I better stop signing up for these triathlons or people might start calling me a triathlete! All joking aside, I had a blast at Steelman this year. Thanks to my tweaky calf issues I’ve been dealing with for much of the summer, my biggest improvements from last year were actually on the swim and bike! I PR’d by exactly eight minutes (to the second!) from last year, finishing in 2:33:14. It was good enough for first place in my age group and more than good enough for me! I had a bunch of friends at the race competing and cheering that day, and the weather was perfect. It was a wonderful day and an excellent way to end the summer.
I was up at the crack of dawn (more like the middle of the night, actually) – 3:45 am – and both Kathy and Cassie rolled up to my place just after 4am. Lake Nockamixon is only 30 minutes from my house, but the parking situation for this race is a little tricky so we wanted to get there as early as possible. We hit the road by 4:30am and rolled up with plenty of time to spare. For some reason, the people directing the vehicles to park thought we were lifeguards and directed us to a separate lot, further away. Oops! Just a little extra warm up/cool down time for us.
I was pretty relaxed as I set up in the transition area. Since we were early, I got a great spot and got everything situated. For some reason, I thought the race started at 7:30 and I was in wave 4. I made my way to the bathrooms, chatted with friends, and decided to go get into my wetsuit at 6:55 am. All of a sudden, I heard wave 1 go off. What? I wasn’t even in my wetsuit yet and was nowhere near ready! I scrambled to get everything together and was at the start before the second wave even entered the water. I have no idea how I messed that up, but it left no time for me to get anxious or nervous so it ended up being a good thing.
Last week, I spent the whole week at Babcock Lake and swam a lot. I practiced in my wetsuit and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use it – I timed myself every single day. Some days I would wear it, other times I would not. I swam exactly the same time every time regardless of if I wore my wetsuit or not. I decided I would use it because I’m doing another triathlon in September and wanted some practice wearing it in an actual race. As the swim began, I started to warm up and felt just okay – not bad, but not spectacular. I got a little nervous and began to think this could be a longer day than I originally anticipated. But by the time I hit the turnaround, I was warmed up and flying (for me). I felt strong and swam on the outside of everyone, closer to the kayaks. I started closer to the front so I had less fighting for a space in the water and more time just swimming. In my head, I figured I swam about the same time as last year, around 28 minutes. I knew I was finishing ahead of most of my wave, but that didn’t mean anything. That happened last year, too. Imagine my surprise when I got out of the water and saw my time and shaved off nearly four minutes from last year.
1500 Meter Swim- 24:39
I was ecstatic as I made my way to the transition area. At this point, I didn’t care what happened – I had a great swim and I felt good. Getting my wetsuit off went a lot better than I expected. At the lake, I would struggle getting it off and couldn’t see how using it would be beneficial. I was out of the transition area and on my bike faster than I anticipated.
T1 – 3:14
The bike is not my strength, and my goal going into the ride was to average 18mph. I’d done 17.6 last year and I felt much stronger on the bike this summer, so I thought 18mph was a reasonable goal. Once I got out of the water, I was on cloud nine and didn’t really care anymore. I was just excited to go for a bike ride.
I headed away from the lake and out to route 563. There was nothing that eventful happening on the bike course, except that I was having a blast. I felt strong. Though it isn’t insanely hilly, I always remembered having to get out of my saddle for the climbs the past three times I competed in this event. I stayed seated for the entire ride, and felt great on the hills. I kept telling myself to slow down, and was averaging 18.1 by the end of the first loop without feeling like I was overdoing it. Against my better judgement, I picked it up on the second loop. I still felt comfortable, but by the time I re-entered the park I was averaging 18.7mph. As I headed back towards the transition area, I forced myself to slow down and spin out my legs to get ready for the run. I knew the run was going to be tough because I’ve never ridden my bike at that speed before.
24.6 Mile Bike – 1:19:53, 18.6 mph
I jogged with my bike back towards my area to gauge how my legs felt. I was surprised that they felt really good and I was ready to run. I changed shoes, threw on my running bib and headed out.
T2 – 2:05
The whole time I was riding in on my bike, I kept telling myself: Okay, time for a run. This is what you do. This is where the fun begins. I never once considered my right calf muscle. It had been tweaky all summer. Early July, I strained it, and it’s come back at the worst times ever since. I’d spent the entire week before Steelman running on the insane hills of upstate NY and I certainly did not taper for the race (I ran 60 miles that week). I considered that my legs might be tired, but I thought my dumb calf problem was a thing of the past. I was so wrong.
Within the first mile, I felt a little twinge. Not like what I felt the first time this all began, but enough to raise some concern and slow down and assess. I felt okay averaging about a 7-7:15 pace, but my goal was to run 6:50s. I was so frustrated. My legs, other than my right calf, felt amazing. They didn’t feel tired and I didn’t feel ready to be done. But every time I started to pick it up, I would feel that little twinge. Around mile 3.5, a girl running almost my same pace began to pass me. I heard her start to say “nice run” from behind my shoulder and I kicked it up a little more. I was able to hold onto whatever I had at that point until around mile 4.5, when I felt another twinge and slowed down until the final mile. I could hear the girl behind me breathing, and I kicked it up again. I cruised into the finish, averaging a 6:46 for the last mile and it felt almost effortless. Why couldn’t I do that the whole time? My legs could take it. My calf just didn’t like it. I still improved my run time from last year, but only by 15 seconds. I was slightly disappointed but I was more concerned as to why my calf decided to pick this day to act up. I’d been fine for weeks. I’d done tempo runs, track workouts, and run hills. Why now?
Other highlights on the run – it’s an out and back course that you complete twice when doing the Olympic distance, and the Endurance Multisport crew was working at one of the water stops. Each time I ran by, Flo and Kelly were out cheering and would yell for me as I passed. It made me feel a lot better and took my mind off of my leg.
Even though I was pretty concerned with my calf, I turned around the second I crossed the finish line and faced the girl that had been on my tail the whole time. We both started cracking up and shook hands and congratulated each other, and credited each other for pushing and having a good run. That moment made me feel a lot better.
10K – 43:25
Overall, I was thrilled with my time. Even the run, where I expected more. As for my calf, I went to my chiropractor and he did some active release therapy on it, and now just feels like general muscle soreness. Steelman wasn’t my goal race for the season, so I didn’t exactly taper. I did run lower, easier mileage towards the end of the week but I think the problem was the amount of hills I’d run on vacation. I’d been taking it easy on the hills all summer and then basically ran mountains for a week. I really need to find some good places to run when we visit upstate NY next summer. This is the second year I came home injured from running up there.
My friends all had some great success on the course this year, too. They all placed and/or PR’d, and we all had a blast. This is always such a fun event!