Gather ’round kids for a tale of breaking the cardinal rule of racing. But don’t worry, this story has a happy ending.
This weekend was the Hudson Crossing Triathlon out in Schuylerville, NY. It’s a great race with about 400 athletes traversing through the rural countryside of upstate NY. I did this race last year, and I love the venue. I love it so much, that I have taken to heading out this way for some of my recent long rides.
Saturday was the traditional run-around-like-a-headless-chicken act of getting everything together, packet pickup, etc. In addition to the normal pre-race chaso, I had an extra step. I needed to head up to Blue Sky bikes for two things 1) “new” bike 2) new shoes. On Friday I took my Newton Gravity’s out for a test run to see how they would fare without socks. Last year I was running in Saucony’s and I was able to go sock less. For those of you who have struggles to get a pair of socks on dripping wet or sweaty feet, you will understand why I like to avoid socks. Well, my Friday experiment failed and I ended up with a gigantic, bloody mess. Thanks to a Facebook message I learned that this was not supposed to happen with Newtons. At all.
So Saturday I ran up to Saratoga to both trade out my shoes and pick up my bike. When I bought my QR it came built with a standard crank (39/53) and an 11-25 rear cassette. My road bike has a compact crank (50/34) and an 11-32 cassette. For those of you who are not good at math that = making hills ALOT harder. I went back and forth and finally decided that I would re-gear the QR to a compact crank (50/34) and an 11-28 cassette to get back so extra gears for all those hills we have around here.
By Saturday afternoon I was in possession of a “new” bike and new shoes. (In addition to changing the gearing I have also been trying different saddles. The ISM Adamo saddle that came with the QR was too narrow for me and I had been losing feeling in my legs after just a few miles.) Now let’s all repeat with me, what’s the FIRST rule of racing? DON’T TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. What was that again? DON’T TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. Yup, I was going to break that rule. It feels so good to be so bad. I took the bike for a quick spin up and down a few hills in my neighborhood, said good enough and packed up.
Sunday morning I was up at 4:30 and out the door for the hour drive out to the race site. Once I got there it was a flurry of chip pick up, body marking, transition set up, the obligator porta-potty stop (or 2), hair braiding and wet-suit stuffing. Starting at 8 they sent the first swim wave off. Being an Athena, we are almost always in the last wave, so I had to wait until almost 8:15 to head down to the water.
The swim was a 500 yd out and back counter-clockwise loop. Because I was one of the last people to make it into the water, I ended up far out to the right away from the buoys. I spent the rest of the swim fighting to get back into position and closer to the buoys. Also, my wet suit sleeves had managed to shrink over the winter (it’s always the clothes fault, right?) and after about 250 yds I was starting to loose feeling in my arms, which didn’t help with my swim pace. During the swim I ended up in the typical “dead” zone I find myself in. Not fast enough to stick with the lead pack of the wave, but faster than the main pack. As a result, I tend to be out on my own without any near by or any feet to follow.
I had a great transition spot on the first rack as you come in from the swim. I ran to my bike, began the frantic dance of pulling off the wetsuit and concurrently falling over like I had one two many drinks. But I managed to get the suit off, bike shoes on and I was out.
Somehwere along the way my Garmin decided it didn’t want to cooperate. I stopped the multi-sport setting and switched back to Bike mode as I was running. But somewhere along the way I forgot to hit Start. And wouldn’t realize this until the last few miles of the bike. DOH!
The bike is a great, rolling course with the exception of Bacon Hill, which I hate. For whatever reason, I redline as soon as I hit the hill and struggle the rest of the way up. I was excited to see how the new gearing would feel, particularly on this hill. I headed out and spent the first mile spinning up and trying to get my hear rate under control. Coming out of the swim, I tend to have a high HR and this time I was at 185 as I was starting the bike. For comparison, my typical bike HR average is in the 150’s, and I don’t hit the 180’s until I am well into a steep climb. So I was already “red lining” before even hitting the hills.
As soon as I hit the hill I knew I had made the right decision in re-gearing the bike. I was able to maintain a much higher cadence and not burn out my legs as quickly as I had been. Made it to the top of the hill and from there I began to hammer it. I had a feeling as I was leaving T1 that I was in the lead and I wasn’t going to let anyone catch me. My goal for the bike was to keep the pressure on and push it – even on the downhill. I felt like I was flying! The whole ride was “on your left, on your left”. I managed to pass at least 20 people and only 3 or 4 (guys) passed me.
I came flying into T2 feeling on top of the world. Looking around, I didn’t see any of the other Athena’s bikes back in the rack so I headed out for the run optimistic that I was in the lead.
The run is always my nemesis. I have never been a strong runner, and after pushing on the bike my run suffers even more. I headed out of transition and saw my husband who yelled at me “run faster for chocolate milk!” and out onto the course. My legs felt surprisingly strong I think in large part thanks to the new bike gearing, but my HR was still sky high. The first mile has a few rolling hills which I took the time to walk up and try to get my HR under control. The most difficult part of the run was the mental aspect. I suspected that I was in the lead and I kept saying to myself “don’t loose it now”. I find it mentally harder to be in the front because you know that all you have behind you are people gaining on you and losing time.
I jockeyed back and forth with a few people and chatted with them up until approximately mile 2. At this point, I realized that, while my Garmin was running, it had never engaged the GPS and I had no idea how far I had actually run. From last year, I knew about where I was and that I was coming into the home stretch. As I came up the last hill I looked behind me and I thought I saw one of the other Athena ladies coming up on me. And that’s where I started to sprint. I came around the corner and into the finish gasping and ready to collapse.
Final time: 1:26:53
Since I had a good feeling about the race, I made sure to stick around for the awards, and boy was I glad I did! Before the awards they held a raffle and I ended up winning a pair of RoadFox carbon wheels. Score! I RoadFox is a new company based in MA. I am going to reach out to the company to learn more about the new wheels and them as a company. Stay tuned!
And how did I do? That’s right, first place in the Athena. All and all a successful day.
Like I said – I broke the cardinal rule of racing, but this time it seems to have worked in my favor. I wouldn’t bet that I will get this lucky again.
Did you race this weekend?
Have you ever tried anything new when racing?