As we arrived at packet-pickup late Saturday evening (5 minutes to spare!), I realized we had traveled from one side of the country (Pacific coast, California) to the other side (almost...Potomac River, eastern shoreline of VA) within less than a week's time! Yikes! I knew I was still tired from our trip the previous weekend as I napped twice in the car, and napping these days is a rare occurrence. After getting my number and gear, I spent a good while chatting and catching up with friend (and wine-buddy) Janie before hitting the sack for bed.
I am thankful to another good friend, Jennifer, for the opportunity to race on a tri-specific bike for the first time. While I LOVE my road bike, I really struggle to stay aero with the geometry even with multiple adjustments for fit. Her bike fits me almost perfectly and I am able to ride comfortably aero for extended periods. I am so thankful for her willingness to share!
Race morning preparations were simple and relaxed. for once, I was organized (with my new transition bag!) and we camped on site. Janie opened up her camper as a our temporary home which was a huge blessing (no long port-o-pot lines for me!)
No warm-up, but instead took extra time to make sure I was fully relaxed and ready to roll! I headed down to the water only moments before the start. The horn blasted and we were off, and I surprisingly found myself swimming comfortably and smooth despite the chaos of 75 swimmers starting at once and aiming for the same buoy. I focused on getting out of the pack, taking quick strokes and swimming straight (in the right direction...that helps too!)
It was a choppy swim, and my body seemed to bounce up and down with each wave as I tried to make steady forward progress. While a river swim is my least favorite and typically produces a lot of anxiety, I stayed calm and found a solid rhythm. After about twenty minutes I remember feeling a bit bored thinking, "is this thing EVER going to end?" I looked at my watch (20 minutes in) and took a quick look around and I was still no where near the shore. Nonetheless, I focused on one stroke at a time and on getting back to shore!
I was slow to get moving on the bike, yet tempted to track down all the racers in front of me asap. I was good and resisted, aiming to ride strong and steady while slowly increasing my effort as the miles ticked by (warming up certainly helped). Since it was an out and back course, I tried to count the number of female racers in front of me, but honestly, there were too many and I lost track! It's easy to get caught up in judging performance on that of others, but instead I opted to focus on my own race and in putting forth the best effort possible. Again, I didn't see the point in judging the quality of my race on a numerical outcome. Competition varies, and I was up against some pretty fast ladies! Overall, I really enjoyed the bike course, even with the "hills," which weren't bad compared to those in Southwest Virginia...
The run started off well, but never really took off. I actually didn't have the "jello" sensation that normally occurs in running off the bike, which is a GREAT sign. And while I had hoped there would be some ladies close by for me to chase down, instead I had the fortune of getting stuck in "no-man's land."
I felt steadfast and strong during the run, but just I couldn't seem to find that extra "racing" gear that I had hoped for. It was hot and sunny and the wet towels and cheers provided by the volunteers were a godsend! Thank you volunteers!
I know I could have run faster in that run, but on this day I was lacking the racing mentality to achieve it. Racing the 10k at the end of a triathlon is very different than racing a 10k or any road race by itself, and that's something I will aim to improve upon with each race. Having three sports in one to master in triathlon presents plentiful opportunities for improvement, and the desire to improve that keeps us motivated and moving forward. While I could be disappointed with my run, I'm instead looking at it as motivation to continue to work hard. Racing is not always about the final outcome, but instead, and opportunity to identify areas of strength, areas of improvements and the lessons learned along the way :)
At the end of the day I finished with an overall time of 2:34:55, 19th female overall and 3rd place in my age group. Again, those are just numbers and don't mean too much to me right now. I have a solid base of fitness and am looking forward to building upon it in the coming months. I am committed to the process: to each week of training that will make me a better triathlete overall, to the small details of life that will keep me healthy and happy throughout, to developing the mental skills I will need to race even longer distance triathlons in the future. I'm excited to be back out in the triathlon-scene, and it should be a fun ride ahead with plenty of challenges along the way.
One thing that I love about racing (training also) is that it provides a platform to learn more about oneself, and more specifically, about one's strengths and weaknesses. We all have things we are great at and things that we desire to improve upon. The important thing is to remain positive and optimistic and remember at the end of the day that we're all unique and we're all "a work in progress."
Wishing you a happy and successful weekend of training!
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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