NJ Devilman Half Lite, 5/3/15
This half lite was a .80 mile swim, 40.3 mile bike and a 8.8 mile run. The course is pancake flat. Flat courses aren’t exactly my cup of tea but I wanted a good fitness test. The days leading up to the race I had a few conversations with my coach about race strategy. He suggested that I basically hammer down the entire time until I couldn’t hammer any more. I never race flat races so I figured, sure why not. One thing I have learned racing triathlon is that you do not want to blow your legs out on the bike. Blowing your legs out on the bike meant complete disaster for the run. I can’t say I have ever had a chance to try it so I wasn’t sure how my body would react. I decided I would wait until race day and figure out in the moment how I was going to race.
Race Morning: I chose to commute to the race rather than fork out money for a hotel room. The race site was a little over two hours from my house. I never sleep well the night before a race anyway so it worked out. My dad volunteered to come with me as my cheerleader. He really is my biggest fan.
I woke up before my alarm at 3:50 am and started my race morning scramble. We were on the road by 4:30 am. Arrived at the race site around 6:30. I had plenty of time to get my race packet, set up my transition and just relax. While I was getting my packet, the race director made an announcement that the water temperature was currently 61 degrees. I swear you could hear athletes in the parking lot (it was a far distance away) freaking out about the water temperature. I knew it was cold but reminded myself that last year at Lake Placid training camp I swam in Mirror Lake and it was 58 degrees! 61 would feel like a hot tub! HA!
I prepped my bike and set up my transition area just the way I like it. In the past I would sit around dwelling, was everything in the right spot? Did I have all the right gear? What did I forget? This time I was relaxed and situated everything the way I was used to. I looked around the transition area to see where the bike in/out and run in/out was. I judged my distance to each entry and exit and made a mental note of where my bike was and which rack it was on. I have lost my bike in transition before. I was that one random athlete wandering around lost. I didn’t want to make that mistake again.
Once out of transition, I made a few trips to the bathroom and then hung around the swim start to watch the waves before me. The women’s half lite was the last wave to start at 8:30 am. It was cool to stand around and watch the athletes racing the sprint come out of the water. I could have used this time to get in the water and warm up, but I refused. I figured if I did that I would have too much time to stand around and freeze. Plus, I have never warmed up before a triathlon. I wasn’t going to start that now.
Swim: I swam a little to the start buoy and noticed that the water didn’t feel all that cold. Sure my hands were a little cold but it wasn’t that much of a shock. Once I got to the start buoy, I swam a short out and back just to get my arms warmed up and used to having the wetsuit restriction. I used my clear goggles because the sun was shining and the water was brown. I couldn’t see my hand once I put it under the water. Another thing about this pond is you can stand in it. I’m pretty sure you could stand from anywhere in the pond. It is so shallow that while swimming you could touch the bottom with your hand.
I took my spot at the front of the wave closest to the start buoy. I started my watch and we were off! I always tend to take off at the start to get as far out front as I can. This race was no different. I noticed that there was one girl who took off with me. We swam side by side to the first turn buoy and then I figured that I would use her to my advantage. I could see by her stroke that she was swimming a little bit harder than she could handle. Rather then pushing the pace, I dropped back a little and stayed on her feet. I would occasionally reach out and tap her feet. I find that tends to make swimmers kick harder and could possibly fatigue their legs. Once we rounded the second turn buoy I started to pull away. Now she was hanging on my feet but never touched mine.
The swim was a two loop course and I knew that I had saved my energy on the first loop. Once I hit the first buoy for the second loop, I decided to pick it up and bury her. She was still hanging on my heels. I started to run into guy’s from the wave that started before me. I never panicked. I just kept my head down and carried on. I knew exiting the water that there were no other females ahead of me but I didn’t know how far behind the second place girl was. As I came up the ramp out of the water my Dad was standing there and held up one finger to tell me that I was the first female out.
Swim Time: 21:05, 1:30/100 yd.
T1: I didn’t sprint into transition but I made sure to keep a steady pace and get my legs ready to bike. As I was putting on my bike helmet, I noticed that the second place female had just entered transition. I grabbed my bike off the rack and ran for the mount line.
T1 Time: 1:17
Bike: I have been the leader going out on the bike one other time in my life and let me tell you it is a mental game in itself. You become the hunted. I was ready for it. I set out on the bike and my legs felt great. I already had my bike in the big chain ring, put myself into the aero position and just started to hammer. The bike course was also two loops. You basically go a little over ten miles out and back and do that twice.
I did notice that it felt like there was a headwind on the way out but it wasn’t anything too draining. I have trained in much windier conditions. I was passed a few times by some dudes, but no chicks. Until I reached the turn around for the first time. I had a girl fly by me and then settle in front of me. She had “25-29″ on her calf. In the past I would have thought, “Ok, she isn’t in my age group, just let her go.” This time though it was a different story. I took off after her, caught her, made a pass and then settled in front again. She did the same thing again. I recovered and then passed her again. This time, she never caught back up. I think she blew out her legs because I never saw her again until the run.
On the way back on the first loop, I felt like there was a headwind again. It ended up being a crosswind that made it feel like a headwind in both directions. I came up on a group of 6-7 guys in a pack. A draft pack! I worked hard to pass the pack just for them to pass me again. I made a comment to them about drafting but none of them seemed to care. I realized that I never once saw an official out on the bike course. I could have joined the pack, it definitely would have saved my legs, ALOT. But I chose to play fair and keep my distance. Knowing my luck, if I joined the pack an official would ride up and I would get a penalty. I wasn’t risking anything because at that point I was still the leader.
As I headed back on my second loop I was so excited that I was still the leader. I was monitoring my current pace and overall bike average. I was averaging between 20.8-21 mph the entire ride. I was riding faster than I have ever biked before. My quads were screaming a little but nothing unbearable. I had to get out of aero a few times to stretch out my shoulders and move my legs around. Overall, I felt pretty strong on the bike. One of my goals going into the bike was that I wanted to bike the 40.3 miles under two hours. I knew I was capable of it if I played my cards right. I kept track of my time and could tell that unless I totally bonked I was going to be under two hours for the ride.
With less than 10 miles, I was hunted. Caught. Three chicks. On each others wheels. They flew by me like I was standing still. More drafting. I was so annoyed! I could have jumped on the back wheel but I told myself I biked this hard by myself the entire ride, I don’t need someone’s wheel to get me to the bike dismount line. I also didn’t want to cheat. Lastly, I knew that I was also treading along a fine line. If I biked any harder I just might totally crumble on the run. I was right under the line of going too hard. I still had some thoughts in my mind that my run may suffer anyway, but chose to keep the pace that I was going and bring it home. I figured at worst I was sitting 4th going into the run.
Bike time: 1:59:42, 20.2 mph average. (This average includes the run out of T1 and onto the bike and also the run off the bike and into T2. Also, mission accomplished, I was able to bike sub 2 hours!)
T2: My legs were a little wobbly coming off the bike but they felt better than I had expected them to feel.
T2 Time: 1:07
Run: The run course was an out and back. I took off out of transition and the first .25 miles were a slight uphill, on grass and sand. A few times my footing was off but I was trucking. My first mile clocked in at a 7:35. I thought, “Alright, that’s fast but it feels comfortable.” I chose to just go with it. The next mile I slowed it down a little bit, 7:43.
I started to feel the heat. The run course was out in the open. Zero shade. It was flat, but it was almost a false flat. A very slight incline but just enough so that my legs noticed it. There was also a slight headwind too. Rather than dwelling on how hot I was, how the wind felt, or how it wasn’t truly flat road, I zeroed in on a girl running just slightly ahead of me. I told myself that I would keep things together for the first 4.4 miles, try to gain on her a little so that by the time I got to the turn around I could throw down the hammer and catch her. She never got any further away from me so I figured that we were probably running the same pace. I was passed shortly after mile 3 by the 25-29 year old girl that I was playing cat and mouse with on the bike. She was running. Fast. She passed me and that was that. There was no way I would have been able to stay with her.
7:35, 7:43, 7:50, 7:59, 8:02, 8:17, 8:30, 8:26
Run time: 1:11:51, 8:09/mile average
Total Time: 3:35:04
After I finished my Dad went to check my overall results. I figured I placed first in my age group and I was thrilled with that. I had to take a few minutes to regroup. I had a terrible blister on my left foot and I had to get under a tent out of the sun. I felt like I was frying. My Dad informed me that I was 5th place female overall! I was even more ecstatic. What a great way to start the year. I have never finished OVERALL in a race before. I would have been thrilled with just an age group win.
I really enjoyed this race this time around. There were no bugs. The water was bearable. I liked the half lite distance. It was just a little shorter than a half ironman and I thought it was a great fitness test. I learned a lot during this race and I’m really happy with how I chose to race it. I realized that I have always played it safe on the bike to save my legs for the run. It was fun to put myself out there and watch myself crumble. As weird as that sounds. I do love to torture myself. I realized that my swim has not totally suffered. I have been swimming twice a week lately in order to spend more time on the bike and run. I honestly think it has made me stronger. Or it doesn’t burn me out. Either way, it’s working. I also noticed that all the time I have spent on my bike has been beneficial. I am getting stronger. Every. Single. Ride. This race has helped me to determine how to attack my rides and runs in training in order to get even stronger for my next race. You best believe I will be implementing this into my training.
All in all, it was a great performance to the start year off. I have set the bar high. It’s time to keep climbing!