Cottage Lake Super Sprint Triathlon Race Report

– – – – – – Event details:
400m swim, 9mile bike, 1.6mile run
237 participants, I placed 167 overall (70%)
Total time 1:13:24.8

Friday night I went to bed excited and nervous about my race in the morning. I made a list and checked it twice of all the stuff I had packed up in my bag and in the car. I had been told multiple times (via tri lectures, clinic and books) that its normal to not be able to fall asleep the night before so I took extra naps the week leading up as best I could. When I went down for the night it was with 3 alarms set for wake up, head phones on with ‘Massage Zen Garden’ music, the perfect pillow set up after a hot shower, calms tablet, and a weighted lavender eye pillow. I didn’t sleep much but I rested well (after getting up multiple times to do the ‘1 more thing’ items I’d think of- like writing ‘relax, breathe, this is easy’ on my inner forearms with sharpie).

4am my multiple alarms went off and I jumped out of bed. My calf was still bugging me so I started my morning with a 30min AM stretch DVD and worked on taking in fluids. I had a decent breakfast of oatmeal with applesauce and a banana and was in the car and on the road at 5am (sipping on more fluids). The race was an hour away but the roads were clear and quiet and the sun was rising, lovely.

6am I parked my car and brought all my gear across the street to the park where the race was to take place and got into the transition area. The excitement in the air was exhilarating as men and women got were bringing in their gear, throwing nervous but encouraging smiles at one another taking walks and stretching in the cold morning air. I ran into 2 women that I had met at an open water swim clinic 2 weekends prior and had ran into the night before when I came to pick up my race packet- so I visited with them and got to hear their stories that brought them to this day and this moment getting ready to attempt their first triathlons as well.

7:30am and I was all set up and in my wet suit. There was to be a pre-race meeting/announcements at 7:45 and the first wave of swimmers (Elites) were to hit the water at 8am. I putzed around, more excited than nervous but definitely wishing the race would start already. I took some pictures, updated my face book status and just tried to take in the moment. I wondered how I would feel- would I panic? would I beg myself to take a break during the race?

8am and I was in line with my wave of racers, positioned on a side as advised in the tri clinic. One woman behind me said ‘I just want to finish this part in under 20mins’ and I told her she could move in front of me if she wanted since I figured it would easily take me longer than that. I didn’t do the math right there in my head but I knew that from my pool workouts that I was a slow but steady swimmer, so I didn’t really worry about what time I would get but knew I’d be out there for awhile. All around me people were either silent, or panicing, or hugging a friend/spectator or fellow racer. The emotion in the crowd was fantastic and I smiled and chatted with those around me. 8:05 and my wave was standing in the water…..8:08- GO!

I hit the water and immediately felt my calm slipping when I realized my goggles were still on top of my head instead of on my face Instead of standing back up while I still could and taking the 3-5 secs it would have taken to put my goggles on correctly, I tried to keep moving forward through the mass of arms and legs and put my goggles on at the same time. This resulted in many failed attempts but eventually an ok fit and I was now able to focus on the task at hand. The water felt colder on my chest than I expected and quite possibly the excitement of the moment and/or the anxiety from the whole goggle issue left me feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath. I was crawl stroking forward at a very inefficient rate with my head above water because every time I put my face in the water the cold would grab my chest again and I just didn’t feel I could keep my breath. I tried some other strokes unsuccessfully and eventually rolled to my back and swam that way for a bit to slow my breathing and keep on moving. I ended up swimming the majority of the swim portion on my back, I can swim decently fast that way and I just had to flip every so often to sight my location and adjust so I didn’t go off by myself in the lake I wasn’t particularly happy with not doing a proper crawl stroke since i know I’m capable (I did an ‘easy’ workout in the pool earlier in the week of 1000M!) but in the moment I just logged that thought away in the ‘things to practice before the next race’ box and kept moving on. As I hit each buoy I remember thinking that I was hitting it sooner than I expected but I didn’t really let myself dwell on much, before I knew it I was hitting the shore and up and out of the water. I jogged to the transition area, focusing on harnessing my noodle legs to keep moving forward one step at a time and get my wet suit off as fast as possible.

Rank 153rd
Swim 11:13.9 (pace 44:52/M)
T1 3:08.3

In the transition area I grabbed my bike stuff that was all laid out and moved on. At the time I felt like I was going a bit slower than I expected but I didn’t worry about it. I felt really wet (duh!) but again I just kept focusing on the next thing. The bike course was a two lap course, all hilly but mostly non-issue hilly with a small section of short but intense hills. While on the bike I started noticing my calf that had been giving me issue earlier in the week was acting up. I really didn’t want it to hold me back so I tried to push my heel down on the pedal strokes to stretch it while not losing speed. Half way through the first lap I also noticed that my toes (actually the whole end half of my feet) were really cold. The wet feet from the lake coupled with cotton socks and well ventilated running shoes while biking resulted in frozen feet. Again ‘mental note of things to look into before next race’. The bike portion my concerns were with speed. I knew I could bike the distance but being really new to biking I had found on previous outdoor rides that I was very skiddish about speed, especially on downhills when I could be riding fast and easy. During the race though, this was not an issue at all and at times found myself pushing over 23mph which is a number I’ve never seen on my little bike computer at all. The hills were not fun but then hills are like that and I made a point of really pushing myself and did the best I can (even though people all around me were walking their bikes up the hills). By the time I was finishing the second loop the realization that I had such a small portion of the race left and I’d be done was coming into focus…..also the realization that my calves were killing me and my feet felt like frozen bricks was concerning me. My full bottle of water on my bike was still full and my snacks in my side pockets of my bike shorts were still there. I had taken a few shot bloks in during the first transition and a few swigs of water but on the ride I didn’t take anything. Every time I thought about it on the bike I didn’t feel steady enough on the bike to reach down and pull the water from the cage it was firmly in- mental note again.

Rank 152nd
Bike 38:21.4 (pace 14.4MPH)
T2 0:35.3

I started running straight from the dismount, through the transition area (hanging up my bike and grabbing my race belt). At the beginning of the run there was a ‘water’ table and I grabbed a cup which within ten steps later I realized it was actually some sports drink……not good and left with a bit of a yucky tummy but whatever (mental note, make sure I know what I’m grabbing in future). My legs literally felt like solid weights at this point but I just kept dropping those weights one in front of the other- trusting that the blood would eventually start circulating in my feet again soon. One of the spectators had some hand drums at one of the turns and he was jamming for all the runners, it was a good beat. It took about 3/4 of a mile before my feet warmed up and felt normal again and my calf muscles were feeling ‘ok’ as well at this point. At the turn around point for the run there was another aid table, this time I asked if it was water and it was so I grabbed some and drank while I could without stopping.

Rank 192nd
Run 20:05.9 (pace 12:33/M)

Re-entering the park and hearing the speakers at the finish line in the distance was surreal. I knew I was drawing close and as I took inventory on my body I knew I was golden. One of the volunteers (all the volunteers were fantastic) said ‘what a great way to start your morning!’ and I couldn’t agree more at that moment. I turned a corner and the finish line flags were now in view, I kicked it up and crossed the finish line strong and happy. My finishers medal was around my neck and timing chip removed before I could even think about it, people all around offering congratulations and bananas

I hung around and took more pictures, took in the moment, listened to the music and the awards, chatted with some of the people I had met before the race and compared emotions. I was suprised that during the race I never thought about it being too hard or needing to stop- I was on auto pilot and there were no choices, the only choice was to keep moving forward. Part of me was really concerned yesterday as I thought about my two races coming up that are both longer distances…………….made me glad that I already registered for them so I have no choice in that either As I’ve had a chance to take my emotions for the day and compare it to my times I can honestly say I’m thrilled. My swim time was way faster than I expected from me- especially since I did the whole thing on my back. My transition times I’m very happy with. My bike time was good for me and my run time was 10sec+ pace faster than my normal 5K times that I do without swimming and biking before hand (so awesome, and makes me really excited about the 5K race I have this week). I learned a ton and have lots that I want to work on over the next 6 weeks before the Danskin Tri. I’m so glad I found and decided to do this race- I think it was an important stepping stone in my life right now and especially in how my tri experience will go at my goal race of Danskin.

Sarah<—-triathlete!!!!