Saturday, June 14, 2008

Liberty Triathlon June 2008

I was chatting to Susan the other night about Liberty and was saying something about hoping not to have a bad race. To which Susan responded “And when have you ever had a bad race?” Point taken - with a few exceptions going back to 2005/2006 I seem to have a habit of doing well on the day. But when I wrote in my last blog entry that my goal was 5:24 I really didn’t believe I’d do any better than that – and would have been happy with a few minutes slower. As it turned out I did have another great race. And as I write this I am still trying to figure out how I managed to pull it off...

Pre-race - with my bike marker (No, that is not an Italian flag)

This was my second year at Liberty and after a 5:29 last year I figured taking a few minutes off would be a good start to the triathlon season. I had no real aspirations of improving my PR (5:22 at Pigman last August) and mostly was looking forward to testing out my Tri bike that I purchased a few months ago and have really been enjoying riding. Best of all it promised to be a fun day with a great group of friends and training partners participating in both the Olympic distance and the Half. I picked Pam up at 6am this morning, after a stop at Starbucks to wake me up. We got to Lake Independence to find a pretty full car-park… so much for getting there early! But there was plenty of room on the bike rack and we got ourselves organized pretty easily. Carrie and Susan, also doing the Half, were racked nearby, with Tanya and Karen further up in the Olympic section. The hour went by pretty quickly and next thing it was time to try out the water. I wasn’t looking forward to this having not been in the lake yet this season. But amazingly it felt great. It was cool alright but better than expected. We chatted on the beach as we watched the first few waves take off and then it was our turn – all the ladies going in the water together with the exception of the Elites who were ahead of us. Though I didn’t realize this at the time so when I was busy counting the ladies ahead of me on the out-and-back run course I was actually doing better than I thought!

The swim was as usual a bit of a struggle. My heart rate was way too high and after all my efforts finally learning to breathe both sides what did I do but breathe on the right the whole way. Not a good idea when you have my right shoulder. I’ve been stretching my neck every five minutes this evening to try to loosen it out… I kept pretty well on track with the buoys and swam along side a girl in an Orca wetsuit for several hundred meters which I think helped me keep some sort of pace. Out of the water in just under 42 minutes followed by a short run up the steps and into transition where there were very few bikes remaining! Still, I was happy enough with my time. Although, you would think the 2500 yards in the pool 2 or 3 times a week since January would have helped improve my time over last years... which leaves me questioning why I bother with swim practice at all!

Onto the bike and up the narrow path (surely they could find a way to let us exit the park via the road?) before heading out on route 19. It didn’t take long to notice the wind against us as we headed west. I felt great in the early miles but kept telling myself to stay below 22 mph or I would pay for it later. It’s a pretty hilly course so while I was delighted to be averaging 20 mph through 20 miles I didn’t feel at all confident that I could keep it up. My pace dropped a little through mile 30 after facing into the wind for several miles but picked up again as we turned around so that I hit mile 40 in just under 2 hours. Wow – what was going on here? Around mile 45 my legs started to feel fatigued but once I got up the steep hill from 201 onto County Road 24 for the second time I was feeling pretty good about finishing strong. I had seen Carrie on the out and back section and met Pam at the turnaround. Despite the wind as we headed back towards Lake Independence I kept a good pace and was delighted to be a little under 2:50 as we turned into the park. Carrie (a.k.a. Hawaii qualifier) had the misfortune of a flat tire a few miles from the end which is the only reason she was heading out of transition just ahead of me, with Pam just behind.

The run began with a hill up a woodchip trail which felt quite familiar to me although not entirely welcome at that point as I was tried to stretch out my legs. Pretty quickly I figured out that a 1:40 would get me a PR. Even a 1:45 would have but I had messed up my watch a little so wasn’t entirely sure where I was at. The run course is very pretty as the path winds its way through Baker Park Reserve. I passed a few ladies early on and then it was all guys for several miles. Thinking back to last year when I’d been about 12 minutes slower on the bike and had about 10 ladies ahead of me on the run I figured there were probably less than that today. And by the turnaround I had counted 7. I knew I hadn’t a chance of catching the leaders but was confident of passing a few. But that was before the cramping started at mile 8. I’d been putting in sub-7:30s with mile 7 just under 7 minutes and best of all I felt pretty relaxed. I wasn’t wearing my heart rate monitor but felt like I was no more than 155 bpm. But then without any warning I got a bad pain in my lower right abdomen. It stayed with me for the rest of the run forcing me to stop several times. I’ve rarely experienced cramping this bad. I woke up this morning feeling a little dehydrated but had taken several bottles of water-PowerAde mix to fix that. I had a glass of wine last night to settle the nerves and help me sleep so maybe that had something to do with it but I felt like I needed it at the time! I’d had a pretty busy week at work so I wasn’t thinking too much about the race until yesterday when I had major butterflies on and off throughout the day and was restless last night (mind you, there could have been another reason for the butterflies...). However, while I felt good at the start of the race, I stupidly drank very little on the bike – less than 10 oz. So I expect that was the main cause. I took water and/or coke at every aid station, as well as salt tablets, pretzels, and the several clif blocks I was carrying but I guess it was a bit late to fully mend the situation. At mile 10 I knew it was still possible to get under 1:40 but wasn’t confident I could keep below 8 minute miles. My saving grace was seeing a girl a few hundred feet ahead. I put all my energy into moving towards her and just focused on a steady stride and steady breathing. I passed her after a few minutes and then around the corner saw another girl (read: target) up ahead. This was just what I needed to take my mind of how I was feeling. By the time I reached the 12 mile mark I was feeling pretty confident that the cramping would not get any worse and started to pick up the pace slightly. Up the hill, through the tunnel and soon we were back in the campground. I continued to pick up the pace as I approached the trail again and ran hard down the hill towards the lake and then a pretty strong finish down the home straight.

While I am delighted with my overall time I was a little disappointed with my run (I can’t just be happy can I?). I managed the fastest run for the women today but had been hoping to do under 1:38 though I kept this goal to myself. 1:38 is my half marathon PR but it's been a long time since I raced one so I figure it's time to break that record - even during a half ironman... but I guess the faster bike, and dehydration, put a stop to that. Which leads me to wonder how I should approach this distance in the future… do I hammer it on the bike and likely suffer somewhat on the run or do I ease up a bit on the bike and be able to run stronger? I guess today was a good test and has left me feeling confident that with a good bike I can still do a decent run even if it hurts more than I’d like. My goal for IM Arizona is 11:22 but perhaps I’ll be re-configuring how I plan to achieve that!

Tanya - Susan - Helen - Carrie

The stats...
Swim: 42:34 (2:01/100 yards)
T1: 2:25
Bike: 2:48:33 (19.9 mph)
T2: 1:47
Run: 1:39:46 (7:37 min/mile)
Total: 5:15:02

4th Female Overall
3rd in Age Group

1st & 2nd place in my age group were from Ontario and North Dakota respectively. I was complaining about foreigners coming here taking the top spots away from us locals... I wasn't long being reminded what colour my passport is :)

1 comment:

keith said...

Nice job, Helen! Sounds like you had a great day and muscled through some challenges to finish very well!

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