As I write this, it’s been less then 24 hours since I raced the Pat Griskus Sprint Triathlon, so maybe I need to give it more time. My emotions are still raw and I’m trying to make sense of all that happened. I can separate the outcome into two definite timeframes – before I knew the results and after. Each had a very different feeling so maybe it’s best to start there.
Race Distance: .50 mile swim | 10.5 mile bike | 3.1 mile run
Temperature: 85 degrees with 70% humidity, water temperature 75 degrees
Clothing: Pearl Izumi triathlon shorts, Oiselle Runway Sports Bra and Sleeveless Wetsuit for the swim
BEFORE THE RESULTS
In triathlon, you have staggered starts for the swim to help prevent drowning. It’s hard enough starting with your age group, which can be upwards of 30 people, never mind the entire field. For this event the elite and young men went out first, followed by my group which was the 39 and under plus elite women. I placed myself in this group, knowing I wanted to compete for a top 10 placement and qualification for triathlon nationals.
I made the huge mistake of emailing the race director, when he asked for requests for the elite group, to move me into it. It was a huge mistake because for the entire race (before, during and after!) he kept announcing things like “Allie Burdick who is vying for a top spot!” Really? I just wanted a top 10 finish, which I clearly stated in my email. Can we keep this between us? Apparently not.
This was the first time I would be swimming a half-mile in a race. I warmed up in the water and I actually felt calm as the race started. Yes, calm. A friend who was also racing gave me the best advice as I was gapping at the buoys marking our mileage, saying “just take it one buoy at a time.” It became my mantra.
I felt really good and relaxed in the swim for the first 3/4, then the third wave of men caught up to me. I only had two buoys to go when they came at me on both sides. It knocked me off my pace, had me swallowing water and forced me into a breast stroke until they passed. I definitely lost some time but was unfazed. I came out of the water strong and proud for having gone all that way, something I could not have done a year ago.
Swim time: 17:35
Tranisition one: 1:46 (damn wetsuit!)
I had traveled to the race site a few days prior so I could scout out the bike course. I’m so glad I did because I knew exactly what to expect. I was able to pass several women and even a few men. One guy even shook my hand afterward and told me what a great ride I had. This happens almost never and it made me smile BIG!
I felt solid on my bike, I was shifting well, speeding downhill and climbing like a boss. I felt good and strong coming into transition.
Bike time: 34:38
Transition two: 0:45
I wait all race to get on the run. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my left foot (peroneal tendon) and right hamstring. But, once I took those first strides off the bike, I knew I was golden. All those hours pool running and on the elliptical had actually worked!
The run course was a bear. It basically went downhill for the first 1.5 miles, turned around and went straight back uphill for the last 1.5 miles. I’m not sure what kind of sadist chose this route but it wasn’t funny.
Despite the hills, I felt good and strong, passed a few more women and even crossed the finish line glad to be done but not feeling beaten down. Essentially I felt like I had trained properly, and left it all on the course.
Run time: 21:35
Because of the staggered start, I only knew what the women in my group had raced and how many of them I had beaten. Because of the out and back run course I could literally count the ones in front of me – 6 to be exact. I also had my BRF Chrissie at the race who was sort of counting as well.
The first issue was there was a relay so, some of the women finishing were part of the rely and I was obviously not competing against them. Another issue was my friend the announcer was more then happy to announce my finish and added “Vying for a top spot today, looks like Burdick came in 6 or 7th.”
I was smiling, I was proud, I felt good and I had fun.
I texted my coach, my aunt, my husband and my BFF saying “Nothing official but I think I came in 7th overall!” And there were a lot more exclamation points.
Then the results were posted.
AFTER THE RESULTS
Little by little my smile started to fade and my confidence was stripped. I counted 11 women ahead of me in the posted results. There were no placement numbers in age group or otherwise, just a listing from 1-whatever with your overall time. How could this be? The announcer himself said I was in the top 10!
To say we were confused was an understatement. We waited around for almost an hour for the awards. I didn’t place in my age group. Being 40 worked against me this time.
To say I felt defeated walking to the car is a massive understatement. I felt like the whole race was a complete waste of time. I felt like a failure and I was embarrassed.
Soon after I changed my clothes and started the long drive home, the tears came. I was so grateful to have my friend there. She said all the right things by saying almost nothing at first. What could she say? She knows me so well and, as a competitive athlete herself, she knew what not to say. She listened. She reasoned. She let me cry.
Once I started to really think about what happened, I came to the following conclusions:
1. This is the very first triathlon I have raced in two years and it was a very competitive field.
2. This was the first time I swam a half-mile in a race.
3. The swim distance in comparison to the bike and run did not favor me, since I’m much stronger in the other two disciplines. Most sprint triathlons have a .25 mile swim and a longer bike.
4. It took me three attempts to qualify for nationals in duathlon so why did I think I could just waltz in and qualify in triathlon the first time around? It even took two marathons for me to qualify for Boston.
5. It’s been a while since I’ve set a goal and haven’t reached it on my first attempt and it stings.
6. Coming in 12th woman overall is not anywhere close to horrible and I should be proud. I’m getting there.
First of all, I’m going on vacation! Actually, first thing the morning after the race I was back in the pool.
I did a lot of things right – I trained right and as well as I could leading up to the race, I fueled perfectly and never felt weak or sick during the race and I even came away with zero chafing and minimal soreness.
Because of how much this hurt, I know how badly I want it.
I need to be challenged and that’s why I race. Competitive triathlon is still new to me and I have to remember that.
My next triathlon race is on August 30 and I will have another chance to qualify. This one has another half-mile swim but a 12 mile bike and the standard 3 mile run. I have seven weeks to take 3-4 minutes off my swim.
Here we go again…
Have you ever raced a triathlon?
What’s your best advice for getting over a disappointing race or event?