Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sweetwater Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

This past Sunday I raced in my first sprint triathlon of the season, the Sweetwater Sprint Triathlon in Lithia Springs, Georgia.  I recently got really motivated to research and sign up for races after seeing some of my friends get really into triathlon training and knowing that I had the goal of doing an Olympic distance race this season.  I needed to get on the purchasing of the bike and the signing up for the races and all that jazz and finally just did it.

I signed up for the race a couple weeks ago, and felt pretty much ready to go. I felt confident that I've been doing well in the water lately, know I can run, and then last weekend purchased my new road bike and went out for a 20 mile ride to get used to it.  I was pumped for the sprint tri going into the weekend and excited to compete in these again as they are one of my favorite races!

A few different people asked me at the end of the week when I told them that I was doing a sprint triathlon if I had been training for it.  I felt almost stupid telling people that I hadn't specifically been training for it - although I had been swimming, running and biking.  Over the past few years, I have completed a number of sprint triathlons, always just winging them.  The worst was the race I did last year where I literally had not been in the water since the year before when I did a sprint tri!  The fact that at this point, the sprints don't require a lot of training on my part, makes me feel a bit odd, to be honest.  Because I think of the people who run marathons or half marathons without training -- or hell, when I was working up to a 5K, anyone who could RUN a 5K without training - I generally found to be INCREDIBLY annoying.  I remember getting in fights with people who would say, "Well anyone can just go out and run a 5K."  Because I felt insulted by that as running a 5K was a huge thing for me.

So now, being the person saying, "Yeah, a sprint triathlon isn't a huge thing for me." makes me want to slap myself for being that person I used to think was annoying.

I KNOW it is hard for people.  And I never want to be that annoying person because I have such respect for the people that work hard to be able to do something others do with ease.  That was me and that still is me, but just for different things at this point in time.  Marathons and half marathons are still so hard for me.  Just last week a few people in our running group posted that they ran 13 miles on random Wednesdays.  I read those thinking, "What the hell!?!?" and feeling frustrated because I know I couldn't do that.

However, everyone is at different levels and I always need to remind myself of that a lot so I am sensitive to how it must sound when I say that I didn't super train specifically for the sprint tri.  I know I can be more sensitive than others, so perhaps nobody cares about it but me, but I felt some guilt over not trying hard in triathlons of past and wanted to redeem myself by going really hard on the race on Sunday.  I have no idea if that makes sense, but that's what I determined in my head.


So, my goal for this race was to go HARD.  I'm in better multisport shape than I have been before.  Plus, as far as triathlons go, this one was pretty short.  It had a 200 meter swim, 10 mile bike ride and a 5K run.  Usually races are about a half mile swim, 15ish bike ride, then 5K.

It was a good triathlon for beginners and I knew that there probably weren't going to be a ton of ELITE triathlons at this particular race.  They didn't even chip time you to give you splits of the different sports, so I figure the best in the field wouldn't be out messing around with a race that don't do that.  I sort of had it in my mind that maybe I could place in the race.

I got up around 6:30 a.m. and finished packing up the gear that I needed.  I kept feeling like I was forgetting something but checked off items over and over in my head that I would need.  The bare minimum was goggles for the water, socks, sneakers and helmet for the bike, and sneakers for the run.  I had my outfit on, and I was good to go!  Of course, I also packed about 100 bottles of water, snacks, clothes to change into afterwards, my TomTom watch, sunglasses, extra hairbands, socks, deodorant, etc. I guess I was definitely prepared!

When I bought my bike I also bought a bike rack because I didn't want to have to deal with what I used to do, which was literally shove my bike into the back seat of my car.  I also didn't want to have to bother with taking the wheel off the bike ever, which makes me nervous.  So I got a really super easy to use bike rack that I loaded my bike onto the back of my car with.

I realized though, as soon as I got on the highway to drive to the race, that I had never used the bike rack on the highway and going such high speeds.  I mean, I had only used it twice before and as soon as I pulled onto the on ramp, I thought to myself, "Oh shit, I hope that thing is on there good!!!"

I was so anxious and nervous driving with it the whole time.  I imagined myself driving with a bag of money dangling behind the car and I was so scared every bump would knock the bike off.  Because my nerves were so bad, I actually pulled off the highway to check it out once and tried shaking it a bit to see what the bike and rack could stand, and tightening all the fasteners on the rack.  Then I continued on my way to the race!

Once I arrived, I immediately saw some of my friends which was fun and reassuring.  The very first sprint triathlon I ever did, my mom came out to Albany for the race to cheer me on.  And since then I have always done them on my own.  Sometimes I see familiar faces there, but I am always at the races on my own - even including 2 years ago when I did a sprint traithlon on my birthday alone!  It never used to bother me, until this Sunday when I had people coming out to cheer that I realized how much it meant to me to have friends there.

I checked in, got my bib, cap, T-shirt and numbers written on my arm, and then went to set up my station.  There was no chip timing to be seen, no ages written on our body, no assigned stations, or anything like that.  I set up my transition area, and checked out the scene.

The start of the race, by the water, was not a beach or anything.  There was a boat dock, which was the only ramp going into the water, and it was cement that led into a parking lot, that then led to a grassy area where the transitions were.  It was so bizarre because there was nothing roped off, cars were all parked in the way that you would have to run, etc.  It was for sure the least organized triathlon of the 4 different races I have now participated in.  The chaos of it made me a little nervous and the swim was really narrow where we all had to be.  In addition, the markers for the water course in the water were flat black inner tubes, which were going to make sighting for where we were going REALLY difficult.  In the past, races usually have big orange buoys that are easy to spot out of the corner of your eye while you are breathing during the swim but these flat black inner tubes were going to be a challenge to spot while swimming in dark water with your head down.

I met up with my friends who were also competing and those cheering and we of course, had a massive photo shoot before the start of the race.

Then I went over to where the swim portion kicked off to be able to position myself in the very front.  My strategy was to go out hard in the front of the pack of the swimmers and not have to worry about getting kicked in the face or anything.  I felt pretty confident about my swimming abilities since I have been swimming regularly (1x a week) and have been doing sprints in those workouts.  I told myself to just go hard as I could in every element, starting with the swim.

The race did 4 waves of starts, beginning with males under 40, males over 40, then my group of females under 40 (with females over 40 after that of course).  All were spaced 2 minutes apart.

I went out fast and as expected, had a really hard time sighting where the markers were.  I had to look up a lot more than I thought to focus on where I had to go and swallowed some water, but also just kept going hard to get away from the pack behind me.  The swim was short and SO fast and before long I was at the turn around in the water and also had caught up to the over 40 males ahead of me.  Many of them were hanging on to the inner tubes for rest and I had been trying to stay tight to the inner tube markers to swim the shortest distance, but because of that I kept swimming into people and hitting legs.  However, it was so short that I just kept swimming as hard as I could and after turning around at the marker, going back in was a lot easier to sight the direction I needed to go because I just kept pointing towards the shore, so that was good.

I swam as much as I could then ran up the boat ramp and grabbed my sandals, which I had left by the side because it was ALL CEMENT AND ROCKS.  It was so bizarre to not have a shoot from the swim to the bike roped off, and there were all spectators in the way that I needed to navigate around.

Once in the transition area I sat on the ground and threw on my socks and sneakers and helmet and jumped on the bike.  I didn't take any sips of water before and as soon as I was on the bike, I wished I had, but also didn't want to take the time to even pull out my water bottle from the bike at that point.

The transition from swim to bike is my favorite.  There is something so fun to me about being soaking wet and throwing on sneakers and jumping on a bike.  I feel like a little kid in soaking wet clothes that has just run through a sprinkler or something.  I know it is bizarre, but it is fun to me.

As I head out on the bike course, I saw my friend Brick who was just walking up to cheer.  I shouted out to her and she got so excited and it gave me an adrenaline boost to start out hard on the bike.  I tried to use my gears as best I could and just kept telling myself to GO HARD the whole way.  I passed a bunch of people in the beginning, and then just kept moving.  Whenever I didn't feel like I was pushing and felt comfortable, I reminded myself to keep at it and would stand up and go a little harder.  When we went up hills and people around me looked like they were just trying to survive, I dug a little deeper and tried to pass them.

There were a few people I would set my sights on to catch, specifically some of the girls, and used that to push me forward.  When I saw a girl, I wanted to pass her.  I kept going with my gears low when I was going down hill so I wouldn't just let my legs coast and that I would keep pushing.  It felt good and was fun to actually have a bike that could handle the hills so well!  My old bike certainly could not and this new bike I had only really used on the bike path which was completely flat.  The hills were fun!

A few parts of the route you saw people coming back (there were a couple turn around points in the bike, which was also kind of odd) so I kept trying to scout how many girls were in front of me.  I was getting a bit discouraged because more females kept popping and I was thinking, "Huh?  How did all these women finish the swim ahead of me??"  I knew that I must have been one of the first women out of the water since I started ahead of the pack, so I was very confused where all these women on bikes ahead of me had coming from.

Some of them had on full, regular outfits too, not triathlon outfits - like running tights and tops and I remember thinking to myself, "You should be able to pass these people! They can't be that serious about biking or triathlons if they don't even have the right clothes on!  How are they wearing that?  Did they put it on after the swim?"

I tried to take down as many of the women as I could, and a few times I did get passed by others, mostly by men, but a couple women at times.  Imagining them right on my tail was a good motivator for me to keep going, I was confused about the mysterious women in front of me but also knew I was in a good position and wanted to hold it.

When we got back from the bike, I dropped it and my helmet immediately and just went out on the run.  I didn't see some of my friends but saw Brick and she was jumping up and down cheering for me and again, was such a motivator.

As soon as I started on the run, my calves felt really tight and crampy.  I knew it was because I had gone hard on the bike so I told myself to just do the best that I could.  It was an out and back running course so I knew I would get the chance to count the females that were ahead of me at some point. I really wanted to try and place in this race.  The men were just starting to come in to FINISH just as I head out on the run.

My legs felt dead and the beginning of the run was a struggle.  The first time I looked at my watch to see how far I had run already it said ".35" miles and I thought to myself, "Holy shit, this run is going to feel like forever." but somehow just told myself to fight through.  I passed a guy right after that and he was wearing purple shoes and pink socks.  Don't ask me why I remember that but it made me feel good to be passing a guy on the run.  That again, was motivation to move forward.  The hills started early in the first portion of the run and the majority of the "out" on the out and back was uphill.  A lot of the guys were walking and I passed them, cheering them and everyone else I saw on.  I also started seeing a few women coming back on the run and I was a bit disappointed.  How did so many people get ahead of me?!?!  When could that have happened??

Then, as I watched one woman go by returning on her run, I noticed that her bib was blue and realized that my bib was white.  All of a sudden it clicked to me that there were a number of people out here who were doing the duathlon - which was a 5K then the bike portion and then another 5K!  SO, a lot of the women I saw ahead of me on the bike, including the people not wearing triathlon clothes, were actually NOT people I was competing with - they were people who had done the DUATHLON!!  That made so much more sense to me and that realization was a huge inspiration for me and caused me to keep pushing for the majority of that uphill mile. Maybe I WAS in a good place to be able to podium!

At about 1.25 right before the turnaround and right after a woman passed in front of me, one of the men returning the other way shouted to her what I thought sounded like, "You're two!" to the woman in front of me (who had passed me with esteem and there was no way I could keep up with.)  That meant I was 3 and that was a position I really wanted to hold on to!

As soon as we hit the turnaround for the run and started downhill for the 1.5 miles for the finish, I really let the downhill take me as much as I could.  I usually don't allow myself to speed up during the downhills because it can tire you out unknowingly.  I try to just stay steady during races but since this was the last 1.5 - there was nothing after this - and I wanted to cushion my position in 3rd - I just let myself go as fast as my legs would take me.  I caught a few guys, I was cheering on all the women I saw going "out" on the run.  I saw my friends and yelled for them and gave one of them a high five.  And then I had to really fight for the last half mile or so of the run.  The good thing about the course was that the majority of the run was shaded except for that very end.  There was a woman in front of me though and I knew I could catch her before the finish so I told myself to "run through the sun" and set a goal to pass her. Then just went as hard as I could after I got in front of her to keep myself in front of her.

When I crossed the finish line and had my friends cheering for me, the officials shouted out "1:07" as my finish time, which I was so amazed with because I had been estimating I would finish in under 1:20.  And in reality, my time was actually 1:03 since I started 4 minutes into the clock starting due to the waved swim start.

Brick came running over telling me that I was the 3rd woman to come through for the triathlon and she was genuinely so excited, which made me even more excited, although I was still trying to catch my breathe.

At the finish you had to fill out a little piece of paper with your name, age, finish time, etc. and then turn it in to the officials.  A very bizarre process and easy for people to be dishonest, but I think they did actually double check the times with an official recorder as well.  I was so thankful that Brick was there because she just sort of took my paper from me and filled it out, as I tried to just let my heart rate lower and cool off with some water and this weird but cool ice pack thingy that they handed out at the finish.

I was so excited that I finished third but also really curious, "Were the people that finished before me old?!?!"  I wanted to know if I was going to win my age group or not!  It is hard to tell sometimes and I was excited about being the 3rd female triathlete to cross the finish but also anxious for the official results in this unofficial system they had for this race.

We cheered on the rest of our friends who were running, who all finished so strong and impressively, as well as cheered for the rest of the runners at the race.  We all celebrated and took lots more pictures, because that's what we do, and then I decided to pack up my things.  My car was such a mess, I had so much thrown in there and most of it was wet and gross but I decided to just deal with it all later.  I was tired!

I changed into dry clothes and then we all went to wait for the announcement of the winners.  I still had no idea if my 3rd place finish was accurate or how the women ahead of me had ranked via age groups.  We sat through all the announcements of the duathlon winners and then when they got to the triathlon winners they announced that I came in first for my age group!!!!  And had indeed finished third for the overall female finishers!! I was beaming and was SO happy because my goal had just been to push myself as hard as I could and I DID.  This is also the second first place finish in the same amount of races, which is seriously so hard for me to believe still.

The 5K in Arizona I didn't even get a Personal Best time, so as cool as it was, I felt like I should have gone harder.  This race, I was so proud of the validation of winning because I had really pushed myself hard during this race.  And I know, realistically, that I was competing in a beginner's triathlon. They didn't chip time and the distances were all really short, so elite triathletes were not coming out to this race.  I don't want to be one of those people who compete outside of their league and then brag about it but also - it felt really, really good and I was very smiley and happy knowing how well I had done on the course.  And seeing how happy my friends were for me too and having them all there made it so wonderful as well!

I love the thrill and adrenaline of big races - which is why I am doing Chicago Marathon as my next marathon.  But man, there is something fun and exciting about doing the small races too :)  The Sweetwater Sprint Triathlon was such a fun first race of the triathlon season and made me excited to want to accomplish more!  I have yet to sign up for an Olympic distance tri, which I need to do before the end of the summer.   However my next tri is on June 28th and it is significantly longer than this one.  The swim is a 500 meter swim (+300 more meters than this one), the bike is a 17 mile bike (+7 more miles) and then a 5K.  I looked up the race results from last year and I will NOT be winning that next race, so don't get any ideas in your head -- BUT that's a good thing to be with tougher competition and it will definitely be a challenge for me!  My friend Sergio told me a couple months ago, "If you're the smartest person in the room - you need to get in a new room."

I think this race broke down for me to be about 3 minutes swimming, 32 minutes on the bike, and 28 minutes running.  I am not entirely sure, but that is my guess.  I am looking forward to the next tri of the season and had so much fun at Sweetwater!!


1 comment:

  1. Yeah, first place finish! Congratulations! You totally rocked it. I admire your determination and grit - you are an inspiration.