Each time you finish a race, and learn something from it, it’s a success. No matter how you placed, what your time was, how dialed in your pacing implementation was – if you can walk away with new insights, and translate those into performance gains, it’s was a job well done. Augusta 70.3 was about putting it all together to wrap up a wonderful season. And I think I’ve finally calmed down enough since breaking the tape to be able to write down some of my thoughts! Really excited about how this race panned out, I just felt good all day long. I was able to race with some great gals who helped push me to be my best on that day. The course was great, the weather was delightful, and to top it off, I was interviewed several times after taking my second win of the season – and that was so incredibly fun because it allowed me the opportunity to give the praise to my God who is really truly the one who deserves all the credit. He just gave me the wings to fly on that day.
I want to share some of those things that I’ve done differently to improve this year, within each discipline, learning from each race…and sewing these all together at the end of my season resulted in a very happy day for me:
- Just Keep Swimming: I’ve learned that I need to improve my swim to be able to come out of the water with the leading packs, so that I can work with them on the bike rather than riding solo – it might just be 45 seconds, but it makes a massive difference and creates for an entirely different race. The race for the women working together right out of the swim, gaining drafting advantage (even though it’s 12 meters, it still allows for an advantage, physically and mentally) and an edge on everyone else – and the race for those coming out of the water separated from that pack, or from any pack, who are doomed to ride solo. It’s very different than racing as an amateur when generally you people around you to pace off of, work with, bridge the gap to, etc. So it’s not necessarily more important for me to gain time on the bike as it is to gain on the swim at this point, even if that time I gain on the swim equates to less time than I would on the bike. I have to be a better swim and I will because I have learned how important it is. So, I’m swimming more! It’s simple, really. I have increased my frequency in the pool. That may come at the sacrifice of an additional bike workout during the week, but I’m placing more priority on it. For those of you that struggle a bit with the swim, it will get better – it takes much more patience than the other disciplines, but it will improve. You’ll get there. Find a good Masters group and just put your head down and go.
- Get Uncomfortable: I find that it’s easier for me to get uncomfortable on the bike and run – in training and in racing. I’m training myself to get uncomfortable in the swim, as well. It just took realizing that – that I’m not pushing myself to the same limits in the pool. So yes, I certainly may be racing you if you are in the lane next to me! 😉 But it’s all about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. And I’m patiently watching the cruise pace creep down.
- New Gear: It’s true. In our sport, so much focus needs to be placed upon the right equipment. The wetsuit I’ve switched to mid-season has allowed me more flexibility and allows me to kick better (I’m a kicker!) and come out of the water less fatigued. I swim in the BlueSeventy Helix, and as much as I wish I could say that tweaking my stroke and raising my cadence has made all the different, a (big) piece of the swim improvement has been due to finding the right wetsuit for me.
Putting it in action: In Augusta, a few minutes after the Pro males dove off the floating dock (and pretty much took out all the pro women who were standing behind them – made for a quick heart rate spike for us!), we dove off into the Savannah River. I’ve trained to go out hard to catch feet to draft off of, and after super swimmer Haley Chura zoomed past me, I grabbed the next pair of feet to go by. I knew I was swimming with a former D1 swimmer, and with the help of a “downhill current” I pushed hard and stuck with her as long as I could. The water was calm, and fairly clear. It was actually a very fun swim! I was out of the water in 21:30, 3rd female. That’s the best I’ve come out of the water, well and obviously the fastest I’m swum for a 1.2 miler! The current is pretty substantial, and it’s a straight swim, point to point, so sighting can be minimized as well. I was looking for the last red buoy they warned us to go around before exiting, but it was basically on the land – so I’d swam too far left before having to exit right. That was the only issue – check out the swim exit the morning of the race and get a grasp on where the last buoy is! Usually they won’t put them out until race morning.
Transition: These are important! I’ve put minutes on my competition just via fast transitions! It takes practice. I’ve gone so far as to “practice” taking off my skinny jeans like they were a wetsuit the week leading up to a race 😉 Think “high knees” and that will help you get it off faster. I even found a way to hook my sunglasses on my front water bottle cage so I can put those on while I’m pedaling. There is no fluff in transition. I came out of the water in 3rd and left transition as 2nd female.
- Taking a Risk: By taking some risks throughout the year, I have learned that I can push harder on the bike without having too much of an effect on my run. It might not be appropriate to take these risks in every race, every scenario, but if you never do than you never get to realize that you placed a limit on yourself that’s preventing you from reaching your potential. Sometimes you just gotta go on that ride! Push a little harder than you think you should and see how it plays out. Our bodies are amazing, and you may surprise yourself.
- That disc: Oh boy. I found a new toy. The Zipp Super-9 Carbon Clincher was a game changer for me over the later part of the season. Like anything new to your routine, even though you look slightly nerdy, it’s a good idea to practice. The weekends prior to race day I rode with it to ensure I was confirmable on it in various weather conditions and terrain. I’ve also tried different front wheel set ups with the disc. It might not be appropriate for everyone during every race, but it’s been a great upgrade for me. Augusta was a good course for it with the rolling hills and not too many turns where you might lose speed.
- Training camps: This year I committed to doing a couple of cycling-heavy getaways. These “camps” don’t need to be long in duration – just getting a way for a few consecutive days helps tremendously. It’s leaving all the errands, social functions, work stress, etc. behind and dedicating yourself to training, recovering, and fueling that helps you gain fitness. In March I did a camp at Lake Belton, and recently did a trip to George Hincapie’s Hotel Domestique for a “ride with Hincapie” adventure. It took several weeks to really reap the benefits of this training, but by the time Augusta 70.3 rolled around, I was ready to fire on all cylinders.
Putting it all together: Augusta 70.3 bike course is great – it’s a gradual ascent for the first 17 miles with some good rollers in there, than 17-40 are hilly – nothing too steep but good rollers follower by a gradual descent with a few kickers back into town, one big loop with some wind thrown in to keep it honest. I knew I had one girl in front of me starting the bike and could barely see a little dot up ahead – Haley Chura. Head down and work. 25 miles in I made the pass and took the lead. It was the first time I led a race like that, it was fun but lonely! It’s really a mental game to stay in it every pedal stroke when no one is around you – up ahead or behind – for miles and miles. I tried to stay focused on nutrition and pacing and positive self-talk to keep the focus. I loved the ride and felt strong through T2. 2:24:13, fastest bike split.
- Get stronger on the bike: It translates to your run! A lot of this is just patience. With time you get stronger on the bike and can run better off of it. But as you improve on the bike, your run will be impacted too.
- Our ol’ friend the Dreadmill: I did a lot of treadmill training over the summer – some to avoid the crazy Texas humidity, but some to alleviate some of the hard impact from running outside and getting the chance to really dial in pacing. I’m able to push myself hard and hold it – set the pace and zone out – more easily on the treadmill than outside. So I was really pushing myself to hit some pretty tough pacing and then translating that to the outdoors. Matt (my coach, with Mile High Multisport) would have us do some very specific brick work this year too. More so than every before. Very dialed in runs off the bike. We might do 2 miles moderate, 2 miles race pace, 2 miles hard as all get out. Or 1 mile race pace, 1 mile moderate – for an hour. Or a combo workout – so 6 miles easy before hopping on the bike, then 6 miles with intensity and specificity after – kind of a sneaky way to get in another long run too! But these really prepared me to be able to run hard, strong, and confidently off the bike.
- Burn the candle: Stan Beecham, author of Elite Minds, advises that we think of ourselves as a candle. At the beginning of the race, we light the candle. The goal is to burn the candle all the way down until it begins to flicker. At the end, as you approach the finish line, be fearless. Take a risk. Let that candle burn out. Because if you want to fly, you have to risk crashing. If we get to a place where we can preserve nothing and sacrifice everything, we can then begin to break through the limits we had put upon ourselves.
Putting in Play:
The run was a blast. 2 loops up and down and up and down through town, the most spectator friendly run I’ve done. I caught a few pro males but otherwise was alone. It was quite nice to have a biker there leading me through the course. I loved that. At one turn around I must have done some awful math (not my talent!) and calculated the next couple of females to be much closer than they were, in my mind they were totally nipping at my heels so I knew I couldn’t let my foot off the gas. Once I came around the corner to the finish line, it was a sigh of relief and time to soak it all up! It’s a magical feeling, really. I’ve learned that if time allows, slow it way down, high five everyone, just eat it up because it doesn’t last long – those final yards towards the finish line can be the best ever. I hit the tape in 1st and immediately began an interview with the announcer. I was really emotional. It was my second win, with Brandon there racing too, and in probably my best shape of the whole year and with a healthy body – it just meant the world to have His blessing like that on this day. I kept looking behind me during the interview because I really did not want to take someone else’s spotlight as they finished and I swore there was someone right behind me! But no one came for over 7 minutes! I’d just won by 7 minutes?! I ran a 1:21:30 – still itching to go sub 1:20! It was an amazing day, I loved every minute and it was so great to be celebrating there with my hubby, family, and friends. And a great cherry on top of a wonderful debut season.