Dateline: Verona, WI, June 28, 2014: Not my greatest race.
I’m not going to lie – a lot went wrong in this race. But I’m also not going to pretend it was a complete disaster (lies upon lies!), because although much did not go as planned, overall I’m still relatively happy with my performance. The entire race reminded me of a conversation I had with my swim coach last winter, where I was complaining during a practice that “if I could only be at 100%, I’d be doing so well.” His response? “When are you ever at 100% during a race?”
Case in point: 36 hours before the start of the Verona Triterium Triathlon, I had a fever of 101, was shivering and shaking, and spending some quality time kneeling over a toilet. My flu or food poisoning or roto virus or whatever came on quickly, hung out with me for a day, and then vanished, leaving me feeling sort of hollow and shaky, but I improved enough on Friday that I felt it wasn’t an irresponsible decision to race on Saturday.
I stopped by the complimentary Trek tent before the race to get my tires pumped up. This led to unexpected problems. I couldn’t get the pump to lock into my front tire, and was quickly deflating it, so I asked the guy to help me. He couldn’t get it to lock either, and started making weird noises about my valve. I was feeling strange myself, having a Cannondale in the Trek tent, but that was entirely within my own head. He explained that my tire was messed up (the technical term) enough that the valve couldn’t… you know, it was early, I had only one cup of coffee, and I clearly don’t know enough about bike maintenance. Long story short, I needed a new tire, and they gave me one for free, which was basically the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a long time.
I have to say, this really irks me. Not that the Trek guy was awesome and saved my butt. But rather, when I had my new wheels put on, I asked the Budget Bike guys to sell me new tires. They said, “Why not just use the ones you have?” Well, because they’re old and look like they have dry rot? I didn’t have enough confidence in my meager knowledge to insist on new ones, and I let them put the old ones back on my amazeballs new wheels. Fast forward to the race and the Trek guy has to bail me out with a new tire.
Obviously, I need to get a new tire for the back wheel, too, and I’d like to go to the Trek shop to give them the business, but is it rude to take a Cannondale to a Trek store?
This was one of my best swims to date. Verona is a relatively large race (about 500 total participants by my fast math), but despite my wave being all sprint-distance women 39 and younger, my wave wasn’t too unmanageable. This was my first in-water start, so we headed in when they gave us the go-ahead and treaded water in an approximation of a line between an orange buoy and the shore. I found myself very close to the buoy, which wasn’t necessarily on purpose but worked out okay. This was a 1/3 of a mile swim, which is a little longer than I’m used to in races (all of mine so far have been 1/4 mile).
We were swimming directly into the rising sun for the first length, so in the few moments I had before the horn went off, I squinted to find a distinctive tree pattern I could sight to. I found a rectangular divot between two trees, and just moments after I got my goggles back on, the horn was off. I started swimming with not too much contact, and started swimming towards my divot. I noticed that most of the women in my group were far to my right (towards the shore) and seemed to be taking a wide arc, but I felt confident enough in my divot to stick to it.
I was on my own most of the sunny length, but as soon as we turned around the buoy, I found some feet to jump on to and drafted the rest of the race. I stayed with the same girl until the very last buoy, and she was a great draft. After sighting enough to feel confident that she was going in a straight line, I relaxed and took advantage of the easy, fast swimming. At the last buoy, we were both passed by a girl without a wetsuit, and I jumped off the one I’d been drafting on to take the faster ride. I drafted right up until the almost end when a man from a previous wave suddenly swam horizontally across us. No idea where he was going, but at that point my hand was touching the ground and I stood up out of the water, flinging seaweed from my shoulders.
I found out later I had won my age group in the swim with a time of 8:43 for a 1/3 of a mile. That girl behind my shoulder in the photo sprinted past me into transition. I don’t have more to say about that, just that it took me aback how fast she was running.
Just fine (sort of – see below). Transition was a long way from the swim exit and the timing mat was close to the lake, so my transition time mostly looks long from running. Maybe I should have sprinted like the other girl. 2:02
So, here’s the thing. I’ve been practicing the thing where I leave my shoes clipped in and affix them with rubber bands so that they don’t bang onto the ground, and then I run barefoot out of transition and get on my bike, with my feet on top of my shoes, and then I put my shoes on while I’m riding. It’s pretty great. And it’s gone really well in practices; even when I mess up, I can still keep going. I did it at Capitol View and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
The funny thing about that is, every single time I did that in practice and at Capitol View, I was on the left hand side of my bike.
This race? I got on from the right.
So, picture how I have my pedals set up and locked into place with rubber bands. The right pedal is in front, and the left pedal is behind. Normally, I am standing on the left side of my bike, so I put my right foot on the pedal first, which is in front (Mom, I know this is hard with all the left and right, but you are doing great). This means that when my foot pushes down on the pedal and breaks the rubber band, momentum is going forward and the left pedal goes up.
So this time, when I put my left foot on the pedal first, it was in back, and my foot pushed it down, broke the rubber bands, and it spun the crank backwards, going nowhere.
I, not coincidentally, also went nowhere. I stood over my bike, trying to figure out how to get my feet in the shoes that were clipped into the pedals. The very same shoes that were banging on the ground, not letting my bike go forward. I tried to put my foot inside the left shoe and pedal, but of course the right shoe flipped around again and hit the ground, but this time, it unclipped from the pedal and went flying out ten feet behind me. I took my foot out of the left shoe again, went back to get it, put it on my right foot, went back to the bike, put my foot inside the (clipped in) left shoe, and finally got on my bike. In the meantime, what felt like 25 people passed me coming out of transition in their totally normal shoes on their totally normal bikes, and it felt like there were a crowd of silent spectators staring at me.
I think I would have to say this was hands down my most embarrassing in-race moment to date. It felt like it took 5 minutes, but it was probably about 1:30 total.
Anyway, after all of that, I still had to ride my bike, right? This bike course was beautiful. There were horses, gorgeous country roads, no traffic to speak of, and a lot of up and down hills. The hills didn’t bother me as much as I had feared, and I took great joy in riding as fast as I possibly could on every downhill to build up speed for the inevitable uphill that would follow.
My favorite moment on the bike came on a steep climb when I was passing a guy. I said, “On your left,” like you do to let people know you’re there. I was going about 11 mph and was near the top, so I was pretty out of breath, and my “on your left” came out more like a sad clown gasp. He looked over at me passing him and just started laughing, and that cracked me up, so the two of us were biking side by side laughing our butts off trying to slowly climb this hill.
Overall: 38:35, an average of 17.x mph on a very hilly 11 mile bike. On the whole, the bike felt great and felt like it went by very quickly. Other than those 15 minutes I spent putting on my shoes.
T2: uneventful – 1:13 (large-ish transition area).
There was a water station just immediately outside of transition. I should have taken this as a warning. The run had what is described on the race website as “A short and quite steep hill – a real attention getter.” I would say that’s accurate. I actually had a great time for the first mile of the run. My legs didn’t feel too heavy and I felt like I was running a much better pace than I had been at Capitol View. I’ve been trying to do some speed work to keep getting back to where I used to be pre-knee injury, and I was feeling alright starting out.
Right around the 1 mile mark, though, there was a long uphill followed by a short steep downhill, followed by a turnaround, which meant a short steep uphill followed by a long downhill (are you still with me?). I don’t know why, but I was so expecting water at the turnaround, and it was kind of a disappointment that there wasn’t any.
Worse than that, when I started the long downhill on the way back, my body sort of rehashed the flu or whatever I’d had two days before. It was hot outside, but I was suddenly freezing cold. I started shaking and shivering, and it felt just like the fever shakes I’d had before. That was when I knew this race was over for me, and it was just a matter of making it to the finish line in one piece. So I ran and ran and ran, passed mile 1 and 2 and then finally found another aid station for some water, and ran and ran for what seemed like forever and finally made it to the end. There was an ice chest full of water and Coke, and I grabbed two handfuls of ice and put one down the front of my suit and one down the back, and that seemed to do the trick to regulate whatever was happening with my body temperature. Although I was freezing cold, ice seemed to be the answer.
The run: 29:45. A little bit faster than Capitol View. I’m still working on my run, hoping to at least get back to the 25:00 or 24:00s I was running last summer before I hurt my knee.
Overall, my time was 1:20:15, and considering all the things that weren’t so great about my performance here (*cough* bike shoes *cough* flu *cough), I’m pretty happy with this. I finished 6th in my age group overall.
I have to say, I thought this was a really wonderful race, and I’d love to try it again another year when I’m feeling closer to that elusive 100%.