After deciding in early June to pull the plug on Ironman training for 2019, I began training for the Olympic distance and targeted Age Group Nationals as my new “A race” for the summer. This race is qualification only and luckily I had qualified last fall and there wasn’t a time limit to accept the entry. As it turns out, Olympic distance is my jam! I’ve never specifically trained for that distance. In the past, I would complete local events in the middle of my long distance training merely as a way to change things up and keep training spicy. I always find doing short and fast races difficult (and frustrating) in the middle of Ironman training because my legs have zero 5k/10k speed.
AG Nationals were in Cleveland for the second year and the reviews for last year were less than stellar. This was my first time visiting the city and I found it to be very enjoyable. Their parks and rec system is amazing. The venue was located at Edgewater Park, a few miles outside of Downtown Cleveland and it was easily accessible. Race logistics were easy and hassle free, which is always a plus on race morning.
I was excited about this race. I was really excited to see what I could do with two months of specific training for the Olympic distance. My main goal was to have fun and try to blast the run. Training had been going really well and I was confident. Unfortunately, Thursday morning before my flight, I woke up with a fever and muscle aches. I sucked it up with a lot of complaining to my husband and decided “it is what is” and got on the plane (making sure to sanitize everything I touched). I spent most of Thursday feeling bad and Friday sick in the hotel only doing what I had to do to get ready for the race. Also, cheering for my husband to crush a 5k race Friday night at the race site. Way to show the silly triathletes how to run!! LOL. I couldn’t eat much for dinner and decided obviously this race was no longer an “A” goal, but I was going to hopefully finish and have some fun along the way.
I woke up fever free on Saturday, race morning, (hooray!) but my stomach was still not happy. Oh well.
The swim: Apparently, Lake Erie is usually rough and has a current, which resulted in issues last year. This was surprising to me. This year the swim was cut short, 750 meters, after several days of high winds and rain and also a sewage issue the week before the race lead to water quality warnings and closed beaches..eww. Good news – I didn’t get e coli!! Even with the shortened distance, I had a hard time on the swim. Not really due to the conditions of the water, but mostly due to internal issues of my own. Rough water and jostling for position doesn’t usually affect me at all. However, once the race started, I was kicked in the throat and my legs were pulled down. It was crazy. I started to freak out and felt like my wetsuit was choking me. I stopped and regrouped. I almost quit, but I figured it was stupid to come all the way to Cleveland and quit. I just had to swim 750 meters, which was nothing compared to my normal workout. The result was the slowest swim ever for me.
The bike: the course was closed to traffic which is amazing!!! It’s sad most triathlon’s don’t close the road to traffic, which is resulting in many accidents and cyclists being hit by cars during the race. It’s actually quite ridiculous because we pay a gizillon $ to do the race. This course was mostly flat with a few rollers and highway on/off ramps. I couldn’t find my legs and spent this portion of the race just trying to not get passed and hopefully pass someone. As I approached the turn around point, I started seeing women I knew were in my age group going the other way as they were minutes in front of me. This was very frustrating. I passed one girl at the end, who I was chasing the entire time. Yay I guess. However, my power output was equal to my 70.3 effort, so boo.
The run: I had no idea what to expect given my health and how I spent the days before the race. I decided just to run how I felt and not even look at my watch for a pace. I transitioned from bike to run easily and started running. The first mile was downhill with a turn around and uphill back towards the start. I looked at my watch at the mile turn around and thought “oh no” when I saw it was a 6:45 pace. That pace was my goal pace for the run overall, if I was feeling fantastic, which I was not. I know better than to start out guns blazing, but for some reason I do it every time. Oh well, I was feeling good and just went with it. I started picking people off in front of me. I would tell myself “just get to the next person and pass them”. I managed to keep that pace until mile 4 where there was a longer, steeper hill heading into the park area. That hill kicked my butt and I slowed down slightly. I started seeing the faster women in my age group and I decided I was going to catch them. I passed 15 women in my age group and it felt amazing to chase them down! I ended up with a run time of 42:38 which is a new 10k PR.
I had few secret goals for this event. Yeah, I always say my main goal is to have fun, which is true…but of course I have time specific goals. My first secret goal was to qualify for the ITU World Championship. For that to happen, I needed to finish in the top 18 of my age group. My top secret goal was to finish in the top 10. I ended up in 15th place, which given my health issue, I was super happy about. I don’t know why I keep my goals a secret. I guess because it’s scary to say out loud and if it doesn’t happen, I will feel like a failure. Which is so lame, I know.
I also came away with many lessons learned, which I think is important to digest and improve for next time. First, don’t give up before the race even begins or on the swim. I had the world’s worst swim for me, and I was able to pull it together and run a PR. Second, don’t let the days leading into a race dictate the race you will have. Circumstances are never perfect and I think I’ve finally learned that there will rarely or never be the perfect race you think you should have. Finally, a good support system is critical. I could have very easily stayed in bed Saturday morning. My husband was a constant in reminding me to just try my best and it’s not the end of the world. He kept me moving forward, thinking about the race logistics, and helping me prepare, which I was very thankful for. It was also super motivating to watch him race Friday and get my mindset in race mode.