I think I look very recreational in this photo, which came courtesy of Freeplay Magazine btw, but then I felt very recreational at the race, so I guess it works.
It turns out specifically and seriously training for triathlon doesn’t make a big difference in how I do in triathlon. This is either really cool or really depressing depending on your point of view.
At the HITS Napa Valley race on Sunday I did about as good as I ever would have done; maybe 2-4 minutes slower over the two hours and 24 minutes. (Yes, it was very hilly.) But that still would have landed me in second place. So.
I went through the motions — starting at 3:45 a.m. — because I know how to get ready for a triathlon, not because I felt particularly stressed at all. I got in the water because I know that you should get in the water and warm-up, not because I felt an urgency to get ready. Mostly, I was really fucking cold. Like really cold. Like this has now surpassed the time it snowed during the Cal Poly race to be the second most cold I have ever been during a race. (And, it was probably the most pain from the cold I’ve ever been in, because the most cold I’ve ever been I went totally numb and didn’t know I had broken my toe.)
I thought the lack of fire in the belly, so to speak, would hurt me. But, everything kicked in to auto-pilot. I started out swimming with Hailey, but in the melee of only one bouy and people going both out and back and two laps, I lost her. I never felt like the swim was beyond me or terrible and I never thought I was sucking or wanting to die, but I also never felt like I was really swimming fast. I tried to put some time on Hailey, because I knew she could bike faster than me and would kill me at anything long, but when I got to the finish we both got out at the exact same time in the high 23s.
Ooops. I started to make a joke to her, but then decided she looked really focused and I didn’t want to mess that up. Instead, I focused on getting on my bike as fast as possible. (That apparently is still a talent I possess — fastest transitions, what.)
When I got on my bike, I started biking scared. I was waiting to get caught. I knew I didn’t have the bike endurance to really do anything great. And, it was so, so, so cold. It was in the low- to-mid 40s by the time we got on the bike and the water was mid-50s and there were these spots you would go through in the valley where the sun hadn’t hit yet in the morning and there was still frost and my hands were burning from the cold and I had them balled up while I tried to feel my fingers so I could shift gears. People kept asking ‘Wasn’t I cold?’ Yes, yes, I was, and it hurt a lot, but I’m not going to waste two minutes putting on a jacket and arm warmers. Jesus — instead of training for hours to get those two minutes, I’ll just deal with the pain.
I also knew that my bike fitness was not going to do me any favors, so I better take whatever speed I can get: which meant staying in my aero bars as much as possible and bombing the descents. It was a very rolling (and slow) course and most people were getting up out of their aero position on every little roller and then coasting the downhills. Look. This isn’t a bike race. This is a triathlon. (And not ITU.) Maintain a consistent effort.
My Powertap computer on my bike was dead too — evidently that happens when you don’t use it for seven months. Instead, I sang songs in my head to keep my cadence up. Taylor Swift is a good Olympic distance cadence, though I switched to Rihanna’s ‘I’ll Drink to That’ for the last few miles. And, I figured whenever it stopped hurting I wasn’t going hard enough. High cadence + high effort = high speed. I pretty much wanted to throw up the entire time, so I think that was about the right pace.
I passed one girl; I didn’t get caught.
For about three miles I debated whether or not I was going to do a flying dismount. I knew that if I tried to get off my bike and unclip at the same time, I was going to eat shit. I was too cold and too out of practice not fall over. A flying dismount would probably be easier. But, when my bare frozen feet hit the ground I started swearing. I think the race director hates me now, because there were all these kids waiting to cheer people on that probably didn’t need to hear how many times I said “fuck.”
But, if you were running on burning knives, what would you say?
It was really clear to me really quickly that, for my current fitness, I had blown my legs out with my massively fast 1:14 bike split. (It really was hilly.) The first couple miles I was pretty sure I wouldn’t even make it six miles and I was positive, with the super amazing splits I was running, that I would get run down. I had all these flashbacks to every race I’ve ever blown up on the run.
But, I didn’t get run down and I didn’t blow up. I also didn’t run particularly fast.
The thing that made it all work and be ok and why I didn’t fall apart was that I’ve been doing so much run training. Six miles really genuinely seemed like nothing. Long-distance run training translates pretty well to biking and general endurance and Olympic-distance triathlon (I don’t know about longer triathlon) and when you are a little blown-up, so what, that’s when it’s time to run.
At the turnaround, I had a solid gap in either direction — really, Jess had like 8 minutes on me, so that wasn’t gonna happen — so I just kept up a good tempo to the finish on the long, hilly, slow run course and didn’t really go into the dark place.
This also meant that I didn’t collapse at the finish. I didn’t want to die or kill anyone else. I didn’t think about laying down on the side of the road for any extended amount of time. The only times things seemed really miserable were around mile 5 on the bike (because it was ONLY mile 5!) and at the start of the run, because oh god, it was painful.
Instead, I chatted with people after the race, hung out, felt laid-back about the whole thing, did NOT go for a long run cool down, and then stayed out until 3 a.m. (after a nap) at a Too $hort concert. So, if you want to be all depressed about it, what was the point of those years of super serious training and so much angsting if I never really got any faster?