Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pewaukee Tri- New Race, Old Foe

Last weekend I headed east to the Pewaukee Triathlon with some friends from the Wisconsin Tri Team.  Jess's parents had a house a mile off of the bike course, so it was a really convenient place to stay, and her parents took extremely good care of us throughout the weekend.  The four of us Badgers rode a loop of the bike course Saturday to check it out.  I would be doing the Olympic the next day (2 loops) while they were entered in the sprint (1 loop).  The race was under new directors this year-- this was its first year hosting an Olympic distance in addition to the sprint, and even the sprint route was slightly different from previous years', so all of us had new things to scope out.  The bike course wasn't too difficult, but definitely had enough going on to keep things interesting: a  lot of corners, a couple of 35+ mph descents, a few short steep hills, and 2 train track crossings.

I'd been monitoring the weather forecast over the week, and it looked like around race finish time it was supposed to be about 75 and sunny.  That was encouraging.  I've written before in this blog  about my tendency to have problems racing in the heat, including my meltdown on the run earlier this year at Collegiate Nats in Tempe. But I'd had some encouraging hard efforts in the heat earlier in the week.  Tuesday: a tough interval run in the Arboretum with the team- low 80*s, and I was sweating buckets but able to hang tough through the whole workout.  Thursday, a strong 5k run at the Madison Aquathon Series event, in 82* after swimming 1k and scarfing a chocolate cupcake (it was Food Challenge night!). So I made sure to hydrate with electrolytes all day Saturday, and took a couple of salt tablets pre-race on Sunday, but I wasn't too concerned. 

a lovely clear morning in Pewaukee

My wave wasn't scheduled to start until 7:02 a.m., but the sprint race began at 6:15, which meant transition closed at 6.  So we rolled out at 4:30 to bike over to Pewaukee Beach Park, in the first light of the day. Setting up my space didn't take long, so I went for a little run warm-up, cheered on my friends starting the sprint, and snacked on some Power Bar Energy Blasts before a little swim shake-out.  As I took my place in the starting corral, we learned that the start would be delayed.  I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with the other speedy ladies in my wave- I recognized the names and faces of many from other races, but it was rare to have everyone in one area and not preoccupied by pre-race activities!  Everyone was really friendly and relaxed, which made for a great atmosphere. There was money on the line for the top three overall men and women at this race, so a podium finish was one of my aims for the day-- but I knew I had my work cut out for me in this strong bunch.

 Yeah, I ran I 5k in this last week. 
One sign I've gotten bolder in my
old age.
The water was (allegedly) barely wetsuit legal, so I again opted  for my sleeveless BlueSeventy wetsuit as the fastest option.  I'd done the aquathon on Thursday non-wetsuit (Rev3 shimmer suit!), and it showed me exactly how much faster I am with the wetsuit right now- totallly worth being a little bit warmer.  Our wave was pretty small, but I almost immediately lost track of where everyone was after the start- I definitely need to work on that!   The long return leg of the swim involved sighting directly into sun and there weren't many buoys, so I swam quite a bit off course. My stroke felt pretty good, but that doesn't matter much when you swim extra distance, so I still lost some time.  I came out of the water right behind Claire Bootsma, who I recognized as the only other pink cap (20-29 F) in the wave.  I was quite impressed because I knew she was a runner-- time to get to work!
Split: 22:45

There was a long run up and around the large transition area, and I hemorrhaged a bit more time.  I heard someone yell to Claire as she left that she was third. Rats! That meant I was fourth, and far enough behind the top 2 not to ever spot them in transition.  I needed a good ride to stay in the game.
Split: 1:39

Bike (27 mi)
Beginning the bike, I ran into a frustrating problem that I've experienced before but haven't been able to figure out yet.  My legs were in pain, but not tired. It's hard to describe the sensation.  I just couldn't get them to push, and my power was much lower than than I'd been able to easily put out the day before.  Maybe I need a better pre-race warmup?  The fortunate thing was that I was pretty sure (from experience) that if I kept pushing against that wall, it would eventually crack.  And it did.  Finally about 9 miles in, things loosened up.  My legs felt like my own again.  I felt strong, and I was having a ball.  Thanks to whoever cheered for me as I came through the first loop- I didn't have a chance to spot who you were!  I caught and passed Claire at about mile 12, and the next woman, Jennifer Harrison, at about mile 16.  In this section my friend Ted came whizzing by, so I also had fun trying to keep him in sight as long as possible.  On this second loop I started to feel the heat of the day, and made sure to take in the salt and Power Gel I had packed. I also finished off 2 water bottles and sprayed myself off a few times.  I was pleased to find out after the race that even with my difficulties in the first part of the ride I posted the fastest female bike split of the day, over Lauren Jensen, who had bested me a couple of minutes at Elkhart. All of the Olympic racers were also very lucky that we didn't end up having to stop for trains like many sprint racers did...
Split: 1:15:22

how often do you see a "train" column on results?
Thanks to a strong ride I entered T2 second, and spotted Lauren leaving as I approached my rack. Since she out-swam me, it was my first glimpse of her since the start.  Sweet, it's onnnnn.  I slipped into my Pearl Izumi's and took off in pursuit.
Split: 1:27

I felt a bit stiff leaving transition, but nothing too unusual.  Within the first half mile, though, I was suddenly suffocated by the heat.  The sun was bright, the sky was cloudless, the air was thick with humidity, and I was suffering.  I tried to just keep turning my legs over, and that worked for a little while.  I was holding the distance to the 2 runners in front of me.  There were 2 aid stations in the first 3 miles, but they didn't come fast enough for me, nor did their comfort last long enough.  At the first out-and-back on the course, I spotted 3rd, 4th, and 5th all about 45 seconds to about a minute back.  I would have been thrilled to have some great battles if I didn't already feel like I was hanging on by a thread.  Kim Goodell has apparently mastered racing in the heat, and had a fantastic run- she flew by me in the next few minutes.  Jennifer seemed to be hurting too and caught me much later, but I couldn't put up much of a fight at that point.

By now I've built up a pretty good arsenal of thoughts, memories, and techniques to help me combat pain, but I've realized I don't have a similar mental bank of things to draw upon to combat heat.  The usual tricks don't work; I couldn't get myself to focus on anything else through the middle of that race.  I'm a big fan of music in general, and it can help a lot when I have work to do and need an extra push (think indoor trainer intervals in the middle of Wisconsin winter!).  During the Aquathon I was jamming to this song inside my head during the run: "when it gets loud, I turn it up..."  I probably should've switched lines and tried to use it for the Pewaukee run:

They probably weren't talking about lighting up the run course, but that doesn't matter.  When you're adding to your mental toolbox, sometimes it's all about adapting the things you have access to, to make them work for you.  Find or make your own meaning- whatever works!

Anyway, I had not prepared any great mental strategies for heat in time for this race, and the physical strategies weren't enough to save me either.  Around mile 3 I starting having some breathing problems, and slowed to a walk at several points to try to make sure I'd be able to get myself to the line instead of being carted off.  I'm not normally asthmatic, but I've been told a few times in past years that I probably have some exercise-induced asthma.  The only problems I've really had with it though seem to be 1) extended coughing with exercise after I've been sick, and 2) wheezing associated with racing in heat.  Does this happen to any of you?  If so, let me know how you handle it!  Fortunately in the second half of the course we climbed a little hill, and at the top there was a breeze as well as an aid station that we hit 3 or 4 times within a 10 minute period.  The combination of the wind and repeatedly dousing myself with water was enough to cool me down enough to run again, and I ended on a high note.
Split: 50:11 (ouch)
Total: 2:31:24, 1st F25-29, 4th overall F

Even after a week to think about it, I'm still not quite sure what combination of factors led me to melt down so badly in the middle of this particular run.  I felt much stronger at mile 6 than I did at mile 1.  That is part of why I love the sport though, and why training races are so useful-- nothing EVER goes perfectly; there is always room for improvement. Terrain and conditions vary, and make even racing the same course a unique experience each time.  Putting it all together well is a puzzle, problem-solving at its finest.  At every race you encounter something new, end up coming up with different ideas, and learn a little bit more.  It's all part of the fun.

Post race
There wasn't much to do in the finish area, so no one stuck around too long.  The race had timing complications due to the 3 trains that had stopped athletes during the event.  The RDs had put out timing mats before and after each set of tracks to try to deal with this possibility, but some malfunction left the timers sorting things out manually-- results couldn't be finalized in enough time to hand out awards that day.  All of my teammates did great, though!  We had some strong finishes in both races.  After chatting with some old and new friends for a little while, I took a cool down walk/jog back to transition.  My bag had gotten its own ride, so I had to get creative.  There were a ton of bumps on the 4 miles back to the house, but nothing fell off so I'm considering it a success!

I am nothing if not resourceful. That's running shoes, medal, transition towel, visor, race belt, and there's an aero drink under there somewhere.  Add a wetsuit around the shoulders and I'm sure I looked pretty spiffy.

Later in the afternoon we headed out on the lake for some tubing!  It was actually my first try at it.  I had a blast, spending most of my time on the tube giggling uncontrollably.  It was also a surprisingly good workout, and a reminder that I need to get back on the strength training wagon- my biceps, lats, and shoulders were all super sore the next day.  All in all, an excellent weekend!

catching some air!

The next big race is Rev3 Wisconsin Dells!  I am so beyond excited for that one.  It was my first Rev3 race last year (the one that sucked me in!) and the whole experience will be even more fun this year as part of the team.  I've already started working on a big "race preview" blog post, so keep an eye out for that in the next week or two!

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