Monday, August 4, 2008

Race Report: Lake Logan Olympic Triathlon

“These triathlons tire me out!” – My Dad, multisport spectator extraordinaire , during a post-race lunch at the Mountain Mater Festival

For me, Saturday’s race offered a glimpse of potential. My body responded so much more strongly than I had anticipated and planned for that it’s now got me thinking. Thinking again about my effort, about what’s possible, and about what’s still holding me back.

Thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking...

But, NOT thinking too much is a big part of what helped make this race so special. So, for now, let’s get on with the race report and save the thinking for another day.

This weekend offered the opportunity to spend some alone time with my parents. No husband, no sisters, no friends, just me. I can’t remember the last time the three of us simply got to hang out. The oldest kid in me felt some deep, biological selfish longing satisfied and it was an absolutely wonderful three days.

Saturday morning, my mom joined me for a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call and we headed west in the starry mountain darkness. Despite the complicated directions and our encountering of a few closed roads, I felt incredibly calm. We navigated, listened to music, and mom reminded me to breathe.

We arrived at Lake Logan within the perfect amount of time: Just enough to get me set-up, bodymarked, and warmed-up before the race director announced that it was time for all athletes to head to the lake.

Lake Logan is beautiful. Even with the drought-lowered water level, the scene is simply postcard perfect. Because the water was lower than originally anticipated, race officials changed the swim course, moving it significantly further from the transition area. As a result, all racers were encouraged to bring their running shoes to a make-shift mini-transition area located at the swim exit. As I was walking the half-mile(?) to the swim start, running shoes in hand, I distinctly noted that the walk was taking a little longer than I would have liked. None the less, I walked with a smile on my face. It was race day, I felt so calm and ready, the weather was perfect, and I was prepared. As I walked I mentally recited one of my favorite poems by e.e. cummings:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;
this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

The horn sounded and my wave was off! Knowing that plenty of intensity lay ahead, my plan for the swim was to slightly increase my effort as I reached each buoy. I simply stuck to my plan, sighted well, and maintained my form. As my mind occasionally drifted, I brought it back by counting my strokes and mentally humming “Om” with each exhale.

I reached the turn-around buoy and was shocked. So shocked in fact that I stopped swimming, lifted my head out the water, turned to the left, turned to the right, and looked behind me just to make sure I was still on course. I could not believe that I was half-way finished with this swim. Assured that I did indeed need to make the turn, I returned to my plan. Before I knew it, my hand was grazing the muddy lake bottom and it was time to run.

1500 m
Avg 2:06 / 100 m
Fastest open water swim to date!

T1 (The First)
I popped out of the water, removed cap and goggles, began stripping my wet suit, and made my way up the steep bank toward the spot where I’d left my running shoes.

Wet suit off, running shoes on, GO!

Legs? Uh, hello, legs? Let’s MOOOOOOOVE.

After spending the last 30 minutes horizontal, my legs were a little freaked out by the idea of running, but I slowly got it done and made my wobbly way down the gravel path toward transition where my mom and dad were cheering away.

T1 (The Second)
Running shoes off (This is weird), bike shoes on, glasses, helmet, bike, GO! Back down another gravel path I ran, stumbled for just a second to mount my bike, and was then away!

Total T1: 7:42

This was the kind of amazing bike portion of a triathlon that makes me think – just for a second – that I should forget this whole multisport thing and just ride!

For the entire 40K, I felt incredible. Strong, focused, not quite sure that I could maintain the pace, but eager to try. I put her in the big chain ring, got aero, made the two climbs out of and in to transition seem like nothing, chose great lines with each turn, and RODE my little heart out.

At various moments throughout the ride, when the pack I was riding near got crowded or when I remembered the stair-step strategy intensity strategy that my coach recommended, I shifted into my small ring and spun my legs out a bit. At several of those moments, I gave myself an out loud “’Atta Girl” and smiled.

One lesson from this race that I’ll take into my half-iron is the need to practice my nutrition while riding at race pace. Although I had planned to take in Sustained Energy, water, and Endurolytes during the ride, my stomach started feeling just the slightest bit sloshy about half way through. It made me a little nervous. Knowing that I did not want to start the run with a yucky tummy, I quickly decided to shift my plan and forgo “the Sus” in favor of a Hammer Gel I had taped to my tube, just in case. That “Just in Case” gel has now come in handy twice this season!

Avg ~20 mph
Fastest tri bike yet!

I COULD NOT believe that I finished that ride in the time I did. Fastest bike in any triathlon to date.

Into T2 I went and out I came – dropping the Endurolytes I had planned on taking during the run on the way out to the road. I stopped picked them up and waved to my folks as I headed out onto the run course.


A minute later as I reached into my back pocket I realized that I had also dropped my run Hammer Gel coming out of transition.

Hmmmm……What’s our plan going to be here? Adaptation, adaptation…. Can I make it without the gel? Probably. Wish I had it though. Oh! Oh wait, there’s HEED on the course. That has calories….I’ll just drink some of that. Sloshy tummy, sloshy tummy….not a good idea, Rob. Hmmmmm……

At that precise moment I looked down and an unopened gel in my favorite flavor was lying on the road in front of me. I scooped it up, said a quick thank you, and got down to the business of climbing the hill that made up the course’s first 5K.

About ¾ of a mile into the run, a man in his 40s came up beside me. We were running at the same pace and somehow acknowledged that we would help each other get to the top.

We exchanged a few words:

At mile 1, I chuckled, “Longest mile ever!” and he replied “Uh huh.”

At mile 2, I grunted, “Hardest part of the day done,” and he replied “No, getting up at 4:30 was the hardest part.” I smiled.

We ran together to the top of hill, I said “hallelujah,” and he pulled away - for a while.

Then, I was alone.

It’s often been at this point in the race when I become cranky and negative. But this race, oh this race!, was SO DIFFERENT. I was practically glowing with positivity. Butterflies (No, really BUTTERFLIES...I was half expecting unicorns and rainbows next!) were literally all around me as I ran downhill and I imagined that they were there just for me, leading me to the finish line. Inspirational song lyrics floated through my head. I was almost giddy with excitement.

When I would feel pain - and I did feel it throughout my entire left leg and back and shoulders, as predicted, at mile 4 – I simply said, “Oh, there it is” and kept moving. As the last two miles ticked away, I felt a little nausea. I felt the chills. But amid the intensity, my mind found this new, completely joyful place. I was SO HAPPY.

How did this happen?

I honestly don’t know. Maybe endorphins. Maybe, it had something to do with my dedication for this race.

On the back of my race number, I’d written three initials: M. F. H. M and F are two little boys who currently live at Genesis Home. I met them a few weeks ago at the shelter’s annual family picnic when I was the one of the adults playing in the pool with all of the kids.

M is the third of 4 young children in his family. He’s about 3 years old, fully possesses the twinkling eyes of a woodland sprite, and is FULL of life. Although he could not swim, he had absolutely no fear of the water. Even when he would jump too high in the shallow end and his head would bob under water for brief second, he did not cry. He simply came up out of the water, giggled, and said “I want to do it again!”

F is the complete opposite. He is probably 5 or 6 years old and lives at Genesis Home with a woman that I assumed was his grandmother. Sitting on the edge of the pool, afraid to even dangle his feet in, his eyes were hollow and distant. But, by the end of the afternoon, he was a changed kid. M and I successfully coaxed F into the water and taught him to blow bubbles and kick his feet while hanging on to the edge. He was smiling and laughing and full of pride.

I dedicated this race to the two of them because I wanted to remember that just barely under the surface of fear lies immense joy.

H is, of course, my little sister Holly. Right now she’s one of the toughest cookies I know. I dedicated this race to her because I wanted to draw on the tenacity I knew she was probably demonstrating that morning in the special race of her own known as Plebe Summer.

I thought of these three numerous times between miles 4 and 5.

I also thought …no, ‘thinking’ isn’t the right word…Form came into my focus several times as well, and each time I consciously relaxed…my shoulders, my forehead, my hips, my jaw.

With about ½ mile to the finish, I saw my mom up ahead cheering. She excitedly yelled “You’re so close!” as I passed her and gave her the thumbs-up.

I came out of the woods, rounded the lake, grunted loudly, crossed the bridge, gave a high-five to a young spectator, and saw my former hill-climbing partner up ahead. Without contemplation, I surged and passed him moments before crossing the finish line.

Av 9:24 / mi
5 minutes faster than my last Oly 10K!


63/147 women

After crossing the line and taking my usual ‘I think I’m going to puke and I don’t want to do it in the chip taker’s hair’ moment away from the finish corral, I looked at my watch, instinctively raised both hands in the air and said, “YES! Oh, thank you God!” For the first time, I felt as though all of my previous racing intentions came together in one moment: I embraced it. I found the joy. I attacked the bike. I looked for the pain.

My official finish time was 9 minutes faster than my previous Olympic tri time – and if we hadn’t had the extra run between the swim exit and T1, my time would most likely have been closer to a 14 minute PR. Different race, of course, but nonetheless a BIG drop in time for this distance.

I was reminded again that the my body can do amazing things, that training really does lead to results, and that racing these things is SO MUCH FUN. For these reminders, I am very grateful.