As readers of Amanda's blog may have already found out, we raced a sprint triathlon down in Denver on Saturday. Some valuable advice from Yoda came down the pipeline a couple weeks back: find a sprint triathlon, and don't spend the weekend flogging yourself with one more big weekend of training. As Yoda says, I do.
As we were heading down to the race early that morning, Amanda was taking advantage of the quiet time by taking a nap. I'm not too sure I've ever seen anyone sleep on the way to a race, and then win it. I, on the other hand, was hopped up on some of my finest home-brewed coffee, so I could not sleep. Plus, I was driving, so I chose to spend my time pondering various things and such.
Some of the things that crossed my mind were very boring and, therefore, not worth reporting on the blog. Others were less boring, so I'm going to report them on the blog.
The first thing to pop into my head was that I had never raced so close to the Hawaii Ironman before. Normally I spend the whole month of September training and resting and training and eating. And sleeping. I don't like to travel during this time, which makes doing big national-caliber triathlons a bit challenging. Having this race on my schedule was very appealing. It was something completely new for me, after having done eight Hawaii Ironmans over the past nine years.
What did that mean? It meant that I was getting the opportunity to do two races, not one, while enjoying the absolute best fitness I would achieve all year long. It was a strange realization, for some reason. I thought more about that as we pulled up to Cherry Creek State Park.
Getting out of the car, the next thing that came to mind was that I was very tired. The coffee seemed to be doing wonders for my attitude (I can't say the same for Amanda's) but my legs were a bit heavy. This would also be the first time I would do a race so soon after a couple of very long days of training. Thank goodness it was only a sprint!
After checking in, setting up, and getting body marked, AG and I headed out for our run warm ups. Amanda had her business to tend to, and I had mine. After twelve minutes of running, I returned to transition, and promptly sucked down a Motivator caffeine pill. The fact that I was completely out of breath on my warm up JOG meant I was in need of some outside assistance. Motivator is such a great little mental boost. Getting the equivalent of a shot or two of espresso was just what the doctor ordered. I felt ready to rumble.
We hit the water for a very short warm up (the water was 65 degrees, and wetsuits were encouraged); fortunately, I felt much better than on the run warm up. I figured I could fake it pretty well for a sprint.
The gun sounded (Darrin yelled "go") , and I was off like a shot. There was a lead kayak, and for the first time that I can remember, I was the swimmer directly behind it! Whoa! I noticed a couple others of the Elite wave trying to find my feet. I put my head down and swam absolutely flat out for the next 700 or so meters. Coming out of the water in first was nice, and marks only about the third or fourth time I have ever had that honor. Fun stuff.
Transition was about three miles long. Once I got to the bike, and my heart rate had found its way in to the upper 180s (I was actually counting it based on how many times I heard it beat), I took a look to see where the competition was. Someone was in transition with me, but based on the incredible distance that represented, I could not tell how close he was.
I hit the bike about as hard as I could. My instructions (advice, warning, so forth.) was not to kill myself on the ride, but to ease into a manageable pace. I didn't figure my fatigued legs had the luxury of letting anyone catch up, so I disregarded that plan and went for it. After what seemed like forever, I looked down at the computer to see that I had only covered 3.2 miles. Ouch. I kept the pressure up; I kept the rhythm going. I actually began to feel a bit better, and then we hit a small hill (very small hill). The hill informed my legs that they felt like shit; my legs argued back; the hill was behind me. Phew.
After glancing down at the computer four more times, still hoping to see that the ride was almost done, I finally hit what looked to be the final stretch. How is it that I can train for a 112-mile bike ride, and 20km feels like forever?
Just prior to that finish straight, it dawned on me that I am in incredible shape. I was plugging along at 30mph, pushing the pedals hard, legs aching, and remember how tired I really was... and it felt great.
I performed one of my smoothest dismounts ever (about three hundred meters from the transition racks). Then I ran my ass off to the racks, convinced that someone was about to catch me.
My transition was fairly slick: shoes on; helmet off; this is not Ironman, so there is nothing else to do; leave!
A 5k can be so much fun, and a 5k can be super painful. Sometimes the two coincide: fun and painful. This seemed to be the case on Saturday. I am pretty sure I was out of breath the entire run, and it became more and more evident why we train at altitude and race at sea level. I was huffing and puffing worse than in the warm up, and I was loving it.
A funny thing about me is that I never really care about my overall time in a race, and I don't so much care about the swim or bike splits. However, pretty much regardless of the race distance, race priority, race location, race t-shirt, or race course, I like to have a fast run time. My only goal while out there was to have the first number in my split read 16. I did not wear a watch, and I did not see any mile markers. All I knew was that I am in good shape, I was out of breath, and I was moving my legs quickly, so I must be running well.
It turns out that I narrowly missed my run time goal, but finishing first is a fine consolation. I waited for Amanda to finish (fifth overall), and we celebrated Team Lovato's strong day. It had been since the 2000 Couples Triathlon that Amanda and I had taken home victories on the same day. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another eight years for our next double!