew over my handlebars. I landed first on my left forearm, then the rest of my body crashed to the ground. My head bounced off the ground. That was probably the scariest moment. Heads aren’t supposed to bounce off of things.

I never lost consciousness and instead sat up pretty much right away. My left side hurt and I knew I was bleeding, but I could move my hands and my feet, and these all seemed like good things. I could see straight and my head didn’t hurt.

Some amazing spectators came running over to me, and I wish I knew who they were so that I could properly thank them. They made me focus on them and kept telling me to not look at my left side. This freaked me out. “Are there any bones sticking out?” I wasn’t in a ton of pain, but had this vision of something sticking out of my arm. I also pretty quickly asked if my bike was okay. As any cyclist would.

Mostly, I was just scared. I was sitting in the middle of the race course bleeding and it took a while for medical get to me. In reality, it was less than five minutes, but it felt like forever. I was able to stand, and cradling my left arm, I climbed into a cart and was taken to a waiting ambulance where they checked me over. I was freezing cold since I was wet and they kept piling me with blankets so I stopped shivering. They didn’t seem terribly worried, which was insanely reassuring. I needed to be seen by a doctor, but things weren’t dire.

I convinced them to put my bike into the ambulance and had someone retrieve my backpack (with my phone and ID inside) from transition and went to the hospital. No sirens, so it was a long trip. I chatted with the EMT and found out how he got into the gig. Mostly I think I was trying to distract myself.

At the hospital, things didn’t seem like too big of a deal. They helped me out of my wet kit and into a hospital gown which was awesome. Being cold was the worst part of all of it. My head was fine. I got taken for x-rays and was really hoping my shoulder and collarbone weren’t broken. I didn’t want to deal with pins. And they were fine! My elbow was less fine, and more worryingly, there was a whole bunch of gravel in my arm.

The most painful part were the muscles in my left shoulder and up into my neck. They still hurt today. But nothing was bad. They asked me if I wanted any pain meds and I said no. They insisted on Tylenol, so I took that.

I refused to look at the wound in my arm. I decided I didn’t want to know. The PA came in a number of times to irrigate my arm to work to get the gravel out. And apparently, they were able to get a lot of it out. But when I went back for more x-rays, it wasn’t enough and I needed surgery to get the gravel out and possibly a bone chip.

Great.

I was pretty chill through all of this. I wasn’t even concerned when they were pushing two kinds of IV antibiotics. This seems fine. My brain is weird. When they said surgery, I was like “Okay, let’s do this.” The whole time, I really was thinking about how lucky I was. I bounced my head off the ground and I was fine. This injury was relatively minor.

So off to surgery it was. Thankfully, it was just rocks and no bone chip. But I woke up with a brace on my arm, an appointment with an ortho for the following week, and prescriptions for even more heavy antibiotics. The worst part was that when I woke up, I was so hungry. I was given a soda and crackers, but I had a brace on one arm and an IV in the other so I couldn’t get food to my mouth. It was an incredibly cruel moment. Generally though, I felt good and was ready to break out.

The final verdict is a broken elbow, serious road rash on my left shoulder and quad, some very colorful bruising and a gross wound on my left elbow that is going to leave a sweet scar.

Two weeks out and healing is going as expected. I start up PT on my arm this week and will be getting a new brace. My doctor told me that recovery is probably around 8 weeks, so I’ll be back out there soon enough. But of course, this means that my comeback season isn’t happening this year. I won’t be trained up for 70.3 Ohio, so Sherpa Shark will be back as a spectator (and thank goodness I bought the insurance). I was registered for four more local races with Kinetic Multisports (the group that runs Rumpus) and because of my crash, they deferred my next two races til next year, have offered to defer my September races (though I hope to be back by then) and offered me a free entry into next year’s Rumpus. I think I won’t be taking them up on the last offer – crash aside, I need OWS practice before I race, so no more early season races for me.

In general, I feel really really lucky. This could have been a lot worse. Yes, I have moments of being annoyed by the situation, disappointed that I’m going to have to rebuild my fitness AGAIN (all I’ve been able to do since the race is walk and some lower body strength work), but I’m okay. Of all my limbs to injure, my left arm is probably best, since I’m right handed. I can still type (and am encouraged to to help keep my shoulder loose). It’s awkward and I still hurt, but my recovery is going to be easy compared to what it could be.

I have to say that one thing this made me realize is how amazing my friends are. Liz dropped everything to drive down to the hospital, sat there all day, talked to my surgeon, and stayed the night with me. Kim and Jon drove a stupid distance from their house on a Sunday to go retrieve my car from Fredericksburg. And so many others sent offers of help, meals, or well wishes. It definitely made me feel loved.

Race Report: 2018 Space Coast Half Marathon

So I’m a bit behind in my blog updates.  The weekend after Thanksgiving, I ran my first and only half marathon for the year.  This was my sixth year running the Space Coast Half, but this year felt a bit more important, since I hadn’t raced a 13.1 since the previous year’s Space Coast Half.

Obviously, if I’ve done a race six years in a row, I probably like it.  And the one thing I have to say is that these race organizers are always improving.

In terms of my performance in the race, I wasn’t too concerned about the distance.  I knew I would be slow, but my coach had me do a 13 mile training run, something I had never done in half marathon training.  I wondered why I was doing it, but didn’t question her expertise, and I’m glad I didn’t.  What that training run gave me was the confidence that I could cover the distance without pain from my labral tear, but it also gave me an idea of how fast I would race, so I didn’t have to put a lot of time into worrying about that.  It was really freeing to not be focusing on a finishing time.

This year was the first year in a new four year race series, and they made a few changes for this year.  The expo continues to grow, which is nice, though I so rarely buy anything at race expos anymore, especially when I travel to a race.  I need to make more room for stuff in my luggage so I can shop.  

Race morning, my sister Caitlin and I made plans to race together.  I think I’ve seen her more this year than I have since we lived in the same timezone.  That’s been pretty awesome.  Dad dropped us off at the race start, which was a huge perk. No worries about parking!  Another change this year was that they added a second half marathon.  The marathon course is sort of shaped like an infinity symbol, and previously, the half marathon was only the south side of the course.  The marathoners ran the north loop, then joined the half marathoners on the south loop.  This year, there was an option to run the north loop half marathon course.  The big difference between the two, aside from the scenery, is that the north half has a 3.5 hour time limit, while the south half has a 7 hour time limit (the full marathon time limit).  Even though I’ve run the south course 5 times, when it was time for race registration, I was completely unable to run thanks to my hip, so I registered for the south course, in case I had to walk the entire race.

The start line was as crowded as ever, though this year, marathoners and north runners were instructed to be on the right side of the street, and south runners on the left.  Until we got much closer to the start, there was no indication of divided corrals.  Additionally, as we made our way up to the start line after the race started, we realized that there were some very poorly placed pace signs.  That meant that the start was quite crowded and there was lots of darting around people in the first mile or so.  If that’s the worst thing I can say about the race, so be it.

We really lucked out with weather.  It was cool and slightly overcast all day.  Absolutely perfect.  And the spectators were out in full force.  Some of the people in the neighborhood set up bars in their front yards for the runners.  You know I love a run where I can have a mini margarita!

Aside from one mild calf cramp that I think was due to low sodium (at least I think so, since some salt helped it), this race went really well.  I ran exactly as planned.  My pace was where I thought I would be based on training, and most importantly, I felt amazing throughout the race.  I wasn’t sore at all and I felt like my form was pretty decent.

I was so, so excited to be racing again.  Sure, I have a ways to go to get back to my previous pace, but that will come with time, and it’s still not something I’m terribly worried about.  Since it’s not like I’m trying to qualify for anything, it makes sense to just let my pace evolve naturally as I continue to train.  

Look out 2019, here I come.

 

 

Race Report – 2018 Army Ten Miler

Ten years.  I’ve been running this race for ten years.  That still feels absolutely insane to me.  I guess this running thing has become a bit of a lifestyle.

For much of the year, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run this race.  With my labral tear, I had two big race goals.  I wanted to be able to complete Rev 3 Williamsburg and I wanted to be able to complete the Army Ten Miler.  Honestly, I thought ATM was an even more remote chance, not only because of the distance but because of the time limit.  ATM has a 15 minute mile pace limit.

Unlike with Rev3 Williamsburg, when I registered for this race, I knew I was injured.  So as I prepared for the race, I really only had one goal – finish.  Sure, I wanted to be magically fast, but mostly, I just wanted to finish.  And that meant keeping a sub-15 pace.

Race morning came as normal.  I will admit, I wasn’t super motivated to run.  As has become my routine, I planned to arrive at a local parking garage by 6 am.  Definitely earlier than I needed to be there, but as roads are shut down, it’s just easier to get there and be ready to go.

Things were a bit different for the race this year due to some road construction.  It meant that the course was different and the start was a bit different.  They added two additional start waves to help thin out the crowds.  Typically, we would have gathered in grouped corrals in the Pentagon parking lot, and then led to the start.  Due to the construction, the corrals were lined up in a straight line from the start.  Since I was in the 9th wave, the brand new pink wave, that meant the start was a hike away.  Some people opted to not go to the corral and instead wait for the corral to come past them, but we opted to go to the corral and wait.

As per usual, the wheelchair racers were finishing before we started, and just as we got to race start, the race winners were coming in to the finish as well.  That’s aways a bit funny and a bit demoralizing.  Mostly, I was jealous they were done.

While this year’s race wasn’t as hot as last year’s, the humidity was ridiculous.  My weather app said the humidity was 90%; the race announcer said it was 100%.  Either way, it was disgusting.  The race started and I started my intervals and within ten minutes, I was dripping sweat.

I opted to run with a handheld water bottle for this race.  Nowhere near enough fluid to get me through the race, but more than enough to get me between water stops.  And I was definitely glad I had it.  The first water stop was around the two mile mark and they were out of water cups (though I believe they had cups of Gatorade).  Volunteers were pouring water into mouths, into cupped hands, and in my case, into my water bottle.  Due to the heat, people were taking multiple cups (not blaming them – it’s just what happened) which meant they ran out by the late corrals.  I had my bottle refilled and went on my way.

Due to the rerouted course, there was one spot where the race came to an absolute standstill.  I’ve never had that happen in this race before, even with 35,000 racers.  It didn’t last long, but it was certainly a surprise.

At one point, I ended up running alongside a vision impaired runner and his guides.  I was so impressed with their process.  The runner and one guide were each holding onto a large ring, and it was seamless how the guide would call out directions.  The second guide ran right behind them, blocking anyone from attempting to cut between them.  They moved as this tight little pack and it was so cool to see.

This race is always so organized, thanks to the amazing volunteers and the organization of the Army.  So I was really surprised when we got to mile 7 and there was no more Gatorade at the stop.  I don’t typically use it, but  was shocked that they were out.  That said, there was plenty of water everywhere, which was great since by that point, I was ready to pour it on myself.  Which I did.

This year, I was slow enough that I saw the cutoff after it was closed.  Around mile 5 or so, if you’re behind required pace, they divert the course because of roads that have to be re-opened.  This only cuts about two miles off of the race.  I’m usually enough ahead of it that I don’t see it, but this year, the diversion was in place by the time I looped back to that spot.  This unfortunately had an impact on my race.  At the beginning of a race, you’re always passing people and being passed, but by midway or so, things have usually settled out.  Sure, you are still being passed or passing, but not to a great extent.  However, when a group of slower people is diverted, that whole process has to start over.  For the most part, it wasn’t problematic, but I definitely got caught behind a few packs of walkers who didn’t realize they shouldn’t take up the whole course.

The hardest part of this race for a lot of people is the bridge near the end.  It’s the same bridge that destroys people at Marine Corps Marathon.  I don’t usually have an issue with this bridge.  Not so this year.  I was starting to get fatigued and I was just mentally tired of running, so this bridge felt so very long.  It felt great to get off the bridge.

I got my second wind sometime around mile 8.5, mostly because I knew I was getting close to being done.  Plus by that point, you’re back with the crowds again, which definitely helps motivate.

Finally, I made the turn to the finish line.  I really had hoped to have a sub-14 finish, but I just didn’t have it in me as I came to the finish and ended with a total time of 2:20:07.  Certainly my slowest Army Ten Miler, but also a finish I’m super proud of.  This was the longest distance I’ve covered since before my injury.  Six months ago, I couldn’t run a single mile.  So being able to race and cover the distance was so incredibly rewarding.  And I managed to do it without any pain from my labral tear.

 

Race Report: 2018 Giant Acorn Olympic Tri

This weekend was my second and last triathlon of the year, the Giant Acorn Olympic Tri.  Giant Acorn was my very first olympic distance triathlon back in 2014, and I love the races put on by Kinetic Multisports, so I was looking forward to the race.

I was also relatively unsure of how it was going to go.  My left leg has been bothering me lately, thanks to my pesky labral tear (though after a week of some solid foam rolling, things were feeling better), and I’m well aware that I’m still not back to full strength.

I haven’t done this particular race since 2015, though I did a different race on the same course in 2016.  I had glanced at my previous race results, but really hadn’t focused on how I had done specifically on each leg.  I just wanted to get an idea of how I felt about the course.  I was also aware that depending on how I felt, there was a slight chance I wouldn’t be able to finish the race.  So going in, my only real goal was to try to finish.  Of course, I also wanted to finish and feel like I had crushed it, regardless of finish times.

Rather than stay close to the race site, I opted to drive down race morning.  At that hour, it’s about a 1:45 drive from my house, so it’s not insignificant, but much better than trying to sit on I-95 after work.  I got to the race site in plenty of time to check in, setup transition, drag stuff back to my car, and not stress.  I wasn’t too nervous about the race, and my leg was feeling pretty good, so I was ready to go.

The swim for this race is a giant rectangle in Lake Anna.  It looks deceptively short from the shoreline.  Typically, this race is wetsuit legal, but thanks to our recent weather, not only was the water very high, it was also very warm.  Just over 80 degrees.  Clearly no wetsuits.

While I was expecting some chop from the boats, I swear there was more of a current than I was anticipating.  I felt like the last bit of the swim out to the turn buoy took much longer than it should have, and I swear I was being pushed towards the shore on the swim back.  Maybe I’m just crazy.  Ether way, it was nice to feel like I was being pushed in the right direction.

I was expecting a swim somewhere around 40 minutes based on past swims at this course.  I was pretty spot on.

Swim: 40:03

There is a lovely long run up to transition for this race.  It’s mostly on a sidewalk, which is nice, but you have to watch for rocks.  I jogged up, got to my bike, hosed off my feet and got ready to ride.  I felt like I was really wasting time here, but based on previous results, I did pretty well.

T1: 3:12

I started the ride by shoveling a cookie in my mouth, something I reminded myself to do in my last race report.  Thanks for the heads up, past self.

One thing I did not do before this race is look at the bike elevation chart.  Because I had completely blocked out some of the hills on this course.  While I have been training like crazy on the bike, I haven’t been doing a lot of outdoor riding, just a lot of indoor riding with power.  Not that I haven’t TRIED to ride outside, but weather kept thwarting my plans.  That said, a power based workout is no joke, so I was certainly feeling strong.

I felt pretty good climbing the hills and even made the drastic and often terrible decision to pass people on the uphills.  Later on the run, a woman commented to me that she was impressed by my hill climbing – apparently she was chasing me and I kept dropping her on the uphills.  That was a huge compliment.

One big thing I’ve been working on is not just coasting down the hills, but actually pushing through them so that I’m getting as much speed as possible.  This certainly worked in my favor during the rolling sections of the course.

I didn’t glance at my watch to see my final bike time, but I thought it was probably somewhere around 1:40, which was my goal.  Turns out, I was actually way faster than I thought.  I definitely crushed this bike course and cut off 7 minutes from my previous time.

Bike: 1:34:41

The bike mount is on an uphill, which means that the dismount is on a downhill.  Both are equally cruel, and I wonder how many people completely wipe out at the dismount line.

T2: 1:53

On to the run.  In training, I had run a max of about 5.5 miles.  I had run 10k once before this year – at Rev 3 Williamsburg.  So this whole run was a big question mark.  It’s a two loop run course, with a giant uphill at the beginning.  My plan was to walk that hill, because hills are what gives my leg the most frustration, plus I can probably walk the hill faster than I can run it.  For the first loop, I was going to stick to the two minute walk, one minute run pattern that I’ve been training at (my goal is to build up distance, then work on speed and cutting down that walk).  Then, if I was feeling good, I would drop to a 1:1 pattern for the second loop.

The run starts with an uphill, but it’s basically all a slight incline for the first 1.5 miles, then a decline for the second half.  I really enjoy the run course.  It loops and doubles back on itself so you get to see a lot of people, and this means a lot of cheering for strangers.  I got tons of compliments on my Coeur Sports kit, and let’s be honest – I did look fabulous.  I’m pretty sure that I had a smile on my face for most of this run.  There was even a guy at one of the turns giving power-up fist bumps to everyone.  That volunteer was awesome.  As were most of the volunteers.

I did have a not so great moment with a volunteer though.  There was a teenager out volunteering and she was doing her best to pump people up, but probably doing it in the worst way.  She was getting up in people’s faces and telling them to run, not to walk, and that if she could do it, they could do it too.  I watched a couple of people brush her off, and when she tried it on me, I told her that I was following my plan, and that not everyone was going to be running.  She kept pestering, and I tried to kindly tell her that she should just tell people to keep going, not try to make them run, because she couldn’t know what they were going through.  It didn’t help, and honestly, it was kind of a dark spot on an otherwise great race.  I know she meant well, but I think people don’t realize how crushing it can be to hear things like “Come on, keep running, don’t walk!” when they’re just following their plan and really having a great race.

Somewhere around mile 2, I looked at my total race time on my watch and started doing race math.  I was pretty sure my fastest running of this race was just under 3:50, and I realized that if I could keep to a sub-15 minute mile, I had that in the bag.

Loop two, I was feeling good, so I dropped to a 1:1 pace without any trouble.  My left leg started to stiffen up, but I realized during Williamsburg that this was a familiar issue, and probably an indication that I had been dealing with this labral tear for much longer than I realized.  It didn’t hurt though, mostly just an annoyance.  And my pace was great – I wanted a sub-15 for this race (since that’s what I’ll need for Army Ten Miler in two weeks) and averaged sub-14.  No, I’m not breaking any speed records, but given that just a few months ago, I couldn’t run one step without pain, I’m so excited to be out there and making progress.

Run: 1:22:32

Keely caught me just as I was heading to the finish.

My run was faster than Williamsburg, even with the hills (though Wburg was super hot), so I’d say that’s progress!

Total: 3:42:20

When I finally saw my watch, I knew this was a HUGE course PR for me.  My previous PR on this course was 3:49.  It was basically all progress on the bike, which is a great feeling.

I went to check out the results, not expecting much and it turns out that I had also won the Athena category!  Completely unexpected, but ending the season on the podium always feels incredible.

This definitely wasn’t the season I planned for next year, but I can’t complain one bit.  I had two phenomenal races.  I’m clearly showing progress in rehabbing my injury, but I’m also showing improvements on the bike (and somewhat on the swim too).  It makes me very hopeful for the 2019 season.  Now what races should I choose?