Way back when he was considered by many to be something that rhymes with but is much more complimentary than the zero he is now, Lance Armstrong (well, I guess mostly Sally Jenkins, really), wrote a story in his first autobiography, “It’s not about the bike,” of a time when he sent his training data to his coach. His coach was confused, because there were two sets of data. He called Lance to tell him there was something wrong with the data. Lance replied that there was nothing wrong; he wasn’t happy with the first result, so he went and did the workout again.
Putting the doping aside for a moment, hard though it is, a story like that resonates with me. It shows the mindset of an athlete who isn’t satisfied with good-enough. I find that I’m able, in spite of everything we know now about Lance, to apply a story like that in my own experience.
And when I finished the Maryland Olympic Duathlon last month with a less-than satisfactory result (including a wipe-out during a too-fast dismount from the bike) that was eight minutes slower than my time last year, my first thought was that I wanted to do it again.
First, of course, my coach and I had a chat about possible causes. Lack of sleep (I confess to going to bed way too late most nights the week before the race) to the point that I almost fell asleep while driving the hour and 15 minutes to the race venue at 4 in the morning, work stress, and general fatigue were, we decided, the probable causes. Discussing my flying barefoot dismount, coach suggested that, because it was on a downhill, I might be better off keeping my bike shoes on and just coming to a regular stop.
So with some training adjustments and a lot more sleep, I hoped I’d have a much better result at the Maryland Women’s Sprint Duathlon, a shorter version of the Olympic, with the same 2 mile 1st leg, but just one 13-mile bike loop followed by another 2 mile run, instead of the 4 mile run at the Olympic.
Of course, things are never quite that easy. I must have been about five miles from the race site when it started pouring, hard. And by the time I got to Western Regional Park in Woodbine, MD, it was evident it had been raining for a while. Huge puddles everywhere. Not good conditions for a fast bike. I checked in and then waited out the rain in the car, as the radar said it should pass. At 6:30 (race start was 7) I took my bike over to T1. As with the Olympic Du, elites were treated to the fantastic T-BLOCKS transition blocks, instead of the racks for the rest of the field. These blocks are custom-made, featuring inserts that make them work for any size tire. Below is a video of me in T2 (moving a bit slowly having just wiped out on my dismount) using T-BLOCKS at the Olympic Du:
The rain stopped while I was setting up my bike. For some reason I couldn’t get my bike to sit upright in the blocks, and spent some time fiddling to stop it from leaning. This was precious time I didn’t have. Usually I set up so early I have tons of time, and I just wasn’t thinking. I dried off my bike one last time and left transition as we were being told to get out. I still hadn’t done my warm up. During the warm-up I realized I hadn’t lubed my shoes, and my vaseline was in transition. Too late now. I was also not wearing my sunglasses, which was one more thing I had to put on in T1. I really did not have my head in the game.
Soon enough the gun went off and I just tried to hang with the other elite women. We went through the first mile in about 6 minutes (there’s a lot of downhill) but I knew mile 2 would be slower as it has more uphill. I allowed a gap to open up as I couldn’t hold the pace, but wasn’t far behind as we entered T2. But when I got into T2 I realized I was so out of breath, it was hard to do anything. Unlike when I exit the swim, coming off a run is much more exhausting. I also had to put my bike shoes on as I’d decided it would be easier with the uphill start, as I’d had some trouble with that in the Olympic. Then I remembered that I hate running in bike shoes. I was OK on the grass, but on the road I was slipping everywhere. I would much rather have been barefoot.
The bike is 13 miles of relentless hills. My plan was to go as hard as I could. Trouble was, it was very wet, which slowed me down, and also forced me to be more careful on the turns. Whenever I could, I opened it up and pushed the pace as hard as I could. My split wasn’t anywhere near what I wanted, despite working as hard as I could. In fact, my pace was slower than for twice the distance in last month’s Olympic…Coming into the dismount I saw the 2nd place elite female heading out on the run. I got in and out of T2 as fast as possible and headed out. My legs actually felt OK and I was averaging 6:30 for the first mile, but of course the uphill was in mile 2. At the turn I saw that the first female of the age-group athletes, who had started a minute after us, was not far behind me. I really didn’t want her to pass me so I pushed up the hill as fast as I could. I tried to increase my cadence and maximize the downhills, and crank up the uphills. It was a huge relief to see the finish line in sight, although the time on the clock was several minutes slower than my goal. I placed 3rd overall and got a nice trophy, polar heart rate monitor, and pint glass. Thanks, Rip it Events!
While I’m glad I raced this course again, I feel it’s become a bit of a nemesis for me. My first time racing here, I had such a good race, and I feel I am now chasing that. I vowed not to race Ironman Raleigh 70.3 again because I knew I’d be chasing the great race I had there last year. Perhaps I need to stop chasing this one.
I have less than four weeks to the ITU World Championships. Time to get my head in the game!