A couple weeks ago I got an email asking if I wanted to race in the elite wave at the Honolulu Triathlon... My first reaction was What? Me? Elite?? No no... But then I thought about it for a minute and was like, well I've been 2nd and 3rd OA at this race the last 2 years so that seems sort of silly to turn down...
I think this is the first time I've ever participated in a race with a separate elite wave. No wait- once I did years ago (forever ago) b/c I thought the clean swim start would be a bonus... and it was (I was a faster swimmer back then) but then I went on to have my ass handed to me on bike and run so since then I have avoided elite wave starts like the plague.
Anyway, this morning I lined up with just a few other guys/gals who opted in for the elite wave (apparently it was just a choice you could decide to race elite or not I'm not sure it was based on any actual criteria??). In reality I think there were several other gals who probably could have/should have been in that wave but either they didn't know they had the option or else they didn't have the confidence/want the pressure? More on the later. Anyway, the wave start was small. Maybe 10 people total, mostly men.
Cannon goes off BOOM and I rush into the water knowing it's going to be crazy fast and indeed... I was in the pack for maybe 25M and then off they went. ARGH! I hate having no top end speed. I tried so hard but I just can't swim that fast. So I figured I would be on my own for the rest of the swim but low and behold maybe 500M in I could see I was catching someone... wasn't sure who though I had a good guess... and turns out I was right... came out of the water with Ben. He's a good swimmer so this was ok with me. I mean, I guess the swim was ok but definitely not anything to write home about (22'). During the swim this morning I was thinking about how nice it will be at Honu to start with 1500+ people b/c even though it's all out war at the start, at least at some point I'll end up drafting in a pack of 10 instead of desperately trying to sight little buoys I could not see at all with just one guy next to me.
T1 was again nothing to write home about... on the slow side for sure as I was fumbling with my helmet strap for what seemed like forever and was so frustrated that I didn't bother to practice this yesterday. Dumb. It doesn't matter how long you've been doing triathlons... practice transitions! I should learn to take my own advice! Lol.
Finally I got off on my bike but by then Ben was long gone and there was NO ONE around. No one. Not a soul. Just an empty 4 lane road and a whole bunch of orange cones. Sounds like a dream I suppose but I'm so used to having PEOPLE around when I race... but there was NO ONE. <crickets> So I tried to push hard but I couldn't tell if I was riding well or not (racing with my policy of no watch just racing people around me except when there's no people around you this strategy isn't as good! Ha!)
I'd really like to not complain about this race seeing as it's the only opportunity we have here to do an Olympic Distance race without getting on an airplane... but honestly, the bike course was a disaster. They reversed it and had us riding on the left side (against traffic) but then sometimes crossing over the median (4 lane highway type road) and I suppose had there been people around (Someone?? Anyone??) maybe it wouldn't have been so confusing but I felt like I spent the whole first 1/2 of the bike just wondering if I was even in the correct lane?? Then I was like well it doesn't really matter does it because THERE'S NO ONE AROUND! Ha! So I rode in whatever lane had the fewest bumps. Finally we got to an out and back section and I could see the other elites coming back the other way and saw I was 2nd female maybe a minute down. Ok now this is something I can work with. Step on it Michelle. I definitely wouldn't say I felt super but I didn't really feel bad either- just pretty status quo going as hard as I could though I knew I wasn't doing anything magic.
Eventually I could see Rae up ahead in the distance... like a beacon in the night... She was riding really well though and it took me forever to catch her. Eventually on the way back I caught/passed her... but it was about this time that we ended up in lots of sprint race 'traffic'... this was sort of scary lots of little kids riding right in the middle of the lane... so then how do you proceed when you're riding on the left side of the road which is just weird... do you pass on the left or the right? I was screaming out ON YOUR LEFT!!!! as I was trying to not get taken down but apparently that signals new riders to actually move left so eventually I changed my call to STAY RIGHT... one little kid was riding all the way to the left so I just passed on the right and wanted to dare an official to call me out on that (there were no officials around). Then I was back in a scenario with a ton of orange cones and vehicular traffic and no cyclists immediately ahead of me and ta-dah... totally missed a left turn we were supposed to make. GAH! They made this change to the course and while I knew it was coming I didn't really pay enough attention and all of a sudden I was at a bit of a dead end and a cop was there and told me I missed the turn. U-turn... saw Rae making the turn and tried to get back on it but was now back in 2nd where I would stay for the rest of the bike. Not sure how much time I lost there... maybe 30"? Who knows. Totally my own fault and I was kicking myself but there was nothing I could do about it at that point but keep calm and carry on. I still ended up with the fastest bike split (1:01 on a shorter than 40K course) so I should not complain but that was a dumb mistake.
Got through T2 without any major mishaps and cheered for Rae as she was running out. I knew that unless she tied one leg behind her back that she was going to run it in for the win so I just focused on running the best I could for the 10K. By this point there were a few more people around (mostly sprint race participants but at least bodies I could aim to pass!) so this was more fun than the swim and bike... and I felt like I was running pretty well for me. Honestly I don't remember a ton about the run- it went by pretty fast. Couldn't really tell exactly where everyone was b/c the course just sort of circled around and around and around and out and back and around... a couple of girls behind me looked like they were running strong but I had enough real estate that I wasn't going to be physically caught so while they were catching me, they weren't actually going to catch me... so then I went into this whole internal battle with myself that went something like:
Can I just settle and cruise in?
No no go for the best run split you can!
But you're going to get second no need to keep digging...
But what if someone from the age group wave is catching you and you don't know it? DIG.
Who cares if someone is catching you? You're doing fine.
NO!! Practice being uncomfortable! This is good for you...
Blah blah blah. I knew that was fatigue talking to me and found it incredibly interesting to listen to my own inner dialogue. I do think I would be better if I could just shut my damn brain up and just RUN without thinking but that did not happen today. Maybe that will be my goal for Honu. ;)
Anyway, I ran 46:xx which was satisfying enough and crossed the line 2nd in 2:13 low... turns out Lectie, with the fastest female run of the day finished in 2:12 so in reality she was 2nd today though she didn't get credit for it at awards which just seemed off.
So that's the problem with these elite waves... I suspect it's lack of confidence from the women that prevents them from volunteering to place themselves in that first wave... or that they want to be humble and not stand up and say I'm FAST I want to race elite! Maybe the issue is semantics... the word 'elite'... because well, that's elitist, no? And no one wants to appear to be 'elitist'! I get all that of course though I will say that it would be a hell of a lot more fun (and less lonely!) in that first wave if more women would jump in and play. I think given the choice to re-do this race I might have opted for the age group wave... but only because there were so many more people there to race... and that's why we race, right? To race each other? I time trial solo all the time in training so on race day I'd like to be around other people. Now ideally that would be a group of the 10 fastest women on Oahu without the masses of less experienced people in waves ahead of us (is that elitist?? Sorry if it comes across that way it's just not safe to have to pass so many newbies on the bike when they don't know to stay right)... Maybe that's what makes me appreciate mass start races so much. I love mass start races. Just put us all together on the start line and say GO and let us battle it out. Totally ideal in my world!
OK enough about that. Onward and upward! 2 weeks til Honu.