All that being said, Saturday was one of those days where I'm glad the flow of triathlon is pretty well engrained. Mentally I was struggling leading up into this race. It's hard to say why - whether it was the taper, the end of the college semester or just general life - but I spent mid-week drowning anxiety and generally struggling to keep my head above water. This is nothing new to me and I've been through such many times before, but still not fun to deal with and especially not on race week. Friday was spent trying to chill out, get some quality fuel in my body (I've had little to no appetite for almost a week now) and get my mind into some resemblance of mentally "ready" to race. There is only so much I can say in that regard - depression and anxiety are part of my reality and sometimes I just have to roll with the additional challenge. Fortunately (?) I've been in such a position before and knew with a little patience, prayer and faith all would work out just fine on race day.
The swim was my primary concern on race morning due to the water temp of 65 F and even cooler air temp. I had been trying out a new long-sleeved wetsuit in the weeks leading up to this only to conclude it did not fit correctly and switch back to my trusty sleeveless suit a few days prior (anyone need a wetsuit??) Cold water gives me anxiety - partially because I simply don't like it (who does?) and partially because I have dropped from a race before due to struggling with hypothermia after a VERY cold swim.
Funny how things work out - once I hit the water the temperature was the least of my concern. After navigating the chaos of the initial stretch to the first turn buoy, we were met by some pretty significant wave action left me tossing around in the water like a beach ball. It was a struggle to breath and to identify which direction to swim next, but hey, this is triathlon! Part of me enjoyed the additional challenge, but then again a lot of me was like "it's a good day to not drown - keep moving!" Despite the challenges I stayed calm, put my head down and focused on form, forward progress and getting back to shore as quickly as possible. It was not my fastest swim by far, but one that I am proud of! Definitely great affirmation that I've matured in regards to my open-water swimming skills/mindset.
T1 was a bit of a disaster and horribly slow on my part. Due to the cold, I made a last minute to wear arm warmer, socks and gloves for the bike. The socks and gloves were a non-issue, but the arm warmers seemingly impossible to put on with numb hands and wet arms. In hindsight, definitely not worth the time and energy lost in struggling to put them on, but live and learn.
I knew the bike would be interesting due to the combination of the technical and rolling course, whipping wind and the fact that I was riding new race wheels which I am still getting used to. So there was a bit of stress in regards to white knuckling of my aero bars to keep my tiny self from being blown off the course, which I expected. I felt good on the bike, but not great. The toughest part of these shorter races for me is getting my legs to wake up! Even in training it takes me a good 30-45 minutes to truly get rolling, and then I am golden. I definitely felt better and got faster as the miles went on, but nonetheless I ran out of miles and it was time to run.
T2 was a blur, thankfully! I peeled off the arm warmers, slipped on my running shoes and got outta there. I did manage to drop my race belt within 100 m of starting (it happens), then barely missed having a head on collision with the top male finisher as he was rounding the corner to finish (oops).
The run was definitely my strong point of the day, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt coming off the bike! Thanks to my wonderful coach, I knew exactly what to do: quick cadence, think gazelle, chase down people! I took it one mile at a time, didn't look at my watch and just kept pushing. I LOVE any course that has an out and back run! Seeing so many familiar faces heading back to the finish line offered a huge motivational push. I started the run as the 5th overall female and moved up to 4th, but knew I was too far back to catch others. Regardless, I kept pushing and was able to progressively pick up the pace with each mile, successfully running my first sub-22 5k off the bike (21:43).
^^ The hubby, Jordan, also participated and beat me by about 3 minutes with absolutely zero bike training. I fixed his bike the day before the race and he raced on borrowed gear (my coach's jersey, my helmet and race belt, and a surfing wetsuit lol). Not to mention he PR'd at a challenging 50k last weekend and ran 13 miles the night before this event. Crazy kid... but it sure was fun seeing his smile out there on the course!
I finished as the 4th overall female and 1st in my new age group of 30-34. I am pleased with how the race went despite not feeling 100%. Ironically I was slower overall than when I completed this race in 2013 (1:22:48 vs. 1:20:04), but I also know the challenging (and longer?) swim had largely to do with that (plus my awfully slow T1 split!). It was a good day of racing, but not my best day. As I told my coach, while I was relaxed, positive and prepared, I simply was lacking my normal energy, spunk, drive and excitement. Those are the difference makers when it comes to race day and I know they'll come back around when my body is ready :)
Up next: My 30th Birthday on Friday(!!), Kinetic Half on Saturday... plenty to look forward to in the week to come!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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