Tap, tap, tap…Is this thing on?
Oh, hey, it’s Steph. Remember me? Sorry for the radio silence folks. Life/work just got busy, and when you sit all day staring at a computer, it’s difficult to want to spend even more time in front of the screen to write up a post. But alas, things seem to be a bit less hectic now and I miss blogging. So, I’m going to try to pop into this space a bit more frequently, especially now that it is race season!
I’ll start with what is most fresh in my mind- St. Anthony’s!- but I hope to write another post soon about some exciting swim/bike/run related things that I’ve done over the past few months. Stay tuned…
And with that, I’ll rewind to Sunday morning, bright and really, really early.
My alarm went off about half past four and I slowly got out of bed. I didn’t get the best night’s sleep- it took me some time to fall asleep because I was a little stressed: I had forgotten to pick up my timing chip! As I was going through all my gear before bed, I read the instructions in the envelope with my numbers and it talked about the timing chip. I texted Beth to ask if she had gotten one, and she told me that we were supposed to have picked them up at the timing chip table. Whoops, I hadn’t seen that table. She assured me not to worry, they’d have them at the swim start in the morning. Phew.
Despite knowing I’d be able to get the chip in the morning, I didn’t like not having everything in order the night before. Lesson learned!
My friend Chris and I were carpooling over, so we met up just after 5 to head over to St. Pete. I wasn’t sure how the parking situation would be, but we were early enough that it wasn’t really a problem. I had plenty of time to set up my gear in transition and get over to the starting area to pick up my chip. There was really no need to stress- picking up my chip was a breeze. (Interesting to note: the chips weren’t really chips- it was a foam ankle bracelet that had adhesive on it- no need for a velcro strap and no need to turn it in at the end!)
Transition closed at 6:45, the pros went off at 6:50, and then my wave didn’t start until 8:06. My goodness was this a lot of waiting around! As the sun rose higher in the sky, the temperature kept rising. I was getting a little nervous about how hot the run would be, but tried not to let it get to me- the weather is outside of my control, so there’s no need to stress about it; just do the best I can with the conditions I’ve got. And let’s be honest- today’s conditions were darn near perfect. It was wetsuit legal and the water was as flat as a pancake. There was minimal wind, and the sun was shining. It was a great day for a race- in fact, numerous people said these were the best conditions they’d ever had for this race!
Finally, it was go time!
Swim: 1.5km, 23:35
The cannon fired and off we went! Off to my far right I saw one girl shoot out in front of the pack. She was moving! (Turns out she went a 21:53!) There was another girl immediately to my right who was in the perfect spot for me to catch a little bit of a draft, so I did until just after the first buoy, when I overtook her.
The course is an “L” shape- you swim parallel to the shoreline then make a 90 degree left hand turn, then a 90 degree right hand turn, and then one last 90 degree turn before swimming in to the ladder where you’ll get out. As I reached the second buoy, I started to catch the wave in front of me. And then I caught more swimmers- by the time I reached the first turn buoy, I was swimming through a rainbow of swim caps from all the different waves in front of me. Surprisingly, I didn’t actually feel like I was getting caught up in congestion; I was just swimming through a sea of minnows. Thanks to the wetsuit and salt water, I think I kicked maybe 10 times the entire 1.5K; I just kept pulling my way past more and more swimmers. As I neared the exit, I started mentally preparing myself for the bike.
I was racked on the outside lane almost at the very end of the rack, which was a primo location for a transition area as large as St. A’s. I arrived at my bike, and seconds later a girl on my rack (and therefore in my AG) also arrived. HURRY! I thought, and I threw on my sunglasses and helmet and was out in front of her.
Bike: 40km, 1:10.09 (21.2 mph)
(Side note: Isn’t it funny that the race distance is in km but my speed is reported in mph?)
When you leave transition at St. A’s you ride for about a block on a brick road (off to see the Wizard?). It makes for some teeth chattering good times to start the ride:-) Anyhow, I got past the cobbles and to the straightaway that runs along the water, which is where I planned to coast and get into my shoes (my shoes are on the bike when I leave transition, and after I hit a nice flat shortly after starting, that’s when I velcro in). For some reason, I had a terrible time getting into my shoes- I lost all my momentum and at one point, one shoe was dragging on the pavement as I struggled. It was awful! I almost opted to stop entirely to get into the shoes, but eventually I got in. I got back up to speed and found myself passing people from waves ahead. A few miles in, the girl from transition passed me. We’ve got a race! I thought to myself. I kept her in sight, maybe 25 yards or so ahead of me, and after one of the turnarounds, on a slight downhill, I made up ground and passed her. It didn’t take too long for her to pass me again, but I kept her in my sight, for probably the first 15 miles or so. I wavered back and forth between wanting to give it my all to try and stick with her/catch her, or holding back some for a smart ride, since I knew I had a hot 10K ahead of me. I opted to try to be smart about my race, and let her go.
The bike is a fun ride, with some straight sections where you can get up and go, but there are lots of other sections with turns and speed bumps (yes, speed bumps). I was really glad I had done the bike last year as part of a relay, so I had a much better sense of what to expect and where I was on the course.
Soon, I was back on those cobbles and headed into transition. It was time to get my run on!
I knew I wasn’t too far behind the girl from the bike, so I wanted to be quick. Because it was going to be so hot, I planned to wear my fuel belt, which unfortunately doesn’t have a place for my race number, which meant I had to put on a second belt with my number. I also had my visor and watch for the run. I somehow managed to put on the fuel belt, grab the rest of what I needed, and started to run out of transition. I wish I could say that I easily clipped on my number, velcroed on my watch and popped on my visor, but that would be far from the truth. I dropped my watch just before exiting transition and for some reason was fiddling with my sunglasses, which got caught in my hair – to the extent I need to stop for a second and get myself together. Sheesh. Finally, I got onto the run course.
Run: 10K, 49:26
In the back of my head I had been thinking, Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could break 50:00 on this run? My best 10k (off the bike) is actually 47:39 <- I didn’t actually realize that until I was writing this post; prior to now I thought I had never broken 50:00- whoops! So, I was gunning for what I thought (at the time) was a 10K PR (whoops).
Right after we left transition, a girl I presumed was in my age group passed me (they didn’t actually make us write our age on our calves, so it was hard to tell who was in what age group!). I tried to stay with her, but she was running really strong, and I knew I just needed to focus on my race.
The run was flat with the exception of a tiny bridge that you go over twice. It winds through the neighborhood, where the locals come out and cheer, spray you with their hoses, and offer fruit, water, and beer. It’s a fun atmosphere, and makes the miles go by pretty quickly. There’s a bit of shade once you’re in the neighborhood, but for the most part you’re totally exposed and it was hot! At each aid station, I tried to grab ice or ice water to pour down my top and in my shorts. I had my own fuel (osmo and Clif margarita shot block) so I was only using the aid stations to help me stay cool.
I was running pretty solidly for the first two miles, watching my pace hover just under or around 8:00/mile. As I approached the halfway, I noticed my pace had slowed and my heart rate was climbing, so I opted to take a walking break- 30 seconds only. Perhaps I’ll talk more about this on another post, but since working with Marni, I’ve learned that there is NO SHAME in taking short walk breaks- in fact, sometimes they help you run faster, as it allows your heart rate to drop down so you can get back to where you need to be. Anyhow, throughout the course of the run I took two more 30 second walk breaks. After the last one, two women passed me, but again I wasn’t sure what age group they were in. One of them I was pretty sure was older than me, but the other I wasn’t so sure.
In all honesty, I think I gave up a little at this point the run. It wasn’t like a “Screw it, I’m done.” it was more like, “I’m not going to try to kill myself to get to that finish; I’ll run strong, but no need to push to my limit.” It was hot and I was tired, my right foot was tingly/numb from my elastic laces being too tight, and I was pretty sure I had slipped out of the top 5 by this point. Looking back, it was ridiculous to let my mind think that- I had a MILE or less left! And looking at the results, I probably could have eked out at 4th place if I had been a little mentally stronger. But, at the end of the day, I had a solid finish, and overall a really great day.
Overall time was 2:26.04, which was definitely an Olympic distance PR. I was hoping to come in under 2:30, and I crushed that by coming in nearly four minutes under that. (For an unfair comparison, in March I did the hilly Clermont Olympic triathlon at the end of a training camp, and went 2:43).
I actually ended up with a 5th place AG award, which was icing on the cake!
I would certainly recommend this race to others- great venue, super organized, and overall fun race. It brings a great pro field (hello Rinny!) and it’s super cool to share the course with those tremendous athletes. Sure, it’s a huge race with lots of waiting around if you’re in a later wave, but it’s nice to mix in some large races every now and again. I’m a little curious about what it would be like to do this race in not so ideal conditions to see if I’d still feel the same way. Perhaps next year I’ll give it another go? Only time will tell!