I raced my first ever Olympic distance triathlon in Columbia, Maryland then went to Italy for two weeks, came home and trained for 13 days straight, took one day off and then raced my second ever Olympic distance triathlon. If you want to know how to train right though race day without a taper, you have come to the right place.
I had to wake-up at 4am so of course I was up at 3:50. On a Saturday. It sucked. I ate breakfast, put three different bags of gear/clothing into the car, mounted my bike to the car rack and double and triple checked all my gear. It was seriously easier packing myself and the boys for 14 days in Italy.
I grabbed a coffee on the way and sped to the event in record time since, no one is even up at 5am on a Saturday, let alone out and driving around.
I like getting to the venue early, especially for triathlon because there is so much set-up involved. I also needed to get my numbers written on my body and my race bag that contains all the stickers that need to go on your bike and helmet. It’s a process.
When I had my bike set up with all my equipment for the run and ride laid out and ready to go, I
fought with pulled on my wet suit and headed down to the water.
My coach was very specific – this was to be a training race and I was given strict orders to keep my shit in check. Most any other time this would have been a problem but since was exhausted, am battling a nasty little hamstring issue and just plain did not want to be there that morning, I was fine with it. To say I had a bad attitude going in would have been a massive understatement.
In a nutshell, my goal was to finish and have a solid, hard training day under my belt.
After the 61 degree, disgusting water in Columbia, MD I was more than happy to launch myself into the hot tub like temperature of crystal clear Lake Quassy, at a balmy 72 degrees! Yes, please. There were Olympic distance (1 mile) and sprint distance (.25 mile) swim buoys set up since both races went off at the same time. The Olympic distance followed the yellow buoys, of which there were four. I started out easy, as I always do, and wait for the kicking and elbowing to die down a bit. I hit my stride and passed the first buoy feeling good.
From buoy two to three, I somehow got off course even though I was looking up to sight every 20 strokes or so. I ended up way outside of the pack and had to swim on an angle to make it around buoy three. Not good. Around that same time I felt a burning sensation on my neck. I was chafing the hell out of it where my wet suit velcro was rubbing against my wet neck.
Feel the burn. Swim on.
I maintained a good attitude, even though I was pissed about swimming out from the line and the chafing was burning. I came out of the water and clock read 47 minutes. I prayed we had been standing on the beach waiting for our wave to start for at least 15 minutes. Ugh.
As I came running out of the water and into transition, I noticed it was like a ghost town. There were a few fat guys jogging along, a stray woman and 12 year-old. Not a good sign. Where were my people? Just how long did that swim really take?
I put it out of my mind, ripped off my wet suit, got my bike gear on and hit the road.
Did I mention they call this race the “Beast of the East?” Yeah. They do. It’s because the bike and run are hilly as hell. On the bike, the hills just kept coming and coming. I actually started laughing at one point. Oddly enough I felt pretty good on the climbs and amazing on the descents, of which there were few. Besides the second degree burn on my neck, now with the sun beating down on it, I felt strong. I passed a ton of other cyclists and was getting my mojo back.
Doesn’t this look like a blast on the bike? Miles 5-15 are just…um, what’s the word…hellish.
The stunning views and gorgeous, albeit hot day, lessened the agony. I tried to focus on the fact that it was simply a gorgeous day to be out on a ride.
I was simultaneously dreading and anticipating T2. I wanted to get this whole thing over with but I knew the run was just awful. It’s basically straight down a couple of big hills, a rolling mile and then you turn around a cone and right back up the hills. Twice.
Usually this is my fun part and where I get to shine. On this day, I just wanted to get it over with.
I ran smart and slow from the start since I was so tired and was hoping against hope that they somehow changed the run course. No such luck. I did not have my watch so I simply ran by feel. I was talking to myself the entire time and it was probably one of the longest 10Ks in my recent memory.
Almost the entire route was shaded and that helped tremendously. However, since it was a double loop, you constantly saw other competitors but it was eerily quiet. It had the feeling of a silent suffer fest and, one older guy called out to me as I passed “You’re making this look way too easy!” To which I responded with a sort of exhausted groan and maybe a “I’m glad it looks like that!” because it sure as hell was not.
In the last half mile, I picked up the pace and since my hammy felt good, I raced to the finish with everything left in the tank.
I was so happy to cross the finish line and be done!
[Tweet “How to #train though your #triathlon race and take 13 minutes off your PR! #train4life”]
I’m usually not one for surprises but, check this out:
Swim – Columbia Tri: 36 minutes
Swim – Pat Griskus: 36 minutes
Difference: Nothing! Zero! Nada! Slitch! WTF? This is beyond frustrating but I think swimming off the line killed me.
Bike – Columbia Tri: 1:30 (super windy and hilly)
Bike – Pat Griskus: 1:24 (super hilly)
Difference: 6 minutes – BOOM!
Run – Columbia: 45 minutes
Run – Pat Griskus: 42:40
Difference: 3 minutes!
Overall Columbia: 3 hours exactly
Overall Pat Griskus: 2 hours and 47 minutes
Difference: 13 minutes! (my transition times were slower at Columbia as well since I had to put a snowsuit on before the bike…)
Place – Columbia: 3rd in age group 40-44
Place – Pat Griskus: 3rd in age group 40-44
I was absolutely shocked. I was stunned that I swam the exact same time since I thought it was so much better; shocked that I biked the hell out of that hilly course; shocked that I was running a 6:52 pace when I thought I was going slow and beyond shocked that I somehow, once again, placed in my age group.
In fact, I beelined it to my car almost immediately after crossing the finish line and was doing this:
While my coach was getting this for me:
I am now enjoying the tail end of my much needed rest week and have been rejuvenated! I’m 100% ready to start tackling my 2 hour training sessions starting on Monday. Nationals, here I come!
Have you ever been surprised by your pace in a race?
Do you ever train though races?
What is the earliest time you have gotten up on a weekend and why?
Whoaaaaa!!!! Incredible! And huge congratulations! Of course you’re a beast, what a great feeling.
I’ve definitely gotten up before 4am on weekends during triathlon training but don’t miss that part at all lol. I think my biggest race surprise was the last half im I did in Galveston. Basically wretched the whole time after the worst swim ever, yet ended up my PR. Blew my mind! I even thought wow that was fun, whereas during the race I was thinking Jesus Take The Wheel!!! Get me outta here! Why????!!! Haha we’re all nuts. Love it.
Amazing job!! You’re gonna crush nationals!!
LOL – Jesus take the wheel!!! I so felt like that!
I love that you raced a PR after puking so much. It’s crazy what the human body and mind can overcome. Thanks so much Danielle!
Congrats Allie!! You did it again! But really was it ever a question? You are amazing!
YES, it was absolutely a question!! I was really shocked at the outcome on this one. Working on my swim already 🙂 Thanks Nellie!!
Muffins before medals! Lol. Isn’t it funny how even though we feel like we are slow, it’s actually fast? Imagine what you would have done if you have your watch on? Stressed over time? Great job rocking that race. Nationals will be no problem!!
That is exactly why I left the watch in my car!! I’ve been racing and training without looking at my watch and it has obviously helped me dial into that 7/min pace no matter what!! Now if I could just stop looking at the clock on my bike…
Thanks Angela. Have a great weekend!
Your neck pick…. ouch. I am not surprised that you did so well, because, have you seen your bad-ass self in the mirror!!! That hilly bike course…. I would have to get off my bike and walk it up the hills. … Out of curiosity, does that automatically disqualify you in a triathlon?
HAHAHA – OMG I have no idea. I seriously do not think I have ever seen that – even with the hilly courses I have done lately. My coach is an USAT official so I will ask 🙂
I could not be more excited for you! I literally read every word anticipating the ending. The hills. Ugh!
Oh thank you so much Jill!!! This makes my day!! And yes, the hills – UGH!!!
Congrats Allie! Although I’m honestly not too surprised, because you’re amazing and you’ve earned this with your training! Nationals don’t stand a chance against you. And yessssss to muffins after a race. You can’t eat a medal.
HAHA – so true Laura and I was starving!!! 🙂 Thank you so much for having the confidence in me that I seem to be lacking. Have a great weekend!
I’ve been surprised countless times at races. When I’m in “peak race” mode, I train through plenty of races. This is all great advice!
It really is but I hate it! I want to always be in race mode when racing and, as you know, training though a race is so painful! But, it does pay off, as I’m sure this one will. Thanks so much Hollie!
Congratulations! You rocked it. But this just seems very, very awful. And hard. And like I would have eaten 15 more of those muffins.
HAHAHA – you would have rocked it Danielle!! It wasn’t too hot so you would have just plowed through this bad boy 🙂 And, I pretty did not stop eating all day after that muffin. It was just the tip of the never ending food iceberg. #winning
What have you learned from this? When you figure it out, you should seriously meditate on this for a few hours and record your impressions in a training diary. I’m not talking about a few lines about the race, I’m talking 2-3,000 words about the race and how Allie behaved, frustrations, elation, thoughts, observations, doubts, strengths, weaknesses, blah.blah.blah. Write it, not on a computer, with a pen, really! If you don’t have the time, make it! It’s your quiet time, Allie’s time, Me time, decompression from the race.
A diary is like having an in-depth discussion with yourself, you’ll come to a lot of self awareness and go on a journey of discovery; it’s extremely therapeutic and you’ll learn so much more about Allie and her limits. Coaches and psychoanalyst are great, but having a conversation with your brain is priceless:)
I wish athletes like you had a clue to your infinite possibilities if you could just quiet your mind and just get to business. I could write a short story about ‘Allie’s Olympic T epiphany’! I think your coach seems to know it; but it’s not instinctive for you, or is it you are just too humble?
Sighting every 20 strokes just doesn’t cut it, you will absolutely go wayward every time, unless you are drafting or following someone faster who is sighting and has great nav., then you can put your head down and swim more pool mechanics. Every 3-5 strokes is the minimum; the less experience, the more sighting.
There are just too many variables to contend with. Swimming 20 strokes between each sighting (a nano second@ best as you swallow water or get blinded by the sun) will be like swimming blind for at least 15 seconds, could you do that running? I’m sure your coach told you to sight every 5 strokes or less?
As I just became the oldest LifeGuard in LosAngelesCounty a month ago after graduating Academy, I work at a lake called Castaic. Last night, after a 10 hour day in 100F+ temperature, I had the opportunity to work race assist from a rescue board for 3 open water races for 0.5M and 1.0M.
From this vantage point above the water, I saw how the top age groupers sighted from buoy to buoy, seamlessly integrating stroke, sighting, breathing, wave negotiation, drafting; and how all these parameters affected navigation.
Yes, those who went straight as an arrow sighted every 3-5 strokes. As the count went up, so did the straying, some even swam into my board, even though I was 15-20 feet away from the sight tangent. The top swimmers were smoking, I had to book on my board to catch up as I worked the line so I saw all from the fastest to the slowest; meaning I saw all their behaviors and how it translated to navigation (but that’s for another novel!).
I now have the validation I needed as I saw the perfect open water stroke (very different than pool stroke mechanics), and optimum sighting for accurate nav.
I used to swim like that when I was doing Ironmans back in the 80s, I just forgot over decades and not racing or training open water (or swimming), until I started Guarding a couple months ago giving me access to the lake anytime for training.
I know I used to swim like that because my best swim for Ironman was 60minutes10seconds@ Ironman NZ,1991. These days, I’ll just be happy with anything under an hour @ NZ in 2018:) I can only hold that speed for barely 1000 meters now. Swimming a 1:15/100 yard needs a lot of rest at this stage in training sessions.
Do you keep a detailed diary?
Claude – thank you so much for all of this. I DO keep a detailed diary but I think what you’re suggesting would be perfect for this race and this year, in particular. My coach actually suggested something similar so I will be doing that as well. I definitely lack a lot of confidence and I am woking on that mentally. As for the swim/sighting I went to the lake with my coach (on a SUP) yesterday and we worked on just that – sighting more and not picking my head up so much and it was immediately so much better. I know in my next race (a sprint) there are a lot more buoys so it will be perfect practice for my new technique.
Thank you again and CONGRATULATIONS on your lifeguard position!!! I would swim calmly knowing you were in the guard tower 🙂
Allie you are a rockstar! Congrats on such a strong performance when you least expected it. Maybe not putting pressure on yourself paid off? I’ve been there with that wetsuit neck chafe. Ouchie!
I think that was a big part of it! And, it’s just great to know that ALL this hard work is paying off, whether I know it or not. And yes, many other triathletes told me that have had “wetsuit hickies” and I’m like “why didn’t you tell me this before???” LOL!! Thanks Marcia.
Wow. Congratulations… That chafing makes me wince though. Looks really painful..
Thank you! and yes, it was super painful!
Way to go! That chafing looks terrible… you’re a better woman than I am! Maybe the next swim will be warm AND chafe-free.
I don’t buy that for a second and yes, I think I’m sure for a perfect swim pretty soon!!
Congrats Allie! Isn’t it amazing what our bodies will do when we aren’t under pressure? And OMG ow to your neck chafing. Did you put aquaphor all over your neck before? I have to lather a super thick layer or mine would do the same. High five on a solid race! xo
Thanks so much and NO I did not put anything on my neck prior to the swim – doh!!! It was actually the Velcro that rubbed my skin off. Now I’m extra careful of the placement of the Velcro and I lube generously!!!!