I drove up to Emporia alone, this time. It's never as much fun to be heading to a race alone. But it did give me time to be with my thoughts, which is always valuable for me. The day was cloudy, cold, and windy, which I had expected. If anything, it wasn't as windy as had been forecast--or, I should say, it wasn't as windy as I had anticipated from the level of anxiety I'd witnessed at the KSRVTC meeting the day before. Still, it was not ideal weather for a race, and I spent most of my drive north hoping that the conditions in Emporia weren't as bad as they were in Wichita.
Emporia is about an hour and a half from Clearwater, so I left around 6:30. Arrived just after 8, and was a little frazzled. Would one hour be enough time to get registered, bodymarked, set up transition, and warm up?
Turned out it was plenty of time. Registration was a breeze, there was no line at bodymarking, and transition was simple: one pair of shoes, one hat, bike, helmet, and some nutrition. Shoes and water were already on the bike. I decided against arm warmers, leg warmers, skull cap, and jacket; I didn't want to waste the time in transition.
Transition area at this race is on ESU's track, so I warmed up with 4 laps on the rubber. This was my first race in my new Zoots (did I mention that I got a pair of those Zoot flats?) sans socks, so I was concerned about blisters, but they felt fine in the warm-up. I took my bike out on the road just long enough to get my shoes on my pedals. Then I headed into the pool to warm up there. Oh, and I should mention that I was really concerned about hydration, so I made several pee stops during this time, as well (because that's obviously such a vital part of this race report).
I did a few laps to warm up, trying to practice my flip turns at both ends of the pool, including the turn under the lane line. I flubbed every single one of them. And I should have been smart enough at that point to know not to try the flip turns. The issue was that Emporia's pool is stainless steel and my feet kept slipping on my flip. Also, Emporia has a deep end, which threw me off; I couldn't tell how close to the wall I was, because the T at the bottom of the pool was so far away. So two issues that should have convinced me during the warm up to just cave and use the open turns.
Swim: 400 m, 7:35, 1:53/100 m ('08 was 7:50)
This swim starts like a time trial, with a racer leaving every 20 seconds. Which isn't so bad if you're number 52 (which I was), but is probably kind of a bummer if you're number 208. If you're number 208, the fastest racers are finishing up by the time you're starting. That's gotta be kind of depressing.
My swim went pretty smoothly, except for the fact that I could not get my flip turns going. I think I could have swam a couple seconds faster if I had just nixed the flip turns at the beginning. Because I messed up every single one that I tried, and the ones where I tried to flip turn under the lane rope were even worse. After the third 50, I just gave up on it and switched to open turns. And I was swimming way off pace, at that point. I think it was during the fifth 50 that the guy right behind me passed me. And I couldn't have asked for anything better than that, because I got to draft off of him for the rest of the swim. Really, that couldn't have been any better if I'd planned it (which I didn't).
T1: 52 seconds
I got out of the water right behind number 53, passed him on the way out of the pool, and managed to get out of transition before him. This transition seemed to take forever, but I guess it wasn't that long. I'd rather see it at 35 seconds, but I'll take it under one minute.
Bike: 20 km, 40:30, 18.41 MPH ('08 was 17.95 MPH)
So I said it was windy, but I didn't tell you how windy. According to the Weather Underground, the wind speed was around 22 MPH from the north at around 10:00 a.m., but with gusts up to 30 MPH. That's frickin' windy. The Emporia course is set up as an out-and-back with the first half due north and the second half due south.
The first half, to say the least, was unpleasant, but not unbearable. Unbearable is when you could swear that the wind is out to get you. Unbearable is when the weather becomes personal, when you're convinced that Kansas has a vendetta and you are its chosen target. This wasn't on that level. There were several points on the north-bound course that were sheltered by trees or hills, and so the wind was tough, but not vicious. The last mile and a half before the turn around was completely unprotected, though, and that's where I saw my speed drop steadily, finally bottoming out at 10.9 MPH on an uphill combined with a fierce gust. It was shortly after that, however, that we turned south.
And then I flew.
If you've never had the benefit of a 25 MPH tailwind, let me tell you: there's nothing like it. I found my biggest gear and was spinning at exactly a comfortable pace. I watched my speed climb from 27 to 28 to 30 to 33 MPH. It was amazing. I had saved myself through the whole first half of the bike portion, bowing to the wind and watching my speed slide south, saving myself for the big ring and the tailwind. And it totally paid off. I caught number 53, who had passed me shortly after we got onto the main road. I passed a few of my fellow female competitors. Most importantly, with about 2 miles to go, I passed Emily McVay. Emily McVay works at the Derby Rec Center; she's in charge of the annual Derby Rec Center Tri. And she's enough faster than me that one of my goals on the day was to beat her. And I passed her with just over a mile to go! I was ecstatic.
T2: 57 seconds
Again, longer than it probably should take me to get through transition. I managed my flying dismount without a hitch (no scrapes or bruises to add to my growing collection) and did everything I needed to do quickly and efficiently. I honestly don't know what took me so long. Maybe the time is off a little bit; maybe a few of those seconds belong on the run time (although I'm perfectly happy to leave them classified under T2).
Run: 5 km, 25:48, 8:17/mile ('08 was 9:07/mile)
I swear that I remember every single foot of this run course. It's nothing compared to Wildflower, or any other race in a place that has real hills. But for a Wichitan, this course is nothing short of brutal. The run course begins with a long, leisurely climb out of campus. It climbs steadily, then tops out as soon as you get off campus. You cross over into residential Emporia, and quickly face another hill. Downhill for a brief respite (although it's not really a break, you know, because the downhill takes it out of your legs in a whole different way), then back uphill again.
It was right about this point that Emily McVay passed me, and flew away from me. She ran away at a pace I could not possibly hope to maintain, and I let her go. While struggling up the next hill, another woman passed me, along with a few men. But this race is interesting in that you have no idea where people are going to place, because everyone starts at different times. For example, I started my race 17:20 after number 1. I could finish the race 17 minutes after number 1, and still have beaten him or her by 20 seconds, even though I never saw or passed him or her on the course. So it's easy not to get too caught up in passing or being passed (except as a mental exercise to make you run faster) and just run your own race. Which is what I did.
The whole course is rolling, but I kept plodding along. I tried this new (to me) trick where I picked a point up ahead and counted the number of footfalls it took to get to that point. It really makes the time and distance pass, although I found it sort of monotonous. Most significantly, at one point sometime after mile 2, I found myself thinking, "I am not at my peak fitness." I had never felt that so distinctly, before. I knew that I could go faster, could do better, but I just couldn't do it yet. So that's exciting to think about what I might be doing later in the summer.
I didn't have much left for a final kick; I felt like I paced myself really well, and didn't have a lot left in the tank for one more push to the finish. But I still managed to pick up the speed, a little bit; I may have been like a really small plane coming in for a landing.
Final: 1:15:42; 1st F 20-24; 6th F overall ('08 was 1:17:36, 7th F overall)
Emily McVay was 5th, but only by 50 seconds.
I was pretty happy with this race. It's the first time I've had a tune-up race that actually felt like a tune-up race (I guess my training program must actually be doing what it's supposed to do, this year). I raced with new running shoes, new biking shoes, and a new bike, and all the equipment worked out fine. I nailed my nutrition. I did well with my pacing. I had one of my best run splits ever. I didn't quite beat Emily McVay, but I'll get her next year.
In short, I'm confident about the rest of my season. I feel strong and capable, and I'm learning all the things I need to do (i.e. don't work so hard this year that I burn out, do drink water and eat, don't treat a B priority race like an A priority race). My one concern is that I don't really want Lawrence 70.3 to be my A race, but that's where my training program is supposed to peak. I was thinking about this on the ride back home (and talking about it with a teammate), and I've decided that I want to try to peak about two weeks after Lawrence, and try to carry the peak for a full month. That month will encompass Shawnee Mission and Mudwater, and after Mudwater I think I'll take some time off before trying to finish the season in September. That way I'll be peaking for the small, short races--the ones I have a better chance of winning--and I'll still be getting my first 70.3 under my belt. Now I just need to do some reading and some research to figure out how to do that . . .