GAH!?  So, I wrote out this post last night and then when I hit publish it got lost.  Sigh.  It’s hard to recreate the magic.  But, I’ll try anyway…here we go.  (If you read this and judge the writing, that’s fair.  Just know that it was better written the first time I wrote it.  I promise.)

On Friday, I packed up (a lot) and headed down to Charleston for the first race of season.  Is it not ridiculous how much one *must* pack for a 48 hour trip to a triathlon?

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The race started at a KOA campground and being the cheapie (and lazy) that I am, I decided to stay there.  We had a nice view of the swim course even if our cabin didn’t have a bathroom or anything (which was particularly unfortunate when I had to pee 3 times in the middle of the night during a crazy thunderstorm…)

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I really welcomed the crazy thunderstorm because it was hot in humid on Friday when I got to Charleston and by the time the race morning rolled around it was 55s and chilly: Perfect race weather! See, crazy thunderstorm approaching:

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Saturday morning, I woke up at 4:30am after a restless night in a twin bunk bed shared with Brennybear.  The weather was cold and rainy and the transition areas were muddy.  The race started at 7, but I had two transition areas to set up, so I headed over early.  In my haste to leave the cabin, I forgot my rain jacket, bike jacket, and plastic bags to keep my shoes dry during transition.  Oops.  It was going to be a wet day, for sure.

Heading into this race, coach and I had discussed a game plan.  The game plan basically amounted to using the swim and bike as a way to set up the run.  My only true goal was to run the entire run (spoiler alert: I was pretty successful).  So, swim was the normal game plan: swim straight and relaxed.  Relaxed is easy, straight not so easy.  Bike was going to be solely focused on hitting specific tempo HRs and not worrying about speed.  And on the run I would just let it all hang out.  There was no overall time goal, no goal to PR, really.  Just the goal to have a well executed race.  I perform best when there is a lack of (self-imposed) pressure, so these were ideal racing conditions.

Swim: 0:33:42 (1:32/100yds) 11th OA, 3rd AG
The swim was a two loop course in a relatively warm (72degree) lake.  Because this was a relatively small race, all the women started in the same swim wave.  There was the normal kicking and thrashing to start, but it settled down after the first 50m.  After that, I just relaxed and cruised.  I couldn’t find feet to draft off of, so I just lengthened out and tried to stay in a straight line.  For the most part, I was successful.  Loop 1 and loop 2 were about the same speed, so I paced well and came out of the water happy.  My goal was 35 minutes, and I came out of the water in 33:14, so I crushed that.  More than anything, I’m just excited to see that all my work in the pool this winter is making a difference.

T1: 2:29
T1 was a little pain in the butt.  Because it had been raining all morning leading up to the start, everything was already wet.  And, because there were 2 transition areas, we had to pack everything from T1 into a plastic bag before getting out on the bike.  You know what else I learned during T1?  It is flipping hard to put on arm warmers when you are wet.  The weather hovered around 55ish most of the day and there was threat of rain all day, so I wanted arm warmers on the bike…unfortunately, I was only ever able to pull one up.  My left arm warmer hung around my wrist for the 56 mile ride. It was mad stylish and my race pictures look totally cool.

Bike: 2:41:51 (20.75mph), 5th OA, 3rd AG, 155 AHR
Nutrition: 2 scoops perpetuem, 2 honey stingers, 3 swigs of gel/water flask = 670
The goal here was patience.  Patience, young grasshopper.  I have this horrible habit of getting so caught up in going as fast as I can on the bike that I blow up on the run.  With the singular goal of this race being a solid run, I only had a vague bike time goal and really was focused on not laying it all out there before I got my running shoes on.

My coach had told me to hang out at 145-150bpm for the first 25 minutes, so for the first 10 miles, I really didn’t even look at what speed I was riding at.  I just loosened up, spinned quickly and started to take in some nutrition.  Every time I saw competition, I had to have a little self-talk: “let ‘em go.  let ‘em go and get ‘em on the run.”  And later “calm the fuck down, penelope anne.”  I actually said that last one out loud.

At about mile 18, I pulled out my bonk breaker bar, excited to consume my only solid food of the race.  I had planned to eat it at mile 20, so being the ever food-motivated-dog-like-girl I held and stared at the unwrapped bar for nearly 2 miles.  Just before mile 20, there was a turn…and then a bump in the road…and then SLIP!  There goes mr. bonk breaker.  Saddest moment of the day.

The rest of the bike was uneventful.  I kept my HR hovering between 155-157 with the bike in the big ring and a relatively high cadence.  Because of the small size of the race, there was very little opportunity for legal (or illegal) drafting and 35-40miles of the bike were spent riding all by myself.  It was slightly boring, but I just employed my long run tricks: showtunes singing and hand dancing (can’t really full body dance on a bike).  Yep, while racing a half-ironman, I sang showtunes on my bike.  But, seriously, do you know how freeing it is to be on your bike and not flipping out about not going fast enough?  It was amazing.  I’d occasionally look at my HR to make sure it was on point, but mostly, I was just happily grinning like a goofball and enjoying life out on my bike.  There were two instances where I was carelessly hand-dancing on the bike and nearly crashed.  Oops.  But, before I even realized it, I was at T2 with a bike leg PR and I felt as fresh as a daisy.

T2: 2:01
T2 was actually nice.  I got off the bike with a spring in my step and excited to run.  I’ve NEVER had that happen.  Typically I drag my butt through T2 dreading the run.  In fact, starting at about 35 miles on the bike, I start dreading the run.  But, this past weekend, I didn’t have any of that.  I was all smiles and happy to be racing.

Run: 1:46:52 (8:09/mi) 7th OA, 3rd AG
Nutrition: 4 or 5 gulps of coke, 1 swig of gel/water flask = 200 cal??

Miles 1-3: 8:11 (166bpm)//8:13 (167bpm)// 8:08 (170bpm)
Coming out of T2, I was thrilled. I felt GREAT!  Normally, I come out guns blazing and fizzle out by mile 3.  My body just wants to run 7:00s right off the bike.  So, I put on the breaks imediately.  The goal was to run the first 3 miles in 8:20s and it was a struggle to get myself to run slower than 8:00s…A couple times I had to tell myself “slow the fuck down, penelope anne.”  Out loud.  I really do talk out loud to myself a lot during races.  These first 3 miles felt easy peasy lemon squeezy.  I actually started wondering if I was pushing hard enough because I was smiling too much and having too much fun.

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Miles 4-6: 8:06 (171bpm)// 8:02 (173bpm)// 8:06 (173bpm)
Felt good here, and just cruised.  I actually started to get a little bored and really wanted to find someone to run with and talk to.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to make my pace up with at that point, so I just hummed and danced along by myself.  (Note: The more I get into this race report, the more I realize how deranged I must look when I’m having a happy race: talking to myself, dancing on the run, singing showtunes on the bike?).

Miles 7-9: 8:08 (174bpm)// 8:03 (174bpm)// 8:10 (175bpm)
At the start of the second loop, I started to doubt myself some and started to wonder if I could keep this up.  I hooked on to a lady starting her first lap and ran up and said “I’m fading, can I run with you?”  And then she and I chatted for the next couple of miles until she got a rock in her shoe and had to stop and fix that.  I kept going but I was mentally fading fast.  I saw a shocking number of people out on the run course with headphones (for non-triathletes, that is against USAT rules) and I was a little jealous.  Some good music in my ears would have gone a long way…

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Miles 10-12: 8:26 (173bpm)// 8:30 (173bpm)// 8:34 (173bpm)
And the wheels start to fall off…I think more mentally than anything else.  At the second turn-around, I had yet to walk at all (this is HUGE for me).  But, at this point in the race I was supposed to be dropping the pace down to sub 8s.  And, instead, in miles 10 and 11 I took a 15-20sec walk break to get my head together.  I was starting to get tight and probably hadn’t taken in enough nutrition on the run and also had a hard time switching from the easy-peasy pace of the rest of the day into the “holy fuck this hurts” pace of the last three miles.

And actually, at mile 10, I stopped smiling for the first time that day–until Victoria said hi to me out on the race course and told me that she reads my blog (I spent the next mile thinking, “people besides my mother still read this thing?!”).  The shout out made me smile and give me a little pep in my step!  (Thanks Victoria!  Also, go over to her blog and tell her congrats!  She rocked an amazing PR too!)

Mile 13.1: 8:05 (176bpm)// 6:09 (179bpm)
Once I hit the 12 mile marker, I knew my guy friends would likely be around cheering soon, so I picked up the pace to run it in strong.  Also, I wanted a bloody mary sooner rather than later.  And ta-da!  18 minute PR and all around funtastic day.  When I finished, I was a little worried that I hadn’t actually pushed hard enough because I was bouncing around all excited and ready to do it again.  But, I think that was just the post-race high.

Total: 5:06:53 5th OA, 3rd AG

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I’d like to point out a few things:

  1. PR in every leg. Clearly my focused training this winter and early spring is paying off.
  2. My splits for each leg were 3rd in my AG…adding up to make me 3rd place.  How’s that for consistency?
  3. I couldn’t sleep last night because I hurt so much from the race. A sign I did push myself hard.
  4. I smiled during 97% of the race.  It was fun.  I had fun almost the whole time.  Even in the end when it hurt, I was happy to be out there having fun.  This was my first long tri where I had fun…and was happy…and smiley.  I think the correct pacing made a world of difference.

What’s awesomest? A finisher’s medal that doubles as a bottle opener.

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Also awesome?  Retreating back to the campground for some post-race s’mores.  (S’mores were also had the next morning for breakfast)

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