Sunday, April 13, 2008

Race Report: Valdese Sprint Triathlon

"Happiness equals reality minus expectations” - Tom Magliozzi

Adjust your expectations.

That’s what I kept repeating to myself as the raging thunderstorm passed over Valdese, NC on Saturday morning and race organizers stopped and started and stopped and started and stopped and started my first triathlon of 2008.

I stood in line on the pool deck shivering, noticeably hungry several hours after my nutrition plan had allowed for, with tight, no longer warmed-up legs, and thought of how slick the hilly roads would be when and if I got through the morning’s swim.

Attack the bike? A solid intention given my preparation.
A realistic intention for the day as it was actually presenting itself? Maybe not.

Instead of allowing frustration to seep in, I simply focused on my breath, remembered that many more races lay ahead, provided a few tips to first time triathlete in line beside me, smiled and reframed. My new intention for the day became stay upright and safe.

After the thunder and lightening finally passed, the race was on. In an attempt to at least ‘think’ myself warmed up, I did a few sun salutation half-salutes on the tiny edge of the pool deck I had to myself. Once I jumped into the pool, I thought of my water aerobics friends and moved my legs underwater - gently kicking and raising my knees while I waited for my turn to push off the wall.

And then I was off --- finally!

After a conservative and relatively uneventful 250 yards later (I was passed once in the water – don’t worry I caught him on the bike! – and passed the guy originally in front of me), I was out of the water and about to see the transition area post-thunderstorm for the first time.

I tentatively ran along the wet, slick sidewalk and across the road to the transition area. My once perfectly organized set-up was thrown into disarray by the storm. Dirt, grime, and water covered my bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses. The running shoes, visor, and race belt I would need later were also soaked and on the opposite side of the bike rack. I said “Oh, no” out loud, but quickly tried to shrug it off and get ready to ride

250 yd Swim + T1: 6:05 (Final splits not yet posted)

Out of transition, I smoothly mounted my bike, after struggling during my earlier warm-up ride and realizing that I hadn’t practiced a bike mount transition since last fall…oops!

On the hill immediately out of transition, I’m certain that my heartrate immediately spiked to at least high zone 4. Thankfully, my self talk worked beautifully and I was able to bring myself down and into a smooth rhythm. Despite the downpour and ongoing spitting, light rain, I felt confidant on the road. I kept my eyes peeled and WENT FOR IT.

I took each hill as it came and stayed aero for 90% of the ride. The hills that last year seemed nearly impossible,were not at all what I remembered. I was ready and I was having a GREAT, GREAT ride.

In the last third of the course, I came upon what looked to be a steep hill. I downshifted, said “You can do this” out loud, and then the Lord’s Prayer popped into my head. I repeated it three times. When I reached the top, I realized that I had just breezed through THE STEEP HILL that nearly made me cry last year. I smiled, said a quick thank you, and knew I had conquered the worst of the course.

However, God must have a sense of humor.

I turned the corner and my chain promptly fell off.

Luckily, this had happened just a few weeks ago during a training ride. I simply pulled over, dismounted, flipped my bike upside down, reloaded the chain, flipped the bike right side up and jumped back on. Calm, cool, and collected, I was off again in an estimated less than 75 seconds.

I regained speed, rode about 1.5 miles, and then saw the slick road claim a fellow racer as he went down in a horrible wreck. He landed on his back and slid across the road, moaning. I stopped and again dismounted to see if he was o.k. A few other riders and one driver also stopped. The driver let us know that he would ensure that the guy got the help he needed, so I jumped back on my bike and let the driver know that I would send the next police officer I saw back to the scene.

Shaken up, I focused on simply getting through the short remainder of the ride unscathed. Near transition I realized that my stomach was audibly growling. I ripped open the Chocolate Outrage GU I had taped to my tube ‘just in case’ and sucked down its tasty, caffeinated goodness to prep for running.

I arrived back at transition and unclipped early in order to give myself plenty of time to mentally prepare for a smooth dismount. After racking my bike, I grabbed my filthy visor and leaf covered race belt and took off.

9 mi Bike + T2: 33:24

I didn’t realize that my bike had been such a strong one until I started running. Then, my legs made it abundantly clear.

I focused on form and cadence, reminded myself that the bike had been my goal, and cheered for fellow racers along the course. Despite what felt to like a slowish run, I finished very strong across the line – happy and thankful that I’d successfully and safely completed my first tri of the year.

3.1 mi Run: 27:35

My most significant take away from this race is a new found confidence in my ability to remain mentally present and positive regardless of external circumstances – in triathlon and other areas of my life. Race delays, disheveled transition areas, mechanical issues, bike wrecks….challenges with my job, arguments with my husband, frustrations in the grocery line…. I CAN HANDLE IT, with grace.

I’m also incredibly pleased with my overall race results. In sum, I cut 6 minutes off of my time from last year’s race. 6 minutes!! In one year!! When the final splits come in, it's possible that I may have PRed each part of the race.

I also placed FIRST in my age group for the very first time. If I'm honest, THIS was my super-secret goal. Because rankings are truly not within my control, I really hesitated to think it, let alone say it out loud. But for a gal, who NEVER thought she would be first in ANY way, in ANY athletic event, this small note is very, very satisfying. I'm now set to race the full Try Sports Development Series and see how my overall rankings add up.

Perhaps best of all, I won an Ipod Shuffle in the post-race prize drawing!

These are the kind of results that provide serious motivation as I look forward to months ahead.

Special thanks to my dear friend and Burke County native Emily who provided excellent support and hospitality pre, during, and post race! What a fabulous way to start the season.

Total Time: 1:07:02
Age Group: 1/ 13
Women: 11/ 79