Monday, September 8, 2014

Nations Triathlon [and a new bike PR!]

Nailed it.

I specifically wanted to start out with that phrase after my last race report that started with "bust".  This is the first time in a long time that I am really, really happy with my race.
Racked and ready to go!! (photo credit: Tommy)
But let's back up... On Saturday, I met Tommy and we went over to the Expo and down to transition to rack bikes before a long lunch with Paula, Andrea and Nancy.  Then it was home to put some stuff together and get ready for my final triathlon of the season.  The storms started moving in and we all started wondering about our poor bikes getting wet, but it soon dried up and brought in cooler weather, a good change from the 90+ temperatures.
After a fairly sleepless night (thanks, dogs), I woke up at 4am on Sunday to a text from Andrea referring me to a post on the Nations Triathlon facebook page.  Son of a bitch!!  Swim canceled?!!  Phooey, phooey, phooey!!!  Swimming is my best event, and given that all the team pools have been closed for the last few weeks, this was one of my few opportunities to get in the water.  I even considered just skipping the whole thing, why even bother?  But, alas, my bike was already racked, so I'd have to trek into DC at some point anyway to retrieve that.  Besides, I was meeting friends for a post-race brunch, so I got out of bed, put on my race suit, and was on my way into the city.
I set up transition and found fellow Zer, Rachel and then Andrea.  Even though there was no swim, we still had to set up for our swim to bike transition, as we would be starting at the swim exit (no helmets or shoes allowed), and would run into transition to start the race, as though we just got out of the water.  Compared to the other Team Z races I've done, our presence was considerably smaller here, maybe 30 teammates out of 2500 athletes.  Race logistics prevented the normal team setup (tents, grills, chairs, etc), but we were provided a small tent, and so I spent the long time waiting for wave 27 with my teammates.  At about 8:00 I walked over to the starting area to try to find Andrea and get ready to go.  Finally, my wave started lining up around 8:30.  They started us in groups of 9 every 20 seconds(ish), and with the blow of a whistle, I was off.
Getting ready to line up in my wave start! (photo credit: my teammate, Catherine)
It was actually a long run into transition, and then my bike was at the far end.  I'd say it was about quarter mile from the start to my bike, which I ran most of because everyone else was running and I didn't want to be the one fool left behind!  I was already wearing my sunglasses and gloves, threw on my helmet and bike shoes and I was ready to go.  Official T1 time = 3:24.  There were a TON of people all around me for the entire duration of this bike course.  Seriously, people riding 5 bikes across, passing on the left, passing on the right, cutting in front of you.  There were just that many people.  For the first mile or so, I wondered how bad the hills were going to be, with Rock Creek parkway being the first test.  It wasn't bad!  I was even passing some people!  And I kept passing people -- I never pass people! 
This was a really complicated bike course with so many turns -
here's the full version of the course!
My watch is set to lap every 5 miles, and when it alerted me on the first lap, I checked my pace: 15.8 mph.  Could that be right??  My goal was 14.5 mph.  OK, that was a fluke, but I knew I needed to keep working at it so that it didn't drop down too much.  Second lap?  16.1 mph.  Holy crap, is this for real??  Now I was determined to see if I could keep this up for the entire 25 miles.  My mind said no way, but I kept pedaling and taking in nutrition [and determined that my body does NOT like eating solid foods on the bike... my stomach can handle it fine, but I just have no appetite for it].  I saw Andrea a couple times as she flew by me on her new bike, and then Rachel passed me also.  It's always great seeing familiar faces on the course!  Actually, a lot of people passed me... but I'm OK with that, I was going a fantastic pace for myself, and that's what counts.  I really couldn't believe it as I kept checking my watch.  I was getting tired, but really pushed myself to see if I could maintain this pace until the end.  I did drop a little on the last 5 mile segment, the long out and back stretch over the 14th St bridge, but finished 15.6 mph overall, a new bike personal record for me -- YIPPEE!!!  Official bike time: 1:35:42 (Garmin was spot-on).
Look at those bike splits!!!  Never in my entire life have I done splits like that, even on
the flattest of courses... maybe the training is starting to pay off???
I walked my bike through transition, took off my bike equipment, threw on my running shoes and off I went.  Except, it was so hard to run.  My calf was starting to cramp and I felt a shin splint coming on.  I really struggled for that first mile, thinking there was no way in hell I was going to meet my 14:30/mile pace goal (thanks to my lack of appetite for solid foods, I was thinking I was under-nutritioned from the bike).  Sure enough, mile one came in close to 15:30 and I thought to myself, ah who cares, I rocked the bike, it's not the end of the world if I don't hit my run goal also.
Terrible quality, but I refuse to fork over $25 for a digital print when they couldn't
even get ONE photo of me on the bike (and there were a TON of photographers)
As I turned into Haines Point, I started a run/walk routine, switching up at every light post.  I think it probably equated to less than 30s of each, but it was consistent.  Mile two came in at 14:20, and I started thinking hmm, OK, maybe we forget that first mile and just see if I can come in around my goal for the rest.  Then mile 4 came in at 14:15 and I got the idea that perhaps I could make up for that first mile in the long run.  I kept trudging along, light post to light post.  I was getting tired and at one point thought abut giving myself permission to just walk a little and take it easy.  Then reality set in, you are in a RACE, you don't get to take it easy!!!  So I didn't.  Run, walk, run, walk, and suddenly I'm at mile 6 and am almost finished.  Doing some quick calculations, I'm realizing that my overall pace is right around my goal, maybe just a few seconds more.  I ran over the finish line and collected my well-earned medal and realized that yes, I did meet my goal.  14:19/mile overall!!!  Official T2 time, 3:02.  Official run time, 1:29:19.
Look at how I got faster and faster during this run - this isn't my best 10K time (even in a tri),
but I think I've never pushed myself this hard before.
I met up with Andrea and Nancy, grabbed some water from the Team Z tent and then headed over to transition where Joann was waiting for me.  I collected all of my things, saw Rachel and took a finisher picture, and then started the long walk back to my car.  Seriously, the mile back to my car was the hardest part of the morning!!  And then, when we got there, they weren't letting any cars out of the lots yet because the roads had not yet opened up to traffic.  Luckily, because the swim was canceled, the time line was moved up a bit and we didn't have to wait too long to get out.  Off to the Hamilton for brunch with Sweeney, Joann, Heidi, Andrea, Nancy, Paula and Tommy!
My teammate, Rachel, and me post-race (photo credit: Joann)
Not sure why I never thought to get a picture with Andrea and Tommy, d'oh!
I am now so bummed that the swim was canceled.  Even with an average swim for me, I would have totally PR'ed the Olympic distance!!  Logistically, this race was obnoxious, and I swore that I'd never do it again, but now I kind of want to go back to see what I can do with all three events.  The hot shower and quick nap were a bad idea when I got home, as I started to get really sore.  Luckily I had the good sense to pop some Advil, put ice on my back and use my foam roller extensively, and was already feeling better by bedtime.  It's been awhile since I've been able to say I really gave it 100% in a race, and pushed myself this hard... and I got the results to show for it!  I went to bed feeling very pleased with myself.  This was a win.

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