That elusive race: the one where everything comes together. The one where you're in The Zone, even if it hurts like heck you know you are operating at top form. Such a race was the Duck Bill Thrill in May at Fall Creek Reservoir. This was an out-of-the-blue surprise as I hadn't put much preparation or even taper going into the race.
I didn't know it when I pulled into the parking lot on race morning.
In fact, I thought everything was going wrong. First, it was supposed to be sunny. Beautiful. Balmy. Race morning looked like this as I pulled up to the lake. Cold. Wet. Rain coming down in sheets. This day was going to suck.
Since it was dry at my house when I left, I had somehow neglected to pack a jacket.
Second, the registration people didn't have me on their list. There was no day of race registration. Thankfully, they took pity on poor wet me and let me sign up anyways. Probably because they were worried no one else would show up with the crappy weather.
Lastly, I didn't really have any cold weather gear with me. It was supposed to be warm and sunny on race day, right? I had some arm warmers with me and spent a ridiculous amount of time debating whether or not to wear them. My friend told me I'd regret taking the time to put them on, and since I still remember the race where I didn't qualify for Nationals because I put on arm warmers(!) I decided to listen to him and leave them in the car. I came to both deeply regret and wildly appreciate taking his advice.
I went through my usual neurotic warmups (out on the bike, several power-ups, lace on my running shoes, 15 minutes plus some strides). The lake felt almost balmy when we got into it, what with all the freezing water falling from the sky. I warmed up thoroughly in the water as well, swimming for at least 10 minutes. This turned out to be a good thing, because....
The Swim: 19:55
As we lined up for the swim, I saw a guy ahead of me whom I know to be a super-duper ultra-fast swimmer. I got behind him and thought if I could just hang on to his toes for a quarter mile or so, it would give me a better swim split. The race starts and there I am right on his feet as planned until BLAMMO, I get hit from the side by something that felt like a linebacker swimming perpendicular to the course. Goggles knocked off, stop and re-set them and of course my beautiful draft pack is long gone. Oh well, settle in. I get my stroke-rate song going in my head (Determinate from the Lemonade Mouth soundtrack - don't ask) and I'm off. Pretty soon I notice I'm in a very good place - pretty much by myself with just a few swimmers around and the lead pack in front of me. And believe it or not, I'm reeling in the lead pack, actually getting closer to them! By the time we came around the loop for a second time, I was just about on their heels, getting out of the water with only three men in front of me (including Mr. Super Fast), for a killer swim time. Looked at my watch and got instantly very happy. The official time has me at 20:04 going over the mats.
Buoyed by successful swim, I execute a decent T1 in the rain, getting out of there in just over a minute including the run from the beach.
The Bike: 1:18
The bike is one long painful memory of cold, cold, shivering cold. Wishing I had my dang arm warmers on, and gradually losing sensation in my lower extremities. However.... I am in front of the women's pack, so that keeps me focused like a laser beam on powering through the hilly course. My bike split is almost 3 minutes faster than last year, and I'm a year older, so I'll just go ahead and be happy about that. There are two out-n-back sections on the course, which gave me the ability to see any women who were gaining on me. At the time, it didn't look like there was any females getting closer, though there were several within striking distance of me, given that running is my weakest link.
Still in first place in the women's race after the bike course, I had no choice but to blaze through T2. I had one of the faster T2 times, it seems that I've finally learned how to transition!
The Run: 54:37
Okay, yeah looking at that time, you can tell I'm not a fast runner. In my defense, this is a quite hilly run course and the fastest women's run split was 45:41, so that tells you it's not exactly a fast course. My run was 3 minutes faster than last year and I felt pretty strong throughout. Even with the hills, my knee didn't give me any grief. I hung onto my lead until about mile 4, well after the turnaround. The bummer is, I didn't even see this gal coming, I had thought she was a guy on the bike (sometimes it's hard to tell with jerseys and all) so when she passed me and I heard her woman's voice, I was taken by surprise. I thought I still had a decent lead on the next woman behind me. Oh well, this gal passed me definitively and left me in the dust. The next runner to pass me got me right not far before the finish line and beat me by 12 seconds, but I just didn't have any finishing power to hang with her. That's a harsh way to end a race, but I was more than happy to take the Master's Female win and 3rd place overall in the women's race.
Total: 2:34 :27
Not bad on a hilly, wet, cold course. Not much taper, no race specific prep. 17 minutes faster than last year, though about 10 minutes of that was last years' ultra-long swim course. Still, even taking that into account, I shaved off 7 minutes, nothing to sneeze at. Overall, I am happy with my race. I executed well on the details I could (strong swim, good transitions) and hung in there when it got tough, wet, cold, and hilly.