Sunday, July 31, 2016

ET Lake Zurich Triathlon - race recap

Hey there! Pull up a chair and your favorite beverage, it's gonna be a long one!

This is coming in a little late (okay, I know, we're at the three week mark!), but at least it's here - my recap of the Experience Triathlon Lake Zurich (Sprint) Tri!

This was my first official triathlon, and I definitely had the nerves for it. I'm not sure what exactly I was nervous about...I guess I just didn't want to look like an idiot! That said, I also didn't want to struggle through transitions, and I was worried I hadn't packed everything I I guess some nerves were totally rational :P

Annnyways...the report!

You might recall that I pushed all of my workouts up a day during the week leading up to this race which made Saturday a (well planned) rest day. That ended up being a really good idea, because this whole tri thing turned into a two day deal

Saturday had optional bike drop off/packet pick up, and I knew I did not want to have to worry about racking my bike the day of the race, so I drove out to Lake Zurich the day before the race in time for a course talk and packet pick up, and once that was accomplished I threw my bike on my designated rack too. I picked a spot close to the end of my rack, facing the bike-out. It took me a minute to figure out I had to back my bike in, but I got it figured out!
All in all, it was a quick talk and setup and I left without any questions about the course for the next day. I got a picture of by the lake, because why not?
The only other thing I really wanted to do before leaving was drive the bike course. It was a short one, but I did not know the area and the directions were kind of confusing. We did end up taking one wrong turn, but things worked out anyways and I had a pretty good idea of where the course would take me.

After that, it was off for Starbucks, lunch, and a movie (Tarzan! It was really good, if you're wondering!).

Except that during the movie we were sitting there, and I felt...odd. I was laying in that recliner thinking, 'Tomorrow you have to wake up early and do work. You can't be lazy like this. Man, I wish I could be lazy like this instead of getting up at 4. Why the hell are you doing this?!'

And then I stopped letting myself think like that. I'd been training, I was ready, and I'm used to getting up at 4am. I'd be fine. I'd be fine.

After the movie it was time for body markings: my number, 809, on both arms, and my age-at-the-end-of-the-year on my right calf.

Per usual, I insisted on thin crust pizza with sausage and onion and a side salad for dinner. I was going through my rituals to prepare the best way I know how, and I knew some pizza wouldn't fail me! After dinner it was early-to-bed. I wanted to be up at 4am to "get things moving" as they say, foam roll my ankle and stretch, and wake myself up a bit before we left.

Saturday Night
That part of the plan did not work out. I slept okay from about 9:30 to 1:00, and then I was up, restless, and I felt horribly nauseous. Sick to my stomach, like I had a brick sitting in it. And I started to worry about - of all things - whether or not I would wear my wetsuit for the race. After almost an hour of this, I took a few deep breaths and said to myself, 'You can make this decision in the morning when you get to the race' and did my best to fall back asleep.

I got a solid few hours of sleep after that, and woke up randomly feeling pretty good. I was about to drift back off to sleep but decided to double check how much longer I had to sleep until my alarm went off at 4:00...

My phone read 4:55.


I literally jumped up, yelled 'SHIT!' and started running around grabbing things. I stripped off my sleepwear and threw my tri kit on while guzzling water. I couldn't believe I'd woken up so late.

Moreover (and maybe it's TMI but whatever), I couldn't believe I was about to head out for my first triathlon and I hadn't pooped. When you get into endurance and distance training you know your body's process to prepare for a long run or event...and mine involves waking up an hour early to stretch and poop and eat something. And the thought of having to do the race without executing that one crucial step was pretty stressful!

But I realized I had no time to worry. It was 5:00 and we had to get out the door by 5:10 at the latest. I would have an hour and a half to sit around and wait for things to happen once we got there.

We were out the door on time (ish), and parked the car 27 minutes later. Traffic at 5:00am on a Saturday is pretty light. I grabbed my wetsuit and transition bag, spread some peanut butter on a Clif bar, and we started walking. I was still wound up and stressed about waking up late, but I was feeling better about things, especially the decision to rack my bike the day before.

When we got to the park I immediately went and set up my transition area. I'd read a bunch of blogs with tips on what to bring, and settled on:
  • a towel to lay stuff on
  • a towel to wipe my feet off after the swim
  • a 24oz water bottle for my bike with Nuun (I put it in the water bottle holder)
  • helmet
  • bike gloves (ended up not using them)
  • socks and running shoes (with such a short bike I decided to just wear my running shoes for the bike portion, and not my biking shoes)
  • tank top to change into for the run
  • running hat (this HRC one, if you're curious)
  • race belt with bib attached
  • an extra 16oz water bottle with water for before and after the bike
  • nutrition and hydration (a Honey Stinger gel and some Salt Stick tabs)

I made it all look as neat as possible, and then went backout the T1 entrance.

At this point I'd seen tons of people walking around in their wetsuits, so I decided I would wear mine. I also decided the best place to loiter until the start was by the bathrooms :P

I remembered to grab a picture of me in my Hogwarts Running Club tshirt too!
This ended up being one of my favorite pictures from the day :)
Everything worked out with that bathroom loiter (ahemm), and I pulled on my wetsuit and we went to scope out the swim area. While I was trying to sight the bouys I got a great surprise - my mom came to watch the race!!
I had told her she didn't have to come because it was very early (Sprint start at 6:30) and I would be done relatively quickly, but she made it and I was stoked :D

And now to the exciting part - the race itself!

The Race
Just a note: I've put all of my official times next to each header with Garmin times right under. The official times are kind of off...the swim included a 200 yard run from shore to transition (total 720 yards but the official distance was 400), the bike was billed as 10 miles but my Garmin clocked it at 14, and then run was just shy of 3 miles, not 3.1. I really don't fault them for any of this, as the race has always been an Olympic distance and this was the first year they offered the Sprint route. Hopefully they'll have more accurate listings next year! Here are my times, per the official results:

The Swim - 10:19
Garmin: 10:30, estimated time in water 9:15
I'll say one thing about the swim start: It was the only part of the course that was not explained well, at least not in a way I understood. I wasn't sure what the actual course was because they didn't have the bouys out the day before, and day-of it was hard to sight the Sprint distance bouys because of the size and color (smaller size and highlighter yellow in the sun). I also couldn't tell where the swim start was, and there were a lot (at least 30) of Sprint athletes standing near the swim exit like I was, waiting for the start to be announced.
At 6:30, when the Sprint men should have entered the water, I looked at my watch, then at the water, and there was still no one swimming. I looked around...lots of athletes in red swim caps that matched mine. But we were supposed to start at 6:30, and women at 6:34...

...that was when I saw the sudden migration of red caps moving to my right. I looked at my mom and said, "The start must be over there! I have to go!" And slipped out of my flip flops and joined the migration. When I got to the start I merged into the group and asked the first person I could, "Do you know what the course is?" because I still had no clue. She pointed out which bouys to follow, just as the men went into the water at 6:32. I assumed they'd be starting the women at 6:36 to allow us four minutes after the men's late start...but that was not the case. The announcer told us we'd be starting at 6:34 and I looked at the clock - I had thirty seconds to spit in my goggles and put my ear plugs in, and we were off!

(And in all this rush I almost forgot to start my watch. I literally started it about two seconds after crossing the timing mat because I didn't realize until I was running down the sandy beach that though I'd had the Tri screen up, the watch had gone into Power Save mode during the wait. Every person out there who tracks their progress with a GPS device is probably squirming a bit at the thought of not starting their watch at the beginning of a race...)

The second major thing I have to say about the swim is: It was short.

I knew it was going to be short, but over those 500ish yards I felt like I jumped in the water and jumped out.

It was also the first swim I've ever done with that many people. The OWSs I've done have people sporadically entering the water, so it was a fun and new experience to run in with all the other people I'd be racing that day.

Because of the crowd, I kept my head above water for a good 100 yards. I did not want to get kicked in the face, whack people with my arms, or swallow a bunch of questionable lake water. Luckily, the short swim meant I could power through it, and I passed a lot of people through the entire swim. There was no time to "settle in" to my stroke or kick, my only goal was to pass each bouy and get out of the crowded lake as fast as I could.
You'll notice a large pink line here that goes through the trees. That would be the swim exit to T1. My Garmin marked about 500 yards from swim start to the beach where we exited, so that run to transition was about 220 yards. A nice, long sprint after that swim!

Note to self: in the future, start T1 on Garmin as soon as you're out of the water. This makes it way easier to figure out your swim time later.

For those wondering, my total swim time (run to T1 included) was 10:30, but after some guesstimation I was at about 1:51/100 yds for this swim! Hello adrenaline!

Transition 1 - 3:19
Wayy back at the beginning of my triathlon journey I said that transitions were what I was most worried about. Chicago will be HUGE compared to this race, but that fear is gone. I've realized it's just about getting in and getting out, paying attention, following signs, and listening to the volunteers: That is what will get you in and out.

I managed to get out of the water fast enough that there was no crowd at the transition. As soon as I was out of the water and running up the hill I pulled the zipper on my wetsuit to get it off my torso, then took off my goggles and ear plugs and put them in my swim cap. When I got to the bike rack I pulled my wetsuit off and threw it on the rack where my bike was, wiped off my feet, threw on my shoes and helmet (deciding to leave the gloves off), took a Salt Stick and gulped some water. Then I grabbed my bike, and headed out of transition.

The Bike - 44:51 (10 miles)
Garmin - 44:49, 14.00 miles even
Right as I left transition I pulled to the right of the exit, mounted my bike, and was off. I spotted my mom and Cam on the sidelines and waved quickly before turning out onto Route 12:

The entire bike course was great. We had the shoulder and right lane of Route 12 to ride on for that portion, and most other roads were closed completely for the event. There was only a short stretch of about 2 miles that they were not allowed to close the roads for the race at all, and about 4 more miles where the roads were "partially" closed, with all intersections monitored. Along those stretches there were numerous patrol cars driving to make sure we were safe. Along the whole route there were tons of volunteers and police staffing the course and directing us, as well as any traffic that crept onto the course. I saw numerous bike repair vans as well, so A+ to the organizers for that.

All in all, the bike was pretty uneventful and gave me some time to think. I checked out lots of bikes as we rode...there was quite a selection, from mountain bikes to tri bikes. I got passed by quite a few people, and I also did a bit of passing. There was one point in particular where I cruised by two women on tri bikes and realized that, sure, your bike can make you faster, but at the end of the day it's more about the rider and their training than the bike they're sitting on. Don't get me wrong - I still totally plan to upgrade, but it was a nice confidence booster as I went.

This ride was also my first chance to really test out my aerobars. I hadn't used them on the road yet, and I was excited and nervous for the opportunity. At first I didn't think I'd use them at all, but almost as soon as I pulled onto 12 I went into aero, and I only came out of it for turns and to drink water after that. It was so comfortable and fast. I really enjoyed it! Along with the adrenaline pumping through me, I saw my highest average mph on the bike that I've ever seen - 18.7! It would be great to see that at Chicago!

Random thought time: At one point as I was riding I wondered what time it was. I clicked back on my Garmin and it said something like 7:15. I couldn't believe how early it still was! A few minutes later as I was giving myself a little pep talk I said something to myself like, 'You eat rides like this for breakfast!' and then realized how early it still was and thought again, 'You are literally eating this ride for breakfast!' And that, my friends, is my sense of humor.

My only other concern with the bike was making sure I consumed the entire 24oz bottle of Nuun I had, along with a Salt Stick. I actually really dislike drinking out of a water bottle on my bike so this becomes a challenge for me. I ended up taking in a little less than 20oz, so that's definitely something to work on.

Aside from all that, the course itself had some rolling hills, there was a great little portion where we went by a Civil War reenactment (this was the portion of the road they couldn't close), and I totally slowed down a tiny bit to look out over the camps of tents and soldiers in their gear. I seriously considered yelling, 'Long live President Lincoln!', but decided against it. You see, I'm not very familiar with Civil War era military uniforms, and it was entirely possible that those were Confederate soldiers ;)

A little past that things got more interesting as we rode through a few quick, sharp turns taking us into downtown Lake Zurich and towards T2. I started to see a few runners, and couldn't believe I was almost off the bike! Two events down, one to go!

Transition 2 - 2:03
Transition 2 was much easier mentally than T1. I reracked my bike and pulled off my helmet, and decided to change my tank top as well. I'd been wearing a Tri kit, but I don't really like running in the shirt so I brought a change for the run. I dried off my face on my towel, pulled on my HRC running hat, clipped on my bib belt, and grabbed a honey stinger gel that I started eating as I ran towards the Run Out!

The Run - 31:19
Garmin 31:18, 2.97 miles
I would like to point out my wet boobs. I had just put that shirt on, but my bra was still totally wet from the swim. Whoops. #wardrobemalfunction #feelingtoogoodtocare
As I started on the run the only thing I could think about was how sweet that gel was, and how I wanted like three bottles of water to wash it down.

My second thought was about the promise I'd made to Dr Gent - any pain in my shin and I would stop running.

My third thought was to slow down. I'd just done the bike and run through transition on grass while gulping down a gel, so my heart rate was a little high. I also hadn't run in almost a month - controlling my pace needed to be a priority. By the time I got three quarters of a mile in my legs were feeling really good, and well transitioned from the bike into the run. My hips were a bit tight, but mostly I felt good.

(Sidenote...going from the fast bike to the run made me feel like a turtle with my pace! I honestly felt so slow just because the scenery wasn't flying past me anymore!)

Overall, the run was fun. I felt good the whole way through, especially for not having run in a month. There were still plenty of volunteers and even a few spectators, and the route took us around the lake we'd done the swim at so there was a nice view the whole way as well. At one point someone passed me and said something like 'Good job, keep going!' and then as he passed the police officer at the nearest intersection he said, 'Thanks for volunteering!' Well, when I got to the officer I said, 'That guy totally stole my line, but thank you so much!' and all three of us had a nice little laugh about that. Definitely the kind of race atmosphere you want!

The best part about the run? I was pain free. It was a 5k so there wasn't enough time or distance for my ankle or knees to start hurting, it was just a solid, quick run. My average pace was 10:31! That was crazy to me, coming off the swim, bike, and an injury! I couldn't have asked for a better feeling from my first run back.

Honestly, it felt like I blinked and turned a corner to see the finisher's chute, and then I was running through it:

And just like that, it was over! As I ran through I was actually thinking, 'I wish there was more for me to do!' I really just didn't want it to be over! In the moment (and still now!) that thought made me feel really good about the distance I chose for Chicago. Come August 28th, I'll be more than ready for it!

My official time was 1:31:51. My Garmin had me just a few seconds over, at 1:31:55
My mom came over and excitedly hugged me (even though I was dripping with sweat), and I grabbed my finisher's medal from one of the volunteers.

I mostly couldn't believe how quickly it had finished, and that I'd done it with no problems at all. I was happy, don't get me wrong, but I really wanted to keep going!

Instead of running on, my mom snapped this super proud looking photo while I waited in line for my post-race massage:
It was a great race. And a great morning in general. That said, I can now officially say that Sprint is not my distance. It was just way too short. I don't mean I will never do another Sprint distance again because it was also a lot of fun, I just know I crave longer races too! ;)

And there you have it!
The whole race, setup to finish, recapped. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you come back for my Chicago recap too!


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