Last weekend I headed down to Texas to kick off my triathlon season at the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 event in Galveston. This race was originally not on my calendar, but I was feeling antsy and ready to test out my fitness so I decided to get things rolling about a month earlier than planned. I had a couple of other reasons for doing this race as well: I'm using some new gear this year and wanted to have a slightly lower key event than the US Pro Championships in St. George to try things out and blow out the cobwebs, plus I'm slated to do Ironman Texas in May and I was looking to get a hot & humid race under my belt to simulate likely race conditions in the Woodlands next month. The weather was a little cooler than I would have liked for that purpose (did I just say that?!) but overall the mission was accomplished on those fronts.
Among other things, I was testing out my new Reynolds Element disc wheel in a race for the first time.
The biggest surprise of the weekend was the announcement at the pro meeting on Friday that the water temperature was only 63 degrees, which meant that barring an unnatural rise in temps overnight it would be a wetsuit-legal swim. Last year at this race the water was a balmy 80 degrees and I believe that in the four-year history of the race it's always been a non-wetsuit swim for the pros, so I was expecting more of the same this year. Luckily I've learned from experience to ALWAYS bring both a wetsuit and speedsuit to races just in case, so I had my trusty BlueSeventy Helix on hand.
My Helix wetsuit got an unexpected maiden voyage of the season!
I've been putting in a little more time at the pool this year and it was pretty awesome to see the swim reflect that. I chose a starting spot to the far right with the idea of finding clean water and avoiding tangling up in the "washing machine" of other swimmers at the beginning of the swim. More time in the pool has translated into better speed + swim endurance and I was able to start strong with high turnover (for me at least) and a good kick then hold it pretty well for the entire 1.2 miles. I settled into the first chase pack of four girls and swam comfortably at the back of the group the whole way. This was a nice change from last season, when time after time I found myself missing the first pack and then hauling the second pack around the swim course. The other thing I'm really pleased about is that we got out of the water only about a minute down from super-swimmer (and former NCAA Div. I stud) Haley Chura, who swam 5 minutes faster than me at Ironman Arizona in November. Bonus!
The swim exit was just on the other side of the Colonel.
With the help of a quick transition (thanks to Ric Rosenkranz and my ITU training) I was able to start the bike ride in 2nd place. That was short-lived though, as the eventual winner Emma-Kate Lidbury came steaming by within the first few miles. She's a taller girl like me and at the pace she was going I honestly wasn't sure if I had just been passed by a girl or a guy. I decided it would be suicide for me to try and re-pass her to find out, so I let her go and kept my eye on the next rider up the road.
The bike course is a completely flat out-and-back affair that allows you one chance at the far turnaround to see where you are in comparison to the rest of the field. Flat may sound like it should be easy, but mentally it's a challenge to stay focused and keep the pedal to the metal, and the winds in Galveston are legendary. The weather on this day was actually relatively tame, with partly cloudy skies and winds hovering around 15mph. I liked what I saw at the turnaround---I was about 1:40 out of first, :35 behind 2nd, and had built a cushion of around 1:40 over the 4th place rider. Over the second half of the ride I was able to whittle down the space between me and the next rider up the road so we ended up entering T2 in a virtual tie; however, there were some big moves made behind us and we were passed by one other girl with just a few miles to go, and she managed to pull a large group of riders much closer than I would have liked by the start of the run.
The famous Teapot House. You can spot it along the bike course---if you're looking!
Now, if the race had just been a swim-bike I would have been in pretty good shape; however, there was still the run to tackle and (as I found out at the first turnaround about a mile into the course) there was a pack of hungry wolves right on my tail! I ended up having one of the more spectacularly dismal runs of my career. I'm annoyed with myself because I made a series of poor choices that added up to a bigger problem which I let get to me, and I mentally checked out of the race about 2 miles in. It's disappointing because the mistakes I made were elementary---neglecting to apply bodyglide to my feet, wearing a newer pair of shoes without socks for the first time in a race, trying a new sunscreen that apparently wasn't waterproof---and although the run fitness isn't superb at this point it's still better than what I displayed on Sunday. Slipping from 3rd place to 15th is not a result I'm proud of, but the good news is that it was a lower key early-season race and (hopefully!) I've gotten all the rookie mistakes out of my system! I also finished the race, and despite hobbling through the run and ending up with "hamburger feet", racing is always good training and you can learn a lot from the things that don't go smoothly. I'm actually pretty heartened by this spring fitness check and am looking forward to what the rest of the season holds. Back to the drawing board for a few more weeks of solid training, and then St. George here we come!
The run course made three circuits of Moody Gardens and its pyramids.
I would be remiss if I failed to thank the following sponsors for their support: Powerbar, Rudy Project, Reynolds, Recovery Pump, CycleOps, Fezzari, BlueSeventy, Maxxis, The Bike Shoppe, and Revolution3 Triathlon. Also, thanks to Coach KT, Hud Hopkins, and Brandon Marsh for the cheers out on course...it was great to see you all and I'm sure our paths will cross again next month at the Woodlands!