The night before the Frank Dunn Triathlon my sweetie asked me why I kept calling it a “training day.” I explained that it’s because it wasn’t a race. It wasn’t a race with myself or anyone else. My expectations were so low I literally just wanted to get it done. Since I haven’t done any races in three years it felt like I was starting all over.
In the spirit of starting over, this was my first long brick workout. Here’s how it went.
There was some stress a couple of days before and I had been having a tough couple of weeks before that. I ended up coming to Waskesiu the day before with just me and the dogs. We set up camp and did some biking and running.
I was extremely proud of myself for fixing my front brakes all by myself! It has been giving me trouble for weeks and I kept putting off fixing it. I tried to fix it at the campsite but the mosquitoes were so bad that I had to get out of there. I rode my bike into town with the front brake rubbing the whole way. I fixed my brakes in the mosquito-free town and cruised on back to the campsite.
The evening went by quickly and we went to bed early. I had a restless night, which is extremely unusual for me. I have a trick about tent camping before a triathlon: I put my morning clothes (triathlon kit and morning warm clothes) INSIDE my mummy bag so that when I wake up in the morning I can get dressed before I get out into the cold morning air.
The dogs and I got up at 5am, went for a walk-run, and we all ate and drank lots of water. My bag was packed the night before and I was uber prepared. It made the morning go really smoothly and I biked down to the race around 6:15 and was the first one to transition at 6:30. I got my transition area ready, chatted with my training buddy and triathlon friends, and put in my headphones and listened to Tallest Man on Earth to calm my nerves. The lake was extremely choppy and I was worried it would be very cold. The biggest concern were the white caps and the large swells. For my IM Coeur d’Alene friends, it was similar to the swim this year in terms of chop, but way warmer!
It was good to be there early to make sure that I was all set. I absolutely despise being rushed before a triathlon. There have been years where I have been so stressed about being short on time that I didn’t have time to calm down. I must make my note to self that I need to be there at least an hour before a race (or in this case, a long training day with many others) starts.
As I said before the water was choppy. I wasn’t sure about getting in for a warm-up, but decided to get in and try out sighting. I’m glad that I did because it helped me realize that it would be a tough swim, but doable. Plus the water was really warm so that was nice. I wasn’t freezing when I got out to wait for the horn. When the horn sounded it was a typical choppy-water, mass-start swim: everyone’s arms were trying to find the water over top of the waves and each other. It didn’t take long, though, for things to settle down and by the first buoy there was almost no hitting, except for that one person that was doing the backstroke and was all over the place. Why is there always that one person that does this? Is it the same person in every race? Or maybe there is a memo to one person in a race that says, “You must do the backstroke in order to create unnecessary chaos… or else!”
It was a two-loop swim and it really was fine. I knew I was slower than I have been in the past, but I was steady and I found my rhythm. I swallowed lots of water, but figured it just helped to keep me hydrated. Sighting actually didn’t go too bad. For this “race” and the one I did a few weeks ago, I really hugged the line to the buoys. It’s not that I made a conscious decision to do that, but it happened both times so I guess this is my new thing. It’s a heck of a lot better than going wide. I hate going wide, which I used to do all the time. There were a couple of points where I was almost too inside the buoy line, but I sorted it out quickly each time.
Time – 3:47
I got out of the water around 40 minutes, which wasn’t too bad considering the chop. I noticed my training buddy still in transition and was excited that I kept up with him. He got on the bike right away and I knew that would be the last time I caught up to him. I told him the day before that if he didn’t beat me he should be very ashamed of himself. He laughed and reminded me that he’s almost 70 years old! It is extremely obvious that fitness trumps age. So now it’s confirmed in case we didn’t already know that. I definitely know what I aspire to. Next year I’ll try to give him a good race.
Anyway, back to transition. It went a lot smoother than the one a few weeks ago. It’s all because of the timing chip being under the wet suit. There was a guy at the last race making us put our chip on the outside of our wetsuits and it created havoc when I tried to take off my wetsuit. This time was smooth sailing. The one thing that sucked was realizing that my neck was chaffed from forgetting to put body glide on before I put on my wetsuit. Ouch. A good reminder.
Time – 2:29:18
This bike course is absolutely beautiful! It is a two-loop course through the beautiful forest of northern Saskatchewan. I saw elk and birds. It was beautiful. I also saw many many people passing me. I tried not to let it phase me and just focused on my spinning and nutrition. I didn’t have enough gels so I bought some Clif Shots the day before and thought I’d give them a go. They weren’t bad, but I really don’t like chewing on the race course. My jaw is too tight. Gels don’t sit entirely well in my stomach, but they are better than chewing. To be perfectly honest I have yet to do a long training day without feeling kind of sick to my stomach at least a little. For me, on this training day, my stomach was actually pretty good. I was not stressed about it because I knew the course well enough to know where the bathrooms are. I was lucky enough that didn’t have to go until I was almost done the run.
The second lap of the bike things started to go downhill and became pretty brutal for me. I was so exhausted. Actually, fatigued is probably a better word. There was a point where I wanted to put my bike down and have a nap. I felt utterly spent. So I took a gel and kept going. The last time I felt like that was during Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2009, but in that triathlon I was also extremely dizzy and shaky. This one wasn’t like that. I drank some of my Gatorade and took another gel and pushed through what was probably mental fatigue.
Time – 2:02
T2 is always pretty uneventful and I’m happy to report that this one was no different. I have no idea how it took 2 minutes, but it did. Moving on.
Time – 1:43:31
The longest run I’ve done since 2012 was probably 5km, which I did a few weeks ago in the sprint tri I did. I went into this training day knowing perfectly well that the 13km run was going to be a major problem. To put it in perspective three years ago I ran 18km in 1:53 and my average half marathon time is 2:30. All things considered this run-walk didn’t go so badly, just very very slooooooowly.
During the first few km of the run I ran with a wonderful woman named Carla. She went ahead when I stopped to wait at the bathroom (and ended up leaving without going because the person inside NOT RACING was taking forever) so I held it until I came back, about 10km later. Anyway, I ran-walked by myself with a nice little rhythm: 2 minutes running, 3 minutes walking. I did this until my watch turned past 1 hour when I lost my seconds count. It didn’t occur to me to use my wrist watch instead of my Garmin, but it didn’t. Instead of going in my 2:3, I would run to a spot and then walk to a spot. I have no idea what the times were, but it worked so that I actually did some running instead of walking the whole time. My hip flexors were the most sore of it all. On the way back I chatted with Alvin, the guy who photo bombed Carla and me on the run. He was cramping pretty badly. I was mildly uncomfortable. When I came to the last km I didn’t even have any kick left. I ran through the end and was happy just to make it.
What surprised me the most was that my knee didn’t hurt! This is huge for me. The day before my knees were sore even just walking. I really didn’t know if I’d even be able to run at all. I was extremely surprised and excited that they didn’t hurt. Prior to the race I did some strides and IT band stretches. The night before I rolled out my IT band on my foam roller. Maybe it all worked together to result in a knee-pain-free run. It was great, actually.
My final time was 4:59:07, a personal worst for me on this course. However, considering my fitness level and personal changes over the last few years, I consider this a very successful training day! There is no way I would have done a day like that on my own, so it was great to have 180 training buddies out there on the course, as well as the spectators who help keep us athletes going. It was absolutely a great benchmark for me to know my fitness level.
Post-Training Day Thoughts:
The most important lesson I learned from this experience is that I have the aerobic capacity to do more, I am able to breathe through all of the tough stuff. The part that is NOT there is my muscular endurance. What I need to do is bike and run more. The fact that my knee didn’t hurt on the run gives me hope for running injury-free if I take proper care of myself. I need to strengthen, strengthen, strengthen. I need to do core, core core. I need to do intervals and hills. I have 8 weeks to increase my fitness to do the Silverman 70.3. I am certain that once I get into training consistently my fitness level will increase quickly. Let the training continue!