Triathlon #4 Done and Done

This past Sunday I competed in TriFitness All Women’s Triathlon in Norwalk, CT. This was my 4th triathlon of the season (this being my first season of competing.) It was a great day with warmish water and a flat course. I crushed it, finishing 3rd in my age group with a time of 1:15:18 and 21st overall (13th percentile.) And that kind of surprised me. I felt like my mind wasn’t “in the game” the entire week. Self doubt and fatigue crept in like a little mouse and wouldn’t leave until race day.

The day before my family had a huge clambake full of friends, family, beer and butter. All my high school friends came down and it was a blast. But of course I had a race the next day and couldn’t play beer pong or gorge myself on cake and ice cream. Sad. But I had a blast. And I went to bed at a semi-decent time before the race.

Race Day

The race was scheduled to start at 6:30 am, I woke up at 4:20 am. I’m pretty sure the earliest I have ever woken up for a race so far. I made myself my classic race day breakfast of Kashi oatmeal with banana and a glass of water. I forgot my foam roller at my apartment and rolled out on one of my sisters softballs (it worked but hurt a little more.) My dad grabbed my bike and gear and we were off.

We arrived to the parking lot at 5:20 am. Super early. It was pitch black and of course I didn’t think to bring a flashlight. I made do with the light of my iPhone. I managed to get to the transition area where there were bike boxes to place your bike on instead of a bar. I thought that was kind of fancy, I set up my bike at the end of a row. I like being at the end because it’s easy access and you have more room to set up your gear. (I also think it’s a mental thing. Whenever I go to yoga or sit in the classroom I always pick a spot next to the wall, never in the middle.)

It was just my dad with me this time. We were sitting at a picnic table by the beach and he had a moment of realization. “Where are the men?” I replied, “Oh, it’s an all women’s triathlon. I thought I told you.” He laughed as he realized there were only a few other men standing around. He immediately told me that my mother should be with me.

6:00 am I wiggled into my wet suit. I pulled up my sleeves as high as I could to make sure there was as little pressure on my zipper. (Last time my zipper ripped open.) I was zipped in and ready to go. I walked down to the water and you might be thinking I’m walking on soft, fluffy sand, not in New England. In New England we walk on rocks. A good 1/3rd of the beach was rocks and stones. Everyone trying to get into the water looked like we had ants in our pants. It hurt. I managed to slowly get to the waters edge and jumped in. Surprisingly the Long Island Sound wasn’t freezing! Last time I was in that water I could hardly keep my head down because it was so shockingly cold. It was nice, and for the first time ever I felt really comfortable and calm in the water. I really think that open water swim session I did the week before helped me a lot.

6:30 am the race director, a tiny fit French woman who clearly does triathlons based on her 0% body fat, explained that they were waiting for police to shut down some roads. We stood around a while until the national anthem. I gave my dad a goodbye hug and walked over to the start. I was calm and ready, even though the buoys lined up out in the water seemed really far apart. I ignored the fact and told myself to keep a steady pace.

On your marks, get set, GO! 

The horn went off and we were in the water. I followed a pack to the first buoy and then turned the corner. The pack separated a little and I had a decent amount of space to swim at my own pace. I had difficulty swimming in a straight line. I pulled to the right constantly and often found that I was swimming with no one around me. So I swam back to the pack and then did it again, pulling out to the right. My swim was just a big zigzag course, which I’m sure added on some time but it was my best swim to date. I was calm and found myself breathing on both sides (usually I just breath on my right). For the most part I swam freestyle, I only stopped to take a few strokes of breast stroke to get myself going in the right direction. (A huge accomplishment!)

I made my way over the rocks (ouch) and into the transition area. I whipped off my wet suit threw on my bike shoes and helmet and was off. (1:40 sec transition.) The bike was two loops of 5.5 miles. For the most part it was pretty flat with some baby hills, nothing major. I like the bike because this is the part where I can pick off my competition. Whoever I pass or passes me I glance down at their age. Ticking off my competition in my head. I managed to pass a lot of 20-24 year olds which gave me a confidence boost. I was targeting 20mph for the entire ride and I managed to keep it, speeding up at some parts and slowing down at others.

During the bike and run, I like to either (a) chase people or (b) pace with people. I found a 43 year old woman who was cycling at around the same pace as I was. I chose to pace with her. I stayed behind her for the first loop of the ride and then I passed her on the second loop. I found a second woman to pace with. A 50 year old on an awesome tri bike. I stayed behind her and then the 43 year old caught up with us. It was the 3 of us in a pack riding the rest of the second loop together at about 21mph. These women were awesome and I just hope one day when I’m their age I’m as strong as them.

I made it to the transition area where I could here my dad yelling “Go Maria!” I took of my bike shoes and threw on my running shoes, grabbed my water bottle, visor and took off. (0:45 second transition, my fastest ever!) It’s a funny feeling when I take off for the run. My legs feel weightless and kind of good. I just run as fast as my bouncy legs can take me before they come back down to earth. For the first half mile I was running 6:45 min/mi. Super fast for me. I knew it was going to be a struggle to keep that pace, and I was right. I lost about 45 seconds each mile ending at a 8:00 min/mi pace. Still, not bad but I should have aimed to get negative splits not positive.

I managed to keep my pace until I saw the finish line, which was on the beach. I sprinted for it, passing a bunch of women. The beach part of the sprint was interesting, I must have looked like a clumsy giraffe trying to push through the sand. I looked up and saw the clock, 1:15! That was my goal time I had in my head and I did it! I beat my first sprint time (on practically the same course) by 6 minutes! It felt great. The 43 year old women on the bike tapped me on the shoulder. “All I can say is thank you! You paced me for that run and it was great.” I smiled back, “Well you paced me for the bike! You did awesome.”

Done and Done. 

I found my dad and gave him a big hug. I was smiling from ear to ear. We waited around for the preliminary results where I saw my name! 3rd place in my division. I was ecstatic. The race results were announced and I got a little Douney and Burke bag for 3rd place prize. Yay! Now it’s time to buckle down and tackle some off season training.

Pictures coming soon!

-Train Hard. Tri Harder.

@Tri_Girl22

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How I Use Self-Hypnosis to Win

This weekend I will be racing in my 4th triathlon of my first season ever. It’s a sprint triathlon hosted by TriFitness and it’s all women. As the days get closer I am realizing I am getting a little bit intimidated that this triathlon is all women. Why? Because I am thinking there is a lot more competition in my age group. And I’m starting to doubt myself, a commonality almost every beginner triathlete goes through. Which is frustrating to say the least. The negative thoughts creep in like “You aren’t ready.” “Your body is too tired.” “That swim is going to suck.” I am a firm believer that your mind controls your body, and if your mind is thinking negatively your performance is going to suffer. How do you change a negative mindset?

One of the tools I rely on to change my mindset is meditation or hypnosis. Back when I was a competitive rider in the sport of eventing (three disciplines crammed into one day: dressage, show jumping and cross country), I was a nervous wreak at shows. I wouldn’t eat a single thing the entire day, I was tense on my horse who could sense my nerves and I clammed up in front of judges. My mother recognized my struggle to control my nerves and sent me to a hypnotist who specialized in sports hypnotism. What happens is she sends you into a deep conscious sleep and talks to you about your competition, giving you visual clues and things to focus on. Basically, it’s a visualization exercise in a conscious sleep or meditative state. Tiger Woods has been known to use hypnotism to visualize every movement and outcome on the course, and look at his performance. She took me through each stage of my competition asking me to visualize what I was doing and how my horse was reacting. The most important part was she asked me to visualize myself winning. Something I have never done before with my half crazy horse.

I went to the hypnotist a week before my competition. The day of the competition I was still nervous to the point where I couldn’t eat anything. But something different happened. I had the lowest dressage score, no jumping penalties and my cross country was excellent. I won that competition and guaranteed a spot in regionals. I firmly believe that hypnotism contributed to my success. Proving the point that your mind controls your performance.

Ever since that competition I have been using self-hypnosis to visualize my triathlon races. I haven’t won my past three races, but I have placed 2/3 times in my age group. Not bad for my first season competing in triathlons.

My schedule leading up to race day is to use self-hypnosis once per day for 3 days. So if my race is on Sunday I self-hypnotize myself Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Just writing “Self-hypnotize” seems a little weird. But it’s not. It’s very simple and easy to do. I lie down, close my eyes and count backwards from 10. I tell myself at each number my eyelids are getting heavy, my breathing is deep and to let any sound or unnecessary thought pass by. Once I get to 1 I visualize my race. What the water feels like, what the transition area looks like etc. and then I start my race. At each step I think of what I am doing, how I am feeling and what my goal time is. The entire time I am thinking positive thoughts to encourage a positive outcome of the race. I see myself passing my competition on the swim, bike, run and crossing that finish line strong.

I am excited for my race this weekend. And I trust that if I dedicate enough time to visualizing my race I will change my thinking into a positive one and see some success.

– Train Hard. Tri Harder.

@Tri_Girl22

Race Day Lesson #1: Every Second Counts

I just competed in my second sprint triathlon this past weekend and I finished 4th out of 9 girls in my age group. Not bad, not bad at all. But I missed 3rd place by a second, literally 1 second. I finished with a time of 1:08:04 the girl a head of me finished with a time of 1:08:03. I was that close to a podium finish. I was mad, and I wasn’t mad at the girl who beat me by 1 second, I was mad at myself. Where did I lose that 100 milliseconds? Where could I have gone faster? Pushed myself harder? My mind was racing with so many emotions that I didn’t know what to think. I let myself be mad for a while but looking back at the race I really did awesome. Especially with how my race day started….

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View from my ZipCar @5:50am. Hello, Boston.

My wonderful support crew (aka. my boyfriend) was to be designated driver for my race. But, alas my driver fell threw. He decided to go out the night before and had one too many drinks. He didn’t get home until 3am and we were set to leave at 6am. For those of you who think 3 hours of sleep is enough to sober up, it’s not. I couldn’t get him to get out of bed to save my life. I made the executive decision to get a ZipCar at 5:30am. I booked the car online and ran, literally ran, to the garage to pick it up.(Guess I am warmed up for the race, I thought to myself.) I got back at 5:50am, kicked my boyfriend’s butt into gear and loaded up my stuff. I really thought this would throw off my good mood and ruin my race mentality but I didn’t let it get to me. I just thought to myself “Good thing I’m pretty awesome.”

Fast forward to the race, and my swim went really well. I was probably inspired from Rick and Dick Hoyt, the famous father and son duo, start the race off. This triathlon was their 1,100th race. I was absolutely blown away by the love and dedication of one man to his son. It was amazing to see Dick pull his son in a inflatable boat, the man is 73 years old! I hope to be his age and racing in my 1,100th race.

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The Hoyt’s getting ready to start the race. So happy I was able to see them! #Inspirational

After the Hoyt’s took off I had to wait awhile for my wave to start. I entered into the beginners wave and it was the last wave. So there was a lot of waiting. Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with a wetsuit! My past two attempts with my new wetsuit failed on me completely, my whole top filled with water and it was tough. This time I was kitted out with a bright neon suit (I partially wore it so my really hungover boyfriend could spot me easily.) The water was 83 degrees and half way through I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t refreshing at all.’ Yuck, I exited the water and ran to the transition area.

My bike was awesome. It was a 9mi route with rolling hills. I crushed it. My average speed was 16mph and my fastest speed was 33mph. (Not bad for hardly riding my bike this month…actually at all.) I felt good.

I transitioned out to the run quickly and hit the road. It was only a 3mi run and I told myself “Just run hard.” I let my legs get used to carrying my weight again after a fast bike ride and stepped up my pace a little to about 8:30min/mi. Average pace, but I decided to take it slow until the last mile. That’s when things got interesting…

I have a tendency not to turn around and see who is closing in on me. As I hear people approach me from behind I let the anticipation and nerves drive me a little harder. I hit the last mile and hear fast footsteps, I don’t turn around. I assume it was the really fit 40 year old woman I just saw passing me. I feel someone grab my arm and say, “Come with me.” I glanced down at her calf and she’s 24, it was one of my age group competitors. She picked up her pace and I picked up mine. We were running side by side for the last mile. I thought to myself, “Wow, this is what it’s all about. To be truly racing.” I was filled with adrenaline, but I was still conscious of my heart rate. I wasn’t wearing a monitor but I was breathing heavily enough to judge it was rising fast. I kept the pace with her for 4min then she backed off. I kept my pace (about 7:30min/mi) and ran until I saw the gate leading to the finish line. I had about .25mi to go and the girl pulls up next to me and she pulls up fast. I pick up my speed and it’s an all out battle to the finish line. She pulls ahead of me just a touch, probably 3 seconds ahead of me. And I think to myself as she closes in on the finish line, “Let her go she has it.” She crosses the finish line before I do. I couldn’t tell by how many seconds, I was just so winded I could hardly stand up. I shook her hand and congratulated her.

Battling it out to the finish line.

Battling it out to the finish line.

I just raced my hardest. My competitive spirit was thrilled! I was on a high. It felt awesome to be giving it all I had against someone else. Finding out I lost the podium by 1 second sucked. Like really sucked. It was a wake up call for me. I realized how close you can be to lose a podium finish. I am sure all triathletes (amateurs and professionals) have faced a millisecond loss like I have. I have to remind myself this was only my 3rd triathlon. If I am getting close to that podium now, imagine what I can do in the future! It was that one second, and that second humbled me and showed me I am good at this. I cannot wait for my next race.

– Train Hard. Tri Harder.

@Tri_Girl22

Tackling my first Olympic distance triathlon

ImageCompleted my second triathlon this past week! This time it was longer, .9mi swim, 25mi bike and 6.2mi run…and hotter with a ton of hills. I finished 3rd in my age group with a time of 3:12min. It felt awesome placing at a race, even though my age group was abnormally small. But (!!!!!) I accomplished one of my ultimate goals and this is my first season competing it triathlons. I must be doing something right.

My support crew (aka my dad and boyfriend) took a video of me throughout the triathlon. I was surprised to see myself walking through transitions! It really looks like I could have pushed myself more in those transitions and I’m disappointed in that. Granted a few really tough unforeseen events happened during the race:

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1. My wetsuit zipper busted on me! AGAIN! I just bought myself a new wetsuit. The zip starts at the top, thinking this would prevent my zipper from falling down on me like it did last time with my moms wetsuit. Well….about 100 yards into the swim I felt my bare back against the water. I grabbed my zipper thinking it somehow managed to unzip itself upward. Nope! The zipper was peeled open at the top! Completely broken. My whole upper body filled with water. I got really nervous and contemplated my options. Either swim or flag down a lifeguard. I opted to keep on swimming….hey I managed to do it last time my wetsuit busted on me. When I finally reached the beach it took me forever to get my wetsuit off because I was just so tired. My body was radiating so much heat I knew I was sweating hard.

2. It got hot and humid real fast. The sun wasn’t out for my swim, it peaked out of the clouds for the bike ride but as soon as I hit the road running temperatures reached 90! And boy did that slow me down. I never trained in the heat or humidity the season. And for that matter, I never trained in hot weather with so many hills! My pace was slowed down significantly as I went through the 6 miles. At mile 3 I was running 11min/mi with my heart rate way above my lactate threshold level. Super duper slow and behind schedule.

3. Don’t underestimate a race with HILLS in it’s title. I ran Litchfield Hills Triathlon in CT and boy they were not lying about the hills. I thought I had 2 hills on the bike course and maybe 4 small ones on the run. Completely wrong! The bike wasn’t too bad but by the end of it I was tired. I could tell because it took me a while to try to kick my heal out to get out of my clip on pedals (difficult when you’re tired). Then the run had maybe one tiny flat and the rest were rolling hills for 6 miles. Mind you this is all in 90 degree weather.

So looking back at that video, I understand why I walked through the transitions. That race was tough! But the question I keep on asking myself is how can I train so I don’t ever walk through transitions again? I am happy I saw that video because it really put my training into perspective. I need to train smarter and harder.

The Plan: 

  1. Train in heat – So key when I’m doing races in the summer.
  2. Include more hills
  3. Train above my lactate threshold – Training above your lactate threshold for short periods of time is the only way you are ever going to get faster.
  4. Swim in my wetsuit occasionally. (Just to make sure it works!)

[Takeaways] My First Triathlon

The Beginning 

This summer was my first time competing in a sprint distance triathlon. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t throw myself into my first triathlon with no training. I had been training for my “main” race this summer, which is still coming up. I chose an Olympic distance triathlon in July. Seeing as I singed up for the Olympic in March I had plenty of time to train and I figured why not sign up for a sprint to see if I could actually complete a race.

So I signed up for a sprint race back home in CT in June. I knew going back home to do a race would be better than trying to do a race in Boston, having only the support of  my boyfriend who has been preoccupied with studying for his CPA licence. My parents have always been the best pit crew (even though it does get stressful when they are both trying to tell me what to do.)

Training Hard

My training schedule up until that time had been swim in a pool twice a week, strength train twice a week, run twice a week, spin class then run (what I consider a Brick day) and two full days of rest. I am not trained in any of these disciplines whatsoever. I have been kind of going off of articles I find for running and my gut feeling of the mechanics of a freestyle stroke (going off of my swim team days of 4th grade where I did breast stroke….) Prior to my race I had never swam in open water. I have gone tubing and wake boarding on a lake but never ever have I put my face in ocean water and swam. This was my BIGGEST fear.

I stuck to my training schedule leading up to my race. And finally race day came. My boyfriend was able to get some time off of studying and drove me and my bike (I have named Missy…I’ll explain.) down to CT where my parents were waiting for us with a glass of wine.

Race Day 

SwimI awoke that Sunday at 4:30am. The race was scheduled to start at 6:30am so I figured  I needed a little extra time to eat breakfast and get everything organized before we headed to the race sight. I prepared my meal and was surprisingly calm. I usually can’t eat in the mornings on a big race day but that morning I could. I managed to wake my crew (aka my boyfriend, mom and dad) up at 5am. After their morning coffee routine we headed off to the race site. We arrived at 6am and headed over to the transition area. Thank goodness I had my crew because I had too much stuff to carry on my own (I tend to over pack when I travel somewhere, even to a race apparently.)

We found our way to the transition area that wasn’t too crowded but there were bikes everywhere. My dad somehow managed to get into the transition area to help my choose a spot. This proved stressful. It seemed like everyone was spacing out their race gear and bikes way too far apart. My dad tried hooking it on to a rack but one of the women there quickly snapped, “Bikes have to face in opposite directions.” and looked at us like we were stupid. Great start. But I shook off her comment. So I chose a spot on the end where I hooked my own bike, in the correct direction (thanks lady), and laid out my stuff according to the way someone next to me had their’s laid out.

I left the transition and got my numbers on my arm and leg (I felt badass) and my chip timer around my ankle. I slipped on my mothers wet suit (meant for scuba diving not triathlons) and then got really dizzy. My stomach dropped and I felt naucious. I thought it was because I didn’t fuel up properly so I ate what I could of a muffin I packed in my gym bag.

Things got worse before they got better….

The announcer came on, “Everyone head over to the swim start.” I was petrified. I couldn’t breath right and just seemed to stare out into the ocean where I knew I had to put my head in the water and swim. The first wave of men went then it was the women. I positioned myself in the back to avoid any conflict of arms and legs flying at me. The horn went off and I slowly walked into the shockingly cold water.

I do some warm up breast strokes, just as I have practiced, but I can’t seem to get to put my head under water without panicing. So I just do it. I swim to the first bouy and have three more to go until I can turn back home to safety (what I like to think of it.) After the first bouy I suddenly notice I can’t really lift my arms. I touch my zipper on my back and it’s completely down. My wetsuit flooded with water! I thought s**t I can’t swim. I managed to muster up some calmn and rational thoughts to myself. I worked out that if I flip on my back, swim, then turn on my front, swim, and alternate that way I can manage to get through the swim. And that’s what I did.

bikeI finally reached the last bouy and swam my heart out to the shore. It was hard and when I stripped off the top of my wetsuit water gushed out. Awesome. I run to the transition area to find my bike. I throw on my shorts and shoes and head out. Surely nothing can go wrong now. Wrong. About 5 mi into the ride my chip timer fell off of my ankle. Crap. I didn’t know what to do so I soldiered on. Luckly, the bike route required bikers to do two loops. I get off my bike and grab my chip timer and tie it tightly to my wrist.

I managed to stay calm and push on to the run. The run seemed to be my strong part of the race. I felt awesome and energized. I looked down at my watch and it said I was running 7:00min miles. That couldn’t be possible! I have never run so fast ever, not even in training. But I managed to PR 3mi in 21min.

I crossed the finish line with such joy and pride I couldn’t stop smiling. It turns out I finished in 1:21 and I was 3min away from finishing 3rd in my age group! That 3 minutes came from me hopping off my bike to get my chip timer! Ugh! Success seemed so close. I remember thinking to myself I can do this and I can place!

The Takeaways  

  1. Always practice with your wetsuit – I used my moms wetsuit and only swam in it once for 10 minutes. Big mistake (one I shall repeat again…read my next post). I would reccomend to test out a new wetsuit for 30min in the water to get a good idea if it’s a good fit or not.
  2. Check your chip timer – I noticed that my chip timer was really loose around my ankle when I started. That proved to be my downfall in this race (on top of the wetsuit issue). Now, I always bring tape just in case my chip timer is feeling loose.
  3. You might surprise yourself – I encourage all of my spin students to sign up for a race at least once. You never know how well you will perform and you might prove something to yourself! I proved I can run 7min/mi!

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Tri Girl