After finishing my goal 5K, it was time to start thinking about October’s Half Ironman. I had three Olympic distance tris planned leading up to it, and Tempe International was first on the list. It was only my second ever open water tri (and my first since last August). My running has been fast and consistent, but very short-distance focused. My first Olympic race was at altitude on my old bike with standard wheels in just under 2:45. My goal for this race was somewhere between 2:35 and 2:40.
2) Not having swum in open water in nine months.
I set my alarm early enough to have my normal Greek yogurt, berry, and granola breakfast and some hot, black tea. I was able roust my husband without too much effort, and we piled into the car. The route we had chosen had been coned off, so he let me and the bike off at the side of the road. I walked about a quarter of a mile, racked my bike, picked up my timing chip, and then realized that I had left the extra bag with my hydration and pre-race food in the car. I called my husband and asked him to bring it, but he was still looking for a place to park. Thankfully, I was able to get a bottle of water to empty into my aero bottle so I would at least have something to drink on the course. My bike handling skills still aren’t great, so I had planned on drinking my calories, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen. I was also worried that not being able to eat my pre-race food would lead to a serious bonk. Still, since my wave was scheduled to go off about an hour after the official start of the race, I was hopeful that I would be reunited with my food, uh husband, beforehand.
An announcement was made that the race would be wetsuit legal (the water temp was 77 degrees), and I was happy about that. I was a little concerned that I might get hot in my full suit, but I wanted the flotation benefits, so I was going to risk it. My husband found me and handed me my feed bag. Fuel time! The temperature was creeping up, and there was an announcement that the start of the race was going to be pushed back because the streets hadn’t been fully barricaded yet. On the plus side, there was ample time to use the facilities and I took advantage.
I got the bottom half of my wetsuit on, but left the top off until it was almost time to start because I wanted to stay as cool as possible. This was the fourth time I had worn it and I was able to slither in without too much difficulty. I saw my friend Paul from last year’s running camp and wished him well. He’s done some Ironmans, but today he was racing the sprint. It’s always fun when you bump into people at a race.
26:47 | 1500 meters | 1m 34s / 100 yards (This time includes some of the transition time. Actual time in the water 25:39)
Age Group: 1/14
My age group was given pink caps, and I heard the announcer call the pink group. I started to head toward the starting area, but then I realized that it was only for the sprint athletes. That could have been a major mistake… The rest of the sprint waves started one by one, then there was a break as the kayakers got into place for the Olympic swimmers. After we were called, our group had a couple of minutes to bob around in the water before the start. There weren’t a crazy amount of people in my wave, so decided to move toward the front of the group. And we were off!
The course was fairly simple; I just needed to make sure that I didn’t swim past the buoy or drift too far away. The water felt good, and I tried to swim smooth and strong, but not too fast. There was some contact, but nothing bordering on assault. As I was still on my way out, I passed some red and green caps from earlier waves, which was fun. At times I found myself going wide and had to adjust. I’m still not very good at sighting (maybe because I don’t practice…). I was able to cut close to the turnaournd buoy because it wasn’t too crowded. The water still felt cool toward the end of the swim, which was a relief. When my hands finally touched the sand, I stood and checked my watch and was happy with my time. Somehow I even ended up with the top swim time for my age group. I’ve done enough tris to know that I am not a premiere swimmer, but sometimes funny things happen with small sample sizes.
There was a long run up a hill to get to the transition area. The wetsuit came off much more easily than it had at my last open water tri. I applied some sunscreen and took off with my bike.
1:16:49 | 25 miles | 19.41 MPH
Age Group: 7/14
This was my first triathlon with my new race wheels. My Cateye hadn’t read cadence since I got them, so I spent some of the bike leg thinking of “Love in an Elevator” and its 93 BPMs. I kept in the neighborhood of 20 MPH for the first bit, which made me happy. I was also able to keep in the aero position for the most part. Still, I got passed by several cyclists, including a woman wearing polka-dot tri shorts.This led to the Polka-Dot Door (a TV show from my childhood) theme song running through my head. Thankfully, this gave way to Van Halen’s “Right Now” (another 93 BPM song) and “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States of America. Peaches sounded mighty tasty, but I had to settle for some Power Bar bites that I had put in my bento box. I was able to eat a couple of them while riding, which I had never done before (yeah, I should have practiced before race day). Small victory for me!
The course was a repeat of two loops, although they weren’t really loops. There were all kinds of turns and bridges going this way and that. It was nice seeing my husband as I wound past the underpass to start the next loop. I definitely slowed down my second time through and was passed by some more people. My cycling holds up alright in local sprint tris, but seriously lags in Olympic races. It’s definitely something that I need to work on before I do my Half Ironman this fall. I hoped that I’d be able to pass a lot of them back on the run.
I took a little extra time in T2 to re-apply sunscreen. I alse grabbed a small handheld water bottle that I had brought because of the heat.
51:24 | 6.2 miles | 8:16 min/mile
Age Group: 2/14
Ah, the run. My strongest leg. Time to reel ’em in, or so I thought. I passed a few people early on and finished my first mile in 7:51. I was feeling really good about breaking 1:40 and thought maybe I’d be right around 1:35. There was a portion of the course where we had to go down a flight of stairs, which I was not used to doing in a race, and run under the overpass. I took some water from the volunteers and it was back into the sun. Around the second mile, the wheels started to fall off. Although I had run some 13-milers the past few months, my 5K-focused training had not prepared me for the distance combined with the heat. I started to feel like I had felt in the latter miles of my last marathon. Why, why, why do you do this? I asked myself. It felt like a death-trudge. I passed some more people, but some people passed me as well. Part of the course was on dirt, which made me even slower. I just wanted it to be over. Not dead, can’t quit, not dead, can’t quit…
One thing that helped make the run bearable was the abundance of ice-cold water stops. I would have been fine without my handheld bottle at this race. The song “Fire Burning” played at one of the aid stations:
Somebody call 911!
Shawty fire burning on the dance floor
Yeah, I was burning up all right. When I had to go down the stairs again, it was a slow walk. I didn’t trust my wobbly legs. The mile splits kept getting slower and slower. I was just hoping to make it under 1:40 now. And to not walk. Boy, did I want to. Finally, the end was in sight, which meant running up a hill to the finish. I squeezed out a little more effort and finished feeling like I wanted to vomit.
I grabbed some watermelon and headed to T3 (lie down and transition from dead-tired triathlete to functional human being). When I examined my feet, I had a pretty good blister from the run. I also severely burned the back of my neck (or maybe it was wetsuit chafing?). It was a very tough race, and while I know it’s short for all of the Iron Folks out there, two-and-a-half-plus hours feels long to me.
Overall, I was pleased with my time and know that by focusing more on longer distances, I won’t fade so badly during the run. It was good enough for 2nd in my age group, although I should mention that if I had been in the age group directly above or below, I wouldn’t have placed. You just never know who is going to show up at any given race.
Final time: 2:38:48
Overall: 109 / 296
Age Group: 2 / 14