Sunday, July 13, 2014

Texas Star Sprint Triathlon: Taking on the Hills, Sun, and Grass!

Triathlon # 1 of 2 this summer complete. All things considered, this was a fairly successful outing. I knew going in that I had some significant advantages and some relative disadvantages, but this race may be one of the best I've executed strategy-wise in a long time. The RD and crew at the Texas Star Tri up the road in Montgomery, TX did a good job and were very enthusiastic in their efforts at the race this morning. It was great to hear a genuine "you look amazing" from the volunteers when trucking up a nice little incline out of T2!

I wore my Timex watch and did my best to keep each split, however, after the bike I got a little caught up and later got a little mentally "fuzzy" in the later stages;  so the split times (currently unpublished) I don't have. Yes, I am writing a race report without exact numbers... and it will remain as is. Those who know me best know that I really don't want to focus much on numbers anyhow, especially on the blog/internet anyhow. It's what happens in between the starting gun and the finish line that really matters and I think is the most interesting anyhow.

For those who care, I came in at about :59 and change, achieving my goal of going underneath an hour-which was both challenging and realistic given I only had about 5-6 weeks of 20 or even less miles per week running after letting my foot heal. I even registered in May thinking this event may just be a discharge of my competitive juices via swim and bike that have been built up over the past few months. My expectations for the run were barely existent.

Flash forward to this morning. After doing only run races in the winter/spring, I am out of practice for prepping the gear for a triathlon. As the pic below indicates, I had a bag 'o clothes, two pairs of running shoes, helmet, pump, swim gear, and so on-taking a couple trips to the car to pack it all. Gear-wise, I had my Honey Stinger kit (thanks, guys!), obnoxious aero helmet, and Saucony Virratas  New Balance 1400s, and trainers to cool down in. I had this compulsion to change shoe choices from the Virratas for the NB's for drainage purposes and a little more heel lift for getting off the bike. Oatmeal and coffee now consumed with LOTS of electrolytes, I was off to Montgomery.

Swim (300 in pool):

My strategy was simple and I stayed disciplined in it: Start strong for the first length and then just focus on elongating my stroke and conserving my energy. I caught myself spinning my arms out momentarily and smoothed out nicely. Besides some very minor traffic and getting a little confused at a lane rope, I actually ended up with a race-day PR (chip mat included) of 5:10. Like some of the unfortunate swimmers I have worked with in the past, I seem to go faster in practice. Nutrition-wise, I did take a Honey Stinger Gel right before, which will prove to sustain me quite a while. Swim assessment: Nothing really to brag about, but not terrible either. And I still had plenty in the tank because I knew what lies ahead...

Bike (10 miles);

The bike course for TX Star is not brutal, but it's no picnic either-that and there is little to no shade. Every mile or so there was a fair hill with a descend. My training partner and I had rode this area several times and it paid off. I kept telling myself "patience and strength" and I started picking people off. At this time two women were ahead of me and I rode just below the red line throughout. Not having full run fitness yet, I knew the bike was where I would be competitive and was able to overtake the first and second females. Another emphasis of this race was to really focus on hydration. I am a crazy-heavy sweater and this was my chance to get fluids in. I was able to almost finish my bottle of sports drink with a little beta-alanine by the time I hit T2.

No faster than I heard "first woman" did the second gal BLOW PAST me in transition. I couldn't be too rattled about this, because I rarely practice these things (since I'm just really a runner who owns a bike and knows how to swim ;)).... ok, I did lose my cool for a few seconds as I watched her take out of transition before I could take my helmet off! OMG! I had never seen anything like that before-unless I'm watching the ITU on Universal Sports. Props to you, girl!! I proceeded to drop my helmet, catch it, get my race number and flats on and run within myself on a slight uphill onto the run course.

Run (3 miles):

This wasn't great, but it wasn't total crap either. I gave it what I had and didn't have unrealistic expectations; my process goals were to stay positive and stay just under blowing up.  I think I ran as well as I could after biking hard and currently being about 70% fitness-wise. I could see 1F, and she remained in my sight for give or take the rest of the 3 mile loop. This course was interesting: it ran around a football stadium, and then circled around some trails with grass and dirt. I could feel my ankles shift around some and somehow I cut my left toe (probably from the rough interior of the 1400s) but overall maintained my running form and kept my stride fairly short. I will say the course is not necessarily fast. I plan on running an open cross-country race in late Aug-so I guess it is good practice!

I ran through the first mile in maybe 6:40ish after trying to deliberately start conservative. I'll take that. I have no idea what my other splits were because I had to focus on maintaining pace and talking myself through the building fatigue after the second mile. I could still see the first woman (I think I made some time on her, actually)  and kept thinking "well, maybe?.." and made my way out of the woods and back to campus. In all honesty I was pretty spent in the last mile and had to brush some gremlins off with telling myself "You are just going to get better and stay in the race." That was enough to get to the finish that was on the High School track. I kicked it in as much as I could and finished-hands on knees but satisfied-in sub one-hour. My legs, feet, and everything else felt intact, but more importantly, my formerly fragile ego was intact. I had gone in, done my best, and still did fairly well even though the run prep (my usual strength) was abbreviated.

My overall placement of all 170 or so participants was 5th, and I was 2nd Female by just 18 seconds. Likely in the swim and definitely lost time in T2-oh, well! I was 1st in the 30-34 AG. Some good takeaways was being able to capitalize on what I could. I felt like I belonged out there on the bike-feeling powerful throughout-and I was finally able to catch a glimpse of the competitor inside me-judging by how many times the winner looked back I think I gave her a fair challenge (she was really experienced and cool, btw!!) and I don't recall any juncture where I started beating myself up for being "weak, slow, or mediocre"-another big step. I committed before I got in the water to stay in the moment and I plan on using this strategy in future races.

So there you have it: a race more about effort and toughness vs. time. I think I kinda like racing this way! Time to take a day off, fully recover, and then grab the next rung of the ladder.

Special thanks goes out to Honey Stinger for providing the fuel and kit for the race.

Stay the course.


Marvin Dittfurth said...

I was there too. Pretty good report. The run was hot, especially back in the woods. Like you I kept the stride short and tried to be careful on the sometimes uneven terrain.

I actually felt better after about a mile and a half and built into that. Mine was not a fast run but after a year of knee injury, it was the first time in a race, running felt like a natural act.

Raina R. said...

Awesome placement, Adrienne!! I am so very happy to see you racing again. As always, great take-aways.

Raina R. said...

Also, I see you are running for Oiselle now! Congrats!!