This time last year, I was struggling with a chronic hamstring issue that prevented me from doing almost any kind of running. After months of questions and doctor visits and MRIs and no answers and continued discomfort, I found a miracle-working massage therapist who specializes in myofascial release. On our first appointment in December, he asked me what my goals for treatment were. I said I wanted not just to be able to run a little on occasion, but to train for races again. By February, I was jogging regularly and smiling the whole way. In March, I started training for the Lakewood Valley Sprint Triathlon. I got derailed a little by bronchitis and pneumonia along the way, but training went well enough that I smashed my PR in June and felt healthy doing it. I’d made no further plans past June, taking a wait-and-see approach to make sure my aging mom body was holding up. There were some rough days in there when I didn’t get enough sleep, but otherwise, all systems were go.
I didn’t register for the BG Sprint Tri until early last week, but I committed to training a week after Lakewood. How could I give up on the chance to do a short pool swim (400m), a familiar bike route, and a flat run 10 minutes from my house? There were some hiccups and training plan alterations to accommodate vacation and Spouse’s recovery from outpatient surgery, but the additional 9 weeks of training went pretty well. Still, I didn’t really let myself set goals until a couple of weeks ago. I told Spouse on Saturday, “If I do the bike in under 50 minutes, I’ll be cookin’. If I do the run in under 30, I’ll really be cookin’.” Even those felt like very tentative goals.
Long story short: 1:29:05 total. 11:17 swim, 48:24 bike, 27:00 run. 81/176 overall, 5/9 in my age group, 100% satisfied.
I had anticipated, on the basis of my workout paces, that I could do a 9ish-minute swim, so I guess I could be disappointed in 11+. But there was more crowding and jostling than I thought there would be, and for 5 of 8 lengths, I was stuck behind a woman who was half flailing, half swimming. And swimming is just not my thing, so I’m fine with the 11+.
Transition 1 was smooth as could be, and I got out onto pavement and into a high cadence right away. I reeled in two women and one man on the main stretch out to the curvy, hilly loop. I took in another two women before the big hill, glanced down at my watch and saw 160 (higher than I intended) before I hit the big hill. I’d planned to crush the big hill standing, but decided to sit the whole way, which still had me passing one rider on the way and staying shy of my max heart rate. By the time I got to the top, I had two dudes in my sights. The course rolls for a while and I gained on the first dude on the downhills and maintain on the uphills. I’d almost caught him on one downhill when he dropped his chain on the uphill. I heard him cursing a blue streak as I passed and didn’t see him again. I passed the other guy before the massive downhill, where I flew by one much more tentative rider. I had hoped to top my peak speed down the hill (45.2mph) but only (!!!) made 40.9. I suppose that’s not bad for wet pavement and negotiating a pass. By the time I got to the bottom, I’d discovered a new pack of riders in front of me. I got passed for the first time on the long rolling hills by one dude who was the bike leg of a team, and soon after by another super-fit old guy on a tri bike, but managed to pass two other riders just as we came back onto the straight stretch home. JJ and her teenaged mini-me were waiting at the corner to capture this bit:
“Legs are dead!” I’d pushed hard the whole way but felt really good about the effort. My legs were begging to differ, but what do they know?
Transition 2 went well and I felt surprisingly controlled as I shucked the velcro off my cycling shoes, wrangled my feet into my running shoes, and snapped my race belt on. I slapped a cap on my soaking wet head and got on the trail. Two guys passed me in the first half mile and one more a little later on, but I spent the rest of the run working on catching the next person ahead of me. (This included my boss.) I’d kept a high cadence on the bike and settled into a high cadence (short stride!) pretty easily. My right shin was burning after the first mile, but when my Garmin buzzed at the 1-mile mark and I saw 8:54, I adopted a “shut up legs” strategy and began to think I might meet that 30-minute goal. There was a long-ish slow incline in mile 2 that had me chopping down my stride a bit (9:30), but mile 3 was flat, then slightly downhill, and I did my best to let ‘er rip (8:15).
It was when I made the turn back in to the park for the last half mile that I experienced a sudden sensation that I’d reached my limits. My gut flopped and I felt what I can only describe as cardio-intestinal panic. I looked down at my watch for my heart rate and saw 176. I thought my max was 175. It is not. It is, in fact, 177, which I discovered after the fact. I had enough presence of mind to notice Nuala on the left waiting to run with me, said, “Let’s go let’s go let’s go!” and she and I sprinted to the finish. I’m not sure if I was more joyful about finishing, about doing it with my girl, or meeting my whole family there. It was, quite frankly, a blur. I felt great about my effort but didn’t know how much I’d exceeded my expectations until I checked my watch a few minutes later.
I am old and slow, and I’m not as fast as I was 3 1/2 years ago, but I’m injury-free and stronger and faster than I used to be. And I found out–with a lot of consistent training–how hard I can push myself, and that I’m probably not going to die on a sprint-distance course. I don’t know what I have in me for a half marathon in November, but I’m looking forward to finding out.