Friday, August 10, 2012

A Weekend of Ones

After Muncie I had about a week of down time before I hit my first ironman training block. Containing the first of what I hope to be several 100milers, the two week block was both awesome and ugly:

First 100 in the NC mountains, see recap here
Swim: 10.3 miles
Bike: 411 miles
Run: 77 miles

Luckily I got to cut things back a bit going to the Stumpy Creek International and Sprint races. I had only competed in three races until this past weekend so I wanted to go ahead and get to that 5 race mark to see where I stand against the other ladies in the series. Last year it was my goal to win the series so I was aggressive with my race selection, White Lake Half being an essential race to do well in. This year I am taking a less aggressive but more calculated approach.

Friday night I was having a little trouble sleeping so I got up early to go through my bags and eat an early breakfast. I was going to get on the spin bike to warm up my legs but I opted for a good stretch session instead. I spent about an hour stretching the day before Muncie and it worked for me. When something works you stick with it, right?

SCI Swim – 21:25 (1st)
Last year the swim was long. This year it was significantly closer the 1500m mark. I did not have the greatest swims. Doug Van Wie was well off the front and I watched Derek Kidwell hold on as long as he could. I decided to speed up a bit to try on catch on the train but by the time I did DVW was done chewing up Derek and was already spitting him out. Swimming with Derek was better than swimming alone but I decided to use my open water turns to get a little bit of space. Unfortunately I was having some trouble with foggy goggles. I stopped twice to clear them enough so I could see. I also got stopped by a kayaker who was placed perpendicular to me and the next buoy. She told me I was off course. I told her she was a liar . . . ok not really . . . I waited for her boat to pass and continued sighting the next turn. I felt like I was on course, I was just perhaps more toward the left while the bulk of the racers were to the right.  

SCI Bike – 1:13:20 (1st)
The green car makes my large helmet look less awkward. 
I got smoked in T1. Mike Selle and DK blew through the transition leaving me to wonder what I was doing, racing or dilly-dallying! By the time I hit the bike course they were long gone. On the bike and leaving the park I visualized my game plan, to increase my effort each quarter. I decided I would surge a little every time I got passed by one of the male racers (not for drafting purposes but more motivating purposes). I made it 2.75 miles before I got passed by Mr Man-Van himself. I was waiting for him to blow past me and surprised I made it 2.75 miles before I heard what can only be the beast’s battle call. 

SCI Run – 43:41 (4th)
In my head this is how the run went:
Blah, blah, blah . . . “There’s Melissa, yay Melissa!’ . . .  blah, blah, blah . . . “Is this hill ever going to end?” . . . “I am so close to the finish line. Dang, I have to turn and do it again?” . . . blah blah blah . . . “Yay there’s Melissa!” . . . blah blah blah . . . “This hill is a cruel joke. Oh hey Kathleen Casto, stop running like an ogre you say? Easy for you and your tiny little self to say”  . . . blah . . . “Wait! The rest is all downhill! Yesssssss! Oh sweet finish line so blue, so welcoming . . .”

I look happy to be running, This makes me happy.
I felt good on the run and my legs felt strong. Knowing the course was a double loop made it a lot easier. Usually everything goes by faster the second time around so it was motivating to get on that second loop knowing exactly what was waiting for me. The run course was rather lonely until the big intersection. Kathleen caught me just before the big finish. She actually told me to run light on my feet as she zipped past me. It was a welcome thought and I felt motivated watching her light and elegant stride sail up the hill. I tried to emulate her. The gap grew wider but I felt good and heeding her advice I did get light on my feet making it a lot easier to get to the top. The path to the finish line was the only thing I remembered from last year’s race; I had yet reach the ball fields when they called out the winning female’s name. I ran all out in an effort to limit her point allocation, a decision that ultimately played in my favor. Just goes to show you a race isn’t the place to kick back into cruise mode just because you are in a comfortable position. With that little memory I gathered some speed on the downhill, tried not to eat gravel on the trail, and rounded the field with a strong final finish.

Doubling Down
Waking up for the sprint felt a little chaotic. I basically grabbed all of my stuff from the day before and threw it in the car drinking my coffee and eating my pre-race breakfast. Everything was so much less calculated and controlled. I was feeling slightly less than enthusiastic about the race but I had a decision to make. I could either show up whining and wallowing on stiff legs or I could commit to having a great race, even if I had to dig a bit deeper to make it happen.

SCS Swim – 12:42 (including T1) (1st)
I think Derek is wondering about my split speed suit.
Luckily the race was half as crowded as the day before so set up was quick. I was hoping to be number 2 again so I would not have to switch out all my race numbers but who can complain when you are handed #1? With plenty of time left for a decent warm up, I headed down to the water after a good little run. I must have been feeling frisky as I decided to do some flip turns in the open water. Well on one of them my speed suit split right across the butt. Of course they were going to make us exit the water and re-enter and I was feeling a little bit embarrassed but also little bit like a member of the cool-kids-who-split-their-suits-club (do the names Ricky Berens and Nathan Adrian ring a bell?) Oh well, the swim must go on! To my delight, Derek Kidwell also opted to participate in the double. He goes fast from the beginning so I was happy to follow in his wake for a bit.

Good thing there is speed limit sign posted
SCS Bike – 40:40 (1st)
I had a pretty good idea of what to expect on the bike course from the day before. I think the course itself was a little slower since it still had the hills going into and out of the park but it was missing the really fast bit on the back stretch. I hoped to be faster on the sprint distance but I will have to settle with just putting out more power. Towards the end, a male racer passed me giving me an update on the rest of the women’s field. It put a bit more fire in my legs so I rode hard back to the park ready to give that run course another go.

SCS Run – 21:42 (1st)
It looks like I'm smiling but I'm grimacing due to the smell
Heading out onto the run course, I was less than 10 feet from an AG male competitor. We had about the same pace going and I worked to catch up to him. It turned out to be Turner Boone a former Charleston resident, who like me, moved after a long period of participating in local races. Just as I finally thought I had him, he pulled away. And once again approaching that nasty nasty hill, I thought hard about Kathleen’s words. The next thing I know I am headed down the hill to the finish line. Turner was just ahead of me and I thought with a good kick I might be able to catch up to him. He must have been thinking something similar since we continued to round the field equidistant to one another.

I had two good races and at any moment I could have fallen back into cruise mode with a number of excuses. I was proud of my effort however; I was elated when the results were posted. I was pleased with my splits at the international but I was really happy with the results from the sprint. I have been chasing the dream of seeing 1s across the board, first swim split, bike split, AND run split. I am no longer just a swimmer. I am a triathlete. 

Also, I would like to thank Sarah Padolsky for taking such great pictures during the race. It is one thing to look at the results but it is another to see people in the midst of their race; some have huge smiles, some look so determined, and some are just sooooooo aero. I find it encouraging and motivating so THANK YOU. See more photos here.