Fake it till you make it is the theme of this year's tri season. Need to keep up your swim fitness? Do some running. How about improving on the bike? Running might work. I really have NOT done much cross-training, but when the price dropped on this race at the last minute, I couldn't help but to sign up.
Race morning was a little on the warm and humid side, but better than it had been for the last few days. I started the day off with some rookie mistakes, like ALMOST FORGETTING TO GET MY CHIP, but was able to get out of transition with everything ready just before they shut it down. A quick walk down to the pool left me enough time to do 50 yards of warmup...well, call it 48 yards. Someone doing sidestroke kicked me hard just before the wall, so the last couple were more treading water. Anyhow, it was nice to be back on home turf and ready for this short sprint.
We were once again seeded by swim time estimate, and somehow I was number 19. That seemed pretty ambitious, and it was weird to be in the pool before the leaders were even out. But I think it was about right. While the guy ahead of me was off like a shot, I held my own against the swimmers behind me. I swam strong but well under control, and held off any pursuit until the last little angled swim over to the ramp, where I got passed by one guy. I can't claim that it was a "fast" swim for what I'm used to, but it wasn't bad either. I grabbed my stashed shoes for the transition run, which is a little rough to go barefoot.
300 yd Swim (plus long run to transition & T1): 8:05 (5/16 AG)
Last year, I managed to crack a 21 mph average in this race. I didn't have any illusions that I'd be topping that number, but I wanted to at least hold my own and set myself up well for the run. The course is pretty much flat flat flat, with only a few gradual inclines. Once my heart rate settled a bit, I kicked it in the big ring and just got down in aero as much as possible. Yes, this is only a 12 mile course, but it was probably my best effort to date in terms of staying aero. I think I only came up twice during the course. Not bad for me.
During the bike portion of races, I usually watch my cadence more than anything else. It didn't seem to be working, though...it was reading around a 70, which would be crazy slow. As I kept biking, it edged up, and finally I was in the 90s where I should be...and then I was over 100 and still rising. Just when I was ready to shrug it off as the computer flaking out on me, I finally realized that I didn't have it set on cadence at all, but on average pace, and I hadn't reset the computer after walking my bike to transition. It wasn't saying 70 rpm, it was saying 7.0 mph. :) When I switched over the view, voila! I was right at 90 rpm like I should have been.
The bike course ended with a bit of a bang. There's a curb you have to get up on to get onto the last driveway back to transition, and there was a volunteer out there telling you to slow down. I thought, "Sure, slow down before you hit the gravel driveway to be careful". So I did, and POW! I hit the curb hard. There was a wooden ramp, but it had a little too much flex. Fortunately, I stayed upright, but let out a "WHOA" as I made it up and over. Nothing wrong, though, so I pedaled my little feet into T2.
Bike: 35:48 (20.1 mph, 8/16 AG)
Somewhere along the line, I've gotten pretty good at the bike-to-run transition. My fancy new shoelaces that I got for Christmas (and finally got onto my shoes) helped too! The race results confirm it: I won T2. Sadly, they were not handing out awards for such feats.
T2: 0:22 (1/16 AG)
My goal on the run was to improve on last year. While it was a tri run PR for me, I've been working so hard at this sport that it would be a pretty big disappointment to go backwards. My strides were pretty short and choppy coming off the bike, but I just told myself they'd come back. As you come out of the park, there's a quick right turn, then down and back up a quick, steep-ish hill before heading out to the main part of the course. I tried to convince the volunteer to just let me turn left and skip the hill, but he said I was doing too well to allow that. :)
The day was turning a little warm, so I made sure to grab some water at the first stop and dump it over my head. I'd seen the big lead pack (way ahead), and been passed like I was standing still by a couple of guys. I figured it was a long shot to place, so I just concentrated on staying consistent and focused. I never passed a single person on the run - one of the downsides of a time trial start, I guess. As I turned to go back down and up the hill on the way back in, I was happily surprised by Meredith, who had taken time out of her workout to see my finish. I chugged my way back up and into the finish, worn out but feeling like I gave a good effort.
Run: 23:40 (7:37/mile, 5/16 AG)
Not too long after I crossed the line, they put up preliminary results, which had me 4th in my age group. So close! But then, one other guy bested me, so I ended up 5th of 16. Still not too bad. There were about three minutes between me and the podium...quite a bit for a sprint, but maybe if I was actually biking and swimming to go with my improved running...you never know!
Total Time: 1:07:57
5/16 Age Group