Why yes, it’s January 12th and I’ve already done my first triathlon of the 2017 season. Pretty crazy, eh? This year is shaping up to be a season chock full of racing and training, and I’m really excited about it. I’ll be doing a post soon with my schedule so you can see for yourself what I’ll be up to, but for now I’ll start you with my first race report of 2017, the HITS Naples Olympic Distance race.
It seems to me that January/February in Florida can sometimes have unpredictable weather. Some days it will be that beautiful cool weather in the morning and then warm up to a comfortable mid to high 70s. Other days, you’ll ask yourself, “Where did winter go?” as you sweat it out in 85 and 90% humidity. And sometimes, we’ll get a cold snap and temperatures will drop into the 30s-40s. Well, the weekend of the HITS Naples race we had some less than ideal triathlon weather. On Saturday, for the Half and Full distance, though it was in the 70s, it thunderstormed off and on all day. The race still went off as planned, but the athletes dealt with wind and spurts of rain, often coming down in buckets.
On Saturday night, temperatures dropped dramatically, and when I woke up on Sunday morning, it was 42 out with a real feel of 35 degrees. BRR! I had been watching the weather pretty closely, so I had made sure to stop by the Naples Cyclery on Saturday and stock up on cold weather cycling gear since I don’t really own any. This would prove to be a very, very, good decision.
Sunday morning I had my typical breakfast of oatmeal, banana and nut butter, and then my parents and I drove to the race site around 6am. Transition for the Olympic distance athletes was open until 7:05, and we were staying about 10 minutes away, so this would gave me enough time to get there, deal with traffic, park, and get set up in transition. We did have to wait in a little bit of a line to get into the parking garage, but I think we were parked by 6:20/6:25.
I got set up in transition, and then went back to the car for a little to stay as warm as possible for as long as possible. I put on my wetsuit and then made my way to the beach in time for the sprint start. When I got to the beach, I was shocked at how close the buoys were to the beach. And, that they had guards holding them by their lines! The current was moving swiftly south and it was windy out. Oh, and there was a riptide warning in effect until 7pm that night. NBD. I huddled behind some stacks of beach chairs to stay out of the wind and watched the sprint start. Many of the athletes struggled to get out to the first buoy- they walked back out of the water, moved further north on the beach and then tried again. There wasn’t much swimming to get to that first buoy either. It was a few dolphin dives, and then a lot of people just walked. Once the athletes had made the first turn, there was more walking. I joked that they probably could have just floated to the other buoy faster than they were walking. This was certainly not a typical triathlon swim, and I was soon to experience it myself.
After the sprint swimmers were done, the RD actually had the guards move the buoys a little further out, but the northern buoy was moved south of where it had been, so it was now south of the starting flag. Smart move! I stayed bundled up as long as I could, did some mobility work to get my joints and muscles a little warm, and then when it was 4 minutes from the start, I quickly disrobed, did some more warm up/mobility work and then it was go time!
I’m not so certain I would call this a swim. It was more like a surf dash, which I used to do as a guard back in the day. But this was the longest one I’d ever done, and the air was definitely colder than the beautiful summers in Jersey. The water was much warmer than the air, so it actually felt good to get in. However, the current was not fun (and this is coming from someone who loves rough water!).
I basically dolphin dived my way out to the first buoy, and I could kinda start swimming to get around it. Then, I tried swimming parallel to the beach towards the other buoy, but it was really hard to get into a rhythm. We were right in the break, and the waves were coming in sloppy. The current was moving so fast that you were at the next buoy before you knew it.
When I approached the south turn buoy, the lovely rising sun was directly in my eyes, but I turned and tried to catch a wave. At that point, I saw another female catching me on the left. On the way in, we were stroke for stroke. The way in was challenging because you were getting pulled hard to the south, and you really just needed to let it take you, rather than to fight it in hopes of a shorter run. It was also the deepest part of the whole swim! Finally my fingers touched and the girl and I got up and high knee-d it out.
We ran on the beach about 125 yards or so, and OMG was it COLD. My feet!! At this point, my heart rate was spiking, and I knew I needed to chill out a little for my own safety in the rough water. So, I backed off a little, let the other girl go (who, by the way, wasn’t wearing a wetsuit!!), and repeated that same loop. The second loop was much of the same. I had to fight the current to get around the first buoy, and then again, no falling into a groove at all as I went parallel to the beach. It was a matter of just making it through this water part of the triathlon and getting to the bike!
I made it out of the water in second place, and up on the beach I heard someone say I was 40 seconds behind. The competitor in me was like, “go get her!” but I was just here to have fun, so I tried not to worry about it!
T1:00:04:22.384. Yes, I spent nearly 4 and a half minutes in transition during an Olympic distance race.
OMG slowest transition ever. But, I totally expected it. I was going to take my sweet time to make sure I was going to be warm for the bike. And, man was it worth it! HITS provides these nice stools to sit on, and in a normal Olympic I would NEVER sit on it. But today was not a normal Olympic. I sat on it, with my wetsuit half off and my towel wrapped around me and I dried off as much as I could. My toes and fingers were SO cold. I had more trouble than usual getting the wetsuit off my legs, and I’ve never had toes that numb before. I seriously was wondering if this is what it felt like to have dead toes. I took my time putting on my base layer, arm warmers, jersey, knee warmers, gloves, socks and shoes. I did not want to be miserable on the bike!
I started the bike and I wasn’t sure if I was actually warm or if I was just numb. But, I realized that hey, I was actually warm! All the layers, the new knee warmers and the toe covers were doing their job and it was amazing. I’m pretty sure this was the first time ever I was happy to be out of the water and on the bike. I smiled and told myself just to have fun and think about my RPE. Be strong and don’t over do it!
The course was an out and back: we pretty much went due east for 12 miles and then came back. I think the wind was blowing 15-20 mph from the north, which meant that most of the course would have cross winds. There was a short section of the course where we rode on a North/South street so we got the benefit of a tailwind on the way out and a direct headwind on the way back, but the rest of the ride was all cross wind. For the most part, the roads were lined with trees and/or developments which blocked a little bit of the wind, but when we crossed the north/south streets, you really felt it blow. There were several times where I definitely felt my wheel get blown a little by the wind. I was thankful I wasn’t using 808s! I tried to stay around what I perceived to be Z3/4. I was passing people and it was great! The best part of the ride was certainly the short part where we went south. Hello 25mph without really working hard! Unfortunately, it was short lived. I passed several woman on the bike, and I was a little surprised by how many had made it in front of me during transition. I was really, really slow! In the last 5 miles, I passed two women who were looking pretty strong. The three of us traded places a few times, and I tried really hard to stay legal. In the last mile or so, I told myself I was NOT going to let these girls beat me, so I pedaled in HARD to leave them behind. Right before dismount, there was a bit of traffic, and some oblivious drivers. I had to slow way down and sneak past them. It was a little scary, but I still was able to get into transition in front of the two women. I think this put me back in second place.
I quickly took off my helmet and shoes, and put on my run gear. This was a much faster transition than T1. I saw one woman get out of transition in front of me. I wasn’t sure if it was one of the two ladies I had just passed on the bike or if she had been in there before. Regardless, I was in and out pretty quickly, and I was ready to have a solid run!
It was a beautiful day for a run, and my plan was to run strong for the first four miles and then really pick it up on the last two. I left transition in 2nd place, and settled in to a comfortably pace pretty quickly. My biggest problem was that my feet were still numb. Every step hurt, but not in an omg I need to stop kinda way- it was like my feet were asleep, but beyond that tingling feeling. I was worried that if I actually did run on a nail or anything crazy like that, I wouldn’t have known! Eventually, my toes moved into that tingling feeling and then I could finally feel them about halfway through the run.
The run course was an out and back which we did twice. About a mile and a quarter in, you made a right turn, went over a small bridge and then hit the turnaround. Then, of course, you went back over the bridge, made a left onto the straight portion until you turned around and did it again. Out and backs are both good and bad because you can see your competition all along the way! I wasn’t in 2nd for long; the girl who eventually won passed me less than half a mile in. She was speedy! I was running comfortably, focusing on my form and just enjoying this part of the day. I was pleased when the first mile beeped at 8:40- not bad for the effort I felt I was putting out.
The rest of the run I tried to stay laser focused on execution. Yes, I was paying attention a little to the girls behind me as I made the turnaround, noticing that they were gaining ground, but I really felt like I was being in the moment during this run. Mile 2 ticked off at 8:40 also. Solid. I picked it up a little too much on mile 3, perhaps because I was close to the small crowd at the finish line, so I slowed a smidge. At around mile 5, at the right turn to go over the little bridge before the turn around, two girls wearing Iowa State kits passed me. “College kids”, I thought to myself. They were moving, and I wasn’t going to try to stay with them. I made my last turn around and was headed over the little bridge, when I noticed two girls behind me, maybe a quarter mile or so, one of which looked like she was running strong, and making up ground. I told myself that now was the time to dig deep and let it all out of the tank. So, I picked it up a notch. My watch had just beeped for 6 miles, when a group of girls yelled “Go Tiffany!” OMG the girl behind me had caught up. Go Steph, Go. Just then, she passed me, and the competitor in me said “Oh no she didn’t!” and then I passed her back. At this point in the course there was a quick left, right, left before the finish chute- I really pushed hard here. But, whoa, that effort was not sustainable, so I backed off a smidge and she passed me again. We were just about in the chute, and hearing the crowd energized me to give it all I had for the last 50 yards. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and I ended up .4 behind her.
Gah! Despite being out run, I am still quite pleased with my result. It was a solid was to kick of these season, especially considering I hadn’t done any specific training for this race. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!
Big shout out to my mom and dad for being out there all morning to cheer me on and take photos! Thanks!