Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sometimes racing is training!

I entered the Subaru Vancouver half-iron on a whim only four days before race day.  The weather forecast was looking decent and my recovery post-Boise was at a point where I felt I could at least put in a training effort for the duration of the race.  After all, the race is basically in my backyard and is a fantastic opportunity to try out some new things during a race that otherwise holds very little priority for me.

So this race report is essentially my personal assessment of how I faired compared to my very quickly drawn up objectives for this training race.   It is also interesting to have quantifiable comparatives since I did the same race last year.

Swim Goal - Be Calm, Cool, Collected.
2010 result:  37:27;  2011 result: 35:47, -1:40

The swim is undeniably my weakest link.  I am extremely nervous in the water and not a comfortable swimmer in the least - swimming in large groups of churning open water is absolutely panic-inducing.  I hyperventilate, forget everything I have ever learned and usually end up doing some version of the funky chicken backstroke.

Today was no exception - I failed miserably in my attempt to stay CCC, and even did WORSE at controlling my panic than I did at the Canada Day 2k only two days ago.  The first lap of the course was miserable, and I just could not pull myself together.  I collected myself on land after the first lap and managed to talk myself back into getting in, but barely.  It was a rough, frustrating swim and I never got comfortable.

Swim objective rating:  FAIL.
Serious, serious work on composure in open water starts required.

Bike Goal:  Tone it Down.
2010 result: 2:44:42;  2011 result: 2:39:28, -5:14

While I felt that I could improve on last year's time, I wanted to experiment with generally toning down my bike speed to see if it would improve my run.  My time goal was 2:40 - this is about 5 minutes slower than Boise, but still almost 5 minutes faster than last year.  I also wanted to ensure that I was taking in nutrition properly - gel every 30 minutes and a bottle of GU Brew per hour.

I find this bike course difficult - the 4 laps at UBC are choppy and I find it challenging to get in a rhythm.  By the second lap, you get lost in the sea of riders doing different paces and the turnarounds really mess up consistency.  There are short fast sections, but it is very, very broken up.  I rode the first lap at about 80% effort and was pleased to find that I was dead on goal pace at 40 minutes.  Overall, my ride felt very comfortable, and none of my previous headache or vision problems reappeared.  It was a somewhat frustrating to make a concerted effort to slow down to ensure I took in my nutrition, but that was the plan so I stuck with it.  It was also difficult to hold back and not push the way I usually do on the bike. Time-wise, I executed exactly on plan albeit feeling like I had left quite a bit out on the course.

Ride objective rating:  SATISFACTORY WITH COMMENTS.
Although I felt great getting off the bike, think I left a little too much out there.  The nutrition plan worked well, but still feel that I have not found the exertion-level sweet spot.

Run Goal:  Hang it Together, No Stopping!
2010 result: 1:35:34; 2011 result: 1:28:26, -7:08

Aside from my very first sprint tri (which was incidentally 2 years ago today!), I have never run well off the bike.  My tri run has always been a battle of attrition and sheer will, the results of which have always fallen far short of my open times.  With a concerted effort this year to improve my run efficiency and leg speed, particularly on shorter, more intense distances, I have PB'd all my open distances from 5k through 21k - this has put more pressure to improve my tri run times because I know I can do the pace.  It's just about hanging the run together after time spent on the bike.

My goal pace was a 4:30/km.  This is quite a bit slower than my most recent half-marathon pace of 4:08, but I have never managed to stay at 4:30/km during a half-iron much less anything faster, so I didn't want to overextend my wish list too much.  Coming off Boise I have also not been doing much run work - only 20-30k per week - so felt that 4:30 was a realistic goal.

To my dismay, my left sock was missing from my shoe in T2 so after rifling through all my belongings (and wasting way too much time), the run started on a frustrating downturn.  I would be the one-sock girl today...and the chafing on my left foot started almost immediately.  Despite the discomfort (my foot is a blistery, bleeding mess!), I was able to ease into a 4:30 pace very readily and surprisingly found the pace to be extremely comfortable.  5k passed, 10k passed, then 15k....all very quickly and I felt great.  The last 5k was a bit tough due to some serious headwind, but I knew that the tailwind would be there to carry me home.

Nutrition-wise, I have always suffered stomach upset on the run, so decided to carry with me a small flask of flat cola to get through the first 6-8k.  It was great!!  Not only did I not need to worry about sloshing drinks all over me at the aid stations, but the flat cola totally settled my stomach and was enough to get me through the run without having to rely on the dodgy race-supplied carb drink...which I knew from past experience does not work for me.  I also managed to take care of (ahem) my "business" on the bike so was able to go without my typical potty stop during the run....I realize that this may be TMI for some, but the 2 minutes or more spent dallying at a porta-potty is a huge time waster!

Unlike Boise, not a single person passed me on the run today.  Also unlike Boise, which was a total sufferfest at which I walked almost every aid station, I walked only once for about 15 seconds to take down my gel with some water.  I played my own game, using my rules and my pace.  It was a great feeling to finish strong.      

Ride objective rating:  EUREKA!!!!!
So very happy with the run today - it was consistent and comfortable.  Will I try to go faster?  Yup.  But for today, I'm happy as can be.

Overall 2010 result:  5:02:48.

So apparently sometimes racing can be training.  Despite the very positive end result and finally breaking that magic 5 hour barrier (albeit on a short course), I believe I can do better.....but continuous improvement is really why we do this sport, isn't it?  I learned more today than I do on most training weekends, and now can turn my attention over the next couple of months to applying the lessons learned today. :)  

W35-39 podium!  Yay!!
Thanks and props to the good folks at Speed Theory for their support, for everyone who volunteered and everyone who came out early on their Sunday morning to cheer!  It was a beautiful summer day!  

1 comment:

  1. I think you are far too hard on yourself. Congratulations on racing so well today