Monday, June 22, 2009

High Cliff Sprint Triathlon Race Report

The water wasn't freezing. The cliff road was conquered not once, but twice. And although I'm kind of kicking myself for making a poor decision that impacted my finishing time, I'm happy with the number I put up.

High Cliff is done. It was a good race. One that I'll be doing again next year with hopes to shave some minutes off the time.

On to the race report...

Race Expo
I snuck out of work a bit early on Friday in order to go home, pack my bags, load up my bike and head to my parents' house in time for packet pick-up and the race expo. A storm rolled through just as I was about to load my bike onto my car, but since it was just a heavy downpour, I decided to go ahead and pack up the bike anyway. The old lady who lives next door? She was warning me about tornadoes and bad storms and advised me to call the sheriff. I didn't.

So after getting to my parents' house, my mom climbed in my car with me and we drove the four miles over to High Cliff State Park for the expo. I picked up my packet which included my race number, two T-shirts, swim cap and a bunch of goodies. And I may have treated myself to a new sports bra and a running skirt at one of the vendor tables. I think I deserve it.

After I got my stuff, my mom and I took a quick walk around the transition area. She was scoping out places to spectate the next morning. Me? After almost freezing in Lake Winnebago last week, I wanted to check out the water temperature. I was grateful to find out it had warmed up considerably. The lake looked really cool though. Since it was super humid - it was about 80 degrees with a dew point in the mid-60s - there was this haze hanging over the water. Kind of eerie looking. I was just hoping it wasn't going to be too hot and humid in the morning.

Race Day
My alarm started screeching at 4:30 a.m. I let myself hit snooze once and then bolted out of bed and took a really shower. I know. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it wakes me up. I had about 3/4 of a bagel and then mom and I took off for the park.

I got to the park with about 1 hour, 15 minutes before transition would close. I made it just before the massive influx of cars. Got myself a good parking spot, picked up my chip, got body marked and then headed over to set up my transition. Made a pit stop at the port-a-pottys, one last glance over everything in transition and then made my way down to the water for a quick warm up.

Before I knew it, we were listening to the national anthem, the half Ironman competitors were starting and 20 minutes later it was my turn.

The Swim
Since I didn't want to get swum over within the first 10 seconds, I decided to start near the back on the outside. Probably didn't have to do this since I think everyone in my wave decided to walk almost to the first buoy before starting to swim.

Once I was near that buoy, I dove in and started the quarter-mile swim. It was going pretty well. Got kicked in the stomach once, but soon I was at the third buoy, making my way around it and starting to head to the swim finish. It was pretty wavy, so the water was pretty choppy, making it a little difficult to swim, but I just kept my cool and kept swimming. No more walking for me.

Soon my knees were scrapping the sandy bottom and that was my cue to stop swimming and start wading in. As I was running up the hill, I tore off my swim cap and goggles, heard my mom cheering me on and started thinking about the bike.

Transition 1: Swim to Bike
I felt like I was fairly speedy here. Quickly dried off my feet, put on my socks, laced up my shoes and threw on my bike shorts. Put on my helmet and grabbed my bike. I was off. The Cliff Bar remained untouched.

The Bike
I hopped on my bike at the mount line and had a little bit before starting to tackle the cliff road, so I shifted down into a really low gear in preparation for the hill. When I got to it, I just pedaled. Was kind of in a zone, but I heard others around me complaining about the hill. And we weren't even on the truly awful incline yet. I just kept pedaling. I even passed a few folks. Before I knew it, the cliff road was done and I was leaving the park.

I admit, I had a bit of bike envy. There were so many cool looking bikes. And the super hard core folks? I heard them coming before they passed me - whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Like I said, bike envy. Got me thinking. But that's a whole different post.

The bike went well. I kept pretty decent pace. Yes, I was passed a lot, but I also passed my share of people. I was glad I took the time last weekend to ride the 22 mile route. I knew what to expect - rolling hills, lots of farmland. For the most part, during the first half of the 22 miles, the wind wasn't a problem. It only really became an issue around Mile 13 or so. Then I was heading into the wind, which was blowing around 15 miles an hour. Not to bad

Around Mile 16 I saw two guys on the side of the road, in the ditch. Thought they were making a pit stop. Actually turned out to be fixing a flat. I kept riding.

With 3 miles to go, I made the last turn and was heading south, approaching the last major intersection before heading through a subdivision and back to the park. Saw my dad standing on the side of the road. Wasn't expecting him to be there, but was happy he made it out to cheer me on. Gave him and wave and kept pedaling. Before I knew it, I was dismounting the bike and heading back into transition.

Transition 2: Bike to Run
Got this one done quickly. Just racked my bike. Exchanged the bike helmet for a visor and I was off. Once again, the Cliff Bar sat untouched.

The Run
Ugh. Immediately my legs felt like bricks. But I was expecting that. I knew if I just started running, even if it was super slow, they'd loosen up and I'd be fine within a few minutes and the rest of the 3-miles run would be OK.

Five minutes passed. Still hard to run. Legs still felt like bricks. I caved. I walked for a few seconds. Started running again. By this time the cliff road was staring me in the face. I kept running. Didn't want to have to walk the hill. First section. Brutal. Caved again. Walked a bit of the flat section. Then the steep section were looming. I ran. Brutal. But kept pushing. Must. Keep. Running. To. The. Top. Made it and followed the arrow to the shady trails.

I think I ended up walking a good chunk of the first mile, but managed to run most of the final two miles. At this point it was still hard to run, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. Granted, my run was more like a shuffle. It was brutal. But I didn't want to quit. At some point, I thought to myself, the run will get easier.

Then it dawned on me. D'oh! The Cliff Bar. It had sat in transition untouched. My water bottle on the bike? Should have been empty, but there was still liquid left. My running issues weren't because I hadn't trained properly, because I had. The issues were because I didn't fuel and hydrate properly. In the past, I've always eaten half of the Cliff Bar between the swim and bike and the remaining half at the start of the run. The Cliff Bar I brought? Package hadn't even been opened.

Now that I knew the reasons behind the miserableness of my run, I made a point to take lots of water and Gatorade at the aid stations. Unfortunately there were only two left. And of course it didn't help that at this point in the day it was starting to get warm. And the humidity was increasing.

But I kept running. Only stopped for one brief walk break before running down the cliff road - which I have to admit was nice after running and biking up it. Then it was just a short flat stretch which I sprinted to the finish line.

High Cliff. Done.

So let's look at the numbers...

Total time: 2 hours, 26 minutes, 28 seconds
Swim: 8 minutes, 28 seconds - 2:06 pace
T1: 4 minutes, 52 seconds
Bike: 1 hour, 26 minutes, 33 seconds - 15.3 miles per hour pace
T2: 1 minute, 59 seconds
Run: 44 minutes, 34 minutes - 14:22 pace (OUCH!)

Age group: 30 out of 38
Women: 197 out of 247

Not awful. Like I said, I know where my problem was. The run kicked my butt. Before I started it I was on pace to finish in 2 hours, 15 minutes. But I didn't. I look at it as motivation for next year and reminder for the rest of the year - the Cliff Bar? It's meant to be eaten!


Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of you!

Way to go!

Carolina John said...

good job! yea you have to stay hydrated and fueled during the race. lessons learned i guess. we all feel that way sometimes. after i really push myself on the bike, it feels like my legs are running like fire hydrants. that's always fun.

Runner Leana said...

Congratulations on your race!!! Sorry to hear you bonked on the run though. Sounds like a tough run course.

Another option for nutrition would be to try gels if you can handle those. Down a gel 30 minutes before the swim start, then carry one on the bike to eat at the tail end just before you go to run.

Enjoy the rest, you earned it!

teacherwoman said...

Great race report! From the sounds of it, the course was pretty challenging! I think there is something for us to learn in every race/event we do! WAY TO GO!