Thursday, July 03, 2014

I'm Backkkkkkkkkk!!! - Sleepy Hollow Sprint Triathlon Race Report

I wasn't quite as diligent as I would have liked to been chronicling my comeback.  I made it through the C25K app and got myself to a point that I could cover 3 miles, albeit slow but no walking breaks.

The night before the race, I posted the following on Facebook.

Hard to believe my triathlon comeback is almost upon me. Yeh, my heart rate went up a little as I packed my transition bag tonight. Everything is packed away. Checking my list, once, twice. Everything is nice.

The old tri-geek in me wonders if she can relive the glory days of age group wins. The comeback kid here tries to tell the old tri-geek to shut up and enjoy the moment when she crosses the finish line, and then enjoy the moments of my totally awesome TNT teammates crossing their first finish line. Tomorrow is going to be amazing no matter what happens.

It's been 9 years since that last age group win. Yeh, true I'm the "youngster" in F60-64, but who knows how this recent graduate of C25K will do on the run. Can I hold off some speedy 60 year old that still run 8 minute miles?

No point losing sleep over it. Although I may lose sleep anyway, because that never changes the night before a race.

I guess i should hit the sack.

Sunday June 29th I walked into the water and began my race.  I was on my way to being a triathlete again.  My approach to the day was very different then that of my last serious race in 2005.  How different was it?  Let me put to you this way, I wasn't the crazy one who had to be the first on line to pick up her packet on race morning.

I got my packet, got body marked and headed to the transition area to set up.  I kind of had to give myself a little refresher course on what all the numbers were for and where to put the timing chip.  The next thing was laying out my transition area.  I used to be one of these people who brought everything, but the kitchen sink into transition.  I decided I needed a picture of it. Much simpler then the past, but a little messy.

Let's make this official.  We need a picture of me in transition. Note I don't have my wetsuit on or anything.  Smile!

It's almost 7:30.  I haven't put on my wetsuit, I haven't check the various entry and exit points of transition.  However I did manage to see where my rack was in relation to everything else and I had my bright purple bandana to make my spot stand out.  I didn't get time to do the walk through because it was time to do another team photo.  This crew loves pictures.  If we can't get someone to take the picture we've mastered the art of doing large group selfies.

One of the great things about this race is the women are in the earliest waves.  Not only that, the oldest women go first.  The first wave was 45+ women.  The first men's wave would be 9 minutes after mine.  I figure I would be safe from getting run over by alpha males.  Also being in the first wave I would have a wide open bike course to do my thing.

Our wave was not gigantic.  There was plenty of room, but some how I managed to find myself sandwiched between two women.  One of them kept smacking me in the head every stroke.  I did get away from them and got into clear space. The swim was point to point.  It was a very calm day so the current didn't play any part in the swim.  It was like swimming in a lake.  The only thing that was a little confusing was where we would turn right to go into shore.  All the buoys were the same color.  Many races I've done, the last set of buoys have been a different color. That way it's easy to tell when you're getting to the end.  I did a lot of sighting to stay on course and also figure out when to turn.  As I get closer to the turn I did start to see women in red and pink caps pass me.  They were from the next two waves.  Although I'm a decent swimmer there are plenty of women who swim much faster then me.  My mission is to blow by them on the bike.

T1 has a long run from the beach up to the transition area.  I have run up a ramp and then a set of stairs, and then across to park.  By the time I get to my spot in the transition area I have the wetsuit down to my waist.  From there my transition goes all to hell.  I had a lot of trouble getting out of my wetsuit.  That's been a constant battle for me since we started the open water swim training.  It seems like in 10 years my body has completely changed shape.  Although I weigh less, "stuff" has moved.  I thought updating my wetsuit collection would help, but even in practice I was still having trouble pulling my monster calves out of the legs.  I manage to get the right leg free, but the left leg is giving me problems.  The timing chip is huge and keeps catching on the wetsuit.  I finally sit on the ground, take the chip off, pull my leg out, and put the chip back on.  I made sure the chip was close by.  That's all I needed to do was misplace it.  How to totally screw up a race.

A few weeks earlier at one of our group training sessions, I had forgotten socks.  I did the course ride with no socks. My feet felt fine so I figured I could do the bike leg with no socks.  I practiced that way a few more times and decided that would work well in the race.  I've always had difficulty putting socks on wet feet.  Waiting to put socks on in T2 would resolve that problem. Running without socks is a whole different story. Tried it once, and had blisters after about a mile.  Orthotics and bare feet are a lousy combination.

Having finally completed my transition it was time to get down to business on the bike.  Now I was ready for some serious fun.  The course starts off flat with a lot of turns.  I'm passing people and but at the same time, I'm making sure I take the turns carefully.  Cornering is not my strong suit, but with no pack to worry about, I can take the turns a little wider then I would in a bike race.  I was looking forward to getting to Rte 9 and climbing the hill.  One of my bike club teammates was working the intersection where we make the left turn for Rte 9.  I give him a shout, and he yells back, "Go Polly!"  Having done the course a number of times I had gotten a feel for how I wanted to take the hill.  The last training ride I had done on the course I tried to go close to race pace so that I could work out my gearing and how much I wanted sit or stand while climbing.  I do a combination, but I do like standing and stomping on the pedals.  I passed a lot of the 2nd and 3rd wave "fishies" who had passed me in the water or in transition.  I was keeping my eye out for 60 year old women, but didn't see any ahead of me.

I must admit I love the reactions I get when I pass younger women and they see the age on my calf.  I passed a 46 year old woman on Rte 117.  That part of 117 is a steady incline.  It's not steep, but it goes on for a few miles.  When I pass her I hear her say something to the affect of, "Oh my God, what are you doing here? You shouldn't be here. You're amazing." Hearing reactions like that just get me all pumped up.  I tend to push harder after hearing something like that.  It's not the first time I've heard things like that, but it's been a long time. 

On Rte 117 there's a U-turn where you turn to go back the other way.  You see people coming the other direction.  As I'm heading towards the turn around the woman who won the race had a big lead on the other women.  She's incredibly smooth and powerful.  Last year she had finished 2nd. This year her goal was to win the race.  I notice there aren't a whole lot of women coming back the other direction which means I'm pretty far ahead of a lot of people.  I know that's not going to last once I get to the run.  On the bike I try to pass as many people as I can, and try not to be passed by too many.  One woman passes me on a slight downhill.  I catch her on the next slight uphill.  However then the rest of the course is downhill, so she passes me for good.  No worries, she's 50 years old.  It's funny thinking that way.  It seems like such a short time ago I was a 50 year old worrying about 40 year olds passing me.  I guess because I haven't raced seriously since leaving the F50-54 age group I forgot what it was like thinking 40 was young.  I never raced in the F55-59 age group.

After I made the U turn I got to see what was going on in the other direction.  I saw a few of my Team in Training teammates going out.  I give a loud "Go Team" as I head back.  I have no way of knowing where anyone in my age group is in relation to me.  All I know is I'm having a good ride and I need to just keep pushing, because eventually I'm going to have to get off the bike and run.  I have no sense of my pace or time because the computer on my bike is not running, and my watch malfunctioned while trying to save the swim portion.  In the past that would have made me nuts, and had me obsessing about what pace I was doing.  It didn't matter.  I could tell where I was working hard and feeling the climbs, and when I was in hammer mode.

The last few miles of the bike course has some screaming downhills that are difficult to totally let loose on.  The roads are rough in spots and there are a couple of sharp turns.  Although I practiced the descents I didn't feel totally comfortable letting it all hang out.  No sitting on the aero-bars and flying.  I think I spent more time on the brakes.  However I wanted to get through the bike portion in one piece.  I certainly did not want to wipe out on the corner where John was standing.  It's bad form to scare the crap out of one's spouse by wiping out in front of him.

I got back to the park and dismounted.  Being the first TNT'er in I got a lot of cheers.  That got me me rather pumped up.  T2 was a lot smoother then T1.  I got the bike on the rack, took off my helmet and shoes.  Fumbled a little with the socks and running shoes, but not terribly.  Putting socks on dry feet was much easier.  I run hard out of T2.  Lot's more "Go Team" cheers and the coaches calling out "looking strong Polly!"  So much for taking it easy on the run.  All the cheering go me totally jacked up and I couldn't help myself.  Somehow despite what I had been saying to most people about just not going crazy on the run, I went crazy on the run.  With no watch on I had no idea how much time I had been out on the course, and I had no idea what type of pace I was doing.  I just ran.  It wasn't pretty and as I got further away from the park and the crowds I started to come down from the crowd infused adrenaline.

Although the run course is flat, its hard.  There is no shade on the course and it was getting a lot warmer.  The run is where I come back into the pack.  Men go flying past me, as do the younger women that I passed on the bike.  Each time I see a woman pass I check out the age on the calf.  I'm seeing 30s, 40s and an occasional 50 year old.  I'm feeling pretty confident that I'm ahead of my competition.  However since I don't know how many women are in my age group or who any of them are it could all be a crap shoot.  I'll admit the day before the race when I was up at the race site to do a swim clinic and scope things out, the old inner tri-geek was hoping to see an entry list.  That did not happen.  Nothing I could do, but just run the best I could and hang on for dear life.

The run course also has an out and back portion so I did get to see some of my teammates and give a high five or two.  I don't know if it was because I didn't really care that I might be giving away valuable time with the high fives, or that I was so confident I was kicking butt.  I just like giving the high fives and give a little encouragement.  I also needed those high fives and shouts of encouragement.  There aren't a lot of spectators on the run course.  Thank goodness for the two water stops.  The way the course was set up, I could get water from both stations twice.  With the heat the way it was, I grabbed two cups.  One cup to drink and another to dump on my head.

I sure was happy to get off the hot pavement and running back into the park.  The crowd was cheering a lot and the positive energy bjust pushed me.  I sprinted to the finish line. I don't even remember if I was trying to pass anyone or just felt like bringing it in hard.  As I crossed the finish line I jumped for joy.  I became a triathlete again.  It was a wonderful feeling to cap my comeback on a happy note. Looking at the finish line clock I finally had a sense of what I did.  Seeing the time of 1:25:40 up there made me very happy.  I wasn't sure I could break 1:30.  I guess I was wrong.

Part of the Team in Training experience in the bonding that goes on between teammates.  An important part of that is being around the finish to cheer in one's teammates as they arrive at the finish.  Most races all I want to do is scarf down as much food as I can get a hold of, find a massage table and just veg until the results are posted.  I did grab a bagel to scarf down, but I was anxious to get back t the finish line and watch my teammates come in. They had announced the results were posted. I didn't rush over there to see where I placed.  I could find that out after the last TNt'er arrived.

The picture below shows the true nature of teamwork.  When our last teammate came into the park, we came out to greet her, and run her in. This is a Team in Training tradition to bring in the last participant. It's the team being behind everyone.  It's a cool thing to see and to be part of.  This was truly one of the best teams I've ever been a part of.  There was just an amazing amount of energy and enthusiasm.  Although many of my teammates could have been my daughters.  It makes me feel young being around these energetic young women.  I look forward to doing Jardin Westchester Triathlon with some of the same people.  I'm already fundraising for that event.  Click here if you want to join me in my efforts to raise another $3,000 bringing my combined total to $6,000 for 2014.

T Together
E Everyone
A Achieves 
M More

Oh, by the way I did manage to make my way over to the results sheets, and yes the old tri-geek came through with another age group win.  However the comeback kid was part of the equation too.  The old tri-geek pushed herself hard.  The comeback kid didn't let her get crazy over wetsuit issues and watch malfunctions