The International distance triathlon takes place on Saturday morning at Luray. The race consists of a 1.5km swim, 41 km bike, and 10k run. I decided to register for this race after my failed attempt at Buster Britton and when I became part of a relay team for the sprint triathlon on Sunday. The week before I was having my doubts about it but Sam, as he always can and does, made me realize that I could complete this race.
The week before the race I posted the following things that I would be thinking about on my facebook page:
It’s only water (Sam Morgan)
Momentum is my friend (John Hanna)
RFM (Eric Doehrman) (and I could add, SIUP)
Do what you can do in the moment. (Dave Scott)
Yes, I do listen to my coaches (the first three) and to the webinars that I listen to for race/triathlon advice.
As it turned out, this would not be the first International distance race that I would complete. My bike broke down on the course, or was probably broken down before I even started since I knew something did not feel right. I needed to get the deraillur fixed and also needed a new chain when I managed to get it to the bike shop. I still count this race as a success because I completed the swim, slow as it was.
Rain the afternoon before and overnight lowered the temperature of the water. On Saturday morning it was wetsuit legal, but barely so. I did not have a wetsuit and was a bit concerned until I went into the water. It was really about the temperature that I really like. I went in the water a few times before the race and followed the advice of my coaches to calm myself and get ready for the swim. This race starts in the water in waves, unlike most of the races I have done. Waves were by gender and age group so I was near the end.
While I regularly swim the distance of this portion of the triathlon, it is usually in a pool. Swimming in a pool versus open water is very different. Lake Arrowhead is a small, clean lake compared to most of the open water swims I have done but it is still open water. The swim starts from a beach area and there really are not a lot of rocks on the bottom to step on. That made things better.
In addition to the water temperature, there was fog across the lake. While it was really beautiful, the fog made it difficult to see all the bouys from shore. I felt a little disoriented about the swim layout because it didn’t look quite like I expected it to based on the map. One of my friends told me she had the same reaction the year before. I think it was mainly the angle of looking at it from standing in the open water and then not being able to see at least two bouys.
Another bit of advice that really turned out to be very valuable came from a video that David Glover posted by Mei Mei Connor, a swim coach he has work with athletes in a practice swim a week before the race. Mei Mei talked about getting in the “Mei Mei box” and then focusing on the swim like you would focus on swimming in a lane in the pool. I did that both Saturday and Sunday and it really helped me. On Saturday I was still thinking about the first 200-300 yards being difficult and then settling in to the swim. That had been my pattern in practice the week or so before – starting out I was thinking that there was no way I could make the distance and then I finally knew I could. In reality I did know that I could make it. The mental game is a big part of triathlon, or any race or training. Convincing myself that I can finish the swim is probably just as important as the hours I put in at the pool.
This was one of the best supported swim courses I have seen. There were kayaks, canoes, boats, and paddle boards everywhere you looked. If I got into any trouble, there would be someone close by. I had a canoe stay with me around the lake but I will write about that in a separate post.
My swim began rather slow and I did not really pick up momentum and feel like I had a rhythm for my stroke until around 400-500 yards. From that point on I was fairly steady, even if I was slow. I have not had a lot of open water practice so I am still getting used to spotting and not getting too far off course. That also slowed me a bit more than I anticipated.
My final time was 1 hour and 11 minutes, about 25 minutes slower than I anticipated I would be. But I finished and that was what was important to me on this day. I headed up the beach and across the mat to the transition area, got my bike and headed out on the bike course. As I mentioned, I knew something was not right with my bike but I was not quite sure what it was. I kept going but could not gain much speed on the flats. Finally, around 6 miles in after I had to stop and put the chain back on for about the 4th time, I decided to go back. I had to walk back to the turn where volunteers were directly cyclists and got a ride in the SAG vehicle from there. I wasn’t alone, by the way. There were two other people in the van and 3 additional bikes.
Was I disappointed? Yes. But it wasn’t the end of the world and Sunday was really more important to me than Saturday was. I could have still gone out on the run even though it would not count but my hamstring had been bothering me again and I decided not to chance it. I turned in my chip, found my friends who had already finished, and cheered on those who had not yet come across the finish line. All in all, it was a good day.
By the way, I registered for another International distance race so that I can get one in this season. I’ll try again next weekend.