Balancing Act (2575 Miami Triathlon: 3/11/12)

12 Mar

I jumped into the season yesterday with the 2575 Miami Triathlon. I competed in the inaugural 2575 Tri back in December and did well (3rd place AG) so I wanted to give it another go. With Nautica right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to get in a tune up and see if anything has changed (for better or worse) in the last few months.

The Marine Stadium before dawn.

It was a good race but a really small field. Last time there were 13 women in the 30-34 age group. This time there were 4 of us and only 39 overall. That includes pros and elite amateurs. I was certain there would be more considering that this is the second time they’ve staged this race but alas, the ladies did not turn out.

My teammate JD and me pre-race.

I don’t know why the organizers decided to schedule this race for the one day each year when people lose an hour of sleep, but that’s exactly what they did. And, of course, it was dark until 7:10 so they couldn’t put the buoys out and we ended up starting about ten minutes late. Honestly, I didn’t care. I was not about to get into a dark water. I’m a wimp.

Dawn on Key Biscayne.

Pretty Miami sunrise.

The elites and pros went in the first wave and of course they were half-way through the 750 meter swim around the same time the 2nd wave went in. I think they staggered us by about five minutes. It never ceases to amaze me that people can swim like that in open water. Or in any water. Especially when the current is strong, which is was yesterday, particularly on the parallel and coming back in after the last turn.

Waiting to start the swim.

I warmed up with a very quick swim and felt OK in the water. After all the pool training it was really nice to be in salt water wearing a wet suit feeling buoyant. This was my third race with the suit and I finally felt like it was working for me and not against me.

I’m in there somewhere, likely towards the back.

If you enlarge that picture and look really close, you can see a line of orange buoys towards the back, in front of all the boats. We swam out to that line, hung a right around the first one (you can’t see it) and then swam parallel to the shore, keeping the buoys on our right until a final right turn brought us back into shore. For those of you without quick conversation calculators in your heads, 750 meters is 820 yards or just under half a mile (.47 to be exact).

Comin’ home.

I had maybe two mid-swim freak-out moments this time, which is an improvement. And I managed those freak-outs more effectively this time by focusing on my breath and trying to take longer strokes. I think I flipped over twice for a backstroke break but I got off course pretty quickly so I went back to freestyle. This was the first time that I realized during my swim how much more efficient freestyle is in terms of energy economy. I think that’s a sign that things are looking up for me swimming-wise.

Coming out of the swim with a Sumo wrestler behind me.

First transition was a little wobbly. The swim back in was hard. Like REALLY HARD. Every time I looked up to sight, the exit chute seemed to be getting further and further away. And I kept working harder, which just made me more fatigued. So the run back to transition felt hard and unstable. But I got there.

Quick squirt of Gatorade before I take off on the bike.

There’s really no way to describe how deflating it feels to come into transition and see that your bike is among the last remaining. So this time I was happy to find that there were other bikes still racked up. I know there were also other swim waves that started after mine but I’ll take whatever mental boost I can get during these things. Feeling like you’re the last out of the water and knowing how much ground you have to cover to catch up with everyone can make an athlete very sad. And sadness kills.

Running up to bike mount.

I had a bitch of a time clipping into my bike for some reason. Probably a mix of adrenaline and wet clips. It sucked. I wasted a good 15 seconds just getting onto my damned bike. But then I did.

Away we go.

The bike was mad windy, yo. Like seriously. The bridge was fine on the way out but coming back in, it was about as bad as it’s ever been. And then tiny little Bear Cut Bridge was even WORSE. The whole ride before the first turnaround SUCKED. Everyone looked like they were suffering so I kept it in the lowest gear possible and decided to save my legs for the last mile when I knew I’d have the wind at my back.

I came towards the dismount and heard a ton of Aliens screaming at me. The dismount volunteer made a comment about how I had a very big cheering section but I was too wired to pay attention. Somehow I managed to finish the bike almost 5 minutes faster than last time. So that’s good! But little did I know that the extra work on the bike was going to cost me four minutes on my run. I just checked my splits so I know this and I am not happy about it. Last time I almost ran a 5K PR and this time I was 4+ minutes over my fasted 5K.

But as JD said before the race, these sprints are about finding the balance between working hard and conserving energy. In that way, I think, the short races are probably harder than the longer ones. Now, granted I am still very new at this but it seems like it would be easier to pace yourself during a half-Iron since you know you HAVE to. Sprints make you wanna go all out the whole time. So I pushed it on the bike and by the time I started the run, my legs felt like marshmallows. And I was in taking electrolytes the whole time so I don’t think I was dehydrated,

But hey, I’ve got a nice forward lean coming out of transition.

The weather was in our favor on the run and the path is shaded so it was, at the very least, nice and cool. But this run starts and ends on a short stretch of sand. I grabbed one of those H2O to-go water bag thingies at the first aid station, took two sips to wash down my gel and then sprayed myself with the rest of it. I even stopped at the second aid station for Gatorade, took two sips and then tossed the cup.

I refused to check my watch on the run because about a half mile in, I’d finally gotten my breathing back, had zeroed into a pace that felt challenging without making my  legs feel like they were about to buckle, and I was afraid that if I checked my time, I’d freak out and speed up and then lose my legs before the turnaround. So I waited for the turnaround and then I picked it up a tiny bit. When I got back to the sand patch, I knew I was close to done so I kicked it up another notch. And then JD was waiting  just before the finish chute, screaming at me to sprint out the last 100 meters. So that’s what I did.

Coming into the finish.

I finished in 1:35:52–almost a full minute faster than last time–feeling like I had given the race everything I had on this day. The whole thing felt A LOT harder than the last one. I can attribute that to a number of different factors: I was coming off an exhausting week, the water current was crazy, the wind was crazy, this race was really a training run for another, slightly longer race that I’ve been training for and is still three weeks out.

But I PRd and took 3rd place again in my age group. The 1st and 2nd place women this time were way faster than the 1st and 2nd place women from last time and I beat 4th place by 20 minutes! So I’m happy about that and happy about getting faster on the bike. BUT I’m miffed about the run. If I’d held back a bit on the bike, I still could have shaved some time off my ride without sacrificing my run time.

My swim was 8 second slower than last time but I’m OK with that because I just did some math: based on my last 1,000 yard training swims, I completed 750 yards in 20 minutes. During the race, I swam 820 yards (so an additional 70 yards) in UNDER 20 minutes. Translation: more yards, over less time compared to training. And most importantly, it FELT like a much more successful swim. Granted, I can still improve but it’s nice to know that when you put in the work, the work pays dividends.

Post-race Aliens. JD went on to take first in his age group!

I wish I wasn’t so addicted to numbers and results but oh well, I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m on this whole triathlon adventure to begin with: attempting to find the balance between performance addiction and just having fun. I am super competitive. I always have been. I used to consider my competitive nature a totally positive attribute: I work hard, I don’t take the easy way, and I never quit. But a lot of that stems from a real fear of being “average” and it’s helped me develop a dangerous all-or-nothing mentality. And when it’s all-or-nothing, if you don’t win it all, you feel like nothing. That’s not good. Why not just celebrate the finish? Why not celebrate the attempt?

2nd place finisher and me on the podium.

I look really happy in third place because I hadn’t yet read my splits and hadn’t had the opportunity to beat myself up about what I did “wrong.” I haven’t even been doing this for a full year. I’m still a noob. I’m still learning. And I’m competing alongside people who have been at this longer than I have, who are faster and stronger than I am; whose bikes make poor little Titita look like a penny farthing. This whole endeavor can not be a fight against them. It has to be a means of exploring, understanding and stopping the perpetual fight I seem to be in with myself.

Thanks to Amir Khosropour for all the pix and to my Alien Endurance family for coming out to show their support.


3 Responses to “Balancing Act (2575 Miami Triathlon: 3/11/12)”

  1. Silvana Roncal March 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    If I had to describe my feelings in the 2 races we have done together in the past you stole every single thought! Your description of the swim and looking at the finish line being further away as you swam harder towards it is just sooo accurate…….the beating yourself up even if you get second or whatever place in the race it is also soo me. I spend days doing the numbers and comparing them to the athletes that placed higher never stopping to think that I am a rookie as well and that I seriously started training for this shit at the end of July 2011 (7.5 months ago!!!). Who do we think we are? superwoman? yes I think we think that way and therefore we beat and will continue to beat ourselves up over any possible improvement in our performance! Crazy? yes but we are awesome that way………

  2. Mark March 12, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Awesome job! I can’t imagine doing an event like this where you have to change gears (both physical and mental) so often. Good luck on the Nautica!

    • mymultipersonality March 12, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

      It’s a bitch but i think it’s worth it as long as it’s fun and not just another way to feel bad about yourself. I look forward to nautica because there will be no pressure to do anything but enjoy myself.

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