Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tomahawk Triathlon 2014

Swim: 18:51   (measured 1290 yards = 1:28/100)
T1: 3:10          (0.25 mile uphill gravel/grass run)
Bike: 56:23     (19.3mph)
T2: 1:05          (downhill gravel/grass run)
Run: 37:42      (7:35/mi)

Finish: 1:57:11
2nd overall female

After racing this inaugural event last year, there was no doubt that I'd be racing Tomahawk Triathlon again in 2014.  In fact, I even went so far as to trade a call weekend to ensure I could be there.  With my work schedule being unpredictable I'm slowly learning to be more flexible with my taper and pre-race recovery.  Friday was a great example of that, having stood in the OR all day and not leaving work until after 6:30pm.  Racing on tired legs will hopefully be beneficial when it comes time for 140.6 miles in Chattanooga in September.  Race morning was the usual - peanut butter and banana toast two hours before race start and then sips of Heed just before the swim start.  It was a cool and overcast morning with intermittent very light rain showers.

This was a time trial swim start, with the elite athletes going off first.  For the first time, I was assigned the to be the first person into the water.  It certainly felt very odd with men behind me that I knew were stellar swimmers.  The benefit, however, was perfectly clean water.  My only complaint was that the buoys were too few and spaced to be able to easily sight, especially on the return leg when it began to rain.  My garmin measure 1290 yards, and based on my time and talking to everyone after, it was definitely longer than the advertised 1000 yards.  I was disappointed when I got out of the water and saw 18 minutes on my watch, but it turned out to be the fastest female split of the day which is a first for me.

Coming out of the water, you are greeted by a quarter-mile uphill run along crushed gravel and an uneven grassy field.  I noticed instantly that it had started to rain again, but nothing too heavy.  My transition was far longer than I wanted, with extra time removing my swim skin and trying to put socks onto my wet and grassy feet.  Once again, another uphill run on uneven ground to get up to the road, where I spent a few more seconds adjusting my shoes after I realized they were too loose.  Precious time that came back to bite me at the end of the day.

The first seven miles of the bike were ugly.  The rain became heavier, I couldn't see well through my sunglasses, I was cautions on decants and curves due to the rain, and I just couldn't get into a good rhythm.  I felt like I was working far too hard and not even seeing good power to correspond to that effort.  The course is rolling hill after rolling hill with lots of turns.  Fortunately the rain stopped around mile eight and I got into a better groove.  Nutrition on the bike was 100 calories of Heed.  My bike split was 3 minutes slower this year than last year, which is incredibly frustrating when I've put so much more emphasis on the bike this season.  Hopefully I can attribute that to the rain and not my lack of bike fitness.  3rd fastest female bike split.

Back down the uneven grassy field and into transition.  This was much smoother than T1.

During my past several bricks, my legs have felt fairly dead coming off the bike, which is unusual for my usual ability to run off the bike.  Fortunately, as soon as I set off on the run, I could tell it was going to be a good day.  The 8k course is 90% off-road (80% root and rock filled dirt trails, 20% grassy fields) and a very short segment on pavement.  I paid no attention to my pace and just ran, trying to be as aggressive as possible on a highly technical path.  Just after the turn-around I saw the second place woman and guessed that she was 2-3 minutes behind me.  Not knowing how far behind she had started in the time-trial swim, I knew I had to push as hard as possible to build up a time buffer.  I continued to feel strong and am happy with my effort, although certainly slower than I know I would have been on open road.  I crossed the finish as the first female and with the 2nd fastest female run split of the day.

I stood at the finish line waiting to see when the next female would finish and was relieved when it was four minutes after me.  I thought for sure I had the overall win, but was disappointed to learn that I took 2nd by 40 seconds.  Despite having a 3.5 minute swim buffer and 2 minute run buffer, I lost it on the bike.  So frustrating when I know I am very capable of a much better performance.  Keeping it all in perspective though, it was a successful day with a 2nd overall podium finish.  Keeping with Tomahawk's tradition of awesome cash prizes and swag, I walked a way with a hefty paycheck (big by amateur triathlon standards), an Inside Out Sports gift card, and 2XU swag.

I celebrated a successful day with a refreshing glass of sangria and a barbecue lunch at Atherton Mill.  Then I used my newly won gift card and bought myself an aero helmet.  I'm sick and tired of being the only person that I'm competing with that doesn't have these things, so it's time to take some action.  Race wheels are coming up next!

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