Saturday, August 31, 2013

YWCA Women's Triathlon Race Report- 8/18/13

Preface: I wanted to write this race report while it was all still fresh, but with a four month old and my return to work, this post quickly dropped its priority status.  Luckily, I jotted down some key memories immediately after the race to stimulate my writing later.  Those anecdotes are included here!
Almost two weeks ago, I crossed the YWCA Women's Sprint Triathlon finish line for third year in a row.  As I raised my hands in the air, the announcer cheered me on, "Molly of Minneapolis- This is her first triathlon post baby Misha!  She just had a baby and triathlon!"
This shot truly captures the thrill of the finish line.  
Last year, Misha completed the race with me and my mom in the "buddy heat."  Only a few weeks pregnant, I kept my mom company as she worked her way through her first 500 yard open water swim, 15 mile bike ride, and 5k run.  This year, we signed up as a "mother-daughter team" with each of us competing in our own age group.

Posing for a post race mother-daughter team photo...with grandson/son Misha Man!  Still in his pajamas...
After a summer of moderate training to regain fitness postpartum, I approached this tri with a range of goals.  First, I hoped my overall time matched or approached my 2011 finishing time. Second, I wanted to beat my times in each of the events including the transitions.  And third, I hoped to place in the top ten of the women of my age group.  These seem like big goals even in hindsight, but I also told myself that if it wasn't my day, no big deal.  I would just go with the flow and blame a slow race on a recovering post-baby body.  For some, this kind of self talk might have provided an excuse for wimping out on race day.  But during my years of training, I've discovered that giving myself permission to "go with the flow" works well as a pre-race calming mechanism. Then, most of the time, my competitiveness kicks in when I need it to.  This is part of the mental game.

The morning of the tri, my whole family woke up in darkness- Mike, Misha, mom, dad, and me.  Misha didn't really know what was going on and fell back asleep in the midst of the excitement.  The rest of us ate bagels with peanut butter and bananas and I chugged a cup of coffee before hitting the road.

Misha waiting for his mom to cross the finish line.
Before I get into the race details, I must acknowledge my SUPPORT CREW!  I could not have done the tri without my husband and my dad!  They were such troopers!  Not only did I see (and hear) them on the course three times, but they positioned Misha so he could see his mama cruise by.  They were willing to deal with the hassle of a giant orange stroller and bottles of milk so they cheer me on with Misha Man.  I don't think many husbands and dads (grandpas!) are so accommodating.  I am one lucky triathlete.

So, the race.  As I gathered myself in the hour before my start, I selected specific inspiration for each leg.  During the swim, I decided to picture my dad watching for me from the shore.  The same guy who  taught me to swim and yelled my name every time I took a breath during my swim team days.  I also thought about river otters as they are, decidedly, one of my spirit animals.  (What's the other one, you ask?  Perhaps a reveal for the future, my friend.)

Swim: From a physical standpoint, I positioned myself to the right and front of my heat.  I wanted to get out there fast so that I could avoid the swimmers who start fast but quickly peter out.  I also wanted to be as close to the booeys as possible so to avoid adding distance to my swim.  The first 100 yards were ridiculous- lots of flaying arms and legs.  By the first turn, however, I was free from the pack and able to relax into a suitable pace.  Looking around, there didn't seem to be many pink caps around (age group marker)- a good sign!  By the second turn, I noticed that someone was drafting me- in a pink cap, no less!  I tried my best to free myself but I have no open water training so I wasn't successful.  The two of us ran out of the water and into the transition area.

I am in the blue one piece bathing suit in the middle of the photo...adjusting my goggles.  I am pretty sure that the girl who beat me is in the black and turquoise tri suit in the far right of the photo.
Transition 1: My drafter came in handy because it was clear she had a mental map of the fastest route to our bikes (they are organized by age heat).  I followed her lead.  Transition 1 took me forever because I wasted more than a minute putting on tri shorts and t-shirt over my one piece bathing suit. A tri suit or outfit is essential for my next race.

Bike: During the bike, I thought about Misha.  I often think about him when I am training.  Sometimes, I picture him as a teenager, training for his own sports and encouraging me to keep up with him.  The first mile was a bit of a mind game as I changed gears (rah rah) from swimming to biking.  Once I got some gatorade and half a luna bar in my system, I felt reenergized and concentrated on passing people.  I watched out for women in my age group (our ages were written on the back of our calves) and aimed to keep a fast but manageable pace.  There was one age grouper that caught me around 7 miles and we switched back and forth until I out-biked her in the last mile.  As I headed towards the transition area, I saw my mom heading out on her bike!  She yelled my name in passing and I sent her good vibes!

Transition 2: Something ridiculous like 27 seconds.  I was out of there!

Run: As for the run leg, I turned to two of my favorite mantras: "smooth and strong," and "I am here now" (from Another Mother Runner blog).  I didn't have my garmin watch on so I didn't know what pace I was going.  The thing about the bike to run transition is that it is hard to tell how fast I'm going because my legs just feel so weird.  However, as I headed out of the transition area and onto the run course, I heard my dad say, "She's so fast."  This gave me confidence.  If I looked fast, I must be starting at a solid pace.  During the first mile, I reminded myself "I am here now."  Forget about the swim and the bike, and just be present in the moment, in this case a 3.1 mile run- a distance that I usually view as a warm up.  I shook off the bike by the end of the first mile.  With two miles left, I repeated "smooth and strong" in my head and looked to pass people.  There were some girls who looked about my age less than a quarter mile ahead.  When I approached, I realized that they were from an earlier heat (thus, not my age group) but it felt good to pass the youngsters anyway.  Folks cheered me on as I headed towards the finish line.  There weren't many racers around me but I still wasn't certain about my pace, time, or place.  I was pretty tired as I headed into the finishing zone but I heard Mike and my dad once more.  They told me to pick it up!  So I did!  (Even though I didn't want to!)

I was pretty excited when I saw these results:

It was hard for me to believe that I actually got second place in my age group, but there it was!  I beat all of my times from two years ago except for the swim.  Perhaps most exciting was my run time- 7:14 pace!  My best 5k in college was 21:00 minutes and that was without swimming or biking before the race! This just goes to show that sometimes not knowing my pace can be a blessing.  If I knew I was running a 7 minute pace in the first mile, I might have backed down.  I will definitely do more runs/races by feel instead of by pace in the future.

Next year, I will be in a different and more competitive age group.  One of the great things about triathlons is that women usually get better as they get older.  As I reflect on my race and training, there are so many things that I could do differently to help improve my time, but I will save this reflection for a future post.  For now, I want to celebrate this victory and take in this moment!!!!

With the first and third place winners AND OLYMPIAN MARATHONER- Carrie Tollefson!