I made a goal, I worked toward it, I stumbled a little bit, I picked myself back up, and last weekend, I finally made it happen. I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon!
The Quick & Dirty
2016 Reston Triathlon
79℉, Mostly Overcast
1500m lake swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run
Overall Rank - 368/396
Age Group Rank (F35-39) - 23/24
Pre-Race & Warm Up:
I tossed and turned most of the night, and woke up frightfully early. Breakfast was two packs of chocolate Belvita breakfast biscuits with peanut butter, a banana, and about ⅔ of a bottle of nuun. Black tea with milk and sugar is my special race day drink of choice, guaranteed to help clear the pipes out. Because who really likes going in the porta potty?! I took a shower to help wake myself up, packed up the gear bags, did a first coat of sunscreen, and made sure J was up and moving. Dramamine and Gin Gins candy were also on the menu, to keep my motion sickness and sensitive stomach in check. Transition opened at 5:30am, and we arrived just a few minutes after. We weren’t anywhere near the first people to arrive! Reston has two transition areas, so J parked at the high school and I set up T2. Since I don't have bike shoes, this basically meant weighing down my hat and race belt as much as possible so they didn't blow away.
Most people were riding their bikes to T1 at the lake, about a mile away, but I was nervous about riding in the dark, so I walked. Warm up, I guess? This is also where I wound up getting really impressive ball of foot blisters. Sigh. I used to wear these flip flops to walk Vivaldi for an hour with no issue, so I have no idea why a 20 minute walk would be an issue. Nothing could be done at that point, so it was time to keep getting ready. I racked my bike, got bodymarked, picked up my chip, and set up my T1. There were plenty of athletes milling around, and I chatted with the others on my rack. I met a girl who was doing her first Olympic, too, and I found that calming. Reston Triathlon is full of super fast racers, so meeting someone else who was in it to complete rather than compete was wonderful.
There were no warm ups allowed in the lake, but the pool was open, so I hopped in and did a couple laps. My REC center pool has been closed since late August, and I had gotten zero swims in the two weeks leading up to the race. Quickly getting in 50 yards in the pool reminded me that yes, I know how to swim. An athlete with an electric violin played the national anthem, and that was actually the first time I remembered that it was 9/11. Before I could worry or dwell about anything they started calling out cap colors, and we lined up. The waves went out 90 seconds apart, and I was in wave 6. Go time!
- 1500m, 41:06 (2:44/100 yards)
- Gear - Coeur Sports Lakota kit, Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 mirrored goggles
- Nutrition - Honey Stinger Caramel Waffle
It was part of my plan to swim easy, but I was really surprised at how slow my time was. I mean, I wasn’t getting out of breath or pushing hard, but I’m not accustomed to that level of exertion equaling such a slow speed. The wasn’t a crowded swim, but I was also always quite close to others, if that makes sense. More people around than at Harborfest, but not some kind of underwater boxing match. Although, around the second and third buoys it got pretty intense. This was the point where I had caught up with the slow men from the wave before me, and was getting caught by the fast men from the wave behind. I got slugged in the head twice and kicked a few times, which was unpleasant. At one point I started kicking really hard to get some ham fisted dude out of my way. No real harm, though. Sighting was much easier with my tinted goggles, so I was glad I had them. I did sight off of the wrong buoy at one point, and got slightly off course, but not too bad. Sadly, the open water app for the Vivoactive is quite inaccurate for distance, so it's hard for me to say how far I actually swam. Overall, I never felt nervous, scared, or anything like that. I just felt like the shoreline was taking its sweet time to approach!
- Nutrition - GU Triberry washed down with double strength Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix in Lemons + Limes
Eventually the swim was over, and after swimming up the super slimy boat ramp and getting a hand from a fantastic volunteer, I was off and transitioning. I trotted over to my bike, wiped off my feet, and got the shoe/sunglass/helmet situation taken care off. My handling skills aren’t strong enough to count on being able to eat on board yet, so I took my gel while still in T1, then headed out to ride
- 24.8 miles, 1:42:04 (14.58mph)
- Gear - Diamondback Podium 1 bike, Trek Vapor 3 helmet
A three loop course with no real climbs or flats, just roller after roller. It is a fun course, and the first loop started off great. As I headed out of T1 I saw J smiling at me. I smiled back, and never really stopped smiling for the whole first loop. Then, somewhere during the second loop, my front derailleur stopped working. I was stuck in the granny gear, which was okay, if a bit overkill, for most of the climbs. I was also forced to coast much more than I wanted to. I fiddled and fiddled, and managed to shift up….and promptly got stuck there. That made the climbs much harder than I wanted them to be, and there was a terrible noise coming from my bike. I was so happy to have friends and family on the course. My parents, brother, J, and even my friend K’s mom were all out cheering for me, and it was so helpful in keeping my attitude in check as I struggled with my bike. My bike is my weakness, so I knew I was going to lose a fair amount of ground on the bike, but I wound up losing even more than I planned. Everything thinned out quite a bit during my third loop, and I even started to wonder if I was the last person out there. Yet still, spectators and volunteers were at most of the corners, cheering. It was incredible! As I approached the high school I made a left turn, and headed down toward T2. I was ready to run!
- Nutrition - About ⅓ pack of Skratch Labs Raspberry Fruit Drops washed down with double strength Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix in Lemons + Limes
I got a little lost coming into transition. There were so many bikes, and I got confused about where I was going. Once I found my place, I racked my bike, grabbed my hat and number belt....then proceeded to stand there and stuff my face! Next season’s big goal is to be able to eat and drink on the bike.
- 6.2 miles, 1:25:07 (13:44 min/mile)
- Gear - Vivobarefoot Stealth II shoes, Nike drifit run hat, Oakley Half Jacket sunglasses
- Nutrition - ⅓ pack Skratch Labs Raspberry Fruit Drops, water at each of the 6 aid stations
Once I gave myself permission to take walk breaks, my “run” sort of fell apart. I would have been far better served if I had set up some regimented run/walk breaks for myself instead. The run course was on the shaded trails of Reston, which meant either going up, going down, or twisting round. So pretty! My muscles, and even my blistered feet, felt fine. Rather it was my breathing/cardio that kept me from being able to run. There were a couple points where my lips felt tingly. What is that about? I trucked along feeling fairly awful for the first couple miles, but got a great boost when I saw my parents and brother somewhere near mile 2. Miles 3-5 went well. When I was moving, I was feeling good and getting it done. I walked up the small hills, as my back and shoulders had been feeling tight since the bike, and my back spasmed a little if I tried to run up the hills. There was one last monster hill toward the stadium, and I had to climb that. After the fact, I realized that all the spectators could see that, so next year I’ll remember to run. But then it was down to the stadium, and a victory lap of sorts to the finish line. And what a beautiful finish line it was. I heard my family cheering, and smiled big the whole home stretch. Finished!
Immediately after crossing the finish line I was given an icy cold washcloth wrapped around a bottle of water. So nice! I also got a beautiful medal (prettiest of the season by far!) and a running hat. I found my family, and someone (my dad?) set up a camp chair for me to sit in. I tried to drink some of my beloved chocolate milk, but I had to stop for fear that it wouldn’t stay down. My skin was entirely crusted over with salt. My body felt pretty stiff, but more than anything I felt quite stupid. Clearly I had left my brain somewhere out on the run course. Once I felt good enough to move around, I hobbled my way to the car, and my family and I went to Be Right Burger for a celebratory lunch.
Overall, I recommend the event. The volunteers were plentiful on race day, and always seemed to know exactly the right thing I needed to hear to keep pushing. There were some information issues that could use improvement. I couldn’t find any information about water stations on the run, so asked on Facebook. I was told there was water at the turnaround, so imagine my surprise when there were actually 3 water stations on the out and back course, making for 6 opportunities for water or Gatorade. Asking on Facebook was also how I found out when transition opened. While I appreciate how promptly my questions were answered, it would have been preferable if I hadn’t needed to ask at all. Having two transition is a bit annoying, and it’s lame that we can’t swim in the lake except during the event. Back on the bright side, can we talk about the swag?! All told, I got a New Balance long sleeve tech shirt, tech socks, Scattante Bliss sunglasses, a multitool, a washcloth, and a finisher hat. And did I mention the really pretty medal?
Goals & Race Post-Mortem
Goals for this race were as follows:
I’d say two out of four. I swam smooth, and I definitely smiled. I thought I was riding smart, but my mechanical issues had me working harder than I wanted to. Looking back at my HR data, my average HR was 169 bpm for the entire leg. Based off the zones I set up from my bike LT test, that’s Zone 5. Way too hard. No wonder I wasn’t able to touch my goal of “Run Strong.” Kind of hard to run when you’ve completely depleted yourself on the bike, no? At least the most important goal (SMILE!) was easy to meet.
For my race O.W.L. based on my time goals, my 3:55:04 earns me a grade of Poor. You’d think that would make me unhappy. I guess there is a part of me that is disappointed. Sure, I wish I’d been faster. On the other hand, how can I not be happy? There’s nothing like a finish line, and this was the best day ever! I can’t wait to improve my bike and run fitness over the winter. I’m also looking forward to racing next season, improving my execution on the bike leg so I can actually run the whole 10k next time. My brain is crowded full of exciting plans, not the least of which is that since this is a local race, I get to come back year after year to gauge my improvement!