I invited Emily to come along with me since I hadn't seen her in a few weeks and dangled the bait that we could ride easy afterwards. She was excited.
My overwhelming lesson from the day is that it was a really good idea to do this, because I forgot half the crap that I needed to bring and do throughout the day. I realized in the car that I had forgotten socks, and then any kind of lubrication, then a towel to lay my transition pile on, plus safety pins...oh I don't have a race belt? I decided three minutes before the start to use Emily's wetsuit instead of my own, which was a mess because it took all three of us to get it on and then I couldn't get it off in T1. I completely forgot how to get off of my bike quickly and my SOAS shorts are worn so thin that I can't post any pictures of me in them from the back while they were wet from the swim. I didn't think to bring a handheld water bottle with me for the run and I've completely forgotten how to navigate the labyrinth multi-sport mode on my Garmin so I had zero information except total race time, which is useless in a sprint. I didn't do a great job of calculating how much time we needed to drive down there and get set up, which meant that I was dragging my bike into transition just as they were making the "transition will close in three minutes" announcement.
But the great thing about a sprint is none of this really matters, because you don't have any time to think about it.
Swim: 750M, 13:38 (1:39 sec/100y), 3rd in AG
When we got out of the car at the race site, it was warm. Really warm. Sleeved-wet-suit-is-overkill kind of warm. Emily had thrown hers in the car because I'm going to deliver it to Allison, and she offered to let me borrow it, which I decided to do based on the fact that it was almost 80º out already and 66º in the water. Temperature-wise, the wetsuit was perfect. Sadly, Emily is about a foot shorter and forty pounds lighter than I am, which we didn't consider until I was already halfway into the suit. I did lots of squatting and jumping while Emily and the poet did some yanking, and I was able to wriggle into it just enough that we could get it zipped.
I scooted down to the water to get over the OMG-cold-lake shock to my poor little heart, and when I started doing some warm-up strokes I realized that I was being choked to death by the tight suit. By the time I paddled over to the group of women bobbing around for the in-water start, it was pretty clamped down on me but I got some water inside of it and it seemed to help a tiny bit. Before I had time to crack a joke about zombies or pee in the suit (my usual swim start mojo), the gun went off and we were thrashing. One of these sleeveless wetsuit people is me.
I didn't have a plan for the swim (or anything else throughout the day). I managed to fight my way up to the front pack, a group of about 6-8 other women, and I hung on hard. The course was a long out, a short across and a long back, and I concentrated on following bubbles and pulling strong. The shore was pretty close when I bumped into a bunch of breast-strokers from the first wave and lost the pack. I headed off towards the shore only to realize that there was another hard left turn towards the stairs that I had missed about 15-20 strokes back. I swam like crazy for the stairs and got out with a clump of women who had probably been in the pack behind the front pack. We ran up a grassy hill and into T1. I couldn't get the wetsuit off and ended up leaning on the bike rack while a guy sitting on the ground tried to chat with me about the swim. I flipped him a peace sign and a "good luck!" and ran out.
Bike, 12 miles, 34:44 (20.7mph), 5th in AG
The mount line was at the top of a little gravelly hill, and I'm not coordinated enough to do any kind of crazy flying mount just yet so I paused, hopped on, and spun away. I'm so accustomed to the 70.3 distance that I spent the first two miles on the bike trying to calm down and breathe and settle down from the swim, but when I saw the two mile marker on the course, I woke up and realized that I was being foolish and only had ten miles to go. The bike was generally unremarkable. I was fantastically comfortable in my fit despite the fact that I had forgotten to put any ride glide on. I spent the entire ride in aero except for one very sharp turn and one short climb where I was trying to pass a wobbler on a hybrid. Not too many girls passed me - I saw one girl in my AG go flying by, but she was in full crazy disc wheels and aero helmet and I knew better than to try to chase her down. My Garmin didn't pick up HR information for some reason so I don't have a lot of great data to analyze, but I know for sure that I didn't empty my bicycle tank. It's so hard to change the mindset from "simmer down" to "go fracking nuts" and while I thought I was really ready to do some hammering, the way I felt when I bounced off the bike told me that I didn't go nearly hard enough. I'm not upset about my effort/splits/time at all, just trying to honestly recap my effort level. I got another strong reminder that there are cobwebs in my triathlon racing bank when I slowed into the dismount line and then had to consciously remind myself how to get off the bike and into transition.
Run: 5K, 28:23 (9:09 pace), 10th in AG
I sat down in transition to pull on my borrowed socks and un-speed-laced shoes, then grabbed my hat, sunglasses, and old-HR-monitor-turned-race-belt and flew out the back.
The run course looked straight and easy on the map but was actually a crazy rocky trail with multiple 180º turn-arounds. The only info I could see on my Garmin was total race time and distance, so I had no idea how hard I was going. The day before the race, I did a run off the bike that started out at 8:40 pace, so I tried to just match that effort and not let the entire field of women pass me. When I ran through the aid stations, I asked all the little kids to throw water at me and high-fived some guys going the other way. I cheered on all the women I saw and when I got to the finish line, I was only a little bit sad that it was over. I crossed the line 6th in my AG.I ran the 5K pretty perfectly as a step-down progression run but obviously didn't run nearly hard enough. As my coach said after I sent her my splits and HR information post-race, "Good job running Ironman pace for a sprint!"
But I had a blast. I walked around for twenty minutes post race saying things like, "So fun! Sure wish I could run faster!" with a big smile on my face. I think it was great to do this tiny check-in of where my fitness sort of is right now. It's not an assessment of my IM fitness, but more of a status update on where I stand in each discipline. My swim was strong but obviously I need to sight a little better and not get dropped off the back of the pack. My bike was also good and solid, and since I'm not trying to be a sprint specialist I'm not going to worry that I didn't hammer my brains out like I should have. It's clear that the run is my weakness right now - for whatever reason, I've gotten into this place where I really enjoy running easy with my HR under 145 all the time. This used to be an uncomfortable place and I hated it, but now the tides have dramatically shifted. I had a run last week where I needed to run at a hard HR for 20 minutes and I actually couldn't do it - a heart rate that I used to race the half marathon distance at. So it's showing me where the work is to be done, and I'm okay with that.
I also finally - FINALLY - had a race day where I didn't let my brain screw with me. I'm not saying it was a perfect day - not even close, I was a disaster in so many ways - but this might be the first triathlon where I didn't take any I'm-defeated walk breaks, and that's a pretty big mountain to climb on top of for me. But it was as good a season-opener as I could have asked for.
The dust has been blown off, the creaks are getting oiled and I am getting ready to rumble.