This year I went back to doing the sprint distance at the local tri in Ithaca, the Cayuga Lake Triathlon. This was my 5th time total doing this race -- my third time doing the sprint, and I had done the intermediate distance the past 2 years.
I find that every year, this race sneaks up on me. It's early in August, and August usually seems so far away...but by the end of July I realize I only have 1 week left and didn't do any of the practice things I planned on doing. This year was no different, although I wasn't that worried because the sprint distance doesn't seem that long after doing the intermediate the past 2 years.
I did not swim at all in the lake this year. There was a question if the swim would even happen in the race, due to algae blooms that are infesting Cayuga Lake and contain bacteria that can make some people very sick. We didn't know until the morning of the race if we would swim or do a 1k run instead -- but, we swam.
My swim wave didn't start until 9:40 so I had a lot of time to kill after getting my stuff set up in transition. I watched lots of my friends start and finish the swim, and chatted with people. I got into my wetsuit around 9 (first time I've had it on this year) and swam in the warm up area for a bit. I had not done any swimming or running at all since the Gillie Girl tri a few weeks ago. I felt comfortable in the water. I floated on my back for a bit, noticing how easy my legs stayed floating in the wetsuit. I wasn't nervous.
Swim - 20:02, 2:40/100
As we stood knee deep in the lake waiting for our wave to start, I noticed how hard it was to take a deep breath with the wetsuit on. It's not quite as bad when you are submerged in the water, but it's pretty tight and uncomfortable when you are not in water. Of course, since I didn't feel like I could take a deep breath, all I wanted to do was take a deep breath! I tried not to think about it and just relax. Soon enough the horn blew and we were off.
As expected, it was chaos. I was starting with all sprint females age 30-39 and all swimmers on the sprint relay teams. I had started near the front in the middle of the pack but it was so congested I couldn't really swim. I ended up bobbing/doggy paddling trying to find some space, which takes up so much more energy than just really swimming. Also, while doing that, you just get smacked in the face with waves. I swallowed a bunch of water and started coughing and thinking "wtf do I sign up for these things for?!" Every swim during a tri at some point I usually feel like I'm in survival mode, and I don't care about what time I finish in and I just want to not drown.
This chaotic/panic state lasted until the turn-around buoy. Suddenly, magically, no one was around me. I don't know how this happens. The 2nd half of the swim was great. No one was around me, I didn't have to stop at all. When I got out I estimated I was right in the middle of the pack.
I realized the past few weeks I need to structure my swim workouts more if I want to ever improve in this leg of the event. I can swim comfortably at an easy pace for a long time, but I never work on swimming at different speeds in the pool. I really should work on that so I can swim faster in the beginning of a race and get away from people instead of being clogged with others for the first half of the race.
T1 - 2:23
Slow. I had a hard time getting my wetsuit off over the giant timing chip on my ankle. Also hard getting my socks on over wet feet (even though I tried to dry them off) - and I'm not going to bike and run without socks on.
Bike - 48:00, 17.5 mph
The bike was OK. It always takes me a little bit to calm down after the swim in the lake. But, in this race you start off the bike going up a large hill, so, hard to calm down/catch your breath. I passed a lot of people and no one passed me the whole time. Although, I didn't feel like I passed many people in my age group. I passed lots of relay cyclists and 35-39 year old women but not many in my age group. Was this a good thing or bad thing?
T2 - 1:04
Run - 27:55, 9:00/mile
I was very happy to only be doing one lap of the run this year. Throughout the run I still didn't think I saw many women from my age group. When I was feeling tired I kept reminding myself that I did 2 half marathons this year!! 3 miles is not a big deal! Keep going!!
I did feel like I was running a little harder than normal, but I didn't have a watch so I didn't know for sure. Since I could not see anyone in my age group around me I was not feeling super motivated, as you are when you are trying to catch someone in front of you. It was so nice turning the corner to the finish line and knowing that I wasn't going back out for another lap! I think the intermediate race is really tough at this venue since you come so close to the finish line but aren't actually done.
I finished 4th in my age group (I think out of 15?) with a total time of 1:39:24. 4 minutes slower than the last time I did this sprint race in 2014, which is kind of disappointing. I'm blaming it mostly on the swim -- the people who placed 2nd and 3rd in my age group finished the swim 7-8 minutes faster than I did, but my total race time was only 3 minutes slower than the person in front of me. So...I can make up a little for my slower swim time on the bike, but....not enough time.
The weather was fantastic and lots of the women I bike with did very well in the race. I'm not signed up for any other events right now and it's kind of nice.