Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Muncie 70.3... On Instinct & Experience

The day before Muncie, I got an email from my coach... Whats the plan tomorrow?

Um, to swim bike and run as quickly and efficiently as I can? My approach to this race was interesting... Totally different than how I have approached Honu every year. This race just felt different to me- I think because I'd never done it before, I couldn't envision it, I didn't know any of my competitors, I felt zero pressure. I knew I had decent fitness b/c my training had been going well, but there were so many unknowns. My biggest concerns really were the long travel, the missed night of sleep on a plane, and the 6 hour time change. I mean, I was doing the best I could with that travel scenario, and it is what it is, but it definitely required some medication to get myself to sleep for a few nights.

Anyway, I basically told Vince that I was just going to race on instinct and experience. While I had not done this particular race before, I've done enough other 70.3 distances to have a decent idea of what the effort should feel like. And I knew how to fuel and hydrate even if I didn't write out the whole plan beforehand like I normally do. So. Whatever. I'm just going to get through the course as quickly as I can. End of race plan.

I left my daughter to play with Grammy for the weekend and drove from Cleveland to Muncie by myself, which was sort of fun (for the first few hours at least). I don't mind going to races alone. Partly b/c I almost always have an athlete (or 3) that I coach also racing, and I almost always have a whole group of awesome Coeur teammates to socialize with as well. Being a wife and a mom, its not really all that often that I get 3 days completely to myself, so I embraced them! I mean, I don't think I'd want travel and be alone all the time, but for a few days, I enjoyed it! And real road trips for me are rare. We just don't do those in Hawaii. Driving through rural central Ohio was a trip. Truly.

The day before the race was a complete clusterfuck for a variety of reasons. Let's just say it wasn't my ideal day. I like to just have everything prepared and have time to chill out and relax with my feet up the day before I race, but that doesn't happen when you're scrambling around to find a replacement for your broken helmet, its piss pouring rain and storming, your cell carrier suuuucks and keeps telling you no service, you don't know where you're going and can't use google maps b/c T-Mobile is so shitty, the road is flooded but you don't know an alternate route, you can't find a decent healthy food option to save your life, etc. Eventually though everything worked itself out. I found the shitty hotel I was staying in and packed all my race stuff and knocked myself out with an ambien. Only broke down into tears once.

Race morning it was a whole new day! Blue skies and perfect weather in store for the day. I got to the race site early and got all prepped and had time to chill. They called the water wetsuit legal but that was a bit of a dubious call, I think. I mean, I was happy to wear my wetsuit for the hour prior to my wave start just standing around b/c the air temp was cold (to me) but once I was in the water, all I wanted to do was take that wetsuit OFF. My fault, really, but I hadn't put that thing on since probably January, and I didn't get in to warm up, so when the horn went off and I went running into the water and sprinted that start, I was immediately out of breath and uncomfortable  and unhappy. I mean, it's exactly what I advise my athletes to NOT do and there I was doing it. To be fair, I wasn't able to swim the day before b/c the storms had the lake closed by the time I arrived on site, so my only option really was to have confidence in my ability to swim and just keep swimming.

The water was brown and like an obstacle course. Tons of swimmers in the water before my wave went off, and then there were boats and kayaks and buoys everywhere and it just felt super congested to me. My thoughts during the swim went something like this:

~Swimming around people is just a skill required of women 40+ since we almost always start toward the back.
~I can't see anything. Don't worry about it just keep swimming.
~I want to take this wetsuit off.
~Why is that kayak *directly* in the middle of the swim course and not moving? Oh b/c there's a guy hanging onto it for dear life. Swim left to get around them.
~I can't see anything. Don't worry about it. Just keep swimming.
~Ocean swimming is more pleasant than lake swimming.
~I was swimming with a gal in my AG side by side. Eventually she dropped behind me to draft (smart) but then kept aggressively grabbing my ankles (annoying). I wanted to tell her You know that by slowing me down you're slowing us both down, right? Like, maybe just come along for the ride respectfully and don't be obnoxious about it? She was obviously a good enough swimmer to know better, which is the only reason I was annoyed. I don't get annoyed at people who are new at it and out there just trying to survive and inadvertently grab you along the way.

Anyway, eventually the swim ended and we ran through the mud to the wetsuit strippers, who accidentally pulled my whole aero top off along with my wetsuit (I had it rolled down around my waist for the swim and figured I'd just pull it up as I was running to my bike, as I did at Honu). So that was fun in T1 to wrestle with my wet aero top! Lol. Whatever. Eventually I got it on and with some relief, started riding my bike.

I really liked the Muncie bike course! Except for the road leading in and out of the park, the pavement was perfect and just awesome... like IDEAL road to ride on! And it was closed to cars. SO GREAT! The course was definitely crowded with lots of riders everywhere, but because of the wave starts, it seemed that just about everyone was moving along at vastly different speeds, so it was NOT hard to ride legally. I was riding by feel, checking in with power at times, feeling pretty good, doing my thing. Then some gal with a 43 on her calf rode by me (correction, FLEW by me) and instinct took over and I tried to go with her... picked up my effort and look down to see I'm pushing 200w and she's riding away. I kept that up for what felt like too long... 210w... she's still riding away. So. Ok. You go girl! Have at it! I settled back into my groove. Later another gal rode by at a similar speed, but she was glued to some guy's wheel. Her shorts said, "Ride Responsibly" and I had to ask myself, does 'responsibly' include 'legally'?? Apparently not. She really was the only gal I saw drafting out there though. Everyone else I saw was 100% legal and fair.

Anyway, that was that on the bike. I had a harder time than normal chewing/swallowing my Clif bars b/c they weren't hot/melted like I'm used to. I really had zero desire to try to chew them BUT I repeated to myself that mantra Fueling correctly is a choice so I stuffed them down one bite at a time. I only drank maybe 3 bottles of fluids which is about half of what I drank at Honu but temps weren't as high so it felt like enough. I felt relieved and grateful to get off my bike without any major mishaps or mechanicals and looking at my file afterward, it appears I rode pretty steady with only a slight fall off in power in the back half and a low 1.02 VI. Not a perfect ride, but nothing to complain about!
I started the run and saw right away that there was a gal like 25yd ahead of me with a 41 on her calf. I hadn't seen her on the bike so I assumed she had passed me in T2. Normally I'm just out there trying to survive on the run but at that point I felt ok and my run has been going a little better in training so I sort of ignored that whole thing about keeping the first few miles of the run relaxed and easy... I mean, I wasn't killing myself, but I wasn't running 'easy' either. But I was keeping that gal in my sights(!) and for once I was actually racing that run and that felt cool to me. Somewhere around mile 3, I passed that gal and was like whoa I actually passed a gal in my AG on the run?? I mean, other gals were passing us both but for me to actually pass someone (anyone!) in my AG on the run felt like a win. :) For the first 6 miles or so I was absolutely in love with the Muncie run course. Probably because it wasn't the Honu run course. Lol! The rolling hills seemed minor to me and I was able to get up/over them in a way that felt strong/efficient and I was just rolling along and feeling pretty stoked at how it was all unfolding. Around mile 6 I found myself running with a Wattie Ink gal who was super friendly. We had been together basically since the beginning of the run and I think she wanted to work together (she was 39). I told her I was having the best run I'd had in years and she was super supportive like cool then come with me and I wanted to and I tried but I was starting to fade. One of my goals for the run was to prove to my coach that I was capable of running faster than the 9:12 pace he calculated I could do off the bike. At the half way point I was sure I was doing this! #Illshowyou!

In training I've been really good about progressing my long runs but on that day I was just running out of steam. Looking back I think it was a fueling thing, which is crazy b/c normally I pride myself on fueling really well, but that heavy leg feeling I was getting is classic bonk. I'd had 2 gels by mile 8 and at that point started on red bull hoping for some wings, but I think it was too little too late. The hills on the way back seemed WAY bigger than they were on the way out, and I just faded more and more each mile. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other in those last 3 miles. Looking at my run file its clear I started too fast. Vince pointed this out and he was right but I told him (in my defense)- those first 3 miles I wasn't pacing, I was racing, and I don't regret it b/c I learned a little something about myself by playing the game the way I did.

The funny part though... That 9:12 pace I was going to prove I could beat?? I didn't. Coach was right. Dammit. (Honestly this made me laugh so hard when I saw it at the end!)

5:12 landed me 7th in my AG, a full 6min back from 6th. Looking back I'd say there were a few little mistakes here and there where maybe I could have gained a few minutes back but I don't think there's anything I could have done to gain 6min this past weekend. I mean, my legs were DONE at the finish line and 3 days later I still have some soreness. So I am happy with that result. 5:12 is as fast as I've gone since 2012 so YAY finally starting to head back in the direction I want to go, reversing my 5 year trend of getting slower and slower every year... And I saw a glimpse of the runner that I know I can be, so its just a matter of keeping at it until I can hold that pace for the full distance vs fading off. Overall I'd say I really liked this race. It had a great old school type feel to it. It's not easy for me to get to, but I would not rule out making the effort to go back.

I get to try again in less than 3 weeks at Ohio 70.3 so I'm looking forward to that opportunity! I previewed that course a bit on my drive home from Muncie and it looks like a great course too. So stay tuned for an update on that one. :)