Tuesday, June 15, 2010


All it took was one little sprint tri to get me motivated again. I truly had forgotten how much fun these sprint races can be. Not only fun but they can provide you with a serious workout without having to spend your entire day doing them--a serious workout but where you can still get right back to normal living afterwards.

Saturday it was the Double Time Triathlon, an inaugural event. For some reason, I was totally mistaken as to the format of the race, thinking it was a double triathlon. I have done those before so I didn't think anything of it. Instead, according to others, the “double time” only meant you were supposed to go fast. When I found this out, I wondered if I should be there. I used to be a lot faster, but with all the things that have gotten in my way the last 4 or 5 years, fast went out of my vocabulary and my body.

For the past few months, I have been working on doing faster workouts, but still I have been hesitant to sign up for anything, afraid I would not meet my expectations. This would be my test.

Because I learned I would only be doing a sprint tri and not a nearly full Olympic distance tri, my game plan changed—in a hurry—since I didn’t find out until I was waiting for my swim heat to start it was only a sprint. In truth, I was relieved. The weather was questionable, with the possibility of thunder storms, and it was already hot and muggy, but thankfully heavily overcast. If I only had to do this once, great!

The swim was only 400 yards, so there was no way I would put on a wetsuit for this distance in this temperature, but I had also wondered why so many others had them on. One woman even had swim booties on! The water wasn’t that cold, maybe 70-72, which is mild for Michigan at this time of year considering we had almost a week with nights in the 40s and a lot of heavy rain a couple of times as well. My second thought was: are these people really going to put their wetsuits on for the second loop? Once I realized there was only one loop, I could see why they would wear a wetsuit. I still didn't mind not having one.

The field was small, about 250, and being a sprint that included every type of person and every type of bike you can imagine. We’ve all done them, so you know what I mean. And typically, with these sprint races, the transition was chaotic, and I found it nearly impossible to find a spot for my bike on any rack. Eventually I had to crowd in. Since I wasn't control of when we arrived at the race, I had no control over this as well.

The women were in the 3rd heat, and soon we were entering the water. I hadn’t been in fully to get used to the temperature so used the pre-swim time to test the goggles and get over that initial “take my breath away” feeling. Then, the starting horn went off. I was near the front and hoped no one was going to run me over, but it went fairly smooth almost immediately—for the first 30 seconds anyway. Then, someone grabbled onto my leg, I gave a swift kick, and off came the chip. Dang! Just focus and swim. Nothing you can do now, I told myself.

I noticed I had no panic on this swim. It wasn’t horribly crowded anyway, but that never mattered in the past. If anyone was swimming next to me or even near me, it threw me off completely. Instead, I stayed calm and focused. Even when I pretty much got wedged between a breaststroker and someone doggie paddling, but doing the frog kick. So I had legs on both sides of me kicking and elbows a little too close to my face until I finally managed to pull ahead. After that, it was just trying to keep as straight of a line as possible to the first buoy and then head to the second, and then in. Once I was heading for shore, I was pretty much by myself until all of a sudden some guy—obviously in a relay—came along side of me, and as big and wide open as that swimming area was, he managed to smack me so hard on my hand I felt like I had punched someone with my knuckles. That brought my head out of the water and I yelled at him to get away from me. He apologized but didn’t seem too quick to move away. I did break free from him and then it was smooth sailing to the finish. Without the chip, I have no splits but my watch time said swim time with running through to transition was about 9:23. Okay, not bad, just okay. I did tell the timers when I went over the first mat that I had lost my chip and gave them my number.

I was a little deflated here because I wondered if it would even matter what I did or whether my race would even count without my chip. I decided not to take on a defeatist attitude and just continued to try to do my best.

Transitions are always a time where I am seriously lacking in the ability to hurry. I feel like I am going 100 mph but my transitions are generally in the 3-5 minute range, and that was the same this time. I left transition with my bike and got to the timing mats—again telling them I lost my chip—in 12:55, so about 3.5 minutes. What do I do that takes so long? I like to be organized, but I truly don’t know, but this time my holdup was just not having enough room to move around in. And the humidity, making it impossible to get the feet dry enough to get socks on properly. Oh well. Off I go.

About the same time I was leaving transition, 3 young boys were heading out as well. They should have been in the heat before me, and while they didn’t look like triathletes, there was no way I was going to let them get ahead of me if I could help it. So I cranked it up and passed them like they were standing still. Now if I could only do that to someone who mattered!

The course was described as mostly flat and fast. Let’s hope was all I could think. I was surprised to see my competitiveness start kicking in and my average pace increasing, much faster than I figured it might. By doing this, I was able to pass some people at least, and not just other women. I was a little annoyed at myself that so many women had beat me on the swim, but it could easily have been caused from my slow transition. By the time I reached the first of only 2 “hills” my average speed had reached 17.2 mph. Whoa! For me that is fast. But it felt easy enough. Now if I could just hold on. There wasn’t anyone that close behind me, and I could see I was approaching another woman ahead, so I kept cranking as hard as I possibly could deciding this race was going to be all about the bike for me.

The only other hill was at about 9 miles. It wasn’t much but I underestimated it and found myself getting caught off guard and slowing down considerably. By now, my average speed, while having slowed some, was still considerably faster than I have gone in a long time. But suddenly, another woman passes me, and I find I am unable to respond. I’m cranking as hard as possible yet seeming to stand still. This was in a patch where the pavement was extremely rough, and my tires were not gliding along like they had before. I kept close to her but darn it if she didn’t get a burst of speed every time I got close enough to consider passing. And then I slightly underestimated the finish line. I was thinking as we turned into the side street that that was the finish line, when in fact we still had more than a mile to go. Yikes! I was unclipped and everything.

The other woman was just ahead but the pavement was smooth and flat so I put on a couple of gears and put my head down and cranked until I passed her.

Back at transition, I again told them I lost my chip. I don’t remember what my time was here, maybe about 52 minutes, but I really don’t remember. It was quite a ways to the bike racks from the street where we dismounted, and down a steep hill so again, I’m not sure what my time was in transition, but I’m sure it was slow as usual.

I had packed everything in plastic bags in case it rained so that slowed me some, but the worst was when I discovered my shoes were tied! In double knots! Drat, I totally forgot about putting different laces in and didn't even notice they were still tied from the last time I wore them. Had I just untied them I might have saved at least 30 seconds! Totally out of practice here!

The run out started where the swim in was, so we ran across grass for quite a ways until we got to the street. I was finding it extremely difficult to breathe or catch my breath, having side stiches on both sides, both from the humidity and my hard effort on the bike. So I just slowly, and I mean slowly, jogged for a couple of minutes then picked up the pace for a couple of minutes, then slowed, then fast until I got over this. I never fully got over that but had to keep pushing on.

The whole race took place at a mobile home lake community so the swim was in the lake and the run wound through the park, through people’s yards, back onto pavement, trails, fields, and grass. A true cross country experience. I was doing fairly well with time until I again underestimated what the mileage was until the finish area, not really knowing for sure how long the run was, but also thinking you never know if it’s a true 5k, 3 miles, or something else. Once we reached the grass where the run out started, I assumed, wrongly, that that would be the last sprint to the finish. So I sprinted, pushing myself way out of my comfort zone, only to find out as I neared the bike in chutes that this was not the finish, as it turned out, it was a true 5k, and that we had another mile or so to go! That about killed me so I found myself walking here again to get my breath. That’s when I saw Don watching the race and wandering around, and he said he’d just see me at the finish. Which he completely missed becaused he thought the run was 4 miles.

Once I got my breath, I also discovered my momentum was starting to lag. After pushing myself as hard as I did on the bike and on that stupidly calculated sprint, I was tired! But I have learned a new trick I can do (this may not be your thing so don’t necessarily try it in a race), and that is to sprint hard for 30 seconds, then walk 30. I can keep this up for a mile or two, and I can almost keep the same pace as if I were just running a moderately slow pace, the difference being I keep motivated instead of giving in to fatigue. It keeps me focused too. So I figured it couldn’t hurt my time much. I had already killed it on that sprint, so the thing now was to just hold on to the finish. The last mile was by far the most challenging, as it included an uphill part on trails, then a run through a muddy field, onto another muddy gravel road, to another muddy field, then through that field, before heading back to the gravel road and back to the paved trail to the finish, which also was on grass. On my last sprint to the finish, I wondered again if any of this would count. As I found out, when I entered the finish chute I told them I had lost my chip, gave them my number, and they said they were waiting for me! Yes, I would actually have an actual time. No splits, but what can you do.

Fast forward to awards, and I took 3rd in my AG, actually beating someone. Finish time: 1:34:xx.

I still have some work to do, both on my transitions and getting better control on the run so I can continue to push the pace but hold on longer, even after pushing the pace on the bike.

I firmly believe these shorter sprint workouts are what keeps people fast, and that it is definitely the longer races that slow you down. But I also know that’s how those things work, and if you want to be fast, you have to do more of the shorter races. If you want to go for the glory, there are plenty of long races that fit that category.

Now I can’t wait to do another one!


Lisa said...

You're right that short stuff = fast and long stuff = endurance/slow. You just need to decide where your focus is.

Congrats on the AG placing!

ShirleyPerly said...

CONGRATS on the AG award, Vickie!!!

Way to go keeping your head in the game after having lost your chip on the swim. I too must work on my transitions. Thanks for the motivation to do some short course work!

Just_because_today said...

Congratlations on placing. It seems so chaotic those transitions.
I thought a double meant you did it twice but that would make it a six and not a tri?

chia said...

Doggie paddle? Frog kick? Dude, if I knew I could pull that at a tri I would have done one years ago. I thought anything other than a freestyle would get your tushie kicked pronto. I'm totally sissy pantsing one now (and lining up in the BACK of the staging area... seriously why anyone like that would get in the way of more expedient swimmers is beyond me)