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I am more than happy to share my lessons learned! Ideally you want to train in the conditions that you will be racing. Since I live in DC, none of that was an option. No heat acclimation, no open water swims, no outdoor riding but I did run outside 🙂 Also there are some things that you just can’t plan on, like getting a nasty cold a few days before the race.
I had to toss all my race plans out the window with a new goal of finishing. “Strong and steady” became my mantra. I also knew I had to be flexible and pay attention to how my body was reacting. I had the confidence that my training had prepared me but with my foggy head I had been forgetting things. So I really tried to keep the race plan simple – swim, bike, run while eating/drinking on a set schedule.
Swim – I am swimmer by nature, so my initial goal was to take it easy and relaxed. I lined up in the 2nd row of my wave which is not typical for me. As I am looking around, I realize I was going to be kicked in the body and/or head as soon as the gun went off. So at the last minute, I moved up to the front row. And lucky me, I am next to gal who ended up swimming at my pace. I was able to draft off of her for 2/3 of the 1.2 miles. I knew she was sighting often and could trust her lead, so I settled into nice smooth strokes and just watched her feet as she threaded us through the traffic of swimmers ahead of us. I always try to find someone to draft off in the swim, but it only seems to last for a few strokes. The benefits of drafting can be gained by swimming next to a swimmer just below their hips or directly behind them. I was 1st out of the water in my AG and 2nd in my wave, which was a complete surprise given my reduced effort.
Bike – I really had to throw away my race goals on the 56 mile bike. Thanks to DC Tri’s Off Season and TrainerRoad programs, I was hitting new power number records and looking forward to see the improvements. Instead I focused on my cadence and newly revised and lower RPE, rate of perceived effort. I kept my nutrition simple to avoid mistakes, every 20 minutes I alternated between a gel and salt tablet while sipping non-stop from my Osmo bottle. I washed down the nutrition with water. Towards the end of the bike, I could feel the leg fatigue so I scaled back the power and upped my cadence to try to spin out my legs for the run.
Run – I was 1st off the bike in my AG and knew immediately I was in trouble on the run. I was lightheaded and extremely hot in spite of ridiculous amounts of ice packed everywhere. The cold had made lightheaded and foggy prior to the race so this was not a surprise but one mile in, I really did not see how I could finish another 12 without passing out especially in the brutal heat. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other, staying on my nutrition even though I wanted none of it and packing the ice in. At mile 4 and my 4th aid station, the volunteer gave me a bag of ice to carry as I was leaving since I was fully packed already. This small move ended up being a game/race changer for me. As I rotated the bag of ice between my hands, my head cleared and now I knew I could finish. It wasn’t pretty, I was cramping and did a lot of walking while struggling with the heat. I think I took 7 salt tablets during the run, initially on a schedule then every time I felt a cramp coming on. I wasn’t even disappointed when I was finally passed at the 9 mile mark since I knew I could finish it out. I also knew my age group had 3 spots for Worlds, which was my main goal to earn one. The run course was 2 out and backs, that was fully lined with cheering spectators which was huge for motivation. Several had hoses out and were thankfully spraying us. At the finish line, I was whisked away to medical to get my temperature down. I passed the glucose test with flying colors – bonus, thank you nutrition! I ended up 2nd in my age group, earned my spot for Worlds along with my teammate Kelly Lefler so it was a successful day.
Looking back, there is only one major thing I would change (besides getting sick) and I knew this from my Eagleman races but forgot – T2. In T2, I should have taken more time to re-hydrate and re-group and get my body temperature down. Once the wind from the bike stops, the heat just descends on you. If you start overheated, it makes it that much more difficult to get it back down. Also learned on the run, carry a bag of ice in your hands in addition to the usual spots (hat, front/back of bra and shorts).
Happy training everyone and I will see you out there once it stops being cold!