Monday, May 20, 2013

Three races in three weeks...

The last time that I raced three times in three weeks was 2005 when I raced Ironman Hawaii, Xterra Maui and the San Diego Triathlon Challenge on consecutive weekends. This time around my three races in three weeks was a much gentler affair with a half-marathon, a 5k and a Sprint distance triathlon.

After the Oceanside race, I returned to San Francisco and got sick... crazy, snotty, head cold sick... it even migrated a little bit to my chest so I spent the first few weeks in April laying low and doing light workouts to keep the body moving. It also meant that I missed two 10k running races that I had planned. A key focus for me right now is to develop some more run speed as I prep for my next major race this season (Vineman 70.3 in July) and I wanted to incorporate some running races to give me some goals, get me used to hurting on the run and to have some *results* to show for my training!

Thankfully, towards the end of April I was recovered enough to start training full bore once more and to slowly ramp up the running. I still had one more running race on the calendar but I had definitely lost a few weeks of training so pace goals were out the window!

On May 5th, I toed the line at the Pleasanton half-marathon. Pleasanton is in the East Bay and is a solid 45min drive from SF so I was up at 4:30am to eat breakfast and then make the drive east for the 7am start. I positioned myself alongside the 1:40 pace group, hoping that I would be able to inch my way ahead of this group and run 1:3X something. I started running 7:35 min/miles and felt fine for about 2-3 miles but that pace required focus for sure! I maintained this pace through 8 miles when I had to take a bathroom break and suddenly recorded an 8:30min/mi. I got back on pace for mile 9 with a 7:35 min/mi but started to struggle for miles 10-12 with the pace slipping to 7:50. I ate a couple of Clif Bloks and recovered with a last mile of 7:30 and finished with a total time just over 1:40, a few minutes off my PR of 1:37:15. However, at such a small race, it was good enough for top ten overall (9th female) and first place in my age-group. While far from a great result, the run pacing was as fast as the 10k that I did in March, so it illustrates a little progress... more than twice the distance... same pace!

The following weekend was the Girls on the Run 5k. This spring I have been a running buddy to an 8 year old girl (Lyla) as she trained for her first running race . I discovered that pacing does not come naturally to 8 year olds so in training we focused on "talking while running". Also, her love of animals made some of the training run challenging as she would want to stop and pet every dog in the neighborhood on our runs! However, I was super excited to help her run the entire course of the 5k race and in a great time... she averaged ~11min/miles which is pretty impressive for such a tiny little girl! The highlight for me was seeing her happy face when she received her very first finisher's medal... She also designed and wrote me the sweetest note... melted my heart!

The final race of my trifecta was yesterday's Morgan Hill Sprint triathlon. It's a long sprint race as the distances are 0.75mile swim, 16mile bike and a 5mile run. With such a short bike and relatively longer swim/run, it hardly caters to my strengths but I figured it would be a fun test of my recent swim and run training (with Matt Dixon of PurplePatch).
I attempted this race in 2012 but flatted 200 yards out of T1 (I was not carrying a spare) so I re-racked my bike and just did the 5mile run. What's more, on the drive home from that race, my TT bike flew off the car in the middle of the freeway and was destroyed :( I wanted some major redemption at this race!

Rich did not want to race so I drove down solo. Unfortunately, the drive took longer than anticipated and I arrived with much less time than I was hoping to prep my transition area... I also had a horrible parking spot and a terrible position in transition. Note to self: get there early at these small races!

I set up transition, did a 10min warm-up jog and then it was time to get the wetsuit on. The male waves went first follwed by the female waves. There were two female waves with women 39 & under 4mins ahead of my wave of women 40+. My wave was also the second to last wave so there would be a lot of traffic in the lake and on the road ahead of me. I have been swimming fairly consistently with Matt Dixon's PurplePatch swim in the last year and a half and I think the tough sessions are beginning to yield results. My goal on the swim (and the entire race) was to be on the very edge of blowing up. Last year I swam a 23:03 here so I was psyched to see 21:22 on my watch as I hit the timing matt.

T1 left something to be desired (must work on it) but I was soon out of there and on the bike. My dear husband had set up the bike for me the day prior, including calibrating speed and power on my SRM control which I swap between my road and TT bikes. However, I had forgotten to "check his work" in my hurry that morning so it wasn't until I saw the power registering at 300w + that I realized that I had not adjusted the zero offset... I can't blame Rich as he did not know to do that... I should have pre-ridden the bike! I wasn't planning to focus on the numbers but it would have been nice data to have post-race. I was focused on what I call "scraping the bottom of the barrel" on the bike... basically translates to going as hard as I can and really pushing the power. It was a little challenging with 300+ athletes already out on the course and roads that were open to traffic. I found myself continually passing folks for the entire 16 miles and was not passed by a single athlete. I did get caught behind a car, that was caught behind some other athletes, for the better part of one mile during the ride... but that's just what happens in these small races, I guess.

As I came into T2, I noticed that I had not seen any women in the last few miles of the bike so I figured I must be close to the front of the race. It also dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to put on my race belt (still in my backpack!) so I would need to find it before I hit the run. I racked the bike and spent far too much time  looking for the belt such that time-wise T2 > T1. I would rue that extra minute by the end of the race!

The 5 mile run was out and back, gently climbing for the first 2.5 miles to the turnaround. There were no other women around me but plenty of guys to focus on catching. Rich had asked me my goal pace for the run and I told him that I didn't really have any but I thought to myself that I wanted the average pace to be closer to 7:00 than 7:30. Last year, I ran the 5 mile section at average pace of 7:32 but did not bike.

I hit mile 1 in 7:14 and felt okay but the day was warming and I had not drunk enough Nuun-water on the bike. I picked up some fluids and ate some Clif bloks during mile 2 and hit that mile in 7:22.  I climbed up to the turnaround and was excited to be on my way home. I had counted just four women ahead of me... though they all seemed younger, very fleet-footed and three of them seemed to be quite a ways ahead! I hit mile 3 in 7:10 and just as I approached the mile 4 marker, I spotted a woman ahead of me. I could see "38" on her calf (not my age group and she started 4mins ahead of me). I was hurting and I briefly debated settling into my rhythm or lifting my pace to close the gap and then I reminded myself that I needed to stay on the edge! I picked it up a little and as I approached her shoulder, I told her that I was 42 (I forgot to body mark... are you counting the rookie mistakes here? #5 or so) and she said thank you. Mile 4 was a 7:07 and then I finished up with a 7:16 for mile 5. The total race time was 1:48:18.

My time was good enough for 4th overall... 3rd place was just a minute ahead (darn T2!) so I was a little bummed to miss the overall podium. However, I did win my age-group which was a first for me at a distance shorter than Ironman! My bike split was the second fastest on the day... just 60 seconds slower than 1st place... which was another bummer as there was a $100 bike prime! At least I won a new pint glass to add to our collection, plus a nice bottle of wine!

I have a couple more races (half-marathon and Olympic distance triathlon) coming up in June but the real focus for the next two months is training for Vineman 70.3. I've finally begun to pick up the bike and running volume in preparation for Vineman, and with an eye towards Kona in October. It's "no excuses" time of year :)