Greater Cleveland Triathlon Recap

First things first – Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who donated money, time, items for my charity garage sale or helped spread the word about fundraisers that I did. My Team In Training fundraising was a success! I raised $1695 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! I’m so grateful for the generosity that my community displayed – some donations came from folks I’ve never been lucky enough to meet face to face, but am blessed enough to still call friends. The running & racing community will come to your aid. All you have to do is ask.

Top 5 Fundraisers!
Top 5 Fundraisers!

Second, if you’ve ever contemplated racing with Team in Training, I can’t recommend it enough. My time and scheduling did not allow me to participate in the group workouts nearly as often as I had hoped, but the virtual support, training schedules, cheerleading and inspiration are enough for me to tell you to go for it. You can raise the money and you will be forever changed for it.

And now to the race itself. I made the difficult decision after last weekend’s triathlon that I was not ready for the Olympic distance. My swimming is the best it’s ever been, but that’s not saying much. I struggled with the swim portion last weekend and I knew that the 1200 yard distance in the Olympic would be an even bigger struggle for me. I contacted Team in Training who made the switch for me and I vowed to make this Sprint better than last weekend’s, at least mentally. And now for the breakdown –

Day/Night Before: Saturday brought a gigantic rain storm to Northeast Ohio. Flash flooding-sytle rain storm. My Team in Training crew had a 3:30 shakeout swim scheduled at the beach and I was looking forward to the chance to get in the water and lose some of the anxiety I was feeling. Shakeout swim canceled due to weather. Nuts. So, I focused on packing and makings sure I was ready for race morning. I headed out to our Team in Training dinner at a local hotel and was grateful for a delicious dinner and chance to talk to fellow racers. The dinner was wonderful – we heard from a leukemia survivor and his courageous story was a great motivator. My anxiety pales in comparison to the battle that cancer patients and their families face daily. Hearing their stories made me even more proud of the money I raised – money that will go towards funding research and experimental treatments that may change the face of the disease some day.

RD Mickey R. with race advice for the ages.
RD Mickey R. with race advice for the ages.

We also got to hear from the Race Director at the dinner and his spirit is one I so appreciated. He first proclaimed that he “loved Purple People” in a nod to Team in Training’s signature color. He praised our efforts and thanked us for being a part of the event. He then shared that the storms earlier in the day had flooded the staging area of the race and that he needed to get back to make sure that the race was ready for us to participate in. While unnerving, I appreciated his honesty. Mickey’s quote of the night hit home with me and it carried me through the race the next day: “The triathlon is a bit like D-Day for me. Just get me to the beach after the swim and then I can wage the war.” I’m sure he had no idea how meaningful those words would be for me, but I might turn them in to a t-shirt and give him a cut of the profits. Lessons Learned: Nothing for this one – my night before prep was smooth sailing. Nailed It: Um, everything? Gotta give myself some credit here.

Race prep (clockwise): Sunglasses go in the helmet - thank you to dear friend Alan for the advice, Transition area set up, the basket I use to transport gear, Whole 30 approved fuel - don't knock baby food 'til you've tried it.
Race prep (clockwise): Sunglasses go in the helmet – thank you to dear friend Alan for the advice, Transition area set up, the basket I use to transport gear, Whole 30 approved fuel – don’t knock baby food ’til you’ve tried it.

Morning: I woke up at 4:15 and had a great breakfast, got dressed, racked my bike and hit the road on time. I needed to do packet pick up the morning of the race and wanted to make sure I left myself lots of time to get there and get ready. This was also my first USATF event and I felt a little uncertain about the pre-race rules and regulations. Got to the transition area, picked up my packet, and set up my transition area with time to spare and get my tire pressure checked. The Race Official (capital letters, implies how intimidating she was) then advised that I could not set up my transition materials outside of the bike rack where I had placed them – I just had to move them inside the rack perimeter. Thankfully, everything was on a towel and I just dragged it over. A friendly fellow racer offered me a plastic bag for my shoes, since the weather called for rain while we were swimming. Bless her heart – it did rain – and my running shoes were dry thanks to her generosity. Hammed for a group photo with Team in Training peeps, had plenty of time to use the restroom and listened to the pre-race meeting announcements. Lessons Learned: Bring bags for my shoes in the future. If not for the generosity of a stranger, would have had wet shoes. Nailed It: Timing. No time wasted, no rushing, plenty of time to feel ready.

Photo courtesy of Coach Pam - I love this - it shows me ready to get in that water. And smiling!
Photo courtesy of Coach Pam – I love this – it shows me ready to get in that water. And smiling!

Swim: Mentor Headlands Beach is beautiful, but lacks the break wall that my race last weekend had – cue larger waves, sometimes significant. This morning the weather gods were on our sides and the water was calm, relative to how I’ve seen it at other times. I had plenty of time to get in the water and get acclimated before my wave started – and this time, unlike last weekend, I took advantage of it. Water temperature was awesome and getting in and moving around in the water made me feel great. Buoys marked the 200, 400 and 600 yard points and they were great visual markers for me. We started from the beach, ran in to the water and got started. And here’s the thing – I felt great. My nerves were gone. I was Dory from Finding Nemo and my only goal was to just keep swimming. Ignore everyone around me. Ignore where I was in my age group. Ignore the faster people that started after me and would finish before. Just. Keep. Swimming. I could touch whenever I wanted and I did a few times, but I never flipped over to my back and only used the breaststroke a few times. I saw the finish buoy come up, made the turn and ran out of the water to T1. Phil and the kids were waiting for me on the beach and cheered me in off the sand. I told Phil how great I felt and waved goodbye as I headed toward the bike. Lessons Learned: STOP THE DRAMA. I can swim. I did swim. Just get out there and SWIM. The end. Nailed It: Getting in the water before my age group started.

Bike: I got in to the transition area, toweled off, wrestled my Team in Training bike jersey over my tri-suit and threw on my helmet. No sunglasses needed, thanks to the cloudy weather. I grabbed my fuel, downed it and got on the bike after leaving the transition area. IT WAS TIME TO WAGE THE WAR. My swim was better than ever, but I knew that if I was going to gain ground, it was on the bike. I hit my ideal speed zone quickly and decided to try to stay there. I passed several other racers and hit my stride near mile 5. I was staying close to another woman from my age group, who just happened to be the sister of an old neighbor of mine. Kirsten stayed in my same speed zone and so I just got comfortable behind her. This course goes over some train tracks and we hit the tracks just as the red lights went off. Steve – husband to my swim coach Pam – was at the tracks and waved us over. It felt a little too close for comfort, but I later found out that the train stopped all together and cyclists were never held back. Phew. At mile 10, I felt like I still had some energy left in the tank and decided to hit the gas. I passed Kirsten – a super speedy runner – and told her I knew she’d be passing me on the run in just a bit. Hit T2 feeling like I had killed the bike. Lessons Learned: I will always get passed by some incredible athlete on a $15,000 bike and feel a little bitter about it. Me and my Jamis will just keep on trucking. Nailed it: Steady pace the entire ride.

Thank you to my photographer/husband for this great shot!
Thank you to my photographer/husband for this great shot!

Run: Transition 2 was great – switched shoes, fueled, dropped my helmet and went for it. I switched my watch over to run mode and exited the transition area feeling solid. KEEP WAGING THE WAR. I again noticed that my heart rate was high and, coincidentally, so was my speed. I followed my 5 minute run/30 second walk method and felt solid. Kirsten passed me, as predicted, and gave me a friendly wave and call. The run portion of the course is flat, so I new I could run without the worry of hitting a hill that would slow me down. Phil and the kids were waiting to wave hello again and their encouragement was a great boost. I hit 2 miles in under 20 minutes and I knew that this 5K would be far faster than last weekend’s. I decided to get to just past 2 miles and speed up as much as I could. I hit the finish line and felt amazing. Phil and the kids were cheering, as were my Team in Training crew and even a fellow CLE runner, Bryan. Lessons learned: Preview the course a little better. There was one point where I felt all alone and wondered if I had made a wrong turn – I was on the right path, but a little more studying of the course might have eased my fears. Nailed it: Giving it my all at the end. I always fear bonking, but this time I went for it.

Post – race: I said hello to everyone, grabbed some food and enjoyed telling Phil about how great I felt. I’m sure I sounded like a moron, but I couldn’t stop the feeling of really getting it this time. A few minutes after my finish, race results went up on a bulletin board and I headed over. And saw this:

WHAT?!
WHAT?!

Now, here’s the thing – when you’ve just finished a race and the adrenaline is high, you sometimes lose the ability to think rationally. I saw my name in 3rd place and thought “Well, that’s just because everyone else in my age group hasn’t finished yet. This will get updated.” Then, in a moment of clarity, I realized that EVERYONE ELSE IN MY AGE GROUP HADN’T FINISHED YET. As in, I was in 3rd place, and barring some chip timing snafu, I was going to get an award. Cue elation. HOLY HELL, I WAS GETTING AN AWARD? And my time was 5 whole minutes faster than last weekend’s race – even though the swim was an extra 100 yards. I was blown away. If you’ve read any post here, you know that middle of the pack is my best hope, top tenth percentile a dream come true. But an award is mind-blowing. I waited ’til the transition area cleared, packed up my stuff and waited to hear my name called.

I want to carry this plaque around with me everywhere.
I want to carry this plaque around with me everywhere.

24 hours later and I’m still surprised. Here’s the data, the nitty gritty:

Swim = 20:45 for 600 yards (Last weekend’s race = 21:36 for 500 yards)

T1 = 2:46 (down from 3:42)

Bike = 44:37 (up from 43:19)

T2 = 1:42 (down from 2:59)

Run = 27:50 (down from 31:08)

My inspiration & support - they were just as excited as I was!
My inspiration & support – they were just as excited as I was!

I didn’t make it to the Olympic distance this time, but I’m so excited about the success that I did have. The swim was it’s own victory. And though they’re harsh words, I’m trying to live by this quote from Jordan Belfort: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” I’ll make it to the Olympic, maybe soon, maybe next year. I’m done with the bullshit story that I can’t.