A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 17; 9th Edition
131 miles run and 58 miles biked and 1930 meters swam in 2023 races
Race: Square Lake 70.3 Tri
Place: Square Lake, MN
Miles from home: 40 miles
Weather: 55-75; cloudy, warm
After the debacle which was the final few miles of my half marathon last weekend, I was extremely trepidatious about this "Half-Ironman" race. (Quote used here as it was not a branded Ironman race which means it often has less frills but costs about 1/3 the normal going rate.) Most of that fear came from the fact that the weather which had wilted me last weekend looked pretty similar to what I was going to face for this race. Nothing "too" warm but not the best ever. My brain would normally look at 70ish degrees and think that was a good day for a run, but that is only because living in this super-heated world we live in (sure, there's no climate change, Republicans) has broken my brain and I think anything that isn't 90 degrees is the bee's knees.
I rested a great deal the week before this , especially after a run on Wednesday evening in lovely 65 degree weather netted me one of the worst training runs I had ever had in my life. Suffice it to say I was worried. But I had trained harder on the bike this summer than I ever have in my life (really not saying much but I did have two 40+ milers and a 50 miler under my belt - something I had never done) and was going to simply give all I had.
We couldn't check into the park where this race started until 6 a.m. (supposedly) to begin setting up our gear. Yet when I arrived at 5:57 a.m. the parking lot was 3/4 full. After buying the park pass and realizing I had forgotten a couple of things for my race, I went to see if anyone was selling or had extras. No one did. It wasn't the end of the world, but it was just annoying that I hadn't prepared better.
There wasn't much fiddling around after setting up my bike and run stuff before we headed to the beach to begin the swim. This portion of the tri would be done by self-seeding. Each swimmer would step up to the timer, say their number, have it repeated back to them, then sprint into the water to begin their swim. I had only had 10 swim workouts this summer but I felt good in my swimming ability. Nevertheless, I wanted to defer to other swimmers who had put in the time and/or were talented. But when not many seemed eager to get in, I found myself entering the line of swimmers about 12th overall. I read my number and away I went.
Swim: 36:42 (4th overall)
Plunging into the the lake, I was the only person I saw not wearing a wetsuit. I know they help with buoyancy but I have had horrific abrasions from them in the past and was perfectly happy wearing just my new Sherpa trisuit. I was also using new goggles and I should have tightened them more than I did. Rookie mistake. A little water slipped in one eye but after one quick stop to empty it out, and one hard press with my shoulder, the googles were more or less fine the remainder of the way.
The water was about as perfect as you could get. I wouldn't have minded it being a bit cooler but there were no waves, no wake, and it looked like glass. Pretty clear as well and just set up for some fast times.
Our course consisted of two separate rectangles and I was ready to fall back on my swimming skills, and my penchant to never kick when I swim, which actually saves my legs for the latter portions. I didn't expect to do that great but I figured I would be ok. Let's hear it for being naturally good at swimming! (That's not a brag but more a self-own since I should probably practice it more. Alas.)
Right after turning at the second buoy, meaning we were halfway through the first of two laps, I looked ahead of me and saw...nothing. As far as I could tell, I was in first place. This was different. I didn't even feel like I was swimming that fast. And that was where I would stay for an entire lap where I felt someone hit my feet. I hadn't seen them in my peripheral the whole lap which means they were just riding along in my wake. Legal, but annoying. So I threw in a surge to try and lose them and it felt like I did. On the final homestretch, I saw another swimmer way off to my right. He was definitely swimming fast but couldn't sight worth a damn. He finally got the right tack and was tracking me down but with just a few yards left, I wasn't going to NOT be the first one out of the water. Or at least the first one out of the water I could see.
(As it ends up, there were two others who swam slightly faster than me but started behind me, and another, the overall winner, who swam like a marlin and beat me by nearly 5 minutes. I have no idea if he was in front of me and somehow didn't create a wake or started behind me and just bided his time. Triathlons are so annoying.)
T1: 1:47 (7th fastest)
I didn't feel like I was all that fast in this transition as things weren't going on quickly and other things weren't clicking and I was just kinda moseying along. But lo and behold, I was actually pretty quick onto the bike. Transitions have never been my strong suit but my penchant for wearing my socks when I swim helps. Some people find that wet socks would stink to cycle in but trying to put dry socks on wet feet takes forever. And no socks is a no go for me. And the way I sweat, my feet are going to be wet soon regardless. So, socks on for the swim it is which allows me to run over surfaces a little better anyway. Win win.
Bike: 3:07:16 (33rd overall)
Within about two miles I had a cyclist pass me, followed quickly by two others. Then a few miles later, two others passed me and I was already feeling the hills. One of the biggest climbs of the entire race is right out out of the gate. I had driven this course a few weeks ago and had noticed all the hills but there is a huge difference between riding them and driving them. And in spite of my concerted efforts to be a better cyclist this summer, I am still bad at uphills.
There were a few nice sections which had just been paved but there were a few not-so-nice sections (much longer) that were not and were quite rutted and uneven. Not the worst road conditions I have biked on but not fun.
Don't advertise your race as 70.3 if it is at least 72.3.
Throughout the first loop my spirits were down. All I could think about was asking if it was possible to drop from the 70.3 tri to the AquaBike which was being run concurrently. And having the biggest hills of the race coming right at the end of the loop didn't help me any. It frustrated me greatly that I had put in a lot of time (for me) on the bike and still wasn't seeing the results I wanted. I know while I upgraded my bike it has a LONG way to go to being top-notch but I don't want the blame the instrument. I just need to remember that triathlons are basically cycling events with a swim warm-up and a run cool down. I hated that I was so mental defeated the first loop.
On the second loop, I undoubtedly slowed a bit but somehow talked myself out of quitting at the end of the bike. I actually felt pretty good. This is fairly typical for me on looped course. Knowing what I have in store always helps me. I grabbed a water bottle from one of the volunteers about halfway through this loop. I sure wish that liquid provided on courses was colder. This is almost universal. Almost always it is not the liquid I need as much as I do the COLD liquid. Not sure why this isn't a universal thought. Not blaming the volunteers who were very nice and helpful. Just another thing I simply don't understand about racing.
|So many hills.|
I was feeling decent even though I was getting passed here and there by a few cyclists. In the other tris I have run I have never been too bothered by this because I would always think about how many of them I would end up passing on the run and it is usually a great deal.
As we began a nice downhill section (that was interrupted by two 90 degree turns through a bridge which we had been warned extensively about to SLOW DOWN), I once again began having those thoughts. Then the tough climbs at the end of the loop grabbed ahold of my mind again. My energy ebbed. My mood soured. A cyclist passed me after we had both passed the 5th mile and said "I guess we are getting some bonus miles today, huh?"
"Yep. And uphill to boot!" I replied. I thought of the run ahead. I realized it would be on the same course I had just biked and that it was going to be rough. Uff da.
I rolled into the transition, saw the race director and asked if I could drop to the AquaBike. I was ready and willing to be done with the day even if it meant a DNF.
T2: 4:53 (Really low overall. I am not counting.)
The RD was nice enough to say that she would check to see if I could drop. The timer said it wasn't a problem. She said I could also start running and if I still felt like I was done, just to come back and then drop down. This was really nice. Something about having that option got me up and going but not after I had spent a long time in transition putting on my shoes, going to the bathroom and ingesting some calories. I figured I could probably plod through this run and still finish in a decent time. I had long ago thrown out any of my previous time goals and now was just trying to finish respectfully.
As I trudged out of transition and up the big hill to stat the run, the gentleman of NOW Bikes who had sold me my bike (and had been kind enough to give me a water bottle for the same bike that morning) wished me a good run.
"I don't think it is going to be one," I said.
Run: 1:59:02 (29th overall)
This run started out far better than I could have expected. The first two miles were right around 8 minutes per. Then out of nowhere, assisted by some downhill, I threw down a 7:31 mile. "There you go, buddy!" I said, outloud, to myself. That's hilarious in hindsight.
Even as the hills undulated for miles 4 and 5, I still hung around 8 minutes per mile. I was thinking that if I ran a 1:42 half after this whole day, and thinking about quitting, that would be a huge victory. Then we turned onto a dirt road. Damn it. I just knew some more hills on dirt were coming.
|So many hills, Part Deux.|
The next mile had four uphills in it including one where I just flat out began walking. I was pissed that I did but it was necessary. Even though I had already passed four runners and was catching up to others, I know when I need to walk. Here I saw the lead runner coming back and man, it sure didn't seem like he was THAT far in front of me. It couldn't have possibly have been the first runner. I must have missed him somehow.
I filled the bottle I was carrying at the turn-around point and began to try to track down runners in front of me. But ever little gradient of an uphill began to tug at my ankles. My 7th mile was a gallant effort to stay on the right side of the pacing with an 8:30 but then my 8th and 9th miles were both basically 9:30 with walk breaks each. Two runners I had passed in the beginning passed me and I did everything I could to stay with them, running my last good mile of the day in 8:31. Getting back onto pavement and off the dirt road helped.
Then the heat of the day (mid to high 70s by this point) and whatever else finally got to me as the long
sloping hills, and the short steep hills often brought me to a crawl. My last three miles were 11:02, 10:14, and, egads 13:05. It took everything I had to run down the last hill (I had twice stopped running DOWNhill previously) and cross the finish.
My atrocious time of 5:49:38 was over an hour off of what I was hoping to do today. I guess if you take off the extra bike miles and if I had just held the previous pace in the last three miles of the run it would have only been 40 minutes off, but regardless I was done. Cooked. Spent.
I took 22nd overall and somehow got 3rd place in my age group, but those are always just a by product of who shows up. I had a super tough ending where I just sorta collapsed after the finish and the EMTs came over to me. I had a hard time convincing them I was fine and I just needed a few minutes. They were super kind and attentive. I kept insisting while I looked like a wreck, I would be fine soon. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes after I laid down, I was putting my gear on my bike and pushing up the infernal hill to my car. (Funnily enough, I was driving away when I heard my name announced for my age group award and had to stop my car and bound down some stairs to pick it up. I was beyond shocked at how spry I felt when 30 minutes prior I was feeling on death's door.)
A runner I met about a month ago told me he had done this tri before and it was tough. Runners often downplay how tough things are. I am not sure why. I don't know if they want to sound like they are badass or they don't want to complain or they don't want to psyche others out. So when one just says "ooh, that's tough" listen to them.
This was tough.
But it is done. And I cannot tell you how happy I am I finished it. I think I would have been happy with the drop to the AquaBike or even the DNF after the bike, to be honest. But I made it through this and am shockingly feeling good the next day when I write this recap. I have some abrasions on my ankle from a waterlogged shoe, my neck is a bit chafed as I forgot to lube it up for the swim, and my muscles are a little tired. But I did a short recovery run after watching my beloved Chicago Bears stink up the field and it doesn't even really feel like I did one of the hardest races of my life yesterday. To be honest, this is a bit confusing. I feel like I shouldn't be THIS good in my recovery after one solid night's sleep.
Time to rest up, heal, and remove this monkey from my back. Tri season is more or less done up here (or at least on weekends I am free) so I don't know when the next foray will be but I think it will be in the Olympic distance. Less bike, more swim, please.
And hopefully less hills.