I ran the New Jersey State Sprint Triathlon on Saturday. This is proof that I did indeed survive in one piece: I’m going to begin this post by saying that my attitude going into this race was unlike any race I’ve done in the past. I started running again seventeen days before, after being in pain for seven weeks. Even when I was back to running, I was skeptical about if it was a fluke or if the pain-free state of my “test runs” would last. I was biking and swimming regularly, but I was hating biking, and not confident in my swimming because I was trying not to irritate my leg the entire time. The point is, as I stated to many people last week, I was doing this triathlon. Not racing it. Brennan
talked to lectured me on Wednesday, telling me I was not to get competitive, think I needed to pass everyone, and go try to accomplish anything other than finishing the darn thing without pain. I told her not to worry, that was my only goal! She didn’t believe me at all, but I knew Saturday was going to be one of those days I planned as I went along according to how I felt. Because honestly, nothing was making any sense, so that was the only way this was going to play out. I”m not saying I had no goals or plans whatsoever. They were something like this: Swim: Be strong. Don’t back off. Don’t let anyone swim over you. Don’t let anyone kick you in the face so you’ll get knocked out and drown. Don’t choke on water. Don’t kick too hard and irritate the IT band. Hammer it in after the turn. T1 & T2: Don’t stress, make sure the ITB and everything else is in check and ready to go – stretch if that’s necessary in order to do so. Bike: See how fast these new tires can go. Average a faster speed than last year. Don’t irritate the ITB for the run. Run: Relax. Just do it. Don’t be in pain at any point. Think of River to Sea and Hood to Coast.
I got to the park pretty early. Apparently it was a good time to get there parking-wise, and many people had already arrived, but for my sanity, it was a bit too early. Oh well. I just wanted to start the darn thing. I usually see a lot of people I know, but I only saw a few before the start. I’m usually an extrovert pre-race – chatting with people calms my nerves and gets me pumped up for the race. I know lots of other runners who prefer to listen to music off in some corner alone…while I understand the concept, that is not me. I set up my spot in transition and then finally made my way to the swim start, where they were just starting to allow practice swims to the right side of the actual start. The water was ninety degrees. Ugh. It didn’t feel too bad during the practice swims I took, but I noticed my arms were pretty tired.
SWIM. My wave began at 7:47 AM. Last year, I was just with the F20-24 age group. This year, they merged two age groups so that F20-29 had the same start wave. This scared the crap out of me when I read it, and with good reason. That meant twice as many people were starting in the water at the same time. Twice as many chances to get kicked. And die (sorry, dramatic). As soon as I started swimming, I felt like something was off. There were too many people around me. I couldn’t breathe. I scolded myself, reminding myself of all the time I’d spent in the pool this summer, and the open water swim I did in June that felt totally fine. Even so, I kept looking up, more than I’d intended to, and seeing the buoys with the distance markers on them – 200, 300. I couldn’t believe I was going through such a crisis on the swim. I wanted air, that was all. I wanted to quit and be on my bike immediately. I felt like I was doing horribly. I rounded the big yellow buoy without any trouble, and then the crows in front of me thinned out. I was able to keep my head down more and actually swim normally, to an extent. Everyone seemed to slow down at this point, but it was my plan all along to speed up, so…I did. It was more of a “get-me-out-of-here” motive, however. I hit the ramp and ran out of that ninety-degree lake like it was on fire. T1. To put things frankly, I didn’t really give a crap. I felt like I almost died during the swim from a panic attack (later I would realize it was totally because I wasn’t used to 90 degree water and all those other people…). I had a stomach cramp and I was shaky. I put on my shoes and everything but also didn’t rush too much because I couldn’t catch my breath. Should I have? Well, yes, But again, I didn’t have expectations for this race. More on that later. BIKE. The first part of the ride was mad frustrating. I wanted to fly, because I felt like I completely blew the swim. There were so many people in my way though, and I wasn’t sure how to apply the passing rules when we were still in the park and so many people were riding slowly right in front of me. I was braking a lot, which was annoying and loud, since I just learned my brake pads are now nonexistent. I finally got into a groove when I left the park road, and was holding over 20 mph whenever I could. My max speed got up to 25.7, on a slight downhill. I was picking off people on road bikes with aerobars, and Camelbak vests, and tri shorts, and clips and bike shoes every minute, and it was awesome. I’m pretty sure with all that fancy equipment they should be biking faster, I would think. And then I’d pass them, to show them my broke self was fit, and they could get over it. Disclaimer: these were my actual thoughts during the race, and as bad as they sound, I’m just getting you, the reader, into my head. Cycling angry is an exhilarating feeling. Try it.
T2. It seemed to be all-systems-go on the IT band. I did a little stretching and jogged to the starting mat after racking my bike. I’d gotten my Garmin all set with a couple miles to go on the bike. Why I took the time to put on my Garmin in T1: to make sure I wasn’t running too fast. Coming back from an injury and being in a triathlon, I had a feeling my pacing would be way off at the start of the run. I wanted to make sure I kept it under control. RUN. I saw 6:36-6:40 on my watch the first half mile of the run. What? No, no, no, slowww down! How is this 6:36 pace, it feels like over 7?! I talked myself into relaxing and slowing down eventually. The run hardly felt like a brick, which was weird but way more…um, enjoyable, than last year’s run. I hovered in the 6:50-7:05 range for the rest of the run, thinking about how I felt the whole time so any pain or discomfort in my ITB wouldn’t be ignored. My splits were: 6:53, 7:05, 6:55, 57.47 for 0.16 (5:59 pace). I was surprised at how easy a sub-22 5k in a tri right after an injury felt, but I was pleased with it.
There was a QR code on our bibs that I scanned right after, and it displayed really incorrect results. It said my swim time was 14:55, which made me think that it must have been as awful as I thought. I decided to skip the finish festivities, mostly because last year all the sun and bad food and announcing and party music had just made me overwhelmed. This year especially, I didn’t think I was close to placing in my age group at all, so I might as well get my stuff, take some pictures, and leave knowing I had accomplished what I wanted: I wasn’t hurting! So, you can imagine my surprise when I was at a diner with my parents and checked the official results to find out I had placed fourth in my age group. I think my mom was really confused as to why this made me so angry at the time, but I’m sire some of you will understand. I’d wanted to place last year and was fifth. This year I was hardly trying – for the first time ever, it wasn’t on my radar! What if I had really took it seriously, ran faster and made my transitions faster? Ahhhhhh. I knew exactly why I didn’t do that this time around, but it was still frustrating in a weird way. Then, I found out I’d gotten a medal for being the second New Jersey resident age group finisher…but I wasn’t there to receive it. Oops. This race report is a mix of strange, conflicting emotions, I apologize for that…however, that appears to be most of my blog? Let me take a time-out by sharing some other pictures from the tri…
Overall, all silly frustrations aside, I learned a lot from this race. It was a huge confidence booster for me, not just going into the races I have planned the rest of the summer and the year, but for myself as a runner and athlete in general. It’s good to know I can come off an injury strong, hold myself back, and still do well. It’s good to know I can compete with the other cyclists in tris, now that I can average 19.5 mph on my new tires. It’s good to be back. 🙂