For some reason, I tend to pick triathlons in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of nowhere and just out far enough to warrant an overnight stay for my comfort and sanity (and for the comfort and sanity of those around me).
And so on Saturday afternoon after I completed my four-hour training ride and Best Boyfriend Mark completed his 20-miler, we packed up the car and headed out to central New York State. First stop was Syracuse for packet pick-up at Syracuse Bikes for the Cazenovia Triathlon. (This took some doing since the official race website had the address of the bike shop incorrect. Welcome to the wonders of technology.)
Second stop, Tully, N.Y. and our home for the night. We unpacked the car, found some pasta for dinner and went for a little drive. We found some gorgeous views and interesting looking walks through state forest and were both a little sad that (a) we were too tired from our training to explore and that (b) it wouldn’t have been prudent anyway. Still the scenery gave me a nice sense of calm before the storm.
Sunday morning, as usual, I had nervous knots in my stomach. I felt partly sick and partly terrified. The particular demon that had been emerging during my training lately? Fear of letting other people down. Luckily for me I have an amazing, supportive cast of characters in my life which helped ease that particular mental and emotional burden. (See my blog on GOTRIbal.com for more on this particular gem from race day.)
At the triathlon site, all went as normal and I suited up for just my second race at the intermediate distance. This one would be interesting since it was part of my training for Esprit Montreal. I wasn’t gearing for this race. I didn’t taper. Heck, I rode about 67 miles the day before the race then drove 3 1/2 hours. That’s not the best way to prepare to do well in a race.
Then again my version of “do well” was vastly different from what it had been in the past. Today’s version of “do well” was to go hard, to offer the best I could and take what the day offered me. I wore a regular watch, not a Garmin. In fact, I was without a bike computer so really, I had only a relative sense of how I was doing. I planned it this way. I wanted to enjoy the race, not be disappointed during it.
The swim started with the intermediate waves first followed by the sprints. It was a two-loop course and Cazenovia Lake had a bit of a chop and strong current to it. It looked rather calm, compared to some of the waves I’ve encountered in Lake Erie, but every swimmer I heard said the same thing – it was a hard swim and a battle with the waves. By the time I hit the first turnaround buoy my arms were tired. But things felt faster on the second loop and I kept my spirit of playing with the waves instead of battling them. The feel of my swim was consistent – not my hardest effort but a good one nonetheless, with a few breaststroke breaks when I caught a mouth full of wave or around a crowded buoy.
As I climbed out of the water, I glanced at my watch. Seems it was about a 51 minute swim. I made a face that signified a shoulder shrug – not great but not bad either – and proceeded to transition for the bike.
Ah the bike. Usually my strong suit. On this day, I actually wanted to cry on the bike. My omen should have been when the volunteers working transition were holding on to your bike while you mounted because the road out of the part was so steep. But my volunteer let go before I could get my left foot clipped in and near the top of the exit I nearly toppled over because of it. I walked the bike up to the road and started out.
With my training volume, I knew that it would be a difficult race and the hills of the course were ready to challenge me from the get-go. I did no recon for this race and had only basic information on the climbs and descents of the bike course. The big descent was easy to spot and I started to break early, since (a) I’m scared of descending and (b) it was a steep hill with a sharp left turn at the end. It was at that point I saw the ambulance lights pull into the turn. Two cyclists (it appeared) had an accident. A nasty looking accident. I left the turn grateful for my cowardice and for the fact I was still pedaling.
And pedal I would need to. In my beloved granny gear. The return was a series of steep hills with the added bonus of a gusty head wind, which nearly blew me off my bike in several spots. In fact I saw at least four people walk their bikes up different portions of the hill. I’m not judging. I’m pointing it out because I have never seen that happen before. And I’ve been on some hilly courses with people of all fitness levels.
The hills were so fun, I got to do them again, thanks to the intermediate distance second loop. But by the time I got to those hills again, my legs started to come back. That first loop nearly made me cry. For real. Not because it was that difficult (although it was challenging) but because I felt that slow on it. God bless my decision not to wear my Garmin. I would have gasped at what my average speed and cadence were at some points.
But things started to feel better on that second loop and I came back into transition ready for my “6.2-mile cool down.”
Once, I had thought the most disheartening thing at a triathlon was hearing the winner announced as you went out on the run.
I was wrong.
It’s waiting for people who are leaving transition with all of their gear because they are done with their race for you to come into transition with your bike to start your run.
(Note to Cazenovia Triathlon directors: I realize some people are fast sprinters and have places to be, but as a courtesy to those of us who are still racing, can you make them wait until we’re all out on the run before they can schlep their stuff out? I know I’m slow, but I’m gonna be slower if I have to wait for those guys and then try to run around them on the course.)
My displeasure quickly subsided as I realized I had just a run left on the day. The start of the run felt good. But really, the start of the run always feels good. It’s after Mile 2 that things get interesting for me. And the interesting thing on this run was that I continued to feel great.
Seriously. I felt great on the run. It was a rolling course with more “up” on the way out and more “down” on the way back but I felt like I had a good cadence and a good pace. And get this: I passed people on the run. I never pass people on the run. That is, I never used to pass people on the run. Because I did on this day.
In fact, my run was so speedy that my mother even commented on it. I charged through the finish line pleased with what I had done.
To recap: I was strong and steady during a swim that tried to kick waves at my face all day. I endured a difficult bike because of terrain and conditions and actually picked up strength as the ride wore on. I finished with one of the best runs I’ve ever had in a triathlon.
And I did it all on my terms. It scared me, quite frankly, to put so much stock into what I wanted as opposed to trying to make other people happy. But in the end, I got to do my happy dance. And just by me being happy, those around me were too.
Onward to Esprit Montreal and the Iron Distance.