When I signed up for a late-September triathlon, I thought I’d be racing in brisk temperatures, and prepared myself for the worst. Instead, I got weather more akin to August: sunny and 80-plus degrees. Not that I’m complaining… I almost didn’t make it to the race at all. More on that in a sec.
Pilgrimman, a new race in Plymouth, Mass., was a late add to my race calendar. After my tri in Ashland last June, I was passively interested in doing another Olympic. Meanwhile, my friend Danielle was looking to do her first triathlon. I knew I had to be in Chicago the days before the race, but figured I could fly home Saturday night and be good to go Sunday morning. Little did I know that a disgruntled employee would set fire to the air traffic control tower outside Chicago that manages much of the midwest’s air space. My flight home Saturday night was cancelled, along with hundreds of others, and when I called United customer service they told me that all flights for Saturday were off. Instead, they booked me on a flight Sunday. I called Danielle and told her there was no way I’d be there for her first triathlon. I’m not sure who was more bummed: Danielle at the idea of racing alone, or me at the thought of missing the race.
I went back to my hotel room and saw that friends were posting about the airport on social media. A few flights were getting out. So I logged into United.com, hit manage my reservation, and found out that there were seats on a 4 p.m. nonstop flight to Boston. I rebooked myself, packed my bags, and hopped in a cab, trying not to get too excited at the prospect of making it home in time to race.
Before I knew it I had a boarding pass in my hand….
and I was on the plane. Bliss!
A celebratory margarita and the knowledge that I’d probably be up late meant I slept the whole flight back. I met Danielle at my place where we feasted on lentils, brown rice, swish chard, salmon, and ice cream before setting a 5 a.m. alarm and heading to bed.
Sunday morning went off smoothly. We were out the door at 5:45 and met our friend Scott a bit after 6.
The race was held at Myles Standish State Forest. Parking and navigating were a bit confusing, as I’d never been there before, but between Danielle’s knowledge (she’d biked the course the week before) and the event staff, we found the parking area and made our way to the race site.
After picking up our bibs, we made our way to the transition area and I showed Danielle how to get set up. As you can see in this photo from the Ashland Tri, I’m a big fan of an orderly transition area. The less thinking one had to do in transition, the better, in my opinion.
We had plenty of time before Danielle’s wave started at 9, so we took a few selflies, applied sunscreen and body glide liberally, and ate a snack.
Then we headed down to the water to watch the half-iron racers swim. Pretty soon, Danielle was lining up with her wave, ready to start her first triathlon.
The swim course was a .3-mile loop that you had to swim three times. In between each lap you had to get out of the water, run around some cones, and then start swimming again. It was a pain, but it also meant that I got to cheer for Danielle as she finished her first lap.
Shortly after Danielle came by, I lined up with my wave and got ready to start my own race.
There were only about 12 people starting in my wave, which meant a much calmer start than other races I’ve been at. I stood on the left side of the group, and had pretty clean water from the beginning. As usual, I focused on keeping my breathing and stroke steady, and this was by far the calmest I’ve felt during the swim portion of a race. I finished the first lap in about eight minutes, but man, standing up and running in the middle of a swim is tough. The loops also made it tough to tell where I was in my wave, as I wasn’t ever sure if the person I was passing was on the same lap as I was. Once we were done swimming, there was an uphill run of about 200 yards back to the transition area. Whenever I stand up afar swimming I feel light headed, and this was no exception. It was a tough run to the transition, but there were a couple girls in my age group right behind me, so I booked it. I made it out in 27:24, second in my age group. Two other women were 20 seconds behind me.
Between the run and the swim, I was a bit light headed in the transition area, and getting my wetsuit off was sort of a challenge. I ended up getting it covered in grass and dirt… oh well. I tried to focus on speed as I pulled on my shoes and helmet and hopped on the bike. I was out of there in 2:13.
The bike course was two loops of a 14-mile out and back that consisted of rolling hills. About 45 minutes after starting I ate my first Gu (15 minutes into the bike). I ate half a Clif bar 45 minutes later, and the rest about two miles from the end of the bike leg. I’d put aero bars on my bike the week before the race, but hadn’t used them before (super smart, I know). I was surprised at how easy they were to use though, and tucked in for the majority of the 28 miles. The course itself was pretty, and the rolling hills weren’t too bad, but the hairpin turns at the ends of the course were pretty annoying. You basically had to stop, turn around, and then start back up again. I felt good during the bike, and probably should have pushed it a bit more, but it was 80 degrees out and I was sort of worried about the run. I finished in 1:39:18, with an average speed of 16.9.
There was a bit of a run/walk once I got off the bike and I really wish I’d taken my shoes off so I could get through the transition area faster. I felt pretty good coming off the bike, and having things laid-out well meant that I was in and out pretty quickly. Having quick-laces would have sped things up even more. T2: 1:58.
It was 80 degrees and sunny when I got off the bike. I ran out of transition and passed a few people, which made me feel good, but a yoga class taken the day before had left me with tight hamstrings that plagued me through out the run. The course was two 3.3 mile loops with some rolling hills. I ran the first loop, and took water at every mile. At the 3.3 mile mark I had another Gu and prepared myself to do the loop all over again. Since I was pouring water over my head, I didn’t carry my phone with me, so I have no idea what my splits were, but I suspect the second loop was much slower than the first. My legs just felt like they had nothing left. Around the four-mile mark a girl in my age group passed me. I kept her in sight, and when she ran into the woods to use the bathroom I tried to put as much distance as I could between her and me. She passed me again around mile 5, and then started walking and so I passed her and again, tried to give myself a good lead. But with less than a quarter mile to go, she passed me again and I didn’t have anything left to chase her down. She beat me by 21 seconds. Run time: 1:10:53 (10:45 pace).
Danielle and Scott were waiting for me at the finish. I was so hot and tired I wanted to drop. Fortunately, someone took a photo:
Photo credit: Jacob Martin
From here, we booked it back to the pond where I submerged myself until my body temperature was back in a normal range. It might have been the best swim of my life.
My finish time was 3:21:44, fourth in my age group and 88th out of 146 athletes.
Overall, I think this race went better than my prior tris, but I clearly still have work to do. What went well:
– Nutrition: I think I’ve finally figured out my pre-race fuel needs, and have nailed my in-race nutrition. There was no point in the race where I felt like I was on the edge of bonking.
– Transitions: are definitely getting speedier.
Things I didn’t do well:
– Yoga the day before the race was a bad idea. I overdid it on my hamstrings, and they were screaming for the whole run.
Things to work on:
– Bike. My bike sped here was a mile faster than it was in Ashland, but I really need to build power on bike. 17 mph is ok, but I know I can do better.
– Bricks. I need to incorporate more of these into my workouts so my final leg is more powerful.
I’m sort of struggling with what to do now that tri season is over. I know I want to keep swimming and biking over the winter, but I haven’t completely figured out the logistics. Dark mornings mean biking is harder (probably should just get the trainer set up). Anyway, suggestions and advice are always welcome. Looking forward to doing it all again next year.