Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Race Report: Topeka Tinman

I could have won.

That's what I keep thinking, as I log my race in my workout logs and look again at the results. If I had only pushed harder, I could have won.

I left for the race on Friday evening. I had originally wanted to leave around noon, but the only local bike shop that could even get my bike in and out in a week couldn't have it done until Friday at 5:00. And then I forgot my cooler (with my beer!). So of course I had to go back to get that. I ended up getting out of Wichita at 6:00, which meant that I didn't get to Topeka until 8:00 (when packet pick-up was supposed to close). Fortunately, the packet pick-up stayed open a little late. But needless to stay, it was a stressful time.

Things did not go smoothly, as far as the trip went--or perhaps it would be better to say that they didn't go as planned, since it all turned out alright without being particularly stressful. I wanted to get to Shawnee Lake and set up my tent and take a look at the course before dinner (that is, while it was still light). But because of the way things worked out, it was 10:00 before I even got to the lake (fortunately the registration office was open until 11:00). So I set up my tent by the glow of my headlights, organized what I could with only a flashlight to guide me, and climbed into my sleeping bag at about 11:00.

The campsite was noisy, and I kept having strange dreams (which almost always happens the night before) about the next day's race. In one, I did the swim and bike, then woke up ready to run. I kept waking suddenly, sitting straight up with a gasp, thinking, "Oh no! I'm late!"

But of course I never was. And even with the minor stresses of travel, packet pick-up, setting the tent up in the frickin' dark, and restless sleep, I woke fresh and excited on Saturday morning at 5:00, ready to take on the world.

I collected myself as the sun was rising, and rode my bike to the staging area (a very short distance further around the lake from my campsite). I was one of the first 20 or so in transition, so I had my pick of spots. Got body marked, collected my timing chip, listened to my pre-game playlist, and generally enjoyed the fact that I was fortunate enough to have done this a dozen times before and so didn't have to run around like a chicken with its head cut off or posture insecurely about my (two races' worth of) previous triathlon experience. The music helps; it allows me to cut myself off from all that and get ready to run my own race. I took my time with a 20 minute bike warm up, 10 minute run warm up, and 20 minute wait for port-a-potties (which I unfortunately had to trade for a swim warm up).

The Swim: 1100 m, 18:08
I was in the third wave, the women's wave, which was fortunate, because I was still zipping into my wetsuit as the first wave departed. For the swim, I seeded myself toward the front, sort of in the second row. When the race director counted us a down, I dove hands first forward and attempted to sprint my way into the front pack. No dice. The swim wasn't crowded, by any means (probably less than 40 people), but for some reason I was getting dropped by everyone. I was completely confused. I normally do not get dropped in Kansas; I am a solid middle-of-the-pack swimmer. In California, I would understand it if I got dropped by everyone and their wetsuited granny. But . . . it's Kansas, you know? Land of adult swimmers!

So I was not mentally in shape to do well. I was discouraged by the fact that I was getting passed, and I didn't want to look behind me to see if there were any other yellow caps left back there. Besides which, I couldn't seem to find a good rhythm; I felt all discombobulated. Befuddled. Frickin' slow.

I think it was all simply because I didn't get a swim warm up, because between 5 and 10 minutes into the swim, I managed to find my groove. I drafted off of a few feet and started catching up to a few lady swimmers (or I think they were ladies, anyway; I honestly didn't bother to look). I recited to myself, "Slow is smooth. Smooth is good. Good is fast. Fast is slow."

And I ended up doing really well. I'm very happy with my swim time. So happy, in fact, that I half suspect that the swim course was measured a little bit short.

T1: 1:06
Yeah, you know I rocked this. It would have been under a minute, too, except I had to put stupid socks on.

The Bike: 19.76 mi, 1:04:29
I think I'm going to have to rethink my strengths in triathlon. Clearly, my transitions are still fairly strong, but my bike leg is starting to catch it up.

I am delighted with this bike split. 19 MPH. 19 MPH! That's pretty darn close to my goal of 20 MPH in a race. I passed several people (including some douche who tried to outsprint me and totally lost), and got into a little game of leap frog with another woman in my age group, whom I ended up finally passing about 3-4 miles from the end.

I felt so, so strong coming off the bike; I knew that I had done well, although I didn't know how well, and I unstrapped my shoes and dismounted my bike like a pro.

T2: 1:00
I could have done this much faster, but I didn't. I simply wasn't in a rush to get to the run.

The Run: 7.2 mi, 1:20:17
I am so embarassed about this time that I don't even want to talk about it. I can't believe I've actually gotten slower, even with a run this long. This is a 11:00 + minute mile, you realize that?

Anyway, I got out onto the run course and had my legs under me by the first half mile. My legs didn't feel good, by any means, but they were doing what they were supposed to do. I had a good, quick turnover and was feeling strong, if not exactly good.

The run was nothing short of pleasant, to be honest. I had fueled very well on the bike (a sip of water and a sip of Accelerade every 2 miles), so no bonking this time! My turnover was good, and I had my heart rate under control (kept it between 165-170 for the first 5 miles). I kept focusing on keeping a decent pace for the first 5 miles, then turning it way up for the last 2.2.

The whole time, I couldn't get over how pleasant the whole experience was. I've had runs that have gone well (and plenty that have gone terribly), but this one was actually pleasant. Like fun. It was a beautiful day, I was at a comfortable pace . . . this is by far one of the best runs I've ever had in a race.

But I cannot seem to get past the disappointment I feel in my performance. My first 2 miles were completed in 18:30. So I was actually setting a decent pace. How, then, did I manage to average 11-minute miles? I just don't understand it.

Final: 2:45:11
I met all my goals for this race. I rocked my nutrition. I rocked my bike. I rocked my swim. I rocked my transitions. I did what I wanted to do on the run, which was to keep my heart rate and pace under control and not bonk (i.e. not repeat Wildflower and Cal Poly). And I did all that.

But I came so close to victory! If I had only known enough to take myself into the red on the run, I could have won it. And I'm having trouble seeing past the run to all the stuff that I did right.

As I think about it now, I realize that a victory at Tinman wasn't really worth it for me, though. The run is disproportionately long. I know I'm not a strong runner, particularly at long distances (anything over a mile! no, just kidding). For me to have laid it all on the line for this race when I have Shawnee Mission coming up in a month . . .

Well, I would much rather do well at Shawnee Mission than at Topeka Tinman. That's my big goal for this year.

More on that later this week (assuming I ever get a long enough break from work that I'm able to post again)!


  1. Yay Jamie! Way to go! I think you did great. Isn't it great when you are really feeling it on the bike? Don't dwell on the run part. That will come along too, I am sure.

    I just saw your comment -- how about Colorado? I think the Denver area would be about 1/2 way for both of us and there should be a lot going on around there.

  2. The run is behind you, your lesson is learned, and now you are going to kick ass and take names at the Shawnee Mission! So HA! You know your swim is awesome, your know your bike is stronger every day, and now you know to push harder in the run. All complaints about the run aside, it seems like you had a really great day. Congratulations!

    I've thought about doing that race just because of the cool name. So, tell me, are the finishers' medals made out of tin?!