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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.