Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lake Allatoona Sprint Triathlon 2015 Race Recap

One of the reasons I flew back from NY to Atlanta on Saturday rather than staying the full weekend and getting more, much needed, time with friends there was that I had a race I was signed up to run that Sunday.  The race was another sprint triathlon, the Lake Allatoona Sprint Triathlon.  This one was longer in the swim and run portions than the race I did a few weeks ago so I was a bit nervous going into it.

It is strange to me that sprint triathlons are not standard distances, I find it difficult to figure out how to pace myself and plan for it.  The race I did this Sunday started with a 500 meter swim (compared to a 200 meter swim at Sweetwater) followed by a 16 mile bike (compared to a 10 mile bike at Sweetwater) and then a 5K run (same as Sweetwater.)  This varies from races I have done in the past as well, so it is just incredibly hard to judge!  How people compare times for these races is based on their paces during the different segments, so that's what I will use to compare - hopefully that doesn't seem confusing!

Also, before I even did the race, I looked up last year's times online to see the type of athlete/finishing times I would see.  There were SO many people who had run times that were ridiculously fast, as well as really fast bikes and swims so I knew going into this race that were would be some serious athletes at this thing.  It intimidated me and scared me a bit and I pretty much told myself, "There is no chance in hell that you are going to place or be at all competitive in this race."

So, on Sunday morning I got up and packed up my things to head north to Acworth, Georgia for the race.  It was about 35 minutes from my house, so really not a bad distance.  I felt more confident driving with my bike on my car and planned my arrival to be there plenty early to get into the transition area.  I had a little bit of a panic when I arrived and found traffic totally stopped and backed up outside of the swim/transition area as parking was (apparently) full.  I waited for about 25 minutes just trying to park but eventually got in and got into the transition area a few minutes before they were closing it.  I threw all my things down and got set up and head over to the start.  This race was far more organized than the last race, with specific areas assigned for each bib number, which is great.  The race was so much more organized than the last tri, for which I was really thankful.  Except the parking.  That was annoying.

I met up with the friends I knew doing the race, and waited around until the start.  It was actually a pretty chilly morning for Atlanta standards.  The breeze kept me sort of chilly and I was a little nervous getting in the water.  When we got over to the start though, it was actually like bath water!  The lake was SO warm.  Maybe due to the really high heat we've had but I was so surprised to have the lake water be so warm.  It felt gross to be honest, but at least the warm water got me out of the chilly air.

When the swim start I went out hard and then felt a bit tired.  I felt a lot more crowded than I have in other races, swallowed a lot of water, and had a hard time pushing hard.  I eased back a bit and just focused on counting my breathes and sighting the buoys that we had to swim around.  For some reason the whole time I felt like I was swallowing a lot of water and running into people.  Plus, it felt so bizarre to be swimming in BATH WATER.  The lake was so warm, guys.

I swam until I couldn't anymore and then ran up the beach into the transition area.  I saw my friends, which was really fun to have them cheering for me and ran over to my bike to throw on sneakers and head out, and realized that I could not find my race bib.

Generally, you do not need to wear the race bib during the bike since your number is on your bike, but I knew I would need it for the run and I could not find it anywhere!  I had gotten ready in a rush setting up at the transition but I knew I had laid it out by my things and now couldn't find it anywhere!  I started to panic and look all around at the other transitions next to me.  I noticed that some of my stuff was knocked over so thought maybe people had bumped it?  Or it had blown away?  I didn't want to waste any more time on the transition, so I just grabbed my bike and on the way out let an official know.  I told her I couldn't find it anywhere, she asked my number, and told me she would try and figure it out.

I then hopped on the bike and head out for what I felt was the hardest portion of the race.

The bike was a really hilly route!  I felt pretty crappy the whole time on the bike.  While I passed people a lot on the last race and it was a big confidence booster, I was passed over and over on the bike on this route and there was nothing I could do to keep up.  I passed a few people at the beginning and fought hard on some of the uphills, but also had to give myself a little break at sometime. I was scared I would totally stress out my legs at the beginning of the bike.  The 17 mile course is significantly more than the last course, which was 10 miles and I wasn't sure what to expect.  There were some steady up hills and a couple great downhills.  However, for the most part, I felt like we were going uphill a lot.

The bikers were flying by me and I felt totally unprepared to keep up and also scared to push too hard.  I was really good at this race about using my watch so I was tracking the miles on my watch to know how much I had left.  I want to get better experienced and train more on the bike to be able to know how hard to push, how to tactically get up hills, etc.  I tried to use the different handlebars and tried to stand up while going up hills but I still am not that comfortable on the bike to be able to do all that.  I use the same few gears and just WERK.

I remembered back to the first tri I ever did when I was MISERABLE on the bike and for the first time in my life thought, "I wish I was running right now."

When the bike portion finally ended, it ended with a downhill that had a ton of speed bumps at the bottom.  Talk about stupid planning!  I slowed a lot but saw online after that a few people wiped out on the bumps.

When I got into the transition area again, I looked again for my run bib and couldn't find it.  I talked to another official who was less understanding and just told me there was nothing he could do and to just go.  Both times I told the officials, "Okay, I just don't want to get disqualified!" because in USAT  (U.S.A Triathlons - I assume) certified races (which this one was) they are very strict about the rules (as they should be.)  The second transition for me is usually just a few seconds long since I really just have to drop my bike and helmet and not wanting to waste any more time, I head out on the run.

My legs felt like lead, as they usually do when I get off the bike.  Writing this now I am thinking again that I need to practice these transitions more.  The run started off with a few uphills, which was just cruel, however, having in my head that I didn't have a place or position to hold on to, I told myself to just keep moving forward even if it is slow.  I think about walking so much when I am running and when I want to do that, which I did during this race, I just remind myself of the streak I have going of not giving up on a run and tell myself to keep moving.

The run was a bit boring, nothing too exciting, and at one point I saw a friend who was filming and taking pictures and I shouted to her, "This route sucks!" and having done the race a previous year, she replied back "I know!"

I looked at my watch a couple times and then convinced myself to stop looking.  I had an idea of where the finish would be since we had biked through part of the route, so I just kept moving forward.  They had water stations throughout the run, which was nice, and I grabbed water everywhere that I could, in addition to the water I'd had back during the transition - it was good!

The finish line had a big arch and it felt good to finish and walk and have some water.  I wasn't totally out of breathe like I was after the race I did a few weeks ago.  I walked around, loosen up, got a post race massage (one of my favoritest things ever) and then tried to find some of my friends.  Once I did, we caught up about how we did, took some pictures and chatted about the hard course.

I then checked my race results on the preliminary results board and saw that I was placed as 4th in my age group!  Granted, there weren't a ton of people in my age group, but that was still pretty cool.  Not too many 25-29 year olds I think do endurance events.  I think the most competitive age group is 30-35 and I also realized at this race, it would be my last one competing in that age group!!!  USAT races have you compete in the age that you will be at the end of the year.  I am currently 28 but on the last day of the year I will be 29 so I ran as a 29 year old on Sunday.  I thought to myself, "Next summer I will be competing as a 30 year old."  AHHHH, craziness!!

I was excited about the AG place and also getting tired so I decided to head back to my car.  It was about a mile walk from the finish of the race to the transition area/parking.  I decided to just walk back, which I did, and also attempted to run a bit of it, which didn't get me far.  My knees were not having it!

I packed up my things, returned to my car, got everything all situated and then went out and met some friends to eat all the food in the world at a brunch buffet at a restaurant called Copeland's.  It was glorious.  There is also nothing I love more than putting on dry clothing after a triathlon.  Sweaty or not, it always feels so good!

When the results of the race were posted online, I started analyzing them like I never have before in other races.  First off, it was posted online that I had a 2:00 minute penalty posted to my name!  I was so annoyed and frustrated, thinking it was because of my missing bib, and I had spent so much additional time looking for it and talking to officials, hoping to not get a penalty!  It bumped from 4th to 5th in my AG with the penalty.  However, the frustrated was unneeded.  I e-mailed the race director to find out what the penalty was for and after sharing pictures of myself in my race day outfit and of my bike, they confirmed that the penalty had been incorrectly assigned and would be removed!

I also started looking up my pace times and became really upset at what my pace was for the swim.  According to the results, I swam at a 2:09 pace for a 100 meter swim, which is really a slow time for me.  And when I looked up my results from past year races, realized that it was actually my slowest swim pace ever!  I knew I didn't push AS hard as I should, but I also would have thought my time would be much better since I have been practicing and swimming regularly, which I NEVER have in past years!  How was my 2013 Fronhofer time so fast when my swim split was a 1:35??

Luckily, when comparing the times for the bike and the run, they both are faster.  My runs are pretty consistent, but the impact that having a road bike vs. a hybrid bike is clearly visible!!!  The Crystal Lake race has an incredibly hard bike course, which is why the pace is SO low there.  And Duanesburg was a mostly downhill course, which is why it is a little faster.  I'm proud of the improvements on the bike and run, but the swim doesn't make any sense to me!

I felt really annoyed all evening about this and actually had gone to write this blog entry last night but stopped because I got really frustrated when I saw these time comparisons.  However, today, I asked a friend of mine who is a triathlon expert (she has done many, many sprints, Olympics, and 1/2 Irons) how her swim time compared to past times.  She said it was actually WAY slower and that she had done this race before and her pace was about 3 minutes slower.  She said a number of people she talked to said the same.

That provided me some comfort because I was really disappointed seeing that decline in the swim pace year after year - especially since this is the first year I am specifically training for the swim!

I was really proud of myself after the triathlon I did a couple weeks ago, not because I got first place in my age group and 3rd place female finisher (although that was awesome enough for me to repeat again here) but because I pushed myself so hard in every sport of the tri.  I felt like I could have pushed harder in this race.  I got scared about pacing, about saving some energy, about the hills, and I also mentally psyched myself out before I even started the race telling myself there was no way I was going to do well.  I realized how much wanting to fight for a finish place meant to me in the last race and when I did finish and realized that if I had pushed a little bit harder, I could have placed for my age group!?  Well, that was a tough pill to swallow.  I'm still swallowing it, actually.

I want to leave races feeling like I left everything I could on the race course.  I felt that way after the Braves 5K and the Sweetwater Triathlon and the Publix Half Marathon and I like that feeling.  I want to train more and get better at how I feel during the swim and the bikes to be able to do the same with the triathlons.  I really am enjoying participating in these this summer and want to sign up for a few more before the season ends.  I also am thinking really seriously about my goals for next year and whether a main race goal for 2016 should be a Half Ironman.

Yup, I said it.  It's in my mind, everyone!!!!

So, with that, I will finish this post sharing that my final race time for the Lake Allatoona Sprint Triathlon was 1:41:38 and I was 4th in my age group.  As always, I am proud of myself for finishing, but also feel like I could have pushed harder during this race.  The race was super well organized, which was great.  You should get there early for parking.  And plan a way to get back to the start from the finish if you aren't into walking a mile.  And also, it is a challenging bike course!  I am really excited to do more triathlons and love the atmosphere at these well organized races and am also enjoying all the strategy that I am realizing goes into them!  I am just learning!!

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