Crystal River Sprint #2

24 06 2016

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen that I just completed my fourth 70.3, and you’re probably expecting that race report. Well, I actually raced on back to back weekends, doing a Sprint on June 11th and then the Wisconsin Milkman on the 19th. I had my sprint race report nearly complete later that evening, but didn’t get around to posting it because, well, the whole Orlando thing happened and I just couldn’t bring myself to post a mundane race report rather than something a bit more sensitive. And then I ended up posting nothing because I just didn’t have the words. Nothing I could say would bring back the lives of those innocent men and women who were just out having a good time. I didn’t know anyone personally, but I know people who did. Maybe because of Orlando’s proximity or maybe because of the friends-of-friends thing- but this attack just felt more real to me than some of the other recent events of similar nature. I don’t want this to be a downer post, so before I shift to the original topic of this post, I’ll leave you with a little video clip.

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.

 

 

❤ ❤ ❤

 

My first triathlon in Florida was a Crystal River Sprint tri. Every year since then, with the exception of 2014, I’ve raced up in Crystal River. It’s always a great race- DRC sports does a fantastic job- and it’s really nice to return to a race year after year where you know the course and know exactly what to expect on race day (barring some unforeseen circumstances).

IMG_4711This race is actually part of a series of three races. This year, I actually took advantage of early bird registration and signed up for the whole series. Unfortunately, I missed the first race because I was on vacation. Whoops. Oh well, if I get in two, I will have definitely gotten my money’s worth!

Racing in Florida in June-July-August, it’s going to be hot and humid. Saturday was no exception. It was well into the 80s when the sun came up, and it was sticky.

I arrived at the race site, picked up my packet and got set up in transition with plenty of time to spare.

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I had been on a work trip just about all week and I hadn’t been able to swim since Sunday, so I  made sure to get in a decent warm up in the Gulf to try to regain a feel for the water. On my warm up, I noticed that the current was pulling to the south- stronger than I had remembered from other years of racing. I noted this and planned to adjust my starting position.

There were 6 waves, and I was in the third, which was the first women’s wave. Our wave was small- some girls were actually joking that our ages might have been spread around enough so that everyone got an award (this was a legit possibility, since DRC does age group awards 5 deep!).  I lined up as far to the right as I could, and then the race director told everyone that it was pulling to the south pretty good, so some girls moved even more to my right. I held the position I wanted and took off when the gun went off.

After 2-3 dolphin dives I started swimming. I immediately noticed that my right goggle was not snug on my face and water was leaking in- quickly. Do I roll over on my back and fix it? I’m out in front…how close is the next female behind me? How much time will it take to fix? This is a sprint Steph, you can’t stop! It’s like swimming a 400- you can do that with one eye open and the other tightly shut. 

So, I kept swimming.

At the first buoy, I started catching the men from the previous wave. When I turned the second buoy to head in, the sun was directly in my eye(s) when I would spot, but I was somehow able to make out the “Swim In” sign on the beach.  As I got close to the shore, I started to get a little nervous that my contact would fall out, and then what would I do? Would I need to throw in the towel? I closed my eye a little tighter and hoped it stayed put. Soon, my hand grazed the ground and I promptly stood up and took off my goggles. Phew! I can see out of both eyes!

I ran in to transition, grabbed my sunglasses and helmet and I was off!

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I mounted my bike and tried to start my Garmin. First, it wanted me to calibrate (to which I said no) and then I just could not get it to start. I had set it up for “Race,” which I had never done before and when I couldn’t get it to work, I just let it be. It was still showing power and speed, and I figured that would be good enough. My heart rate was high, as it usually is, and I figured it would take me a few miles to settle in. The course is a straight out and back, but unfortunately my Garmin wasn’t showing miles, so I couldn’t really tell where I was on course (I did recognize some landmarks though, so that was helpful. And, being that it was my 4th time on this course, I wasn’t too lost). My speed was kind of all over the place, ranging from 19-22ish mph and I was getting frustrated every time it went below 20, knowing that I had averaged over 21 at St. A’s.  My stomach also felt a little off for the first half of the bike, and I was starting to get in my head. You should just back off Steph. You’ve had a busy week at work. You’re exhausted.  

This is a sprint Steph, it’s supposed to hurt!

When I made the turnaround, I made the decision to stop making excuses and get my head back in this and keep working hard. After all, I was pretty sure I was in the lead.  But I knew that Celia (the woman who’s won this race every other time I’ve been here) would be on my tail soon- so I made it my goal to hold her off as long as I could. Sure enough, I spotted her on my way back, not far behind me. I was positive she’d catch me before we made it to transition.

I put my head down and kept pedaling. I was passed by a 73 year old guy riding my exact bike, and was thoroughly impressed/embarrassed/humbled. If he’s passing me, Celia can’t be far behind!

Soon, I was slowing for the dismount. Am I really still in the lead?

I ran to my bike and as I was putting on my socks/shoes, I saw Celia at the next rack over, quickly putting on her shoes. Dang it. I knew she had already made up a three minute deficit (she was in the wave behind me), so the only way I could actually win would be to kill it on the run.

We exited transition together, and in my head I thought, Well, maybe I can stick with her. After 50 yards I knew that wasn’t going to happen. She was going faster than I felt I could maintain. It was hot, and if I wanted to not end up in medical, I’d have to run my own race.

I have a love-hate relationship with this run. I love it because it’s “only” 3 miles. It’s definitely mental, but 3 miles sounds better than a 5K. I hate this run because it’s totally exposed- there is ZERO shade unless there’s some cloud cover. And today, there were no clouds.

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My legs felt heavy and I knew that I would not be holding a pace in the 7:XX. I reassured myself that was okay. No one would be judging me if my splits began with an 8! I told myself to focus on form and try to run strong. When I got to the aid station, I walked through to bring my heart rate down and to try and cool off. One foot in front of the other- it’s only 3 miles Steph!

At the turnaround, I was pleasantly surprised that there didn’t seem to be another female in striking distance. I wasn’t going to cruise for the remainder of the race, but it was nice to feel I didn’t need to kill myself in this heat to maintain my position. I kept my focus for the last 1.5miles and was relieved when I saw the finish chute. No other females had passed me, so as long as no females from the wave behind me made up the 3:00 lead I had on them, I’d be 2nd OA female. Not too shabby.

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After I crossed the line, I immediately grabbed a water and then stood in the outdoor shower to cool off. Ah. Best part of the day!

I stuck around for awards and got my 1st AG medal before heading home. I’m looking forward to the next one in September- maybe I’ll be able to take on Celia again!

[Side note: I realized after the race that user error was causing my bike computer issue…I was so in the zone that I forgot how to properly operate my Garmin. Whoops.]

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Crystal River Sprint #1

28 05 2013

This weekend, I raced in my first triathlon of the 2013 season! I headed up to Crystal River, FL bright and early on Saturday for the first of a three-race sprint triathlon series put on by DRC sports. I did this same race last year, so I was anxious to see how my race would compare to last year’s.

I went up with my teammate Chris and the best cheerleader a girl could ask for, my boyfriend Bill.

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We got there about 15 minutes before transition opened and the moon was still shining bright.

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Our early arrival allowed us plenty of time to grab a prime spot on the rack, casually set up our gear, and get in a nice little warm up.

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In my opinion, the end of the rack is the best real estate- the bike is way easier to spot and grab off the rack.

It was a perfect morning for the race.  It was in the low 70s, the sun was shining, and there was a steady, cool breeze.

I headed over to the start line when my wave was on deck and got myself psyched up to go. I’ve been consistently training for awhile now, so I wanted to get a gauge on where I was speed-wise.

Swim, 1/4 mile:  6:26.5
The swim was a quarter mile box swim, sort of. You swim out almost 200 yards, past the first yellow buoy, to the second, orange buoy. Turn right at the orange buoy, swim parallel to the beach for maybe 25 yards, and then turn right again at the next orange buoy and swim all the way in. When the siren sounded, I quickly ran into the water and started dolphin diving when it was too deep for me to keep running. The ground underfoot was awfully mucky, so I only got in one or two dives before I started to swim. I was out in the lead, but by the time I got to the first buoy, I spotted another pink cap off to my right about 2 body lengths behind me. She had a strong stroke, so my goal was to fend her off as long as I could. When I made my right turn, the first thing I noticed was the sun, now directly in my eyes every time I breathed to my right. The next thing I noticed was that there were at least 5 other pink caps that were now seemingly ahead or even with me. How did this happen? I immediately assumed that there was some cutting going on, but I just threw my head down and kept swimming hard. I passed a few of the pink caps, but still spotted one just ahead of me as I neared the swim exit. The water is pretty shallow at this race, so we were still about 50-75 yards out when it was shallow enough to touch bottom. I dolphin dived a few more times and all of the sudden I felt a sharp pain in my right big toe. I knew I had stepped on something, I just didn’t know what. I kept moving and figured I’d figure it out later.

T1: 0:40

I quickly grabbed my helmet and threw my sunglasses on and ran out of transition. Last season, I had started mounting my bike with my shoes already clipped in. This season, I haven’t really set aside any time to practice transitions, so I was going at it cold. I got out of transition pretty quickly, but mounting my bike was a different story. I came to a complete stop before trying to get my left foot on top of the shoe, and then when I finally got on, my right foot slipped off. I quickly recovered but when I finally got my foot settled on top, I almost lost the shoe when I tried to put my foot inside. The shoe came unclipped for half a second-I was thankful to be holding the back of it! After this comedy of errors, I finally settled in and started to ride.

Bike, 15 miles: 44:19.6, avg 20.3 mph
The bike was a simple out and back on a flat course. Unfortunately, on the way out, there was a pesky little headwind. It wasn’t much, but it was definitely enough to be annoying. My goal was to not let my watch read slower than 3:00 pace- aka 20mph. I also wanted to let as few female racers pass me as possible. I was feeling pretty strong, passing a few people every now and then, but also getting passed by a few strong riders. Around mile 4ish, a woman passed me on the bike. I checked her leg: 39. Phew, not in my age group. Between miles 6 and 7, another female (27),  a 75 year old man and I started playing leap frog. The girl led into the turn, and as we came out, I powered ahead. However, less than a mile later, she passed me. We played this game for awhile, and I was afraid I was going to get a penalty for drafting. I just could not drop these two. Finally, with about 3 miles to go, I told myself I was NOT going to get beat by a 75 year old man. It was time to turn it on. I powered down the ever so slight downhill, and didn’t stop going hard until I was nearing transition. Neither the older man or  younger woman caught me! Score!

T2: 0:45
I dismounted and quickly found my spot on the rack. As I started to put on my right sock, I saw the dried blood. Yup, whatever I stepped on in the swim got me good. I ignored the urge to see how bad the cut was and threw on my shoes. Off for the run!

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Run 5K: 23:22.9, 7:47/mile
The one thing I remembered about this run was that it was HOT last year. The route was fully exposed and miserable on a ridiculously hot day. It too was a simple out and back. Thankfully, that cool breeze was still around and the sun wasn’t blazing yet. My quads were still a little sore from a track workout a few days prior, but the track had prepared my legs to race. I didn’t have a watch on, so I wasn’t sure what kind of pace I was running, so I just got into the zone and ran. My goal again was to not let any females pass me. I didn’t let any pass me, until about 2 miles in. A woman passed me with just about a mile to go. I kept her in my line of sight for as long as I could, but unfortunately I couldn’t stay with her. I powered through to the end and realized that I had finished 3 minutes faster than my time last year. Yeah!

Total time: 1:15:32.9

I was pretty happy with how my race went. I definitely would have liked to go a little faster on the bike, but all in all I can’t complain. Especially when the race ends with a podium finish 🙂

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First place in my age group baby! I’ve never done a series before, but maybe I’ll need to start so I can try to rack up some points!

Oh, and my toe has a nice little slice from some gulf-dwelling creature. Thankfully, it was a minor cut and it’s healing nicely.