Monday, September 21, 2009

Devil's Challenge Race Recap

I knew this race was hilly (I've done it before -- in 30-degree weather), and I still found myself in disbelief of the topography on the bike.  Add to that the fact that all this 12-mile slog-fest running I've been doing lately has apparently left me without a lot of power on the bike, and improved but still not blazing speed on the run....and well, it was only an OK season ender today.

All in all though, a fun day with friends and a great workout.  And that's what counts.

Race recap:

Alarm went off at 4:10AM.  Painful.  Although I had to pee so bad I would've had to get out of bed anyway.  Guess I did a good job hydrating?  I had laid out all my nutrition and packed my bags the night before, so all I had to do was get up and work my way through the assembly line.  Drank some hot lemon water, hoping to help my stomach digest when it would really rather be sleeping.  Oatmeal in a coffee cup, sliced peaches in a bag, and I'm out the door.  (In hindsight, a little more nutrition about 40 min before swim would have been good.)  Bike was already on the rack waiting for me.

Foggy drive to pick up Justine.  Potty stop.  Already?  Holy hydration.  Over do it much?

Justine hops in and we manage to get our groggy morning brains to carry on a lively conversation on the hour drive to Devil's Lake.

We hit up the McDonald's just outside of Baraboo for yet another potty stop before heading to the park, not wanting to have to use porta-potties.  There is a line of triathletes in the bathroom at McDonalds, which cracks me up.

The sun is just starting to come up as we take the final turn toward the park, with shades of purple and pink streaming across the tops of the bluffs and the fog hovering below.  Beautiful morning!

The rest of the pre-race ritual went pretty much without incident.  Chips, numbers, body marking.....  Get set up in transition.  I score some rockstar end-of-rack bike parking.

 Justine is completely keeping her cool even though this is her first race.  Impressive.  I'm managing to keep calm too.  Shocking -- although, about time.  We find some other friends who are there racing and spectating, tell race stories (lots of Ironman tales), laugh, basically kill time.  So much so that we completely miss the pre-race meeting and head straight for the beach.

Justine is off in wave three.  I get to wait around until wave eleven -- some 40 minutes later.  But I do find a friend in my wave, and even manage to get in a few swim strokes while I'm waiting.  I'm staying calm, have a great little practice swim and have high hopes for the race swim.

The lake levels are down this year so the swim is shallow.  There's a good bit of chatter about the best strategy....swim early, dolphin dive, or just run (like most do).  I decide I'm going to run until the water is waist high (about half way to the first buoy) and then dolphin dive, if I'm able to in the crowd (that's the hard part, sometimes you're just forced to do what the people around you are doing).  Seems equally as fast as running, and far less exertion.

I manage to stick to that plan and I'm feeling really good for the first quarter of the swim.  But after we round the first bouy I can see I've made a tactical error with my line-up.  Too conservative.  Should've just lined up in front and went for it.  The girls who are now in front of me are side strokin' and doing all kinds of crazy stuff....which is fine, but they are forming a big wall of slowness.  I see some open water ahead so I try to sprint through them.  Well, I think another girl had the same plan (at least from what I can tell) and we both try to hit the same small gap in the wall-of-slow.  I think she boxed me out from the left, so I end up swimming up on the girl next to me (sorry!).  Everything is chaos.  Arms, legs, water splashing everywhere.  Honestly, one of the roughest swims I've had, which I was not expecting.  Somewhere in all that mess my breathing goes whack and when I finally get some space I'm spazing and need to calm down.  Not easy because I'm pissed.  I was really feeling the swim today and now all the swim magic is just *poof* gone.

Thinking back, I wish I had not worn my wetsuit.  I know, sounds crazy right?  But the thing is so constricting.  I feel so much more relaxed in the water when I don't have it on.  I think I could've gotten my mojo back a lot quicker had I not had it on for this race.  I had debated -- it was only a 500 swim.  (Although after finding a little open water I swam way wide and probably added a few meters onto that.)  I did find my groove again....but at that point we were rounding the last bouy and heading into transition.  I needed the swim to be LONGER.  (did I just say that?)

I walk gingerly out of the water....lots of rocks....hit the steps and think, huh, I actually still feel pretty good.  So I jog it into transition -- something that's usually hard for me because my breathing wackiness really sucks up all my energy.  But not today.  I'm trotting into transition and happy to be headed out on the bike.  Loved that my bike was on the end so I didn't get caught up in all the nonsense going on mid-rack.  Because, miraculously, the place was a madhouse  --  people everywhere.  Not the ghost town I'm used to.

There's not a lot of zone-out time on this bike course.  You are either ascending or decending pretty much the entire 15 miles.  Starting with a big climb before you even hit the first mile marker.  Nothing like going anaerobic right outta the gate -- but you might as well get used to it.  You'll be getting friendly with your lactic acid threshold for pretty much all 15 miles.

Admittedly, I slacked on the bike.  I should've been faster.  But I knew it was hilly and I didn't want to totally blow up.  I also knew I had 45 minutes of running to do after the race, so I was thinking about that and was probably a little too conservative.

Did Hammer fuel in my water on the bike and managed to almost finish the bottle.  Again, probably thinking more about being able to add on the 45 minute run after than get through the 5k, but that seemed to work great for some sustained energy.  Probably got in about 200 calories.

The whole time on the bike I'm thinking, "at least the run is pretty flat."  Um, notsomuch.  I've done this course before.  How could my memory be so off?  The run was hilly too!  "Rollers" I believe they would be called.  But at times they felt a little like mountains.   No conserving here.  I only have one run pace, so I just found it and locked in.  Right at marathon pace.  In a sprint tri.  That's how I roll.  (I blame genetics.)

The Finish:
Because I was in the second to last wave all my peeps were done and there to cheer as I crossed the finish line.  Always a fun thing....though I tried to play it cool.  ;)  All in all I knocked about ten minutes off my previous time for the race.  But the race wasn't really fun for me.  The day was fun.  The race felt awful.  I think the sprints might be just a bit too short for me.  Just when I'm locking in to a rythmn and pace, the dicipline is over and its time to move on to the next one.  Which makes the whole race feel pretty uncomfortable.  But, maybe that's the point?  That's what actually "racing" feels like.  I wouldn't know.  I don't generally go into an event with a race mindset.  I'm usually thinking survive....finish.

So while my times maybe aren't improving as much as I feel like they should be, I am noticing a shift in my attitude toward race events.  I started noticing it at Door County, but got distracted by the horrible swim conditions.  This weekend I definitely noticed it -- a lack of nerves.  Which was really confusing to me -- going into a race knowing that your fitness and experience were enough to complete it, possibly even do well.  So what then.....?  That was the confusing part.  If I was prepared, did this mean I had to be competitive?

Scary!  If you're going to start setting expectations out there other than crossing the finish line, then that means there is the potential for disappointment.

I don't really like thinking about races in a competitive way.  It seems to kinda suck the fun out of it for me.  But I guess this is the natural progression.  Once you master a goal, however humble that goal might be, its time to move on to a new goal.  I think that's called progress.  And I'm cool with progress.  Progress seems to indicate more of a personal improvement goal, than a "be faster than your neighbor" kind of goal.  Which, for whatever reason, is a lot easier for me to embrace.

So in general I'd say there was a lot of "progress" made at Devil's Lake this year.  A great way to end the season.  Looking forward to next season already.

**this race also taught me not to recruit new people to the sport who are in your age-group as they have the potential to push you down a little farther in the standings.....looking at you Justine.....she managed to beat me in her first triathlon ever, although it was a small enough margin that I would argue that had we been in the same wave, I would have chased her down.**

**also, those stretchy shoe-lace things (yanks, and various other brands) = best invention EVER.  Why was I not using these three years ago?

**also, ran 45 minutes on the trail around the lake after the race.  A nice change of scenery.  Over 2 hours 30 minutes of workout time for the day.  Not bad.

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