The 10th annual Rookie Triathlon (a nice, short season opener) was this morning and it was full of challenges, rewards, and lessons. I’ll enumerate some of the lessons learned here.
First of all, I was so glad that I’d done a dry run of the bike course last week, because I took a different route to Decker Lake than I’ve taken in the past and learned that construction prevented a left turn on FM 973 as dictated by my phone’s map—you have to go up to the next turnaround and do a U to actually get onto 973 toward Decker Lake. I would’ve been a nervous wreck if I’d had to figure that out in the wee hours of this morning.
Tip #1: Always scout out your route ahead of time to maintain maximum chillness on the day of the event.
A weird weather development gave us 46 degrees and a lot of wind this AM, so after I set up transition I spent most of my time sitting in my car to stay warm. My teeth were chattering uncontrollably on the way back to the car, which kind of psyched me out. But I waited till 30 minutes before my wave at 8:28, then got out and did some sun salutes in a sunny patch of the parking area, which calmed me considerably and made me psyched in a positive way.
Tip #2: Do some deep breathing in conjunction with yoga (vinyasas) to get yer mind right if you’re a little freaked out. Makes a world of difference.
While hanging in the car, I completed my pre-race ritual of applying waterproof mascara. Since I’m wearing either sunglasses or goggles for 95% of the race, this step is pretty silly, but it always makes me feel better. I also do a manicure and pedicure the day before and apply weapons-grade, long-wearing lipstick—even if I come in last, I’ll look nice. My car was parked right by the parking lot porta-potties and I noted a total lack of line for these, unlike the porta-potties near to the action (by transition and such). Hey now: must note this for future use.
Tip #3: Forget the porta-potties near transition; head out the fringes of the parking lot to skip the lines. Also, indulge in some pre-race rituals if you feel like it, even if they are silly.
Decked out in my new BSS club jersey, I joined my pink-capped wave (40-44 veteran women). The water was 74 degrees, so about 20 degrees warmer than the air at that point, but chilly enough to cause that unavoidable reaction where your lungs seize up when cold water hits your face and you gasp like a fish OUT of water. Between the cold and the waves, WAY more ladies were swimming breast stroke than I’ve ever seen. By the time I hit the buoy at midpoint, I’d acclimated enough to swim a decent crawl with my face in the water, but still took a coughing break when the wind sent a wave down my throat. My age-group wave didn’t spread out like it usually does—we were all slowed down by the actual waves.
Tip #4: If you are having a rough time due to environmental conditions, so is everyone else—so don’t sweat it.
Also slowing me down was lack of training: I’ve been in the water only twice since last August,sooooo… My 8:55 time was much shorter than it felt (if a minute slower than last year’s Rookie).
T1 was almost twice as long as last year, because I took the time to dry off, add a long-sleeved shirt and socks, and position a plastic grocery bag between my chest/belly and wet jersey (great cold-weather tip from Jack & Adams) before heading out on the bike (skipping the ear band and full-fingered gloves that were at the ready). Right away, I noticed that my cyclometer was not picking up any readings—which I took as a sign from the universe to forget about my time and just enjoy the ride. We had a hell of a headwind for the first leg of the course, but I was able to pass a few folks. I had no clue how fast I was going or what kind of time I was making, but I’d chosen the perfect level of insulation (not hot, not chilled) and was just happy to be out there. With a 47-minute ride time, I was only 1:20 faster than last year, despite being on a road bike this year. Granted, I rode the HELL out of my rigid-fork mountain bike last year. Probably would’ve made better time if I knew how fast I was going; I think the sensor needs a new battery.
Tip #5: Check out your equipment the day before to make sure it works!
T2 was also almost twice as long as last year because I skipped my non-lacing tri running shoes in favor of my beloved Kinvaras (and also shed the long-sleeved shirt). I just don’t feel comfortable in my tri shoes, but immediately felt happy when my double-knotted Kinvaras hit the run course.
Trip #6: Taking longer in T2 might be worth it if you are happier once you get out there.
Both the ride and run were short, but I was treating this as training event, so I brought a water bottle of lemon-lime Pure Sport on the bike and downed a mocha ClifShot in the last mile of the bike, just to see if I could combine sport drinks with a gel without negative consequences. My stomach’s opinion is that I should’ve taken that gel about 4 miles before the end of the bike course, so the gel wouldn’t be bouncing around in there like a weird viscous rubber ball. Good to know for longer courses! I checked in with my legs and learned they were ready to keep going, then had a dialogue with my stomach, offering to slow down and take some nice deep breaths if it would cooperate and not cramp up on me. Everyone agreed and I had an OK time of 22:44, or 11:22 per mile. (As a lumbering ox of a runner, this is damn near my fastest pace.)
Tip #7: Try visualization to negotiate peace with any unhappy body parts during the race.
While I was on the run, I realized I’d forgotten to take the plastic grocery bag out of my shirt, so I whipped it out, balled it up, and shoved it in my shorts’ pocket, where it strongly resembled the big ole lipoma (benign, free-standing ball of fat) found on the side of my dog, which made me giggle.
As I went into the last mile, I focused on maintaining good posture and pumping my arms faster, as I learned at Rogue that the faster the arms, the faster the legs. The run course at Decker Lake is actually a trail run; we were mostly in trees on a trail of giant wood chips (like the crudest mulch ever) that somehow all seemed to be uphill. About the last 1/3 mile is on park road where you can look out over the lake you fished yourself out of not long before. One feature of tris I love is getting to see the sun come up over the water we’re swimming in that day (although you can’t see the sunrise if you are hiding from the wind in the car).
Overall finish was 1:28:30, not far from the overall women’s average of 1:23:18. Overall, I had a lovely morning and enjoyed myself thoroughly, which is the best outcome possible.
In the post-race beer corral (love you, New Belgium!), where magically delicious Fat Tire and some summery brew that tasted faintly of citrus were being served. I chatted with some other BSS club members, who taught me the final lesson of the day.
Tip #8: If you want to leave the beer corral with your beer, pour it into an opaque water bottle. Travel ready! You can then roam the vendor stands and food tent at will.