Friday, June 29, 2012

Patriot 70.3 Race Report

Once again I have let too much time pass before putting down my thoughts on a race. It's now 13 days since Patriot 70.3 and I'm (hopefully) getting toward the tail end of my recovery period during which time I feel sluggish, moody, tired, irritable, desperate to train and uninterested in training. I can say for sure, this is not what I was feeling going to the race weekend or immediately after the fact. So here goes:

James and I drove down to Middleboro, MA for registration and packet pick up on Friday afternoon. A co-worker's parents kindly allowed us to stay at the beach house 25minutes south of the race venue so we had a nice place to crash. James and I drove around, got some local dairy ice cream (for him), read by the beach, and tried to veg. The girls were hoping to arrive by 6pm but they got delayed leaving Boston so I knew it was going to be late before they arrived at the house. James and I went to dinner and we seated and eating by 6pm. Pizza. Pan pizza (which isn't usually my favorite) was actually quite tasty and a big salad with strawberries and almonds. Back to the house with a full belly. With a race this close to the summer solstice I was a little worried about how late it was going to be light out. And as expected I had quite a bit of trouble falling asleep. Part of it was the bed (never easy to get comfy in someone else's bed), part of it was that 8:30 bedtime when the sun was still up and the sky bright, and part of it was the party the next room over (everyone was very quiet but I knew they were there talking). I read Eat and Run until I was tired enough to try to sleep but then didn't sleep great. Alarm went off a 4am and I was glad to get the day started. I ate my regular raceday breakfast (bertucci's rolls, banana, water, diet soda) and waited for the gears to start turning. James and I got to the venue around 5:45 and had no trouble getting parking and into transition. The morning was cool (maybe around 60F) so I kept clothes on for quite a while. My wave wasn't starting until 24minutes after the elites so I tried to stay calm. Only did a little bit of "manic posing" for the camera(man).

There was a pretty steady breeze (10-18mph) and the water of Long Pond was churned up. (Not so apparent in this photo.) There were actually breaking waves coming in to the beach.

Swim: 32:22  (3/36AG)
I lined up with my green capped ladies (30-39), cursing under my breath that our wave was so far behind. Ahead of us were M50+, clydesdales, and some female waves who were likely to be slower. When we were allowed in the water I went up to the front and grabbed a spot second row, second from left. Women up front looked serious, which seemed like a good sign.

Before the race I had told myself that I was going to swim hard(er) for once. I tend to just cruise through the swim leg of each race and end up placing well but feeling like I barely swam at all. I had a few good OWS's in the weeks leading up to the race and came around to the idea that I should go out harder. So, I went out harder. I sprinted out the first hundred yards or so. This would have been great except with the waves it was hard to see the bouys (straight out into the headwind for .5mi) and the breathing each stroke started to make me feel panicky. For the first time ever I thought I might need to flip on my back to chill out and catch my breath but then I realize that was stupid and just willed myself to decrease the frequency of my breathing back to regular 1,2,3,breathe pattern. This is quite hard to do when you feel you can't breathe! Within the first 8 minutes I was passing the next wave ahead. At the back side of the course I started catching a lot of the next next way and things got a little congested. On the way back in there was a ton of traffic and I swam around what felt like hundreds of people.

As I popped out of the water I heard James call 32:15. I had been thinking I might go sub-30 but this was not too bad (faster than Mooseman last year which had much easier conditions). So although its not the number I might have liked to have heard I think that the effort was one step in the direction that I'd like to be going. In the future I do think that even in a choppier swim like this that I could afford to go into a bigger gear. All that being said, I came out of the water 3rd in my age group and 4th of the green caps.

T1: 2:39
Transition was uneventful. Stripped my wetsuit. Chugged some water and took some salt tabs. Put on my gear. Started my garmin. And marveled at how others seem to spend like half the time I do in there. Ran with my shoes on out to the mount line and was on my way. 

Bike: 2:51:41 (4/36AG)
I really enjoyed the bike course. James and I came down about a month before the race to do recon on the course so I knew it was rolling but not intimidating. Then 2 weeks before I met up with a local running club buddy to ride 1 loop. There was a bit of construction at mile 2 which made us detour and do some twisty turns but then it was time to open things up. My riding (on the trainer) has been really good thing spring. I knew my fitness was there. I haven't been on the roads enough though to be comfortable at the higher speeds I could now be riding at. I rode the first loop around 20mph with some major slowing through each turn. The thing I am most proud of is I finally got over my fear of riding in aero. Spent about half of the time down and could really feel the advantage it confers. The second loop I slowed a little, knowing that I wanted to save my legs for the run. Throughout the ride I could tell that I was not riding close to the HIM watts I had been training to be able to do (~190-200W) because I would have just been going too fast for comfort (particularly with the 90degree turns on the course). At a few points the wind made things interesting - in an exposed stretch of road transecting a large pond riders ahead of me were leaning so hard to stay upright that I couldn't believe their wheels were holding the asphalt.  In the final miles of the ride a strong woman came up from behind me and we stuck with one another (legally passing and passing back) in to transition.

T2: 2:18
Transition again was uneventful. Running the long way around into the transition area with shoes on was cumbersome but okay. Again I fully stopped so I could drink (thanks James for yelling, "hydrate," I would have forgotten that opportunity), take salt tabs and switch over my garmin.  I jogged out of transition feeling pretty good (probably too good for this point in a 70.3).

Run: 1:47:39 (8/36AG - but only passed by 1 woman in AG)
Here is where the story gets crazy (from my perspective). I head out on the run. The weather is perfect. I am not overheating. I hadn't peed at all on the bike (so not since I was wading in the water before the swim start) but then I realize that I have a full bladder. So I immediately let it go. The fullness of my bladder made me very happy b/c I knew that despite a slight aero water bottle malfunction which led me to lose a fair amount of fluid from each bottle I got, my hydration status was good. I was chugging along feeling good but like maybe the effort was a bit hard. I looked down after about half a mile and realize the effort felt hard because I was running close to a 7 minute pace. So I reeled it back in and kept plugging. I knew I would see my girls at mile 2 so I told myself I could hold whatever pace felt good until I saw them and then I would try to settle into my planned 8:30 pace (through mile 8). Those first 2 miles came and went fast - probably b/c I was running fast (for me) and it was a slight downhill.
Mile 1: 7:55
Mile 2: 8:07

And then there were my girls, cheering, going crazy, holding signs, ringing cowbell, dancing on the side of the road. I had been unsure how it would be to have spectators (other than family) but it was AWESOME. I could feel the huge smile on my face. I was so glad to be feeling good and to be able to share it with them!

The next two miles I started to feel the effort a bit more. I wasn't struggling but I also knew it was time to get with the plan. The roads here were nicely shaded and I had a fair amount of male company which was good for pacing. At the odd aid station they had cups of ice. I was psyched about the ice. I have always wanted ice at a race but it has never been available. Ice down the bra and the shorts and I was one happy girl.
Mile 3: 8:12
Mile 4: 8:32

Just before mile 4 a woman came blazing by. She looked to be about my age but her number wasn't close to mine and I was under the impression that we were racked/numbered by age group. Another guy and I try to tuck in behind her. I tell myself that I can't run with her for long but why not take a ride for a 1/4 or 1/2 mile. I was able to stick with her for about a mile before letting her go. She pulled away 10 yards, maybe 15. Then we hit a hillier mile and she came back to me a bit. We ended up running together for a while before I broke the silence saying, "I just keep telling myself you're not in my age group." She responds: "I don't know, how old are you." Me: "30." Her: "Me too."  We unraveled the mystery of why our numbers aren't similar (she is on a team that all got racked together).
Mile 5: 8:18
Mile 6: 8:40
Mile 7: 8:15
At some point she asks about my goals and I tell her I want to go sub 5:30. She doesn't tell me her goal. She just says that she glad its not an Ironman year.  We run together and then she pulls ahead, back and forth for the next miles. I am largely convinced that I can't run with her and that at some point she will rocket ahead. But I don't get too caught up in it. I am surprised to find as we reach mile 7 that I am still feeling good. The ice is keeping my core temperature in a workable range. Usually as I overheat I just fall apart and can hardly run at all. Part of me still expects this to happen. But I am also aware that it hasn't happened up to this point. I decided at this point that I am going to hold on for as long as I can. And the miles keep ticking by.
Mile 8: 8:08
Mile 9: 8:28
Mile 10: 8:14
Just after mile 10 there is a turn onto the last main road of the course (this road is shared with the bike course we I've already covered this stretch twice during the morning) and there is a hill. I expect that this woman will pull away on the hill but she doesn't and for the first time she falls back and I lead for a while. The part of my mind that was convinced that I will blow up on this hill at mile 10.5 fell silent.  We rolled together through the last miles. I was distracted by the fantasy of saying to her "I owe you my PR, if we make it to the park together I won't race you to the line." I kept thinking this over and over. I ended up thanking her for the pacing which was way faster than any of my goal pace times, but I bit my lip after that. That little voice in my head clicked in saying "she's in your age group, you ran together this long, don't give away the spot, maybe you could sprint..."
Mile 11: 8:20
Mile 12: 8:14
Our last mile we definitely picked it up. I could feel it. I tried not to get worried about the pace. (Actually I checked my pace way less during this run than I usually do. A good sign of being in the zone.) My lungs were burning and my legs felt heavy (but they had felt heavy all day) but my head was straight. She was ahead of me as we turned into the park (with .3mi to go). I had decided ahead of time that I would not begin my final charge until after the foot bridge with about 150yards to go. Then ~200 yards out a man yells to me "Go get her! Go get her!" And something clicked in my mind and I didn't think a response but my legs kicked. And I passed her. When I checked over my shoulder she hadn't responded. I kept sprinting. I wasn't sure I had it to make it to the finish line. Checked again. She could catch my at any moment. But she wasn't coming. I ran hard through the finish line and she crossed 7 seconds after me.
Mile 13: 7:48
Mile 13.1: 6:05 pace

Total Time: 5:16:37 (4/36 AG, 22/232 Female, 124/611OA)

Post-Race Fun:
At the finish line, I didn't puke or keel over (my MO for all previous races). I chatted with a girl I have raced with before (a speedy speedster) and then slowly slowly it dawned on me that the woman I had been running with was her training partner. So glad I hadn't know this or I would have surely talked myself out of running with her on the grounds that she is too fast. And its wild, crazy, unthinkable (or as I kept saying "IMPOSSIBLE") that I ran a 1:47. But I did. And afterward I was in good shape. No puking. No headache. Appetite came around quickly. Which meant, I was able to enjoy an awesome picnic with my cheering squad.
Giving the blow-by-blow to James
Showing off my SWEET SOAS kit!

Packing up. (I just love this grin!)
Cheering Squad (Kristel, Sarah, and Meredith)!
Showing off my tan lines
-Given how much I had in the tank for the run this provided a lot of evidence that I didn't ride nearly hard enough on the bike. The QT2 calculator had told me that based on my fitness parameters I could ride something like 2:35 on this course but that just seemed ridiculous to me (having not broken 3 hours last year). But now I see it. 2:35 would have been out of reach, I think, for this day. But I get. I could have gone 10 minutes faster (2:41). I also could have left a little more in the water. All that being said, the experience of running strong start to finish of the run leg may be the best thing ever and I'm not sure I would want to give that up for a slightly faster time. Don't get me wrong, I want to go faster. I just didn't realize that it was possible to not fall apart on a HIM run. And its awesome. (It was also an 11 minute PR on the run and an official half marathon PR)
-I chewed antacids on the run. I think this may be a big part of the not puking. I did it for a few runs before the race but wasn't sure. It caused no problems and I think it actually solved the biggest one I have had in the past. I will continue with this in the future.
-I love POWERBAR GELS. I wish Powerbar would sponsor me. Since I started running gels have made me sick. Since switching to Powerbar Gels (particularly on the run), I don't puke and I don't cramp. I love it. 
-It is possible to run strong even when you don't have that effortless feeling. At no point on this run did I have that "sweet spot" feeling where the pace feels just right (regardless of what the pace happens to be) and the turnover is good. I worked through every stride. I've had some medial glute/hamstring/calf issues in the 2 months leading up to the race and although I could feel things getting tighter nothing bad came of it on race day. 
-I feel really good about my training this spring. I have been pretty silent in blogland, even skipping out on my month in review posts because months seemed to end in the middle of blocks and as is usual for me only 2 disciplines seem to be going well at any given time. I really was gunning for this race and at some level the stakes felt too high to be talking about. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would finish in the time I did or in the rank I did. I didn't post about goals.  I wanted to go sub 5:30. Secretly I hoped with a fast swim I might go 5:25. I really wanted to run strong and finish strong, 1:55 seemed like the number to beat. I beat my numbers. Actually, I crushed them. And I can get faster. I have just raised the bar. EEK!
-I hate the weeks after a big race. Despite not feeling destroyed at the end of the race (or in the hours, days afterward), there is this malaise that settles over me during transition period. All of the good mental skills I used on race day (i.e. not getting too freaked out when my breathing got out of whack on the swim, not worrying about the time out of the water, realizing who I should stick with on the bike, and not letting the nay-sayers in my head limit my courage on the run) go to hell while I recover. While I don't usually get caught up in what others are doing, I suddenly feel badly about myself when others post faster times. The accomplishment of the weekend (and the whole training cycle) - a 20 minute PR - for a time that I didn't think I would get to until 2013 - gets kicked around as others seemed to do easily things that are still "impossible" to me. Its hard to wait for my mind, body, and spirit to come back to life. Lackluster workouts and no next race don't help any. Yet, I know this is all normal so I am just trying to bide my time until the mojo comes looking for me.