This past Sunday, I competed in the Twin Lakes Triathlon, which I lovingly called a "sprintlympic" distance: 700m swim, 14 mile bike, 4.5 mile run. I considered this a training race since I had not competed in a triathlon since the exact same day 4 years earlier. Therefore, I needed a race to work out the kinks and see how my body would handle triathlons after having 2 babies (currently 2.5 y/o and 8 months). So here is what went down...
The Day Before
When counseling athletes, I tell them to stick to foods they know and tolerate the day before a race. Don't eat anything new or unknown. Unfortunately, I had to break that rule, as I had to be at a wedding the day before the race. However, I knew this going in as I chose to compete in the race after I had the wedding on the calendar. So, I ate and hydrated well leading up to the wedding dinner. The dinner itself wasn't too bad: chicken, mushroom cap, risotto, roasted potatoes, beans, salad and rolls (my husband and I got two different entrees and split them). Lots of water all day and especially during the wedding and reception. I got to bed around 10:45pm - not bad, all things considered.
The Morning Of
My 4:30am alarm came way too fast. As soon as the alarm went off, I drank 2 cups water. I got ready, walked out to my car and started my pre-race meal: PBJ on whole wheat bread, applesauce packet, 1/2 date & nut bar, and 1 mini banana muffin (see picture). I packed more than this, as I knew I would need something closer to the race and post-race.
As I drove the 15 minutes to the race, I pumped and kept eating and hydrating. I would estimate I drank another cup of water. I arrived at the race and started getting ready as soon as I finished pumping. I went through all of the typical preparations (packet pick-up, transition set-up, warm-up, porta potty etc.) as well as continued hydrating just a small amount (it was about 6:15am by this time) and ate one more mini muffin. During this time, I also decided that I am a very lazy triathlete. Pretty much everyone was wearing their wetsuit. I have one, I'm just...lazy...and don't wear it unless the swim is at least 1000m or it is cold water (it was 78 degrees).
My wave started at 6:38am. The worst time of a triathlon is always the last 5 minutes before your wave starts, so I was ready to get in the water.
Anyone who has had a triathlon discussion with me knows one thing about my tri efforts: I have major swim anxiety. It has been a problem in almost every triathlon I have done and has significantly increased my swim time - throwing off my overall success. In fact, the one triathlon where I had zero anxiety, I was the 2nd overall female (*not a huge race*)....go figure. I say this because as soon as my body was immersed in the water behind the rest of my wave (I always stand in the back), it was like my subconscious freaked out. Swim anxiety was in full swing and I was heading towards hyperventilation. This continued for quite some time as I tried to calm myself down, get my head under the water a bit and get into a rhythm...while the rest of my wave swam on. About halfway through the swim, I finally thought how stupid the whole thing was and that I really needed to chill out. That helped a bit; I got into a rhythm and started swimming for real. It wasn't perfect after that. I swallowed some water and had to calm myself once more, but I finally finished. Coming out of the water, I was ticked (like usual) and knew I had major time to make up on the bike. When I got to my rack (we were racked by swim wave), pretty much every bike was gone. I furiously put on my biking shoes, helmet and top, grabbed my bike, stuffed a gel packet in my sports bra strap and ran my bike to the exit.
As terrible as I am in open water swimming, I am relatively good on the bike. This is how I somehow pull off pretty good finishes after horrible swims. As I started the bike, I immediately grabbed my gel packet. Now, I hadn't decided if I wanted the gel since I was doing a sports drink on the bike too. But, after my disastrous swim, I figured I had burned too much energy and wanted to make sure I didn't hit the wall. So, out came the gel, which I downed and rinsed with a good 4 ounces or so of water mixed with sports drink (my chosen drink on this race was Osmo - a little lighter than other drinks but also lower in carbohydrate so you have to be careful there).
I was off like a shot, pushed very much by my complete frustration at the swim. Lucky for me there were lots of straightaways where I could push up to 23/24...unluckily for me there were also lots of turns (some sharp) where I had to slow down to 12. I had two water bottles on board: one with pure water and one with the sports drink. I drank exclusively from the sports drink bottle; the water was more of a back-up.
To put this in perspective, I was doing so much catching up that I lost track of how many people I passed on the bike. It was probably around 100 people (in a field of 389) and I am not exaggerating. I counted 2 people that passed me. Around this time, I started contemplating that perhaps I should switch to duathlons. I arrived back to transition and hopped off the bike, having consumed 1 gel, 2.5 cups water with 18gm of carb from the sports drink. I changed shoes, grabbed my number belt and took off. I also noticed that most of the bikes on the rack were still gone, which meant I had caught up to and passed most of those in my wave.
After I got past the initial bike-run transition phase (lead legs), I was feeling overall pretty good on the run and noticing numbers from my wave and the swim wave before me on number belts around me. This was a good sign. I passed a few people during the run, but overall kept pace with those around me. I was once again debating whether I wanted to do a second gel during the run, but ultimately decided to take one. I ate the gel around mile 1.8, washed it down with about 4 ounces of water at the 2 mile aid station and continued on. I think that ended up being a good decision as I did feel more energized after that.
And then mile 3 came...When I don't do appropriate speed training, I have a problem with cramping immediately below my lungs during races. Sadly, this race was no different. With two kids at home - one nursing - it is hard to find time to do speed workouts so I full admit they rarely happen. So there it came - that telltale cramp about 3 miles into a race. Nothing really gets rid of it; the best I can do is avoid deep breathing or moving my core too much (ha). I just kept pushing. Other than the water at mile 2, I didn't drink any water (provided at miles 1, 2, and 3.5) since I had taken in a good amount on the bike as well as gulps in both transitions. As I came to the finish, I'll admit it was pretty cool to see my family waiting (kiddos in the double Bob and Ron standing behind waving and taking pictures.) Not going to lie - I was pretty excited to be done.
The challenge post-race is always protein. Unless you are doing a relatively large race, finding protein in the post-race food is nearly impossible. This was no different: bagels, bananas, oranges and water. This was why I saved half of my date and nut bar earlier in the morning; this allowed me to get a bit of protein with all that carbohydrate. In addition to the bar, I had half of a bagel, one orange slice and one small banana....eaten over a period of time between running after the kids, getting my stuff out of transition and taking pictures. And of course I had to nurse (about 20 minutes post-race). I guess that beats pumping!
The biggest surprise came when I learned that I had gotten 3rd in my age group. I was the 34th woman overall and 148th competitor overall of 389 competitors. Here are my stats:
Bike 42:51 (19.6)
Run 36:20 (8:05)
It wasn't a pretty race. Plenty of things went wrong and I have lots to work on before my final triathlon on August 2nd in Naperville (a real sprint). But that's why this was a training race. And, after having 2 babies, I was pretty happy with how well my body took everything. Plus, my energy levels were fantastic so I know my nutrition was spot on. I guess that's one thing I don't have to work on.