Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Race Report: Derby Rock 'n' Route Tri

I only have one thing to say.


I don't know when this race got to be such high stakes for me. Maybe it was the thought of smashing my time from Emporia. Maybe it was the promise of a small field, and a chance to place high. Maybe it was the local feel, a race where everybody knows your name.

Or maybe it was that the (awesome) race director pulled in a big sponsor (Wal Mart) that donated a couple of iPods for the top finishers.

Whatever the reason, I came into this race with high expectations. And I feel like I (and the race) delivered on them.

I did this one alone, and I was okay with that. I set up a nice playlist for pre-gaming. Okay, actually (as a quick aside) I set up three playlists: one for 4:30-5:30 (wake up/shower/eat/drive to race site), one for 5:30-6:00 (packet pick-up and transition set-up), and one for 6:00-7:00 (my "get in the zone" mix). I know. It is a little excessive.

Anyway, I didn't really have anyone coming to cheer me on. No family present. Plenty of people I know were/would be there, but all of us were there to race. No one spectating for me. And I was (I think for the first time) completely okay with that. I was there to race for myself. I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I was going mano y mano with yours truly, and I was going to see how I measured up.

Also, my family was kind of getting on my nerves this week.

Transition was smaller than I expected, but definitely more crowded. There were chip-timing mats everywhere, indicative of getting really good splits. I set up quickly, collected everything I would need, and headed out to make sure my TT bike was in good working condition (because, um, I hadn't been on it for two weeks prior to that day). Everything seemed to be okay (ha!), and I had my bike shoes on my pedals (which is the real reason I warm up on the bike), so I re-racked and headed out for a little run.

Oh boy did it feel good. I felt strong. I felt confident. I felt like a runner.

I felt like I was gonna kick some ass.

Swim: 400 m, 8:28 (2:07/100 m)
This race was set up similar to Emporia: pool swim, time-trial style, with athletes leaving every 20 seconds. So we had a long, friendly snake traveling the length of the pool. I was anti-social and kept my headphones in until the last possible second, trying to simultaneously psych myself up and calm myself down. I definitely got the psyched part, no sweat.

When the moment finally came, I wasn't quite expecting it. The race official said, "Number 53, GO!" and I went. I just hopped in and wasn't totally prepped and ended up with a little water up my nose. But I pushed off anyway and went for it.

The lap pool at Rock River Rapids is long course. I haven't been in a long course pool since the last time I went back to USC, which was over a year ago. I forgot how nice it is. But because of that, you get one lane all to yourself. None of the down-and-back crap we have to deal with at Emporia; no worrying about running into another swimmer because he/she can't stay on his/her side of the lane line; no messy congestion if someone (heaven forbid) should need to pass. Just one big, wide, long lane all to yourself. Flip turns under the rope at the end of each length, too. I flubbed the first three, but nailed the fourth one and didn't have any trouble after that.

The guy right behind me caught up to me at about the 300 m mark. He had pretty much passed me when we came to the wall, and I would have let him go except he took so long to turn! He stopped and grabbed the wall and turned around and pushed off and by the time he did all that, I had already flip turned under him and was gone. He pulled alongside me again, and I was kind of anxious for him to pass; I would have appreciated the draft! But I kept on my own pace, and he apparently didn't have enough to get past me. By the end of that second-to-last length, I was in front of him again, and stayed there the whole time. 

The swim felt so, so good. I felt like a fish. Somewhere in the middle I'm sure I had a little moment of feeling myself slowing and starting to fight the water, but I got it worked out and stayed slow and smooth the whole time. I'm kind of surprised by my time, for that reason. 8:28? It felt like I was swimming fast enough to go with no more than 7:30! But I (ahem) hadn't been in the pool for a while, and I guess that is bound to happen when you have a little lay-off. At any rate, I felt strong and capable, and set myself up for a nice bike.

T1: 23 seconds
Fastest time of all competitors. I am a bad-ass.

Bike: 14 miles, 43:42 (19.2 MPH and second-fastest female split)
Wow. I really thought it was faster than that. Ah well.

The bike is where things started to get interesting. Because (like I said earlier) I haven't been on my TT bike lately; I've been spending a lot of time with the roadies, getting ready for cyclocross, building some power. So the first thing was I didn't know if my bike was going to work. I mean, I assumed it would; no reason why it shouldn't. But then again, things have a way of happening to bikes that sit in the garage for long stretches of time, and this one hadn't been ridden in a couple of weeks. Long story short, everything did not work. I had no speedometer. Which wasn't the end of the world, as I wasn't racing with a heart rate monitor or even a watch. So the lack of one more bit of data wasn't too crushing.

The other result of my long absence from aero was that my body was a little cranky in the tucked position. First thing out on the bike course (after I got into my bike shoes, that is), my hamstrings started cramping really bad. And I thought right away about how stupid it was to ignore my poor Specialized for so long.

Plus, the course was hilly and windy. And these (of course) are not big hills. These are not even medium hills. These are just tiny little bumps in the road, but they just kept coming! And combined with the wind, it was a fairly tough course. But I was trucking along so well, so still I'm shocked that my average speed was just barely over 19 MPH; I figured it would be closer to 21. I guess the hills and the wind too their toll.

It was certainly work. The wind was coming sort of from the south and east, so we had a headwind/crosswind going two directions. And even with the (baby) hills, there aren't a lot of trees in the area, so there's plenty of places where you really have no protection from the wind's gusting. It wasn't the worst I've been out in (no 40 MPH gusts today!), but it was enough to make the effort noticeably harder, and the speed (apparently) noticeably slower.

There was one incredibly wonderful stretch of flat road with a good tailwind, and I managed to hammer pretty well through that section. Of course, I don't know how well, because my speedometer wasn't working. And then the end of the bike course took us through a suburban neighborhood. Lots of twists and turns. I made up some more time on competitors there.

All-told, I don't feel like I got as much out of the bike as I normally do, as I could have and should have. And I think a lot of it has to do with the kind of training I've been doing recently. Not that I necessarily regret the direction I've taken, and I don't think I would have changed it. Well, maybe I would have gotten out on my Specialized at least once this last week.

T2: 24 seconds
Third out of all the women on this one. That's okay, I guess (wink wink).

Run: 5 k, 26:45 (8:36/mile)
Oh boy did this hurt. Right at the end of the bike course, I managed to pass four women. Three of those four passed me within the first mile (the fourth passed me near 2.5 miles). That part wasn't what hurt, though; I figured I put enough time into them on the bike that I could beat all but one of them in the overall standings (so weird, this staggered start thing).

The part that hurt was the running. I put out a lot of effort on the bike; I could feel it while I was doing it. And I knew that I was going to pay for it on the run, but I was flirting with that thin line between going hard and exploding.

On this run, I kept waiting for the explosion.

It never came, which was good, but I still suffered quite a bit. Derby is fairly rolling, but--again--we're not really talking hills, here. More like false flats. Little downhills, little uphills. Well, at least one big uphill, and one long, gradual incline in the last half mile.

This was the part of the race where I regretted not wearing a watch. I think I could have pushed myself a little better if I'd had some sense of pacing. I'd really like to be one of those athletes who can push entirely off of perceived exertion, but I'm not (yet). I do really well with a heart rate number that tells me, "Hey! Only 178! You can go faster!" or a pace reading that says, "8:20 for that last mile; you can surely keep that up, right?" Perceived exertion . . . I feel like I just don't have the focus to go my hardest and hold it there, especially with triathlon. In a bike race, it's easy; all I have to do is ask myself, "Would I be able to run after this?" and if the answer is yes, I need to work harder. But triathlon is so much more about conservation, and it's hard to get out of that mindset on the run. I kept telling myself, "Even if you do blow up, so what? What else do you have to do today, anyway?" But I still felt myself slowing down.

Towards the end, I caught one of the girls who had passed me early on. She was slowing down quite a bit, obviously suffering. Throughout the run, I'd told myself that all I needed to do was just keep contact with her, and I would be able to sprint by her at the end. Around the 2-mile marker, I realized I probably wouldn't have to sprint by her. I pulled along side her and we started chatting (in pants and gasps). She was cramping. It was her first race. She'd never felt anything like this before. I started to pull away from her on an uphill.

Then I felt a niggling little sting at the back of my ankle. Blister. Uh-oh. It came on suddenly and it came on hard. It was sharp. It was unbearable, actually. I thought back to when I was putting on Body Glide; it seemed at the time like I was forgetting some place very important, and I knew now what it was. I have these Zoot racing flats that I love. They're light and dashy looking and perfect for what I use them for. But if I don't put lube on the backs of my ankles, they cut the dickens out of them. And I'd forgotten. (Quick note: the back part of my shoe is all bloody from where it rubbed my ankle raw.)

Suddenly all the other pain in my body was magnified, and I had trouble concentrating. The girl I had recently passed was pacing off of me beautifully. I wanted to tell her good job, but I didn't have the energy anymore. At the next water stop, I slowed down to grab a drink, and that was my big tactical error. The other girl kept running at the same speed, and I never came close to her again; she was completely out of sight by the time I finished. She was 19, though, and I think she was carrying some adrenaline she hadn't used yet. Once she figured out she'd dropped me, I'm sure she took off like a rabbit.

After that, it was just a process of ignoring the blister on my Achilles and hanging on 'til the end. That long, steady uphill came at the end, and I got passed again. I tried for a second to run with her, but I just couldn't. My right rhomboid and glute medius were both in knots, and that blister was surprisingly annoying! I had just enough energy to summon an acceleration at the end. Nothing like a plane coming in for a landing, I'm afraid, but enough to get a few cheers from the crowd.

Still, bad as it hurt, and hard as I faded at the end, I'm pleased with my run. It's not as fast as I think I have in me (I'm going sub-24 next year, just wait), but considering how bad I tightened up on the bike and how hard I pushed with the wind and hills, I think 26-ish is respectable.

Total: 1:19:43, 2nd F 20-24, 6th overall
I was three minutes and three spots away from overall podium. One of these days I'm gonna get there, you know.

One little niggling thought that has stayed with me all day is how self-absorbed I am. I want to be one of those quality athletes who's always staying 'til the last person crosses the line, watching and clapping, everybody's cheerleader. That's not my personality to begin with, so it's unlikely. But I feel like I need to get outside of myself more. Be a little less self-involved, what with my race and my results and me me me all the time. I'm not sure how to do that. But I think that as I get to know more and more of the local athletes, it'll come more and more naturally.

I'm happy with this race. I'm happy with how I performed, especially considering my recent training. I'm happy that I'm getting to the place where I know people by sight (and they know me), where we can catch up with each others' lives at every race, where we're a community. I think it's growing in Wichita, and it's exciting to see. And it's a good reminder that speed (i.e. 19 MPH) is relative; the course and the way the day plays out are going to impact objective performance, and that's okay.

Also, I'm happy to have another medal to add to my personal shrine.

But I'm still not satisfied. I've had several second-place finishes, this year; I've had three top-tens. I'm ready to go for the top of the podium; I'm ready to be number one.


  1. Did you have an USC outfit on, if so, I was the big chunky guy right across from you in the transition area? My first tri and I was hyped. Somehow, I miscalculated the swim and was 2 1/2 min slow and totally winded which I never recovered from. You passed me right before the long hill heading South. My swim sucked, my bike was worse, never got in a cadence groove, and my run was even worse than the other 2. I did though put on an outstanding kick outkicking anyone within 100 yds behind me... Can't wait for the one Oct 4 in Wichita. I will do better. Yes, you were anti social :-) I had fun talking to others learning new stuff. TH

  2. Congratulations on finishing your first race! Glad you got to learn new things from other, friendlier racers ;-). Hope I can at least help you learn new things via blog! If you'd like to know about any group workouts in the area, shoot me an e-mail (jamielynnmorton[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll let you know when we head out for swims, bikes, and runs!

  3. Remember running into you at the pool during warm-up. We shared a lane for a bit. I had a great time at this tri. I was happy with a 3rd place finish in my age group (50-54). I have had to chuckle to myself a little bit about some of the race reports I've read where some of the participants have complained about the bike course being hilly and windy. I'm from Topeka where it's hilly EVERYWHERE so that course was flat as a pancake to me and I didn't even notice the wind. Wish I could ride on that kind of a route every day!!!

    I wondered if you knew who the photographer was out there? I happened to be there without any family or friends with cameras and want to try to get some pics and I can't seem to find out who the guy was at all. Thanks!


  4. Thanks for the training offer. I'm too slow for now to even keep up. Year from now, diff story hopefully. Does every Tri athlete have their own blog - seems like it? Cool to have everyone encourage others. TH

  5. Hi Jamie.
    You make it sound so bad that you self absorbed. I see it as a big performance boost making you perform better ie. beeing in the 'zone'.
    Usually people have problems getting into the 'zone' seems you have the opposite problem which I think would be slightly easier to fix.
    After all, when you choose to share all you race reports and thoughts with us, you can't be that far away. Keep sharing :-)