Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Race Report: Black Diamond Long Course Triathlon

Wayne and the kids decided not to come with me this time, the weather looked too dicey for camping and we've had a really busy few weeks. So it was just me, myself, and NPR toodling up the freeway. Getting to listen to several hours of uninterrupted NPR and music is a joy in and of itself:  an open treasury, from programs on the Nile river to interviews with Wall Street tycoons, it's like an Ironman for your mind.

Arriving in Washington, I was struck by the fact that it was Fall with a capital "F". Back home in Orygun, there's a few leaves drifting off of the trees and temperatures are still in the 80's. But here there were great drifts of leaves on the ground, crunching piles underfoot. All was gold and red in the hills and the evening air had a serious briskness about it. Luckily, the forecast for race day was clear skies and a high of 72.

The transition area was open for check-in in the afternoon/evening, so I unloaded my bike and covered it against the dew with my handy trash bags (if you've ever wondered why they're on my triathlon checklist, this is only one of many reasons!). All around me, triathletes were debating the possible weather combinations for race morning, and what to wear. In some areas of the country and at some times of the year, that's not really much of an issue. But fall in Western Washington for a race as long as a half-Iron distance, and you really have to think about how cold, wet, or overheated you want to be. I've worn a rainjacket in this race before, and I've gone without. This time I brought arm warmers and a waterproof vest, just to cover all of my bases, but I wasn't sure yet what I would be putting on in the race.

Race morning dawned very chilly, so I laid out the transition area with my arm warmers as an option. I met Teresa, a fellow Eugenean there, someone I had just talked with in the pool the other day and started getting to know. She's such a positive person, it was great fun to see her there. She had a Queen Jane water bottle, and I commented on it, which sent us both into a round of tears and hugs. Although it's been almost five years since we lost friend, mentor, and uber-triathlete Jane Higdon from our midst, sometimes it feels like yesterday. Sometimes I still can't believe she's gone. She would be just there (probably telling us to stop whining about the weather and get going already), racking up her bike and getting ready to put some serious speed onto the course. Theresa and I headed out on our bikes to warm up together (warm up being the operative word, it was very very chilly!), and then crawled into wetsuits and headed toward the water.

SWIM: 29:57  (Goal: under :30)

Brrrrrrrrr! The water felt chilly. Much colder than last year. My thermometer the evening before the race said 59 degrees. But the small lake was beautiful in the morning sunlight with all of the fall colors in the trees around. Soon enough the waves of men were launched and we women were swimming for the first buoy. I set in a steady pace and enjoyed the swim. Caught up to the first of the men at the 2nd buoy and from there on out it was a bit of dodge'em but otherwise uneventful. I think this swim is always a bit longer than others, but that's okay by me. I was happy to come in under 30 minutes.

T1: 2:34  (-21 seconds from last year)

In T1 I decided I didn't need the arm warmers after all, just put on my helmet and biking shoes and off I went. I had hoped to shave some time off of my transitions this year, and ended up shaving off about 20 seconds from T1, so that's a good start!

BIKE: 2:50:12  (Goal: 2:51 or better)

This is such a nice bike course, you really can't help but enjoy yourself. The hills are mostly rolling, the fall foliage is lovely, and in the bottom part of the course you are treated to some really stupendous views of Mt. Rainier. Still, my first loop on the course, my muscles felt tight and sore. I think because it was just so damned cold. Coming out wet from a 59 degree lake into 40-something degree air and adding in the wind chill of the bike, I felt like it took my legs a long time to get warm. It wasn't until the second loop that I really started to feel like I was in my groove.  The other monkeywrench in the day was that I had to stop and use the porta-potty for some womanly issues. Bad timing of the month! I've never had that coincide on a half-Iron before, so that kinda sucked. Still, I knew I was the second woman out onto the bike course from the swim, and only one woman passed me in the 56 miles (and she rocketed on to a 4:54 finish time), so I was feeling pretty good about my bike split overall. My split was over 3 minutes faster than last year. Not bad! I felt really good about staying on my nutrition plan too, checking my watch to take in a gel or part of  a bar every 20 minutes. I went into the run feeling like I had plenty of energy.

T2: 1:55 (+5 seconds from last year)

I have no idea how my T2 managed to actually be slower than last year. I didn't even change socks this time! This one's a mystery.

RUN: 2:12:12 (Goal: 2:05)

The run felt pretty good. I hit my goal paces for most of the first 8 miles (9:15 - 9:45). It did start to get pretty hot (comparatively) on the run. Not a lot of shade and although it only topped out at 78 degrees, that felt unusually warm after the cold morning. I definitely regretted wearing a black shirt!! I kept up with my nutrition plan though, and felt really good energy-wise through the run course. I had to use the porta-potty again and this time I had to wait for someone else to get out (it was either that or wait another 2 miles to use the next one: Not An Option). The run time on my watch says 2:09:47 (I paused it during the stop), so although I didn't hit my goal of 2:05, that's the fastest HIM run I've done in the last 15 years. At the end of the run my legs started cramping up somewhat. I was not alone as it seems like a LOT of athletes had leg cramps, more than the normal "walking wounded" of the last few miles of a 70.3. Lots of athletes in the massage tent afterwards too, some of them with screaming knots in their legs. I think it might've been the combo of a very cold morning (biking hard to warm up with legs that were too cold and stiff), possibly not drinking enough early on (harder to make yourself drink when it's cold), and then the weather turning warmer quickly. Luckily, mine didn't seize up at all, just got a little stiff.  After walking around for a few minutes I got back to the finish line just in time to cheer in Teresa who won her age group!

OVERALL: 5:36:50  4th in AG, 12th OA Woman

This is a PKPR for me at the distance (that stands for post-kids PR, so it's my fastest HIM in the last 15 years). It was also a PKPR in each of the three disciplines for this distance, so I'm very happy with that. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't pull in a faster run time. My biking has gotten much much better in the last few years, but running continues to be my big limiter. If I had the money, a run coach would be in my future for sure! Still, I am extremely happy to still be able to chip away at my times and to find little ways to improve my performance. As always, this is a beautiful race with some very amiable triathletes in a lovely little corner of the earth. I got to make a new friend in the sport, and share some memories of an old friend who is gone. I got to be reminded of how good it is to be alive and have a body that can do such amazing things.

That's a good way to end the season!


cherelli said...

Excellent RR - so pleased you did so well and it sounds like a beautiful area to race in...a nice solo weekend away!!

tinaparker87 said...

Great Job Robin! How exciting!

janasmama said...

Mmmmmm. Fall in Washington...sounds beautiful.

Good job staying on your nutrition plan. For a race that long I could imagine doing that 20 minute check can be a difficult thing for a number of reasons.

Alisa said...

I'm so glad that I found your blog and this race report. I've been considering this race, instead I went with one closer to my family but next year this is on the list of possibilities. It sounds a bit chilly for my taste but nothing I couldn't get over =).

How long have you been doing tri's? Sounds like a long while! I'm pretty new---just finished my third season.

I can probably find this on your blog somewhere but if you're in Eugene you've probably done the Eugene marathon and possibly others. I've done the EWEB run to stay warm half a couple of times and am considering it again this year...waiting for the 10 day weather forecast to come out for that weekend.

Robin said...

Hi Alisa, glad the RR was helpful. It's definitely a nice race in the NW. We don't have a lot of tris around Eugene so we have to take what we can get! I haven't done the Eugene marathon, but did the Portland one year. I don't do a lot of running races because, well, I'm not much of a runner and I like to chill out in the off season!