1/2 mile swim, 12.2 mile bike, 4.8 mile run
6500' elevation, Lory State Park, Fort Collins area
Despite a rough week I had a very good race. I'd been feeling somewhat apathetic leading up to the race and even race morning I lacked my normal enthusiasm but once the gun went off I had no trouble focusing on my race and putting all my effort into it. I think after a week of grieving I was happy to have something else to focus on and put my energy into.
Once again I had perfect race day conditions, mid-60's and sunny for the swim and temps. only went up to the high 60's/low 70s for the run with the ever so slight occasional breeze. That's 3 out of 3 races so far this summer with about the best conditions I could hope for. Lory in mid-August can be brutally hot, temps. in the mid-90's and no shade to speak of anywhere on the course so I was very lucky to have an unseasonably cool day.
Obligatory transition area photo.
I'm impressed with the handwriting skills of the girl who body marked me. Looks even better than those letter stamps that they use at Nationals. She spots my bike, an ancient Santa Cruz Juliana named after the legendary Juliana (Juli) Furtado, the godmother of women's mountain biking from back in the early 90's, and says, 'My friend has that bike and I can't figure it out why it says Juliana on it'. I explain that it's named after Juli Furtado and get a polite but blank stare. Sigh. Makes me feel old.
I know, I'm bored waiting for the race to start so why not take a picture of my calf? Got there at 6:19 a.m. in hopes of getting a good parking spot but still end up a ways from transition. Was there at 6:18 last year and got a great spot near transition. Anyway, race doesn't start until 8:00 so I have a lot of waiting around after getting my gear set up. The race announcer is funny this year, reminds me of the commentator in Best in Show, and he has a running commentary going until the transition area closes. He's a mountain biker and unfamiliar with triathlons and is surprised by how fancy the cars are compared to what you get at a mountain bike race. Yeah, triathlon is not a sport for the meek of wallet though you don't have to spend a lot of money. Triathletes love their fancy gear though, that's for sure, and the sport definitely attracts the horsey set.
Swim: 880 yards
Water temp. is 72 degrees and I opt for my full wetsuit rather than the sleeveless. I'm glad for my choice because it's a little chilly waiting in the water for my wave to start. I do a nice long warm-up including some builds, ie starting out slowly and building up in speed to race pace. It's such a short swim, I want to be able to start out on the fast side, something I don't normally do. I feel like I have some good swim fitness built up that I don't tap into during races so with this short race I want to break my 1:50-1:55/100 yards typical race pace.
I'm in wave 5 of 7 based on swim time and mountain bike pace rather than age group so most of us should be swimming at a similar pace. Everybody else lines up way to the right of the buoys, I'm on my own lined up right with them. I notice this a lot in races, don't know what the strategy is but I'm happy to have a straight shot and plenty of open water.
The gun goes off and though I feel like I'm going at a peppy pace everybody leaves me in the dust. What the . . .? But after a few minutes I start catching up to the crowd and passing people. The course is a simple out and back and the turn around comes so quickly I can hardly believe it. Once I'm headed back to shore I spot some groups of swimmers and try to catch up so I can draft. As it turns out, most are going too slow and I pass them and go on to the next. I finally find a pair of feet with about 1/4 of the swim to go and the person is swimming straight so I follow them into the finish. Out of the water in 15:01 (1:42/100 yards!). SO happy with that. This is slower than last year by about 21 seconds but the swim seemed short last year probably due to the water levels being so low and I'm sure this year was a faster swim for me.
Mostly goes smoothly except for my gloves again. They're too tight a fit for trying to get on during a race when my hands are wet. I've got a looser pair that I'll use for my next race. Not sure why I'm even wearing gloves for this race, don't think I usually do, guess it's force of habit. I take time to put on socks as well, got terrible blisters on my arches going sockless here a few years ago and could barely walk for a week. I think the fine loose dirt gets in my shoes and wreaks havoc despite a million layers of Body Glide and Aquaphor.
Bike: 12.2 miles (12.6 by my cyclometer 2 years in a row)
I have a loose goal of 1:10 for the bike which is over a 9 minute improvement from last year. Not sure how realistic this is, I was actually slower last year than the year before on the bike. I'm surprisingly focused this year though and I'm in a good wave for my abilities so I always have people in my sights to chase. There are years where by the second lap I've been out there on my own and it's harder to keep focus and speed when you have no one to ride with.
Passing is not such a problem either this year. I do have people from the faster waves catching me on their second lap but the race is smaller this year and I'm evenly matched with my wave mates so I don't have too many of them passing me. I do end up passing people from the slower waves but most everybody is good about it this year and I only have to stop or lose momentum once. One big lummox of a guy collides into me because he has to pass me at a spot that isn't great for passing on an uphill and he doesn't quite have the strength to do it quickly so he sort of falls into me but thankfully I don't fall over, just have to stop and put a foot down and start on the uphill from a stop but everybody else is good about it.
The hills don't feel nearly as steep this year but I'm still losing time on the tight turns slowing way down before going into them. This is a super fast course if you're good at taking tight turns at speed, something I don't normally practice all that much. Will have to add that to my 'skills to work on' list.
There are two tight, kind of steep and rocky switchbacks on the course and this year there are medics at both of them warning people. Someone got hurt on one of those switchbacks last year, I saw her lying off the trail as the medic was hiking up to get to her, so I guess this year they weren't taking chances. I rode them no problem on the pre-ride and I have to slow down and put a foot out for balance but I manage them during the race as well. The medic guy says, 'Good job' both times and I have to laugh because it isn't pretty either time but I'm happy enough to make it around even if it isn't graceful.
I finish my first lap in about 55 minutes, right on track for my 1:10 goal except I'm not sure if both laps are the same distance. All I can do is ride as hard as I can and again I'm losing time on the turns, not something I can do much about on the day. As I finish my second lap I realize I'm not quite going to make it but I can see I'm going to be close so I hit the pedals hard and drive for transition fast as I can while still handling the turns.
One of the new bridges that was re-built after the fire
I finish the bike in 1:12:14, a bit off my goal but 7:30 minutes faster than last year. Very happy with that.
Smooth and uneventful, just the way I like it. Tied for fastest in my age group. I forget to take off one glove but no big deal, I take it off while running and shove it into a pocket in my tri-suit.
There's a big hill to climb with no shade or water stations so I usually carry water but this year I feel like it's cool enough-high 60's, low 70'-that I'll be o.k. I've been doing hill repeats in the heat to prepare and it's a bit of a risk but I'm willing to take it to avoid carrying any extra weight up that hill. It's a good choice. I'm close to the top of the climb before I feel like I need water and I don't really need it, it would be nice but I can do without.
The climb is about 1 3/4 miles and steep but I run the whole thing this year. This is the sign at the start of the steep trail for the run course. It's a bit over dramatic if you ask me but I guess it's good that they warn people since it's so different from the other bike trails in the park.
Hard to convey the steepness in photos.
I push my way up the hill with 'Spanish Reds' by Banner Pilot setting a nice rhythm. Up and up and up. I keep saying to myself, 'I wonder what will happen if I go a wee bit faster?' and turn my feet over a little quicker. So many times you come around the corner and think this must be the last switchback but it never is until finally it is.
When you hit this rocky bit
and see this trail carved into the hillside to your left you know you're almost there. The top is right around the corner to the left.
And you're rewarded with some nice views of Horsetooth Reservoir.
Another view from the top.
Whee, time for the downhill. It's steepy steep with lots and lots of tight switchbacks and rocks.
I stumble on some of the rocky sections but I don't fall.
As I make my way down the switchbacks I can see people catching up to me, a few of them women and I'm not sure if any of them are in my age group. One is too old but the others? I can't tell. I realize I have to pick up the pace so I switch songs to 'Blister in the Sun' which has got to be the most perfect song ever for running fast down a steep hill. I pick up the pace, turn my feet over a bit quicker. I don't want to take my eyes off the trail to look behind me but from what I can see in my peripheral vision when I come around the switchbacks it feels like I'm losing all of the women but one.
Finally the trail evens out of bit and the downhill becomes more gradual and there's an aid station. I dump cup after cup of water over my head, down the back and front of my tri-suit and one of the awesome volunteers helps and dumps another cup over my head. I take off as the people behind me come into the aid station. I pick up the pace to put as much distance between us as I can. In the meantime I'm pushing to catch up to another woman. I'm not sure if she's in my age group but it's good to have someone up ahead to push for. Meanwhile one of the women behind me finally catches me but thankfully she's not from my age group. She says something about the yellow cows (Yellow Jerseys) on my socks, something about the guys on my ankles pushing me on and at first I misunderstand and think there's a group of people behind me but when I turn around no one else is there. I'm gaining on the other woman ahead of me and she alternates between running and walking and finally I catch her. She's not in my age group but it was good to have someone to chase and I'm nearly off the trail and to the short run on the road that takes me to the finish line. As I come around the final turn to the home stretch I pick up the pace as fast as I can go, passing a guy who gives me some encouragement and I give him a wave as well. I remember losing a placement by 5 seconds in that race earlier this season and don't want to take anything for granted so I push to the finish line with all I have even though no one else is around. It's a challenge when the waves aren't based on age group and you aren't racing head to head. I passed one person in my age group on the bike but that's the only person from my age group that I saw the whole race.
Also, my goal was to break 2 hours 30 minutes and at some point on the run I could see I wouldn't do it but I also knew I'd be close so I push to the finish line wondering if breakfast is going to make a re-appearance but thankfully I cross before it does and my time is 2:32:02. So excited about that, over 14 minutes faster than last year. My goal for the run was to break and hour and I ended up finishing the run in 1:00:32, again a bit short but almost 6 minutes faster than last year and 1:15 mins/mile faster, a huge improvement for me.
I check my results when I come in and I'm in 4th place in my age group but this is only after the bike. In the end I end up in 5th place, missing out on 4th by a mere 43 seconds. 27 of those seconds were lost in transition in T1 - stupid gloves. Oh well. I'll get 51 points towards Nationals rather than 56, shouldn't mean the difference between going and not going. I end up with way more points than I thought I would considering there were 14 people on the start list so I'm not complaining. Feeling much better now about qualifying. It will be close but as long as I get some points in my last race I should stay in the top 10 and qualify.
Finally this race has some veggie offerings at the post race festivities so I hang around and munch on a veggie burrito and some chips, watching the finishers go sliding down the giant inflatable Slip-n-Slide to the vile brown pit of doom at the end.
Photo from 2 years ago.
This year there's a gap between the finish line and the Slip-n-Slide so I slip between it and avoid the thing altogether. The race announcer even makes a joke about getting a staph infection from the Slip-n-Slide. Finally somebody else has noticed how gross it is. I like this guy more and more as the day goes on.
It's nice to be able to hang around for a bit, usually I leave right away because they don't have veggie food. Kudos to the race directors for finally providing some veggie grub.
Couldn't ask for a better day - perfect weather, beautiful race course, big improvements in the swim, bike and run and overall time. Looking forward to Xterra Buffalo Creek in 2 weeks. Phew, better rest up.
Swim: 880 yards, 15:01 swimming (1:42/100 yards)/1:22 dash up the beach for official time 16:23 (last year 14:40 mins. swimming, 2:07 dash up from beach for official time of 16:47-swim was short)
T1: 1:54 (last year, 1:56)
Mountain Bike: 12.2 miles (12.6 by my cyclometer), 1:12:14/10.1 mph (last year 12.6 miles by my cyclometer, 1:19:44:48 hrs./9.2 mph)
T2: 1:02 (last year, 1:05)
Trail Run: 4.8 miles, 1:00:32/12:07 min./mile (last year, 1:06:25 hrs./13:22 min./miles)
Mile 1: 11:40 (all uphill) (15:09 last year)
Mile 2: 16:00 (all uphill) (16:24 last year)
Mile 3: 12:26 (mix of uphill, flat and downhill) (13:08 last year)
Mile 4: 10:02 (all downhill) (10:44 last year)
Mile 4.8: 10:22 (mostly downhill, some slight uphill and flat-ish) (11:19 last year)
Total: 2:32:02 (last year, 2:46:19)
148/206 Overall (last year, 218/271 Overall)
30/59 Women (last year, 48/98 Women)
5/7 Age Group (last year, 6/10 Age Group)
Swim: 2/7 Age Group, 116/206 Overall
T1: 3/7 Age Group
Bike: 5/7 Age Group, 141/206 Overall
T2: 1/7 Age Group
Run: 4/7 Age Group, 152/206 Overall