I had a couple of races where I tried to do just that and they were utter failures. Either, I didn't find it fun, or I abandoned the plan partway through. Finally I realized that a "fun" race for me is one that I push hard enough that I finish feeling like I'm going to puke. Where I leave everything out on the course, and there's no "could I have gone faster?"
I raced last weekend! It was a spur of the moment decision.
I'd decided to take August off of racing, and go easy on training. Easy was supposed to mean, still doing it, but not stressing about following a schedule. In reality, what happened is getting time to train got a lot harder. My kids aren't in daycamps anymore, and my husband has been working overtime almost every night, often not getting home until 10:00pm. Without a race on the schedule, or a plan, I just didn't feel like going to the extra effort to make the training work. It is rather painful to put one's bike on the trainer or run on the treadmill in August. So, I've had only a handful of swims and runs in the three weeks since Calgary 70.3.
Last week, Runner Leana mentioned on her blog that she was doing Strathmore, a local women's only race that I did two years ago. I was hit with a serious case of race envy. When I checked the race website, there were still spots. This race always fills up, so that seemed like a sign. I debated it briefly, then signed up. Then I tri-pushed and got Kim, another friend, to sign up. It was going to be an awesome day!
Race day dawned bright and early. I car pooled with Kim to the race, and we had a relaxing drive chatting along the way.
When we got to the race, it was social centre. There were lots of Team Trilife people there and I kept running into somebody I knew. We cheered for people coming out of the swim and hung out. Before long, it was time to race.
Since this is a pool swim, it's a staggered start based on your estimated swim time. I'd estimated my swim time as 12-13 minutes, then second guessed it. I swam just under 12 in Vulcan when I still had the stress fracture and wasn't pushing off properly. I hung back a little bit, so that I'd be near the end of my wave. You always start with slower people and finish with faster people so best not to stress too much about it.
|Photo Courtesy of Neil, Runner Leana's husband|
When approaching the wall at 75 metres, my foot got tapped. I stayed on my side, and let the woman behind pass me. Then I pushed off right behind her to see if I could catch her draft. Yep. She was going at a decent pace, but I had no trouble holding on to her. In fact, after a few more lengths, I started wondering if she was fading. It was feeling easy, but I wasn't sure if that was just because I was drafting. Was it worth the effort to pass?
I decided to keep hanging out behind her. I figured even if I swam slightly slower, I would at least go into bike fresh. I find a lot of people can decide to speed up if they think they are being passed, and I didn't feel like going to battle. With 100m left, I accidentally tapped her toe on the push off, so at the following wall, she let me by. I had a great rhythm for those last 75m, and realized that I probably should have passed. I could feel how much faster I was. My garmin confirms that I swam much slower between 200m and 425m then I did for the rest of it.
Then I was up and out of the water. You have to walk on the pool deck, so I used it as a moment to catch my breath before heading out the door and running the rest of the way to transition. Yipee!
Swim: 12:46 for 500m (includes time walking to lane and out of pool.)
The bike I felt really strong. I debated whether I should hold back to save energy for the run, but decided I would just push it and keep pushing it. I was willing to take the risk of blowing up because with such a short distance, I figured I could pull off a finish even if it really hurt.
The fun thing about a staggered start is that you get to pass lots of people on the bike. I made it a goal to catch up and pass every person that appeared ahead of me. I figured it wouldn't take long for faster people to start catching up to me and passing me, but it didn't happen once. Not once! I wasn't passed at all.
I underestimate myself on the bike. What I thought was a hard, maybe risky effort was probably a completely appropriate race pace for a sprint. Truthfully, with more consistent training leading up to it, it could even be an appropriate race pace for an olympic.
Then, pulling back into transition. I got off my bike and headed for my spot.
Bike: 44:47 for 20km (Time includes both transitions.)
The run. This one has been my wild card this season. Leading up to Calgary 70.3, I'd only been doing run/walk intervals. Once I completed Calgary 70.3, I finally had the confidence that my foot was truly healed. So, I was going to run it. The whole thing. I even had the hope that maybe I could pull of a sub-30 minute run, something that I hadn't accomplished since early this year.
I seem to have a pace that I almost always fall into off the bike, about 5:30/km. In any longer race, this is the time to look at my pace, and pull back, because I can't possibly sustain that pace over the long haul. This time, I didn't look at my pace, and I didn't hold back, because I was going to run this thing, damn it.
Within the first kilometer, it was feeling hard. I'd gotten so used to the run/walk intervals, and I was taking that away from myself. No walking! This is what I've been waiting for, I reminded myself.
I started to get into my rhythm. It was still hard, but it was maintainable. I could hold it. Every time I got the urge to walk, I reminded myself that I would have killed to be able to run this race three months ago.
I grabbed some water at the aid station and kept running. Except it was in hard plastic cups! Boo. You can't pinch those to drink while running. So, I just aimed for my mouth, got a bit in and most of it on my shirt. No worries. It was hot anyways.
I was hurting, but feeling so good on the way back. I barely looked at my garmin. It didn't matter. What mattered was that I running. I smiled.
With one kilometer to go, I picked up the pace. I felt so strong. The finish line was in sight. I shut off the part of my brain that tells me I hurt and just concentrated on moving my body. Running tall, running strong.
And I crossed the finish line.
Run: 28:59 for 5K.
This may be the closest I've ever come to puking upon crossing finish line. I was actually looking around for a garbage can in case I couldn't stop myself, but before long, I had my breathing under control and was feeling good again.
This race was a victory for me. I thought Calgary 70.3 was my come back race, and it was. But, in a way, so was this. This race, I was able to do without holding back. Without fearing the injury and without feeling like I had to play it safe. I raced with everything I had on that day. I proved to myself that I still have it. If anything, getting through this injury has made my mental side so much stronger. Nothing can stop me now.
Total time: 1:26:30 (A minute and a half faster then last time I did this race.)