Hi and happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend. It was stunning here in the Philadelphia area on Saturday - a perfect day for a triathlon! And that's what I did. I raced the Parvin State Park Sprint Triathlon in my hometown in South Jersey. I did this race last year and for a variety of reasons it was a tough one. So I came back this year with several goals in mind. And I came home with this:
That's right - I placed! I got a medal --- errr .... key chain! I came in third in my age group, which I still cannot believe. I am thrilled!
Last year, the Parvin tri was my second triathlon ever. I loved the idea of racing so close to home: turns out, my hometown is a great place for triathlon, as there is an abundance of lakes and lots of country roads with very little traffic, which is perfect for biking and running. Last year, I was bummed that the swim was canceled because due to "high fecal content", the lake was not suitable for swimming. Oy. So the organizers turned the race into a duathlon, which means there was a short run in place of the swim. I was disappointed, but thought hey, I can run so this is fine! I will tell you: duathlons are far harder than triathlons because you are constantly working the legs. So where you'd be focusing on arms and chest, and resting your legs, during the swim, you are instead taxing all those leg muscles from the get-go. Now, add to that, last year I was not knowledgeable at all about my bike. I did not change gears properly (which is to say I wasn't changing them at all), and I did not check my tire pressure before the race, so I was riding on very low tires. I am lucky, especially given the bumps and lumps in the roads, that I did not get a flat!
Last year, my time was 1:32:44. I came in 149 of 196 people. The breakdown:
Run 1 (2 miles): 8:34 pace
Bike (12 miles): 46:14 (15.6 mph)
Run 2 (5K): 9:01 pace
This year, I had four goals:
(1) First and foremost, do not panic on the swim. At all.
(2) Kill the bike - try to average 18 mph
(3) Finish around 1:20
(4) HAVE FUN.
All four accomplished! The big fat cherry on top was the fact that I snagged a third place age group slot. Woo hoo!
My total time was 1:20:41, which was 92 of 139 people. Kind of amazing that I was able to place given there were only 45 people behind me ... but I will take it.
One of the greatest things about triathlon is how small the tri-world is. I ran into two people I knew: one was a friend of my two cousins, and I met him at a random night out around Christmas. He and his family live in South Jersey too, and we remembered each other, so we hung out before the race. The other was an older guy that I met at an open water swim clinic here in PA. His son is training for Ironman Lake Placid, and Albert (the father) just got into triathlon at the son's encouragement and now they do races together. So sweet! After the race, I ran into Albert again, and he insisted on getting the above picture of me with my medal.
Here are the specifics of this year's race:
Swim: 1/4 mile -- 11:06 [90 of 139]
The swim is in Lake Parvin - a nice sized lake in the middle of the state park. I swam in this lake as a kid, and it was about as I remember: a little dark, cool but otherwise OK. I brought my new sleeveless wetsuit, and I'm really glad I did. I'd say about 3/4 of the swimmers wore a wetsuit, but it wasn't absolutely necessary (unlike the swim at Devilman where the water was coooold). They had three waves of swimmers: (1) men 44 and under (blue caps); (2) men 45 and up (green caps); and (3) all women (white caps). Each wave was spaced three minutes apart. The course was extremely well marked and was a clockwise circle around the buoys. There were a bunch of buoys marking the way to each turn and the turns had larger buoys. Sighting, except for some peeks of sun, was very easy.
I have been practicing open water swimming in a local lake for a few months now. I'm far more comfortable swimming in open water (and, in fact, I prefer it to pools these days), so I was confident I would get in and not freak out, or, if I did freak out, I could settle down quicker than usual. My friends: no panic! None at all. The horn went off for my wave, and I just started swimming and didn't stop. I certainly wasn't tearing it up speed-wise, but that will be at a different race. I decided to take this one at a comfortable pace - to just swim, work on swimming with a pack, work on sighting and see if I could swim the entire swim leg without a moment of panic. And ... success! I even passed a few green caps, which meant I was coming ahead of some of the wave ahead of me!
I cannot tell you how happy I am about this swim. I feel like I have done tremendous work taming my open water demons. Now I can work on speed.
If you're thinking of doing this race, bring a wetsuit. I was disappointed when I asked the race organizers what the water temp was and no one knew. The best answer I got was "well, it's not hot." I guess they determined it was ok to wear a wetsuit, so that was all we needed to know.
T1: 1:57 [99 of 139]
Out of the water, you run up a very grainy-sandy beach to transition. While I ran, I unzipped the top of my wetsuit and took off my goggles and cap. I had managed to snag an end spot on the racks at transition, so I had plenty of room to get my wetsuit off and put on my cycling shoes. I ended up sitting on the ground because that sand was really thick on my feet, so I took my extra towel and really cleaned off my feet before putting on socks and shoes. I threw on my helmet and glasses and off I went.
Bike: 12 miles -- 40:47 (avg. 17.7 mph) [99 of 139]
The bike was the same as last year: overall very flat. There were a few little hills here and there, but nothing that required me to change out of my left shifting gears to really low gears. The bike felt very hard at first. I felt like I was really laboring and breathing hard, which was frustrating because the roads were flat. I played around with my right gears and finally settled into a good pace. I also focused on pedaling. I set my goal of not being passed by any women. I was eventually passed by two, neither of whom were in my age group. But then on the last mile, I passed one of them! After about 7 miles on the bike, I felt really good and was in a great groove. I guess I just need the first few miles to warm up and settle into a good pace. I ate a bunch of energy chews on the bike ride. I knew I'd need a little boost for the run. My favorite part was getting cheered on by a guy outside his house - he gave a "you go girl!" and a catcall. Ha! Before I knew it, it was time to dismount. I looked at my watch and it was a total race time of about 52 minutes. I knew if I could keep my run pace under 9 minutes, I'd be able to make my 1:20 time goal.
T2: 0:58 [37 of 139]
T2 was uneventful and obviously, since I was 37th overall, I did well at it. I just threw on my shoes (thank you speed laces!), took off my helmet, put on my race belt and grabbed my visor, which I put on while running.
Run: 5k -- 25:54 (8:22 per mile) [86 of 139]
The run is an out and back through the park and around part of the lake. I really like this run: it's very shady and on mostly paved trails. There is a stretch on grass and a dirt trail, which is very narrow, but other than that, it's easy to navigate and well marked. There is only one aid station and all they had is water, but it's only a sprint tri, so there really is not need for more than that.
It took about a mile for me to get my breathing and pace under control. At the mile mark, my pace was 8:22 and it felt every bit of it! Once I hit that first mile, my legs and breathing felt more normal and I was able to just run. I noticed there were very few women coming back toward me, so I figured I was doing pretty well, at least among women. At the turn around, I saw a couple of women on my heels and decided to pick up the pace. At the aid station, I didn't drink the water, but poured it all over me, which felt amazing.
The aid station was mile 2, so I knew I needed to just hang on. About a half mile later, a woman passed me and I saw her age on her leg: 36. Argh. I tried to keep up, but she literally blew past me. I was determined to keep my place. Another 1/4 mile later, I came behind a woman who had 39 on her leg. I decided I would pass her - I dug in and ran hard and blew past her, just like 36 blew past me. My watch said 1:19, so I knew I was close. I sprinted through the finish and my time was 1:20:41. So so so happy!
This race has a great post-race spread: lots of water and gatorade, plus fresh fruit (including watermelon OMG), sandwiches, bagels, and pretzels. Yummy.
I think the recap may have been longer than the actual race!
It was so cool to walk away with the medal and to hear them call my name at the awards ceremony. I've come in 4th in my age group in a handful of races -- just out of reach! So to finally make it was just thrilling for me. And I will be totally honest ... I am far more proud and happy about my strong, non-panic, swim than I am about placing. Sounds crazy, yes. But the swim is a necessary skill for the sport and being able to start, and maintain, a strong confident swim is something I needed to master, and it is something I have worked hard on. That I finally got to the other side is priceless.
So there you go. A happy day, a great race and a little bling. Nothing better! I have two more triathlons left this season: Steelman (olympic distance) in Quakertown, PA in early August and Quakerman (half iron distance) in Quakertown, PA in early September. In the meantime, I will be swim-bike-running every chance I get.
See you swoon