A few people have asked me about my race on Sunday, specifically what I did to manage in the heat, so here is a race report if you are interested.
My goal big race this season is Ironman Coeur d’Alene on June 28th, which will be IM #4 for me, so this past Sunday in Oliver at the Half Iron, 3 weeks before the ‘big day’, was perfect timing in my opinion to get my head back into the long distance triathlon game. It’s only been 2 years since IMC, but that’s long enough to forget things like how many gels per hour you need, and how to pee while running….you know, important stuff like that.
A few people had asked me leading up to the race, if I was really going to ‘race it’ or if it would be more like a long training day. It’s a race…. so yes, I am racing. Racing however, doesn’t always mean going as hard as you can, especially if you have another race coming up, or like to keep your body in tact, uninjured, and healthy for things like riding bikes with your kids. That is what I learned on Sunday, and that is what I’d like to share, a successful race is not as simple as going as hard as you can, and in a lot of ways, it actually can be a lot easier than that.
Now I’m far from being at the front end of the race, but I am learning and getting faster. When I talk about success, I am talking about my own success, which sometimes equates to placings depending on the field, sometimes not, but know that it’s in the context of a busy age group athlete, who lives and breathes the sport, but has a lot of other stuff going on besides my own racing. My success on Sunday, was quite simply because the fitness was there, and honestly all I had to do was not let my head get in the way of that. I’ve had good fitness before, but hadn’t yet figured out the frame of mind needed to let it carry me through a race. We knew a few days ahead of time that it was going to be a very very hot day, and I’ve raced in Osoyoos enough times to know what can happen on days like that. I knew that there would be a lot of people suffering in the heat, and times would be a little slower than they typically might, and that the best way to get a fast time, was to keep it relaxed, under control, and manage hydration/electrolytes/fuel, and stay as cool as possible. It was to be a perfect practice day for a full distance race coming up.
My swim was not good. I didn’t wear a wetsuit as the water was 24degrees so wetsuits were optional. I figured I would be so hot the rest of the day, I wanted to start the day cool and refreshed. I knew this put me at a slight time disadvantage to the other women, but also knew that I wanted to be comfortable and enjoy the day, and I hate feeling hot when I swim, can’t stand it actually. Tactical error #1 – not wearing something more streamlined for the swim. Top was way too baggy, definitely not speedy, I knew it 2 strokes in. Ooops. Tactical recovery: enjoy the swim, don’t fight the resistance, settle into a relaxed but purposeful pace because fighting the resistance won’t be worth it. Accept the 2-3min loss, but enjoy being cool, and smile while cruising past as many men from their wave as possible. 33min swim, 2min T1. Pre Swim: ¾ bottle water + banana + eTab.
Bike – I didn’t make any mistakes on the bike. All I did was ride. The first 13k did feel like work, my legs felt like they were pushing, and I had a bit of muscle soreness, I figured it would pass, as it had on the previous weeks 8.5hrs of cycling, so I pressed on, and it did pass, as it had in training so many times. By the time I got to the hill I felt settled and had brought lightness to the effort. I’m lucky to have a fast bike from Sun Country Cycle, and my legs are really strong from all of the hills I climbed as prescribed by coach Melissa Spooner in 2013. I feel like now, two seasons later, I am now reaping the benefits from those efforts, and am able to put the pieces together. Having lost a few pounds earlier in the winter has me feeling pretty zippy on the bike, so I just rode. I didn’t ride super hard, I just made sure not to waste any pedal strokes. No coasting, no time in the wrong gear, no time lost to poor gear changes (easy with Di2 electronic shifting). In the entire 93k, I probably spent a total of 2minutes of ‘wasted’ time on the pedals, and that would have been going through the sharp corner twice, and coasting at aid stations. I was focused and strategic. I passed people when I could see they were having a tough time, even if I knew they were stronger than me, I took advantage of my competitors times of weakness. I passed with a cheerful smile and a few words of encouragement, made it look way too easy, and didn’t look back.
2:52 93k bike, :26second T2. 5 gels, 2 bottles eLoad, 2 bottles of water – drank half of each, used the rest to stay cool, and wash sticky gel off my hands, and a little bit of spit up to wash off too J. I accidentally dropped my Shot Blocks, which were ½ of my fuel and a good portion of the sodium I wanted to take on the bike. As I was cool and calm, and not pushing so hard that I couldn’t think, I corrected by taking two more gels than I was planning to – to get the sodium, which meant taking more water to dilute the sugar solution in my belly.. which led to the little burp/spit up, but it was all very thoughtful and purposeful. I remembered that I would need to take an extra salt tab as soon as I got off the bike because I didn’t have any with me. Thanks again to Dr. Chris Spooner of Paradigm Naturopathic Medicine and Melissa Spooner from Endurance Health and Fitness, for the excellent race nutrition workshops. Every year I learn something new, and every race, it all makes a little more sense, and I’m able to apply what I know a little bit better. Water + Electrolytes + Sugar. It’s really a simple equation, but to figure out what you need, at what point in a race, can be tricky. I didn’t go in with a ‘nutrition plan’, but I knew what I needed, and more importantly what it feels like when you are missing one of those three components.
Run was perfect. For me it wasn’t about running fast, it was about finding the rhythm that would yield speed, once I settled in and allowed the stride to open up. I talk and write a LOT about rhythm when describing workouts to athletes, and it’s not because I am trying to add extra words. I truly believe that you need to find a rhythm that you trust, that you are comfortable with and that you can rely on. This applies to swim, to bike, and to run. What I mean by ‘rhythm’ is sometimes referred to as ‘flow’ in running magazines, or as being in the ‘zone’. But I like to call it rhythm, because it is very… rhythmic. I trained my swim and my run very similarly this year, I found a good stroke/stride rate, and a good stroke/stride length that worked for me, that produced good speed, and that I could settle into, and I trained that rate/rhythm all season. If I needed an easier workout day, I added more rest and went shorter. If I needed a harder day, intervals were longer, and eventually runs were longer too. I made a point not to run poorly at all this year. Not a single step. If I couldn’t swim or run well on a particular day, I went home. It paid dividends on Sunday. I only had one rate, only had one rhythm, and it was a good one, that I trusted, so I just ran. I knew I could hold it, because I’ve trained it, and the fitness is there, so I just settled into that rhythm and enjoyed the run. It didn’t feel like a lot of work for my legs or for my aerobic system, I felt like my body was just doing what it knew how to do. It was work mentally to stay focused, and relaxed, and trusting in the rhythm.
I had a truly joyful day, particularly the run. I felt so happy to get to be out there racing on that day. I felt grateful to be healthy enough to do what I love to do, and I felt a lot of confidence and trust in the decisions I made in training and on race day. I stopped at every aid station to drink water, I stopped when I saw kids with squirt guns so they could spray me, I stopped to leap through the sprinklers. I stayed cool, I stayed hydrated, I kept electrolytes up, and I had fun. Maybe that is not what some people think is “racing”, but it produced for me the best outcome that I could have, on that day. I ran as though I still had another 21k to go, which allowed me to not only finish running well, it allowed me to enjoy a cycle with the Youth/Junior Team Sunday night, a ride with the women’s group Monday night, and a solid early morning ride Tuesday with a Jr athlete. I did not put it all out there in the last 5k as I normally would, I will save that for IMCDA, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t racing. I ran 21k in 2:04, with 3 gels, 3 eTabs, and water at most aid stations. I thought this was very successful in the heat.
The most important lesson I learned on Sunday, which I knew logically, but had never experienced for myself, is that if the fitness is there, it’s there. You can’t force a performance beyond the training you have put in. All you can do, is trust the training, enjoy the day, and make decisions that allow the fitness to show up. I hope to stay calm, focused, and joyous through Ironman in 3 weeks. If I race with good decisions, the fitness that is there will yield the success that it ought to.
I was very pleased with a 5:32, which is a 3min PR for me, and good enough for 1st in AG and 8th Woman overall. I am feeling full of potential for IMCDA. My goal at IMCDA is to be closer to 11hrs than 12, but more importantly and more specifically is to: swim the rate that I trained, which does mean a higher turnover and more effort than Sunday, no slacking off; bike with purpose in every pedal stroke; and run the consistent rhythm that I have trained. If I can do those three things, and not make any major tactical errors, my time will reflect the training that I have done, which will be the best that I can do that day, and will yield whatever time is appropriate for those efforts, with the conditions of the given day.
Thanks for reading.