Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Orleans Race Report

Grassy knoll selfie
The first race of the season is always the toughest and I did not do a ton of racing last year so I was feeling especially anxious and rusty heading down to Louisiana for the New Orleans 5150 Triathlon. I spend a lot of time thinking about the training I need to do and the little things I need to practice, things like my transitions, putting on my helmet, taking off my wetsuit, putting on my shoes, downhill turns, left hand turns, right hand turns . . . you get the picture. But when I head out for my workouts I end up just wanting to get 'em done so I can return home to pet the cats. There, I said it. I know it's what you were thinking.

Anywayyyyyy, I was looking forward to getting out of town for a bit and finally taking a road trip. I went on quite a few last year and had a blast each time. This trip was no different. I wrote up a short blog post about the trip. I am still deciding if it is worth sharing.

Now without further delay, let's break down my race:

Since it was cold and windy, none of the ladies wanted to get in the water. As a result, none of us got in to warm up. After the gun went off for the men we had about 3 minutes to paddle around before starting. I probably warmed up for a whopping :30 of that 3 minutes. I lined up to start the race and quickly realized I was right next to Sara McLarty. Oh haaaaaay . . . . nbd. At the last minute she moved over to the left and acquired a few groupies. When the gun went off I gave my seldom used sprinting gear a chance to shine. I easily ditched my groupies (there weren't any) and found myself stroke for stroke with a small pod to my left. I settled into a less frenzied pace and followed the lead kayaker just ahead of me. I could see the women to my left continue to move further left. I had the kayaker dead in my sights but I started to doubt that I was on the right course. We were swimming against wind so sighting was pretty difficult. Every time I pulled my head up I was smacked in the face with water. I put my head down and cut left but when I pulled up to sight again the pod had cut back over right leaving me alone and headed in the wrong direction.  Ugh, if I had just stayed put they would have pulled right over to me. Suddenly sighting got a lot more difficult as I met nothing nothing but wind and water resistance every time I tried to catch sight of a buoy. Feeling overwhelmed I decided to slow down and wait for a few of the other ladies. After the first turn I had a nice pod of girls to swim with and I tucked into the pack for protection even though now we were swimming with the wind. The pace was a little on the easy side and I was starting to get so mad at myself; not only was I just cruising but I was approaching the turn buoy from the inside. Somehow I managed to make the turn smoothly and make a break. The swim course was in the shape of a "N" so once again we were swimming against the wind and I found myself leading the rest of the ladies into the swim finish. Well  played, Jenny, well  played.

Now I have groupies
I thought wetsuits would even the playing field but fast runners are fast runners wetsuit or not. Lauren Goss gaped me by at least :15 just running to the rack. Awesome.  But that was just the beginning. All the girls but 1 or 2 eventually passed me in T1. More awesome.

I got on my bike feeling pretty good despite getting absolutely crushed in T1. The ride started out innocent enough. I had high hopes but them I climbed the first bridge and realized just how windy and challenging the ride was going to be.  The bike course was 2 loops or 6.2 miles per length and in that 6.2 miles you met head wind, several bridge climbs, matching bridge descents, 2-3 tight 180 exit turns and a one mile straightaway along the water completely unprotected from the cross wind. I knew fairly quickly this course was going to be a struggle both physically and mentally. As I struggling to "hold my line" against the wind, my anxiety continued to sky rocket and I was having a difficult time staying calm. I spent a lot of time out of the aerobars, gripping my handle bars with white knuckles. By the end of the first loop I was beginning to think calling it a day was the only way I would survive. I rounded out the first loop and decided I needed to HTFU a bit as I watched age groupers hit the course with big smiles. I had over fed my fears and paid the price in doubt but seeing so many other people get out on the course (and having fun) helped me to take back some control. The second loop was just as dicey as the first but I was able to carry the bike through to the end.



And this is how you transition like a boss

Getting off the bike was a huge relief. I have never been so happy to run! I left transition and entered the run course full of spectators, sprint racers, pros, and age groupers. I wasn't really sure where I would be for this run so I rolled on. I caught my first mile split and felt happy with where I was running. The other girls looked to be running soooooooooo fast and soooooooo hard. I am not sure I have seen running quite like that before. The course itself was uneventfully flat and fast but since it was also 2 loops like the bike I got to watch the race play out for McLarty and Goss. Meanwhile, when I was not spectating, my mind and body were at odds with each other. I needed to pick up the pace and cadence but I was running relaxed and somewhat comfortable. I was on point to run a PR for this distance and I felt good. The girls who specialize at this distance are amazing runners and run with a sense of urgency. I needed some of that. I am so used to pacing myself I found it difficult to kick it up another gear.

So ok, I have some work to do

The only thing I love more than a good spreadsheet is a good infograph. These infographs tell more of the story than my splits ever will.  I have a lot of work to do, yeah consistent training never hurt but I also need to work on the little things . . . the little things I often neglect. For me this was not a race to remember but one to learn from.