Monday, May 23, 2016

Troika Olympic Triathlon

Yesterday I put my pre season training and fitness to the test in preparation for the commencement of 2016's triathlon season. I placed 1st at the Negative Split Half Marathon in April, coming off a lower leg injury I'd been struggling with all winter. My fitness wasn't quite where I wanted it, but I figured it served as a good start to the year. I raced Bloomsday in May, running it 75 seconds slower than last year, but with a respectable time (for me) of 49:04. 

Negative Split half marathon.

Leading up to Troika's Olympic distance triathlon, I felt prepared, but tentative. The forecast predicted rain and cold. Combined with Medical Lake's notorious winds, I thought my good luck with regard for race day weather conditions had finally come to an end. Yet I was happily surprised by mild temperatures, clearing skies, and relative calmness as Bryan and I made our way over from Nine Mile Falls. 

Sure enough, Medical Lake's water looked enticing. When we arrived, the long distance athletes had just begun to make their way to the water's edge. I set out my transition area, donned my wet suit, and made my way down to the water with Bryan to watch the sprint distance athletes head out into the lake. The lead men for the long distance race soon exited the water with blazing fast times, and I watched my coach, Derek, leave transition as he established a sizable lead on his competition. 

My turn to dive into the water arrived sooner than I had anticipated. For some reason, I had this overwhelming sense of calm wash over me that, in reality, freaked me out. I'm used to my nerves preparing my body for competition, for action. Today, it felt as though nothing was firing. My warm-up swim helped a little bit, but when Scott announced the start of my wave, my body seemed to respond instantly.

Photo by Craig Thorsen
After my initial race out into the water, I found my pace and relished the strength I felt in my arms and shoulders. Derek has emphasized my time in the pool, as none of my swims for the past 2-3 months have been shorter than an hour and fifteen minutes. Three to four days a week of swimming, and I could only hope I felt something for all that work I'd put in. For much of the swim, I swam alone until I caught the group of Collegiates in front of me. I exited the water with a time of 17 minutes and change, suggesting the swim was a little short. Regardless, I found myself out on the bike very quickly. 
Photo by Rene Guerrero
Once on the bike, I knew I had one Collegiate woman to chase down. I managed to do so within the first 3 miles. From then on, I worked hard to ignore the annoying ache in my legs that I couldn't seem to shake for much of the ride. I know going into Victoria 70.3, I need to mentally feel more comfortable pushing an even slightly harder effort for twice as long. Regardless, I managed to hold off my female competitors and even had the opportunity to enjoy three extra miles on the bike course (with the rest of my competitors, of course). I am thankful for the time Wade Pannell at Fleet Feet took to adjust my fit and position on the bike using his Retul technology. Combined with a new Adamo saddle, I felt very comfortable. My bike performed well thanks to a good tune up before the race by Grafton of VeloFix. It doesn't get much better having my bike mechanic show up at my door, ready and prepared to work on my bike without any distractions that often time slow the progress at a bike shop. 

Photo by Craig Thorsen
In and out of transition, I made my way out to start the first loop of the two-loop run course around Medical Lake. The first half of the loop is relatively flat through the neighborhood, but the back half has many ups and downs. I remember coming back through the park to start my second lap and wondering if I'd be able to maintain my pace. I heard the lead man approaching from behind me, confident it must be Derek starting on his second loop. Just as I predicted, he passed with one suggestion: relax my shoulders. That mantra quickly entertained me and kept my mind busy for the  second lap. I sure felt as though my pace had slowed by mile 5, but upon completing the run, which was just short of 6 miles, I had in fact managed to keep my legs turning over despite my screaming calves. 

Another successful day had just concluded. Finishing in 2:16:43, I felt confident I had tested myself enough to know what more needs to be done before Victoria 70.3. Having said that, I keep reminding myself I only have 3 weeks to accomplish so much. Perhaps much of that is a mental exercise than a physical one, but I am thankful for the continued support of Bryan and my coach, Derek, to get me to where I need race competitively. 

Photo by Bryan Rowe. Julie Lehman-Smith, a friend
and fellow Big Sexy teammate, placed second in her
age group.