Monday, May 18, 2015

Honolulu Triathlon... And On Racing By Feel

Well we are in the thick of the racing season now, eh? Races every weekend are fun to follow along and regardless of outcomes, always a good learning opportunity.

This past weekend we had two races here on Oahu- a small local one up on the North Shore and a bigger one on the South Shore (Honolulu Triathlon). While small local races are always super fun (and racing with your friends is more fun than racing against a bunch of strangers), I chose to do Honolulu triathlon for a few reasons... #1) It's the only race on Oahu all year long that has a legit swim for the bike/run distance. Every other race around here has a short swim, and as a swimmer, I feel it's my duty to support with my dollar the race that is more fair to swimmers. And #2) The feel of the 'big race' environment is a good one two weeks before Honu. Walking around a giant transition area 30' prior to race start, surrounded by a 1500 athletes you don't know, brings butterflies to your belly in a way that little races just don't.

To be honest, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to get to the start line of this race. Last week Moana got pretty sick (lots of throwing up, followed by some nasty diarrhea explosions). Scott and I thought maybe she'd eaten something bad (??) but then 36 hours later it was my turn to spend some violent time in the bathroom, followed by ~24 hours flat out in bed... Then it was Scott's turn... On Wednesday when I couldn't lift my head off my pillow I pretty much wrote off the idea of racing this weekend. But the good thing about those kinds of viruses that come on really quickly and hit you like a ton of bricks is that they tend to lift just as quickly and then suddenly you're back to normal. I felt normal by Friday and was able to eat again so the race for me was back on!

Since I'm a female, and now that I'm 'old', I tend to get shunted to the last wave with these race starts. As a strong and well trained swimmer this can be frustrating because it means my swim becomes more about dodging all those people who started before me but don't regularly swim train. Yesterday, the horn went off, I ran into the water and swam alone in clear water for ~3 minutes before I started running into the wave that started 3' ahead of me... then for the next 19' passed probably (and I'm not exaggerating here) 500 people. In good news I managed to do this without a) ending up with a black eye or b) getting pissed off, so we'll call it a successful swim. I will admit though I had the thought "These people really need to swim train more."

On the bike it was kind of more of the same... I tend to enjoy racing by feel more than racing with data so I don't start my watch or wear a garmin. At this race I ended up with a false sense of how fast I was actually moving. I kind of knew I wasn't really pushing very hard but I was passing so many people the whole time that it seemed like I was moving really fast! Unfortunately my bike split shows I was not moving as fast as it may have appeared. DOH! The lesson from this race that I'll take with me will be to focus more internally on my own effort and not judge my own bike performance based on the others directly around me.

The last few years I've blown up spectacularly on this run, so on purpose I took it out a good bit more relaxed than normal. This strategy worked for me and I felt like my legs kind of came around and I was able to go a little faster as I settled in. Again, without a garmin I didn't know how fast I was running but I did a few gut checks, asking myself if this was as fast as I could go in that moment and the answer was always yes this is the right effort right now so just kept doing what I was doing. My run is a constant work in progress but for the first time in a long time, I felt like I ran a pretty even/steady 10k that didn't result in any meltdowns. I didn't have the energy to pick it up and go faster at the end, but I didn't feel like I slowed significantly either. Finishing feeling like that left me satisfied with my effort for the day.

In my post race recap to Marilyn, I wrote the following:

Thanks! Ya as I was finishing up yesterday I did not know my time or place, but I had the thought that I was pleased enough with my effort and execution of the day so I figured no matter what the time/place was, I'd be satisfied. It was reminiscent of how I did things toward the end of my diving career in college- I'd gotten to the point where I knew how to do all of my dives really well. Whether or not I executed them well in a meet was up in the air, but I knew I was capable and I always knew if I did them well or not. Anyway, toward the end there I got really tired of 'being judged', which is how we won or lost diving meets. I would, on purpose, hang out under water after every dive and decide for myself if I'd done it well or not (vs coming up in time to see the judges' scores). So I'd go through the meets not knowing what any of my scores actually were! It was my way of judging myself vs allowing others to judge me and it worked well for me once I'd gotten to the point where I was capable of accurately judging for myself how I'd performed. I feel like I'm there with triathlon now too- like I KNOW if I'm moving well and working to the right effort swim bike and run and focusing on that while I'm racing works better for me than focusing on numbers. I think good/fine to watch numbers in training b/c it helps me hone that feel and helps me keep track of how the training is working for me, but racing by feel is where I get the most out of myself (most of the time!)

To be honest, I was shocked when I heard my name coming from the announcer's mic... I wasn't paying attention and didn't even know they were doing awards (they did the OA really early like as soon as I crossed the line?!) and I was like What?! I got 2nd?! Sweet! I hadn't even really had time to digest my race and wonder about placings before I found myself up on the podium. So that was fun!

Anyway, I think the experience I had out there starting behind all those people was actually a good one going into Honu- they've changed the start format there so that women 40+ go off last... So yesterday was actually good practice for what I'll experience on another big stage in less than two weeks. I'm excited to tackle that challenge!

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