Impromptu Races and My Triathlon Bucket List

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So this Parenting thing? SO much harder than I ever imagined. Henry is a MUCH happier baby than he was 8 months ago, but I've essentially been in survival mode over here. Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in life. Last week was one of those weeks. After essentially not having a day off in several weeks, I was putting the final touches on the planning for my sister's baby shower we threw her on Saturday. What possessed me to pencil in a last-minute tri into the mix? I have no idea. At the beginning of the week last week, I heard that The Land Between the Lakes Triathlon was going to be held on May 20, the day after the shower. I've always been intrigued by this race. It's a VERY early season tri for MN, it's in a town near where Steve and I grew up, and the distances are manageable for this part of the year. Since we'd be at our parents' places not far from there, I asked Steve if one or both of us should consider the race. I mentioned it to my mom, and she did her best to convince me to sign up. She wanted more Henry time Sunday morning, and she knew volunteering to keep him would buy her a few extra hours! Steve decided that racing 5 weekends in a row would be stupid, so he was just planning on cheering.

After a fun shower on Saturday followed by a few more hours of fun family time, Steve and I went to hit the hay relatively early. Henry woke up just as we were heading to bed. I fed him, and he fell back asleep. Then he woke up again 2 hours later. He still rarely sleeps through the night, but he almost always falls asleep once we feed him. I don't know if he was teething or if something else was wrong, but he wouldn't go back to sleep and wasn't consolable. It took us 2 hours to get him back to sleep. I finally did it by nursing him on the couch and rubbing his belly for 20 minutes. I hadn't registered for the race yet. My alarm clock would be going off in 4 hours, and I wondered if it was really worth it. Henry woke us up 15 minutes before our 6 AM alarm clock, and Steve convinced me that racing could be fun.

Here's my major disclaimer: I've had the best intentions for months, but I am having A LOT of trouble working some semblance of a training schedule into my life. A full time job + a baby who doesn't sleep through the night + an already early 5 AM alarm clock + a baby who doesn't reliably stay asleep once we put him to bed = not great training. The best solution I can think of is that Steve and I just need to take shifts after Henry's in bed around 8. One of us needs to stay home and get him back asleep if/when he wakes up; the other needs to get his/her butt out the door. I've been getting in a few bikes and runs during the week, but swimming just needs to take a back seat for a while. I knew that I'm not in stellar racing shape, but I told myself that if this amount of training could get me up mountains in Tennessee with my AMAZING Evotri teammates last month, I could make it through a sprint triathlon.

We arrived at the race site 80 minutes before the 9 AM start time. I was pleased to see that there was plenty of parking in the lot next to transition. The shelter was new, and there was a cute new playground next to it. We'll definitely have to bring Henry back there in a couple of years. I was signed up in no time, and as I entered transition, I realized that I was very wrong about one thing - the caliber of the racers. I had thought that a small race in a relatively small town would mean a slightly less competitive field than I'm used to. It appears that one of the first open water swim tris of the year attracts only the diehard crazies. Don't get me wrong, I very much admire having good competition, but I prefer races with a few more "green" athletes. I thrive on offering a warm smile to new racers, and I appreciate having a more "fun" rather than "fierce" atmosphere at races.

The Swim: The air was cold - around 57 degrees, and I was surprised to learn that the water was 70 degrees. I think the warm spring we've had helped. The race consisted of just over 100 athletes, so there were only 2 waves. Men were in the first wave, and the second wave was women and relays. When they sounded the starting horn, I took off for the 1/4 mile swim. Unfortunately, I was stuck behind a woman doing the side stroke and one doing the back stroke. Though I wasn't necessarily swimming faster than either of them, I was definitely sighting better, and it took some work to get past them. I was out of the water and up to T1 in 9:12 - as good as I can ask for with my current swim (non)training.

T1: I couldn't for the life of me get my wetsuit off. It was stuck on my left leg and wouldn't budge. I stood up. I sat down. I stood up again and finally managed to wiggle the leg around my chip. The rest of T1 was cake, but my time sure suffered. 2:35

The Bike: I was SO excited to be on my CD.01. I seriously love this bike. There was a 15+ mph headwind on the way out. I tucked down and got to work. The bike course was beautiful. The fields are newly planted, and there were lots of rolling hills past farms. It reminded me a lot of the Liberty course, another favorite local tri. My Joule showed my average at 15.3 mph at the halfway point. OK, time to pick this up. You're going to have a tail wind the whole way back... The tail wind was great. At one point, I ran out of gears going down a slight hill with the wind. I stopped looking down after I hit over 30 MPH. One trick that my teammate Chris taught me a couple of years ago was to increase my resistance when I feel like I'm losing a little control on the bike. It's counterintuitive when you're already going fast and feeling out of control, but it really did make a difference the times I had cross winds out there. I finished out the bike passing people left and right, and my end average was 17.4 for the 14 miles. Total time: 48:16.

T2: I knew I wouldn't be needing my arm warmers anymore. I changed shoes and was out. Total time: 1:28

The Run: I started the run feeling spent. This is usually when I start feeling great, but my (lack of) training was really starting to catch up with me. Since I'm still breastfeeding, I need so many more calories to complete a workout than I used to. I wouldn't have batted an eye doing this race without nutrition pre-baby, but I knew I'd better start sucking down some Gu if I was going to make it to the finish line. I downed a Mint Chocolate and a Mandarin. I stuck with a woman in my age group for the first 3/4 mile or so, but I could tell she had a lot more left in her tank. I hit the first mile in 9:17. Shoot. I was hoping for around 9s, and my first mile is usually one of my fastest. I ran past the band shelter in the park. It reminded me of going boating on this lake with my Grandma and Grandpa and aunts and uncles when I was young. This was the park where Steve met my extended family for the first time. The run was a mix of gravel, broken asphalt that was practically gravel again, and paved trail/road. I hit mile 2 in 9:37. I took some water at the halfway point and told myself I needed to push it. Mile 3 came in 9:33. Time to put on the squeeze. I could see the woman in my age group just up ahead, but despite finishing my last mile in 8:47, I just couldn't catch her. I booked it into the finish just as it started raining harder. I was running against that headwind again, and for a second, I wondered if I was moving at all. Total run time: 37:25 for 4 miles (an average of 9:22/mile - slower than my pre-pregnancy marathon pace).

Total race time: 1:38:53

Place: 70/97
AG: 9/11

Final thoughts:

It's really hard for me to look at all of these numbers and be OK with them. Yes there was good competition at this race, but I learned a long time ago that given my usual mid-pack status, I'm really just competing against myself out there. These numbers aren't even close to what I could have done 2 years ago. Henry's almost a year old. It's time to stop blaming the baby.

My next race is Buffalo Sprint in 2 weeks. It's a 1/4 mile swim, a 12.8 mile bike, and a 3 mile run. Let's see what I can get done before then.

This is the year for Bucket List tris. I tend to get stuck in a triathlon rut. I find races I like and stick with them. MN has a huge multisport community, though, and there are lots of races that I've thought, "That would be fun someday." Sticking with the shorter races this year will give me a chance to explore other venues. I need to post my race schedule soon. Man, I'm behind.

Would I do this race again? Absolutely. Mark Bongers and Final Stretch know how to put on a good race. The race was well run, the course is BEAUTIFUL, and the food afterward was yummy. It's a great super early season tri, and Steve and I will always have babysitting close by. As I mentioned above, though, the competition is pretty crazy.

Thanks to Steve for convincing me to get out there. Sometimes I need that lately. Sleep deprived or not, I did have fun.

Thanks to my Mom for watching Henry, especially for the last hour when he was overtired and not much fun to be around...

I'll try to make posting a more regular thing, but I can't make any promises... unless I find that there are actually 26 hours in a day :)