Hello helloooooo! Happy Monday! I'm sorry (again) for being so delinquent with the blog. I've been in Texas on vacation, visiting one my dearest friends ever. So, once again, blogging has taken a back seat to life ... which is the way it should be.
I've also been busy busy busy training! I have my big race - the Quakerman Half Iron-distance triathlon - in less than one month. Back in early Summer, I looked at my race calendar and there was a huge gap between my then final two races: the Parvin State Park Sprint Tri in mid-June and the Quakerman on September 7. I needed to fill the gap, so I looked around and found the Steelman Triathlon in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. I have heard terrific things about Steelman, and the race was just yesterday (August 11), which would be great timing. So I signed up. And so did my friends.
Steelman has a sprint and an olympic distance. Because I am using this as a training race for my big race, I went with the longer, olympic distance. And even better: Steelman and Quakerman are held in the same spot! The courses are a little different, but it's the same lake, a similar bike and similar run. Sign.me.up. Here is the sunrise on the marina before the race started. Pretty, right?
Honestly, I didn't have any time goals for this race, which is unlike me. It had been a really long time (because of all my traveling lately) since I did a long swim or even a brick workout (brick = back to back bike and run or swim and bike - they are key to training for a triathlon). So, my goal was to have a strong (for me) swim where I swam the whole time and didn't freak out; to have a strong (for me) bike where I maintained a decent pace and ate to avoid bonking on the run; and a strong run at the end - hopefully hovering around 9:00 miles.
Spoiler alert - it was a *great* race! I finished in 3:00:22. 15th out of 26 in my age group and 271 out of 346 people overall. Not too shabby.
Here are the details and my summary of the course:
Swim: .9 miles -- 32:17
HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Hello. I am so proud of this swim. The fast swimmers out there are probably all LOL that I am proud of a 32:17 time for almost a mile, but this swim was probably one of my strongest ever. First, I did not panic or freak out. Not even for a second. I had real anxiety about the swim: it had been a long time since I did a long swim (3 weeks before when we went to Lake Placid) and when I did that one, I started out way too fast and lost my cool. Plus, the swim course at Steelman looked really really long. Those buoys seemed really far out there. So I warmed up a bit and decided my strategy would be to swim "stupid slow" in the beginning. Once I got into a good rhythm, I could push it a bit more, but in the beginning, keep the heart rate nice and low and just get moving gradually. Oh, and wear a wetsuit. Because, if nothing less, they are so sexy. Increased buoyancy is also a big plus.
|Sorry to cut my friends A and B out of the picture, but I don't post friends' pix here unless they give the OK|
My plan worked. I started slowly but strong and just kept moving. It was great. Heart rate was comfortable. I could breathe. I didn't feel like my wetsuit was choking me. I had plenty of space. And so it went. Once I settled into a groove, I was able to draft off of faster swimmers and held my own.
The course was a point to point swim - you entered at one shore (very rocky) and then swam out to a buoy keeping other buoys to your left, make a left hand turn and then swim a very long straightaway to the marina. I will warn any future Steelmen: the sun was right in your face for most of the swim. I had tinted goggles on and sighting was nearly impossible. I was very fortunate that my wave of swim caps wore neon pink, because I ended up sighting just the pink caps in front of me, since I was blinded by the sun. One nice thing was there were sailboats along the outer perimeter of the course, so you knew where the "edge" was.
It got very congested at one point when the faster swimmers of the wave behind us caught up with us, but it wasn't too bad. Because the waves are spaced 5 minutes apart, if you are a fast swimmer, you are unlikely to have this be an issue.
After the long straight into the sun, you turn left and head toward the pier. There were amazing volunteers to help you out of the water - they even unzipped your wetsuit for you! Nice! You run over a timing mat and head to transition.
GAH! This was far more eventful than I would have liked! I could not get my wetsuit over my timing chip on my ankle! I was starting to go a little carnival freak crazy and finally got the sucker off. There may have been some bad words. And I definitely considered getting out my swiss army knife from my tri-bag and cutting my wetsuit (that would have been a very very bad decision). Once I got the suit off, I threw on my helmet and glasses and shoes and off I went.
Bike: 24.6 miles - 1:29:58 (16.5 mph pace)
I remembered the beginning of the bike course from my Quakerman triathlon last year: it is a punishing .6 mile steep climb and at least 1.5 miles to get out of the park onto the roads. I put it in the small ring before I even started on the bike and just held strong. The park has added *awful* speedbumps on that entry road, which was a pain. They are very steep speed bumps and could be pretty dangerous, especially if you're descending down that hill at the end of the ride.
The bike is my weak spot and least favorite (always) but on this race, my goal was to play around with my "nutrition" plan and just eat as much as possible so I didn't lose steam on the run. I had a full bottle of diluted Gatorade, a full bottle of water, a bag of energy chews, a Gu and a Lara bar. I ate all my food and ended up drinking 3/4 of the gatorade and 1/4 of the water. I felt like I was constantly eating, but that plan paid off, my friends.
The ride is rolling hills - they look far worse than what they actually are. After riding the bike course at Lake Placid and in the Pocono mountains this Summer, the Steelman hills seemed much more manageable. That said, they were definitely a bit challenging and climbing took some effort. I feel that the course was very balanced overall: some nice easy flats where you could "put the hammer down" as the race director suggested, some nice fast descents and some pretty good climbs. It was a fast ride because there was always a change up ahead. The Olympic bike is two loops on the road right outside the park where the swim/transition are. The road is closed to traffic, which is terrific. Sprint and Olympic share the road. Sprint does one loop, while the Olympic does two.
I am thrilled with my T-2 time. Just over a minute. I threw off my bike shoes and put on my sneakers and took off my helmet and put on my race belt. I added my visor while running.
Run: 10k (6.2 miles) - 53:53 (8:42/mile pace)
I never ever judge a triathlon run (or any run, frankly) by the first mile. The first mile of a triathlon run is always a little crazy - your legs are still weird from the bike and you just try to settle into a good pace that you can sustain for whatever distance you are doing. Once my legs settled in, I knew this was going to be a great run. I had fueled properly on the bike, so I was totally set for this run. Rather than think about the 6 miles ahead, I decided to break the run into three 2-mile segments.
The run is on paved trails in a nice shady spot. Despite the race site's claim that the run is "fast and flat", there are some hills, but they are not bad. The Olympic distance does two loops and the Sprint does one. The run was marked with signs at every mile and 1/2 mile to go and was staffed great with water and Gatorade, though no energy gels (be advised in case you do it and plan to use Gu, you'll need to bring your own).
I was psyched to see my pace and really psyched to hit the finish line. I ended up passing a dude close to the finish and resisted the urge to say "ha. chicked ya". I thought that would be mean, especially since he cheered me on. Here are a couple of shots of me sprinting to the finish. In one, I am apparently flashing running gang signs. Keeping it totally normal and classy.
Whew! Long recap for a mid-distance race. I have to say: Steelman was incredibly well run. As soon as I hit the finish line, a volunteer grabbed my ankle chip and someone handed me an iced towel. OH MY GOD. It felt amazing! And rather than give out medals, the race gives folding chairs that say Steelman on them. So nice. The post-race swag is great too: pizza, fruit, gatorade and water. And good (i.e., 80s) music. I'm definitely going to race Steelman again at some point.
So that's my penultimate triathlon of the year. All that is left is Quakerman -- I have a loose time goal of 6:30 for my first half iron. I think I can do it. This race left me feeling really confident, which makes me happy. Once Quakerman is done, I am in marathon-mode, baby! Going to break that 4:00:00 mark yet.
See you swoon,