The Friday before the race, I realized I had done very little in terms of getting my gear ready. I had not tried on my wetsuit in 6+ months, my tri-cycling shoes were missing clips and my bike dirty and in need of a tune up. I had no idea that "uniform" to wear nor what other gear I should bring along. I had not though about or practiced transitions in quite some time either... yikes! Thankfully coach sent me his transition guide and packing list and it was in fact helpful in getting me to actually think about this race and get somewhat prepared!
I guess I could of worried about it all, but I didn't... Friday night I put my clips on the correct pair of cycling shoes and did a few practice runs of my mount and dismount. The husband helped me pick out a uniform and we decided on his team USA uniform from way back in 2007. Yes, we fit into the same clothes... it's very convenient actually.
Saturday morning we hit the road early to make the 1.5 hr drive to Smith Mountain Lake State Park. I am glad we drove up the morning of. I slept well in my own bed and with a later starting time of 9am, we did not have to rush one bit. Actually, the drive was one of the highlights of my day. On top of witnessing a beautiful sunrise across the mountains, we sang along to some of our favorite songs and enjoyed the one on one time. It was a successful, though unintentional, race prep strategy. I arrived fully relaxed, happy and ready to take on the day.
It was nice to keep this race low-key: I kept my transition area (TA) simple with minimal equipment and since it was a short race nutrition was also not complicated. After getting my TA set up, I stood around and was like "Ok, what now?" I spent a few minutes on the bike practicing my mount-dismount and making sure everything was proper working order. Afterwards I suited up and made my way down to do a short swim warm-up in the chilly lake... Thanks to Juliana for keeping me company otherwise I may not have ;) Though, being the wimp that I am, I didn't put my head under water prior to the race start.
Swim: We listened to the National Anthem and shortly thereafter the women were off in the second swim wave. I personally thought my swim went exceptionally well. Granted, I wasn't the fastest out of the water, but I swam strong for me, kept in line with the buoys, stayed calm/relaxed and navigated the crowds well. I quickly forgot about the temperature of the water and found a good groove. Considering this is only my 2nd open water swim in maybe 3+ years and how much I hate cold water... I am HAPPY.
T1: Exiting the swim is probably my least favorite part of tri's...and more especially when it's an uphill run to the TA! My legs don't function well after swimming and honestly I feel like an awkward combination of a marshmallow with jello legs trying to run (waddle?) in a wetsuit! How's that for a metaphor? Anyways, I did enjoy the crowd support as I made my way up from the beach. Other than struggling to get my wetsuit off over my timing chip, it was a decent transition.
Bike: The bike was fun, but it hurt! My quads and hamstrings were pretty tight and we had an uphill to get out of the park to start. I am slow to warm up as it is and simply felt like I had no strength in those early miles. After the first turnaround point though (~3 miles), my legs woke up a bit and my competitive drive kicked in. I focused on picking off racers and keeping my cadence high. I didn't wear a watch for the race and in hindsight, I'm really glad I decided not too. It was great to put 100% of my focus into the racing environment and to being in tune with my body's effort cues rather than relying on data! As I approached the 2nd turnaround point, I caught up with fellow Hokie/One-on-One athlete Juliana (whom I warmed up with) and it was fun/motivating to volley back and forth throughout the remainder of the ride.
After turning back into SML State Park we had about a mile of FAST downhill finish. It was FUN but also a bit chaotic/tight when passing other cyclist, while sharing the road with those already on the run and getting out of my shoes to prepare for dismount.
T2: There was a short, steep downhill approaching the dismount line which was absolutely tricky, especially when you're in a group of 3-4 other athletes. Nonetheless, I did my flying dismount while keeping full control of my bike and maneuvered past the other athletes and flew through TA to my rack. T2 has always been a strong point for me and is my favorite part of the race! It went exceptionally well and I was in and out in a flash passing 2 females in the process (I think)... My official T2 time of 0:39 ended up being the 3rd fastest among all the racers, woot!! It pays to keep things simple.
Run: The first mile of the run is a steady climb uphill...to say the least I was not too enthused!! While I bolted out of the TA, my legs quickly locked up on me and the water I consumed on the bike tried to come back up. I reminded myself quick steps until they loosened up (thanks Coach!) I was greeted to more cheers in the first half mile and my husband informing me I was the 6th overall female... these both gave me a bit more pep in my step. After about a mile I found my stride and began to make up ground and seek out runners ahead. I turned the corner and the worst of the run was over, thankfully!! I passed one lady to move into 5th overall and remember feeling strong. The downhill finish was a blast and even more so because I was able to see and cheer on fellow racers and especially those Hokies!
As I approached the finish, I didn't know what to expect for a time. I ended up finishing in 1:20:05, 5th overall for the ladies and 1st in my age group. After the race, it was lovely to just sit around and soak up the sunshine and hang out with friends and enjoy the post-race atmosphere. Food, friends, awards and a beautiful view overlooking the lake... yes please!!
Racing is fun but it is certainly more enjoyable when you do so with friends and support. I am thankful for my husband and coach being there to cheer me on and see me race!! It's really cool to see the two people who've supported my training the most see me in action and more especially on a good day =)
So now it's time for rest and recovery and to take on a new week.
Happy Monday all!!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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