Every year, I love to end the summer with the Steelman Triathlon. It’s a local tri on Lake Nockamixon, which is less than a half an hour from my house. There’s a sprint and Olympic distance – I’ve done the Olympic four times and the sprint once.
Since cross training is a big part of my marathon training, I don’t usually have to make myself go out and train for it. The past two summers I’ve had injuries or friends training for a full Ironman so training just came easy. I had a great day on this course last year. This year, I’ve been focused on increasing my run base, so swimming and biking took a backseat. It was more of a chore to get in the pool or on my bike – not because I don’t like it, but because I was tired! I didn’t know what to expect from this race this year and certainly did not expect a PR in any of the disciplines. I was concerned that I would burn out my quads trying to rip on the bike and suffer for it on the run. I really had no idea what to expect.
After a shakeout ride and run (13 mile bike, 1 mile run), I headed to Nockamixon for packet pickup. The race offers race day pickup but I live close enough and didn’t want to have to worry about it in the morning. There wasn’t much of an expo this year, just a few tiny vendors and a chance to check out the course by walking around the park.I got some sushi for dinner and spent the night foam rolling and relaxing to prepare. Very low key.
Kathy and Cassie rolled up to my house a little before 5am. The transition area opened at 4:30am but I live close enough that leaving at 5 works fine. Everything with triathlons is sooooo EARLY! Kathy was doing the sprint – she doesn’t cross train at all, hadn’t swam or biked once since the tri last year – but didn’t care. Cassie was doing the Olympic and won it last year overall and really wanted to defend her title. We were all excited as we loaded our bikes onto my car and headed to the lake. We rolled up while it was still dark out and were BLARING that ridiculous song, “Turn Down for What”. It’s been our triathlon anthem since last summer when we did Eagleman 70.3. Everyone at a triathlon is so serious so we came rolling up with our music craked and headlamps on the flashy setting for a strobe effect. Obnoxious, but makes it way more laid back.
We unloaded my car and headed to the transition area. Cassie and Kathy went to get their packets, while I got body marked and found the bike racks for my wave. I took a minute to set up my gear, eat my breakfast, and go to the bathroom. The Olympic race was starting at 7 and the transition area closed at 6:45, so before I knew it, I was getting into my wetsuit and heading down to the lake. After the national anthem, the first wave was off. I was in wave 4.
This race began as a huge mess. Let me start out by saying that I’m somewhat of a swimmer. Not like I’m this awesome fast competitive swimmer, but I swam for a little in middle school and high school and can hold my own in a tri – typically, I’m above average but not the best. I had the worst swim ever this year.
I like to start all the way on the outside of the group to avoid dodging people. When I get into a groove, I like to start to fade left to cut back in and closer to the buoys. Right from the start, my goggles were giving me a little trouble and I just couldn’t see. They were so fogged up and the sun was so bright. I couldn’t get into a groove and started feeling panicked and like I was exerting WAY too much effort. This hasn’t happened to me since my first time swimming in open water. There were people everywhere and I felt like I couldn’t swim fast enough to get ahead of the pack and I began to have a panic attack. I actually stopped and floated on my back for a second to catch my breath – I’ve NEVER had to do that before and almost began to cry. It wasn’t even five minutes into the race and I considered calling it a day. I took a deep breath, and kept swimming.
A few minutes later, I was still feeling awful and swam HEADFIRST INTO A KAYAK. Our local LL Bean has volunteers that come out and kayak on the lake near the buoys so if you need a break you can stop and hang on for a few minutes, or to help anyone that’s struggling. I literally collided with it and was like “what the actual f**k?!?!” The guy in the kayak asked if I was okay, and I was (other than my ego). I finally made it to the turnaround buoy and felt like I could breathe, but I was still having a really hard time sighting. The sun was even worse on the way back and I keep completely swimming off course. At one point, I realized I was swimming back to the start. The start and end of the swim are in two different locations. I also collided with a buoy, and some girl in the water actually yelled at me and said “Watch where you’re going!!” since I was that all over the place. WTF? This is not an Ironman and you can’t qualify for Kona here, people. I couldn’t imagine yelling at someone in the water. I’m not usually a timid swimmer but I was on Sunday, and I felt even worse when the girl said that to me.
Even with the terrible swim, I was 4th out of the water in my age group and was exiting the water with the mostly people in the wave ahead of me. My time, however, was FOUR MINUTES slower than last year! When I saw that on my watch, I wanted to cry. Instead, I started running towards transition and pulling off my wetsuit.
T1 – 2:37
If I were really getting serious about triathlons, one place I KNOW I could easily improve on is in transition. I just really needed a minute after the swim. When I got to my bike I sat on the concrete and took a deep breath. I was shaking and upset, but I pulled tried to pull it together. Socks (some of my triathlete friends skip those, but after my recent battle with a terrible blister I didn’t care if it added 10 minutes on my day), bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, bike. I was off.
Bike – 24.6 Miles/1:17:36/18.5mph
The bike also had a rocky start. I was still shaken up, so when I got to where you can mount your bike I struggled to clip in. I felt frozen in place and couldn’t get my shoe in the pedal. After what felt like an eternity, I was moving and began the trek to exit the park. It’s an immediate climb and I felt okay. At the top of the climb, the rolling hills start to get you out on the main road. In the park, there are speed bumps that are clearly marked and easy to avoid, but I was still getting situated and went FLYING over one. By some miracle from God, I somehow managed to stay on my bike and didn’t blow any tires. I felt cranky and upset as I got out onto route 563 and told myself, “stop being a little bitch baby, get your shit together and ride your damn bike.” And I did.
The bike course is two loops on route 563. Over the 24.6 miles, the course climbs over 1200′, making it a pretty challenging course. I felt decent on the first loop and got passed by the normal amount of people – the bike is not my strongest discipline. I hit mile 10 on the bike and grabbed a GU. My former coach taught me to eat every 10 miles and drink every 10 minutes, and I knew that if I had a prayer at salvaging this race that my nutrition needed to be on point. By the time I began the second loop, it was like I woke up. On the second loop, there are more people on the course because most of the waves are done swimming and are on the bike, so this is where I begin to pass people. It’s not even that I’m passing people that I’m competing with, but it gives you a confidence booster when you go ripping by. By the time I hit the final turnaround and headed into the last few miles of the bike, the bad swim and poor start to the bike was a distant memory. I was focused, and I was not getting passed.
In the last three miles of the bike, a girl tried to pass me. I was going to let her go and let myself just spend the last few miles spinning my legs out to get ready for the run, but I noticed the marking on her calf. It said “O 31”, meaning she was doing the Olympic and was in my age group. I didn’t know how I was doing at that point but I hadn’t encountered anyone else with that on their calf. I thought, “oh hell no.” I kicked it into high gear and passed her up a hill. At the top, I grabbed another GU and as I biked as fast as I could to finish the bike leg, I also focused on hydrating. I had my watch in multi-sport mode which meant all I knew was where I was overall in time and distance – I had no clue what kind of pace I was doing. Since my time on my watch included both my swim and T1, I didn’t know if I made up time on the bike or had a slower bike from last year so I just let it rip.
T2 – 1:40
I came into transition and struggled getting my sneakers on. As I was struggling with my shoes, the girl from the bike course that I worked so hard to pass came in and was out running within like 30 seconds. I hoped my run would be fast enough to catch her.
Run – 10K – 40:36
I headed out on the run course and within the first half mile, I could see the girl from the bike. I knew I could pass her, so I relaxed. It’s so easy to go out too fast on the run in a tri. You feel like you are running sooo slowly since you are coming off of a bike, so I tend to try to pick the pace up too early on. My legs felt really good, so I breathed a sigh of relief. I was worried I burned them out on the bike but knew I had a solid 10K in me.
Since I was still in multi-sport mode, I had no clue what pace I was running so I resigned to running by effort. If I felt like I was going too hard, I forced myself to back off for the first loop. It’s a two loop run course with rolling hills, so my goal on the first loop was just not to get passed and to mow down as many people as I could. I did just that – and still felt great on loop 2. I was fatiguing and ready to be done, but I had the energy to keep focusing on people and passing them. I didn’t get passed once on the run, and I passed the girl from the bike before we even got to the first mile. She ended up being super sweet – since there are some out and backs, we kept seeing each other and cheering for each other for the rest of the race.
In the last mile, I saw a girl up ahead with an O and some age in her 30s. Uh oh. I thought I passed them all? This chick was MOVING. I zeroed in on her and realized she was getting closer, but I didn’t know if I had enough time or energy left to pass her. As I got closer, I saw she wasn’t in my age group – she had a 36 on her calf. Whew. But at that point, I figured I needed to pass her anyway. We had less than a half mile at this point so I took off. As I got closer, she tried to pick up the pace but eventually I blew by her. I made the final turn and came through the finish and stopped my watch. I had an overall PR by over two minutes!!! My time was 2:31:01!
After the race, I looked at my splits and realized I had a decent bike PR, but then I saw my run. 40:36?!?!?! That’s a 6:16 pace – that’s around my 5K pace! What? It was not just a PR for the tri, but a straight up 10K PR. I was shocked, confused, and EXCITED. I knew I felt like I was moving on the run but I had no idea I was running that pace. I still can’t believe it. I have no idea if I could ever even run a 10K at that pace ever again, let alone after biking for almost 25 miles. It was enough to land me the second fastest female run split of the day, behind my girl Cassie:
At that point, the swim was a distant memory. I know I sounded obnoxious but the run was all I talked about all day long. Usually, I can hold back and contain my excitement but I just couldn’t on Sunday. I heard myself sounding annoying and talking about it but I seriously don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited about a run.
My time was enough to earn me 1st in my age group and 10th overall female!
Cassie defended her title and won the race overall for the second year in a row, with our friend Lauren coming in on her tail for second overall female. They are some freaking badass chicks:
Kathy didn’t place in the sprint but came really close, which is awesome since she hasn’t done anything except run since the same race last year! Other friends that competed and placed: our friend Danielle was 5th overall and won her age group, and Jon got 1st in his age group!