Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let's talk about race goals

I think that it is time to share my fears (oh, I mean excitement) about this coming Saturday.

As you might know this Saturday I will participate in my first ever TRIATHLON. I have always wanted to do a triathlon but never had guts to stop being a pure runner and give it a try until last December. I contacted Michelle to help me prepare for one and now here I am, around 36 hours before the event.
I am going to share my goals with you and reveal my racing strategy. If you can call it that way:) But I am going to write it down because it will help me to organize my thoughts/plan.
I am excited but also worried. But I feel prepared, kind of.
Although everyone says that triathlons are really not about time (because every course is different, and there are many outside factors one cannot control and courses are rarely measured accurately) and they are rather about how many people you can beat, I cannot help myself. I need a time goal! I need a pacing strategy!
Maybe next time (if I survive this one and if I like it) I will be more open to the “placement, not time, is important” attitude.

When I signed up for the race in February I thought that I would have almost 4 months to train. 4 months to improve my swimming efficiency so I can survive the 1500m swim, 4 months to become a decent cyclist so I can hammer 40k and 4 months to be able to run 39min in open 10k, which I was hoping to transfer into around 40min 10k in triathlon with the help of many many and many bike/run bricks.
My time goal was sub-2:20 (26min swim, 70min bike, 40min run and get out of transitions in less than 2min). Before you start laughing, let me clarify. I know that it my first ever triathlon and that that was a very ambitious goal, but I have read somewhere that people should think big. :)

Well, that went out of a window in March when my ITB started to act up. In past 2.5 months I have run a total of around 16miles, most of them in 1min increments…
However, I still think that I can do very well. My swimming and biking training went well and I will just hang on for a run.

I have had my downs and ups in swims (last week was a down week for example) but I am ready to tackle 1500m.
Most of my bike rides were good, although, well, I do not know how to evaluate my biking since bike training is different from swims and runs. But I did 20k TT in 34:18 and it was not that bad.

So my goals/plan?
Swim: There is no way to check my splits so I will just try to swim hard. I am not scared about swimming in open water and I will be wearing wetsuit, which will make me faster. The only problem might be getting off the course and zigzagging. I also should have practiced lifting my head and sighting … But I believe that I can make it in 26-27min if course is somehow accurate and if I can swim in a somehow straight line.

Bike: Well, it is a slightly hilly route. Not too bad but it is not flat. I do not expect it to be windy because if I remember correctly it is mostly in woods. We are doing two loops and the plan is to negative split the bike. I have no idea what speed I can hold on that route, but I think that I will try to be at around 34kph on average. Start the first loop at around 32.5-33 and then start picking it up after the first third. If the course is accurate and everything works out, that should give me around 70-72min split.
If I realize that 34kph is totally unreasonable then I will just do my best to catch gals in front of me.

Run: Hm…I do not know. I really have no idea. I am not trained for running, and more importantly I am not trained for running off the bike.
My plan is to try to negative split run as well. Although I am not sure whether I have ever negative splitted a running race (except for my Nice marathon). I am going to say it although people will probably laugh at me (PPC, do not laugh please. Or you can laugh but do not tell me and let me leave in my little unreasonable dream world:)). I am going to shoot for 42min finish. Honestly, I have no idea whether it is feasible or not, since I have not run for 3 months so I cannot say where my running fitness is. But more I think about it, more unreachable it seems. There is no way I can run 42min in a 10k with zero running training AND after swimming and biking before. But you know what? It is ok. At least I have some non-underachiever goal. Think big, right? So the plan is to start at 6:45-46ish and see how that goes. Hold that for 3miles (I am sure I can do it) and then TRY to pick it up in next 3 miles (I am not sure whether I can do it). I am bringing my Garmin with me. I need it! I hope that unreliable gadget will work properly.
I have done several pretty hard workouts recently (swim and bike of course) and they hurt and I feel confident that I can deal with pain. So I know that the run will be painful and I am prepared for it. At least I hope I am because it is easy to say I am ready to hurt when I am sitting in my living room doing nothing...

I just hope that my ITB survives. I know that it will be possible to run on grass instead of on a paved path so I might do that. I have not felt the ITB in past 3 weeks but that’s because I have not run a single step in past three weeks. I think that it will be ok though, 6miles is not that far. But if it starts acting up, I am going to drop out.
Well, ok, maybe I will walk to the finish. But I doubt it. I am not one of those “finishing is the accomplishment” people. I do not do races for fun, I do them for PR and racing and winning. Do not get me wrong, I have nothing against people who do races for fun, I just do not see point of spending money doing it. And I will rather DNF my first triathlon than see 3+hours finishing time when I know that that time does not represent my abilities. I DNFed my first marathon after my ITB forced me to walk because I did not want to see 4+ hours time and I am totally ok with that although some people are outraged by such a behavious.
Maybe my finish time will be 3+ hours but it will not be because my ITB started to act up, it will be because of my lack of fitness, which should not theoretically happen.

I am a very simple person, so I will keep transitions simple. T1: Get out of water, strip off my wetsuit, put sock and sneakers on, take helmet and glasses and bike and off I am. T2: I do not have biking shoes so all I have to do is rack my bike and take my helmet off. Should be easy and fast:)

So that should give me 2:20-25 finishing time.
I am sure I can hit those times if swim, bike and run were separate disciplines few days apart:) Whether I can hit those times in triathlon….we will see on Saturday.

Last year was the first year they had Olympic distance at this race. And it is pretty small race, it is early in the Michigan tri season and most people do sprint distance therefore I do not expect many women in Olympic (but who knows) so I am shooting for a podium. I am so modest, am I not:) The overall female winner last year went 2:29.57 (31:35, 1:22, 1:09.29, 1:22, 46:10). Male winner did 2:04.56 (22:38, 1:04, 1:02.39, 0:35, 38:01).
Now that I am looking at the results, I see that hardly any women swam sub-30min. And around 60% of men under age 40 swam sub-30min with only few sub-27min. I should probably make a real statistical profile but I am lazy to do that... But based on these superficial observations, maybe swim course is little long. Don’t you think? So maybe my 27min swim goal is unreasonable. Well, we will see on Saturday I guess. Maybe it is really true that I should concentrate on beating people and not on time
I know that there are many things that can go wrong. But I am really not thinking about those. I am very optimistic about having a perfect race (so unlike me, I am usually very pessimistic person).

One thing that might go wrong is wearing contacts. I have always run and biked just like that not seeing properly but I do not think that I can do that for an open water swim. I will not be able to see buoys! I have worn contacts 3 times in my life. One of those times was last week when I went swimming because I figured I should try it out. It worked well. So I hope it will be ok on Saturday and the only trouble would be getting up 15min earlier to give me enough time to put them in
I wish someone would go there with me. For different reasons. To give me a ride there because now I need to rent a car:( To give me some tips and advice since I clearly have no idea what I am doing. But I will be ok. I will figure it out, I am very independent and creative in getting me (in and) out of trouble:) Although it is usually other people who get me in trouble and then I must get myself out.
But since I have found some friends I realized how lonely I have been and now it bothers me. I wish I never went to that stupid hockey game several weeks ago! I could have been living in my nice closed world without knowing that it is fun to have friends. Now I think that it might be nice to have someone there to b*tch about weather before the race and then to share the excitement afterwards. Even my sister, who does not care at all is in Slovakia so I cannot call her and torture her by telling her about my day:( Hey Michelle, what time do you get up on Saturday mornings? :)


  1. I love your confidence and I think you can achieve your goals. Just don't get bummed if the swim ends up being long and you go over 27 min, or something happens on the bike, etc. I recently read something that I like, that count on 4 things to go wrong in a tri, and adapt; if nothing goes wrong, or 1/4 goes wrong, it's a win! Good luck!

  2. Races are GREAT places to meet new friends. I didn't know anyone when I moved to Hawaii ~6 years ago and I did all my training alone all winter... then all summer I did every local race around and made it my mission to leave with a phone number of a new friend... It is how I found all my friends that year. :)

    I think you'll do well at this race. Looking at those times/splits from last year it does NOT appear to be a 'fast' course, unless those were just not 'fast' people who were racing? But yes- that swim looks a bit longer than most, but then that was last year- maybe it's measured differently this year? Like I told you- my race last weekend was ~2 min faster in the swim- for everybody- so it was just shorter this year. You will be one of the faster women out of the water though. What was the fastest women's swim time? Shoot me the link to the results from last year and I can help you analyze them and make some predictions.

    I have to say, there will be some women who will hate you if you go win this race while wearing running shoes on the bike. Lol. BUT, I love it that you are focusing on winning. You totally should be focusing on that. 100%.

    I will be up by 5:30AM on Saturday... my time though. :) You'll be done by then and I expect a full report by the time my alarm goes off.

  3. Thanks AM! I am happy you are not laughing at my "overachiever" goals. It gives me confidence:)
    I will try not to be bummed if things do not go as planned but it will be hard.4 things to go wrong? That's a lot of things to go wrong in Oly distance!

    Michelle, you know what would be even better? Winning the race in running shoes AND running shorts...But you won't allow me to do that:)
    5:30am your time that's like 11:30am my time, right? I won't have internet access but I will send you a text message to let you know that I am alive.

    Fastest women's swim time was 24:36 and the second fastest was 29:26. These are results form this race last spring. These are results from that race but summer edition. They do the same race twice a year- spring and summer.

  4. I think you are going to do great. Just believe in yourself! Love your attitude.
    please please please let us know the details!!!