The Nautica South Beach Triathlon was yesterday! Look at glamorous Ocean Drive all lit up and glamorous looking at 5:30 in the AM on a Sunday, when most people on SoBe are just getting out of the bars and stumbling into cabs and heading home to fall into bed until 2 in the afternoon. Not us triathletes! We were just getting started. Jacked up on caffeine and pre-race nerves.
A small bit of the Nautica transition area on Sunday April 7th, 2013. Way too early in the AM.
Nautica is a big team race for Alien Endurance. This year we had over 60 athletes competing, some of them for the very first time. It’s a big race with a good pro showing and amateur athletes coming from all over the place.
Our Nautica 2013 class picture!
The temps started in the high 60s and got up into the low 80s by race-end. Few clouds, blue skies, very little wind. On the whole, favorable race day conditions. There was some chop on the water and some decent sized rollers to contend with on the way out. But the current was actually in our favor, I think, and the water was blue blue blue!
Not the crystal clear blue lagoon-flat super swim of last year but still pretty nice.
My original goal had been to finish in sub-2 (last year’s time was 2:04:57) and eek my way into the top 10 of my age group. Then the commander threw down the gauntlet last week and challenged me to a bet. He set a goal time and if I beat it, he’d owe the team breakfast during one of our M/W weight training sessions. If I lost the bet, I would provide homemade donuts. I’ve always wanted to make donuts so this seemed a win-win for me. Still, my pride was on the line.
The damned goal time was uber-agressive. 1:49 on the nose. His splits for me: 18 min swim, 2 min T1, 58 bike, 2 min T2, 29 min run. For the first time ever, I felt confident with the swim estimate. The bike, I thought, was iffy and I was actually pretty nervous about hitting that run in under 30. But I was like, “Shit, if he really thinks this is possible, then maybe I set my goals too low originally.”
I had a couple days to obsess over this before the race so I took the opportunity to scrutinize recent time trials and race finishes. It started to look possible but off by about two minutes, which is actually quite a bit. But I decided to commit to the time and start visualizing. So on all my runs (because I can’t visualize shit in the pool and visualizing during a bike is dangerous) I pictured myself crossing the finish line not just in the time allotted, but crossing as a winner.
And then I did a stupid thing the day before the race and I looked at last year’s results in my new age group. Based on those times, I knew that if I hit the goal, I actually would place. This seemed absurd to me. Nautica is a huge race and the field is competitive and people come from everywhere to do it and who the hell was I to think I could get my ass on the podium?
All of this thinking started making me very nervous. Suddenly there were stakes. Last year, there were stakes but they were basically about not drowning on the swim. Somehow, the thought of performing badly now trumps the fear of drowning. Shows you where my priorities are. At any rate, last year I had no base-line. Any finish was a PR. This year, I actually had something to prove; a time to beat; and a bet to win.
My way of dealing with nerves is to get very quite and go inside myself. I think I was a bitch before the race yesterday morning and if you and I crossed paths and I was anything but gracious and pleasant to you, I apologize. I am on a big team and we were all racked together and everyone was chatting but I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to answer anyone’s questions. I just wanted to be alone. When I was nervous before a fight (which was ALWAYS), I would shadow box and listen to music. Now, before races, I’ve learned that pacing transition and listening to music helps. So I put on my headphones and walked the path from swim out to bike out, mentally marking my racking area so I’d be sure not to miss it during T1. I drank some water and then we took some team photos and then it was time to leave transition and head to the beach.
I confided to one of my closest friends on the team that I felt like I was being a bitch because I didn’t want to talk to anyone and she said she understood. “What are you going to talk about?” She asked. “What nice swim cap colors they gave us? Do your thing. Get into your zone.” See below, how everyone else looks happy and carefree and I look like I’m about to kill someone?
After this picture, I decided that I should relax a little and smile and realize that I’d been training for this and that training is part of it and I love training and I love racing and I’m very lucky to be out here on this beautiful day doing this thing that I love with both arms and both legs and all these great people and I just needed to stop taking myself so seriously and yada yada yada.
OK. Then I got into the water and splashed around for a little bit. By then, the early waves were going off and before long it was my turn to line up with the other gold caps.
The swim felt great. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Getting out to the first buoy was a little challenging but it’s always a little challenging so this didn’t feel any different. I’ve come to realize that there’s something about the frenzy of the swim start that I absolutely adore. The chaos of it all gets me really jazzed. Instead of going into flight mode, I go into fight mode and now that I can actually swim, I love jumping into the washing machine and then getting out of it quickly while everyone else is flailing around.
I sighted a lot yesterday and was really happy to discover that I was always on course. Also, for the first time ever, I was passing swim caps from the waves that had gone off before me. Sweet.
I swallowed a lot of water on this swim because I’m still not breathing bilaterally but I made it in almost EXACTLY 18 minutes. 18:17 to be exact.
As transitions runs go, Nautica’s is long and mostly through sand. Then, because of my racking position, I had to make it through pretty much the entire transition area before I hit my bike and, even though I’d spent ten minutes before the race marking my spot, I still managed to miss it by one row. I wasted about 15 seconds in T1 and that sucked. Lucky for me, one of my teammates was right there and we were racked right next to each other so she did me a solid and got me on track. After that, it was smooth sailing out onto the bike course.
The bike course takes you out over the McArthur causeway, into and north through downtown, over the Julia Tuttle and then back. There are a few climbs (by Miami standards, anyway) but that means there are also some swift downhills. I cranked it on the way up and I cranked it on the way down. Because I knew I could. It was awesome. At one point, with the wind behind me on a downhill, I went into aero and clocked over 30mph. I used as much of that momentum as possible and managed to cruise 26mph on a flat for a couple of miles. At the turnaround, I checked my time and knew I was on track to finish in 58 minutes. But I told myself to stay in the moment and do what I was doing without thinking too far ahead. Based on the conditions going out, I was pretty sure I’d hit some wind on the way back so I was trying not to get too excited about my pace.
There was another girl in my AG who I kept trading places with on the bike. She was awesome. We threw a couple words of encouragement at each other. At one point, she was right in front of me and I saw her rubbing her calf so I thought she was cramping and I might be able to overtake her. I passed and she yelled, “Go get those boys!” I said I would. Then a minute later, she was passing me again. “You can draft off me,” she screamed. “I won’t tell anyone.” We were right on top of each other for a few miles but she dropped me going back over the McArthur. I kept her in my sights for a while but eventually lost her going into a headwind. I figured she was maybe a minute or so ahead of me and thought I’d be able to make up on the run if her legs were as tired as they looked. I never saw her again but I thank her for the push. I finished the bike in 56:39. 1 minute, 21 seconds under my goal and with a super PR for that course.
T2 was uneventful. I got into my shoes, grabbed my race belt, threw on my cap and sped off. I’d taken about 210 calories on the bike (3 scoops of Ironman Perform in my water–no more gels on the bike, just liquid) the majority of which I’d consumed during the first 2/3 of the ride. I was ready for more carbs as soon as I hit my feet so I dropped one caffeinated Powerbar chocolate gel immediately and then took in a couple ounces of plain water at the first aid station.
As soon as I got out of transition, one of my teammates who wasn’t racing was there screaming at me to go faster. “Faster Edith, run faster! Let’s get on the podium! Come on, you can do better than that.” And while I appreciated her words of encouragement, there were sort of ill timed. Like, maybe scream that at me on mile 3 when I need a push or in the homestretch. Not right after I’ve dismounted and am trying to get my legs back.
And of course she had to use that word. Podium. I didn’t want to think “podium.” I wanted to think “time.” Just get in under the allotted time, Edith, and the rest is gravy.” But right off the bat, I was feeling like the run wasn’t going to happen. To make 29 minutes, I was going to have to hit a 7:15 average, which is my best 5K pace and this run is 4 miles, not 3.1. I started off at 7:30 with very tired legs. My breathing was labored too so I kicked into some 3-2 rhythmic breathing (I’ve been working on this during training and it’s amazingly helpful) until I got my legs back and then I just let my breath happen the way it happens.
Still though, this run felt hard. In fact, the last two tri runs have felt hard. I can only attribute that to the fact I’m now pushing harder on both the swim and the bike.I’m making bigger gains in the first two legs, but I haven’t yet figured out to put together the full race given the new efforts. I had a feeling this was going to happen this season and my runs are still faster so it’s all good. Just something else to work on. At any rate, yeah, the run was a challenge. I was a little crampy on my right side and I couldn’t quite shake the leg fatigue. I had my best mile between 2 and 3, when the caffeine in the gel started to kick in and I actually got a surge of runners high. My time dipped down to 7:08 for a bit and I got hopeful. I passed some lady who called out, “Great pace, girl! GREAT PACE!” And then some spectator yelled my number and said I was looking awesome. I felt like if I could hold onto the surge, I might be able to dip down to 7:00 and come in just under the wire. But it was not to be. My run time, when all was said and done, was 30:46. Almost a full two minutes over the goal. Oh well.
I crossed the finish line feeling victorious but spent (the way it should be) and looked down at my Garmin. My heart sank. 1:50:07. The official time was 1:50:04 but still. 1 minute and 4 seconds off the damned goal. I owed donuts. There was no wiggle room.
Me giving the coach the finger for setting a ridiculous goal time. In good spirits, of course.
It took the officials like AN HOUR to post the women’s classic results. And, of course, until they did I was doing my normal, “I know I should be happy about this and yet I’m not” routine. At that point, I knew that I’d shaved 15 minutes off my time from last year and had killed the bike but I still felt like I’d fallen short. I was desperately trying not to wear that feeling on my face as my teammates were finishing and all-smiles and congratulating each other and asking how the race went, etc… Some of my people were racing for the first time or racing Nautica for the first time and I am tired of being the asshole who’s only thinking of herself after a race. I did my best but change is difficult. Baby steps.
Here’s one where we all look pretty happy. Kristin, the gal in pink, had the 2nd fastest overall women’s swim time!
I wasn’t the only one who was anxious for results. We were all milling around the board for a while. The organizers had tried to do right by mounting several Ipads in the sand so folks could search themselves but apparently, someone hacked the event wifi and that screwed everything up. After what felt like an eternity, we finally managed to get online and get our splits. And that’s when I stopped complaining.
I placed. At Nautica. I placed third AG.
My bronze medal!
On the podium at Nautica!
So now I’m over the moon, right? Because last year I was 16th in my age group and this year I’m third and I totally surpassed my top 10 goal. Also, I have no idea what my overall women’s placement was in 2012, but in 2013 I was 11th. I’m sad that I missed out on top-10 overall by a matter of seconds but I’ll take 11th in that field of super strong ladies! In terms of the overall race, I was 136th this year out of approximately 2600 finishers. Last year I think I was 535th. So I’m moving on up. And actually, moving on up quickly.
Because it turns out that I wasn’t 3rd: I was 2nd! The results were wrong when they first posted. The woman who was listed as 1st had no bike or T2 split and I had beaten both her her swim and run times by a wide margin. By Monday morning she’d dropped off the leader board and I was in 2nd place.
I was happy with third. I’m even happier with 2nd.
Coach Frank made me this because he is awesome and I was bummed about the missed photo op.
Of course I’ve still found a way to be disappointed in my time. Why not, right? If I’d come in as anticipated, I’d have won the fucker. If, if, if. All I can do now is savor the moment for another few and then keep pushing on towards Haines City on May 19th. That will be a very different race with very different goals but I’m psyched for my 2nd 70.3. Life is sweet right now.
The team again, getting loose way too early in the morning.
I continue to find irony in the fact that I have always preferred individual sports to team sports and yet, I choose to participate in solo sports with a team behind me. When I boxed, I had the girls of Team Freeform and the amazing Lee Shabaka pushing me through walls that I didn’t even know existed. Now I have all these fantastic Aliens and rock-star Coach Andy Clark helping me to realize what it possible out there on the course. Sure, I was alone out there repeating phrases like, “You want this bad, you want this bad,” and “you’re a champion, you’re a champion” and my ultimate favorite, “No excuses, no regrets,” but every time I saw an Alien uniform along the way, I pushed harder.
Even during those moments when we want to be alone, we are comfortable in our solitude because we know, on some level, that it will come to and end. Then we will return to our people and be embraced.
Getting a big hug from Coach Ale, who I’ve been trying to catch up to for over a year now.
To everyone who raced Sunday, congrats on a fantastic swim, bike, run. Now, what’s next?
Photos Courtesy of Andy Clark