For the third year in a row, I’ve trained for, started, and finish the Musselman triathlon – a 70.3 long course triathlon consisting of 1.2 mile swim, 56 (plus a little extra) mile bike, and 13.1 mile run.
Musselman 2011 is the race that changed me. I crossed the finish line elated to have come in under 5:45. I had finished the half iron distance. I was a rock star.
But then it happened.
I had missed an age group podium by one place (a lot of time, but only one place). I began to wonder why those other women beat me. Why were they faster than me?
My subconscious rang out with a crystal clear whisper – “They worked harder than you.”
From then on, my goal has to be out talented, not out worked. My progress?
Round 1 2011 - 5:37:04
Round 2 2012 - 5:14:57
Round 3 2013 - 5:01:33
Race reports don’t exist for rounds 1 and 2, but here goes the recap for Musselman 2013, round 3.
After a two week taper, my legs were itching to get their job done. I had the typical restless night of sleep pre-race with a 3:15am wake up. Pre-race ritual is a constant: wake up, drink about 12-16 oz. of water, void bladder, shower, put on comfy clothes (i.e. running shorts and t-shirt), climb on the bathroom counter and braid my hair in pigtail French braids, make smoothie, drink smoothie, grab race nutrition from fridge, and head out to a pre-packed car for a 4am departure. (Usually brush teeth fits in right after drink smoothie, but I completely missed that step this time! It was almost enough to throw the entire day off, but I rallied with a paper towel J)
We arrived at Seneca Lake State Park around 5:20am, greeted by cheery volunteers and the breaking of dawn. With a bag over my shoulder and 115 lbs. of air in my tires, I rolled to get my ink for the day – blessed to be labeled by a lovely lady with wonderful penmanship… it’s the little things that make me happy!
On to transition for a quick set up:
At 6:20 am it was time to relax and figure out what to wear. I had two outfits with me, one for a wetsuit legal race, and one for a non-wetsuit legal race.
There are two things I typically obsess about leading up to a race: the air and water temperatures. This year was no different.
I’m happy to report that this year was wetsuit legal – hurray! So I set off to don my race kit.
By 6:50, I was thoroughly lubed up with Trislide and into my wetsuit. I got the tiniest warm up in and it was off to the starting corrals to meet my nemesis: The swim.
10, 9, 8, 7… the count down began as I stood waist deep in Seneca Lake. 3, 2, 1… the cow bell was rung and off I went. I chose to do a few dolphin dives which seemed to work as I was easily leading the pack and didn’t feel like I was working very hard. After the fourth dive, I settled into my stroke and my lead was lost.
It was as good of a swim as it could have been. Flat water, plenty of room, no foggy goggles, the sun didn’t obscure my vision. I just tried to swim hard. And straight. I think I fared well for myself, but I was still slow and I went off course a few times. If I get one complaint, it’s that my swim cap was knocked partially off by another swimmer, which I found distracting and likely added a itty-bitty bit of excess drag. Let’s chalk it up to 1/100 of a second.
My 7 months of dedicated swimming was good for a Musselman swim PR – 36:11 – not the sub 35:00 I was hoping for, but it could have been worse. At least I know where I need the most work, not that I had any delusions before…
I came out of the water breathing hard and frustrated with my time, but it was time to get work done. My wetsuit hung at my waist as I stopped in front of my bike. Wetsuit off, gel flask down shirt, glasses on, helmet on… fumble with the buckle… fumble a little more, grab bike and out the shoot for a T1 time of 1:09 (which just happens to be another PR).
I ran about 10 meters past the mount line, as there were about 5 people STANDING ON IT trying to get clipped in, and had a decent mount – not quite a fly mount, but I think I managed to maintain forward motion throughout the entire process. AND I had my bike in an appropriate gear… makes all the difference! I continued to petal for 20 seconds or so and then slipped my feet into my shoes, tightened the straps and set out to make up for lost time.
The first three miles of the bike are a gradual climb that always make my legs rebel. If it wasn’t for an excess of people to chase after and pass, it would be a HUGE mental struggle. For the first twenty miles I focused on keeping my cadence up, my body relaxed, the fuel flowing, and catching the next person up the road (mainly some chick who thought she was going to pass me… we went back and forth a few times until I finally flew past her and never saw her again).
By 20 miles I was starting to worry, my lower back and hips were screaming and I was incredibly uncomfortable in the saddle. I was in so much pain I was praying for an opportunity to stand up and climb. Unfortunately, the pain started when the competitors disappeared. There were large sections of wide open road without a competitor in sight. I tried to ignore the infuriating pain and set my focus to finding some more women to pass and reminding myself that there were a lot of women behind me that were coming for me.
I had a couple of bad turns at miles 25 & 28… I’m not sure what happened, other than I took them too fast. My tires felt soft and my brakes seemed sticky which sent me wide and into a bit of a skid on both these turns. Luckily, I was still riding by myself so I had most of the road to regain control.
I was thrilled to turn up Swift Rd. around mile 33 – lots of people, the only real hill on the course, and the promise of a (mostly) down hill journey on the other side for the next 23 miles! The standing/climbing relieved the pain in my back/hips that was taking over my sensory system and having competitors to zip past offered a much needed mental rally.
Before I knew it I was headed for Samson State Park and some of the nastiest roads you’d never want to ride through on carbon. For the first time all day, I was happy to be by myself. In years past, others tend to slow down and ride three wide through the bumpy 2 miles stretch making it difficult to navigate and costing valuable time. I didn’t see anyone until the gate exiting the park came into view and I passed them as I reached it. From there it was smooth sailing. I turned into the park with 2:40:XX ticking by on my watch. I slipped out of my shoes just before the last turn, took a few more pedal strokes and prepared for the dismount. Over the mat and into the shoot I went for a Musselman bike PR – 2:42:44, 20.7 miles/hour. Again, I’d hoped to be faster, but considering the pain I was in, I was pleased to have accomplished some solid work.
I ran my bike to my transition, racked it, put on my racing belt w/ number, slid my running shoes on, dumped the helmet, sunglasses, and gel flask, and grabbed my visor and fresh gel flask. T2 came and went in 1:06 (also a PR).
Thankfully, my back was happy to be running and my hip felt just a little tight. I knew right away that the pain on the bike wasn’t going to be a factor on the run… I should say not, because like an idiot I hit the first mile marker at 6:38. "Umm, that’s too fast."
I was thrilled to see the first aid station and established my routine of shoving a cold sponge in the back of my shirt, dumping ice down the front of my shirt (where my gel flask was which kept it delightfully cold!), and grabbing two cups of water – one to drink and one to dump on my head.
Mile 2 clicked by in 14:10 and I knew I’d found my pace.
By mile 5 I was in need of a little extra cooling and opted for two cups of ice, one down the front of my shirt and the other down the front of my pants. The horror on the middle school boys face as I promptly dumped the cup of ice he handed me down my pants was priceless! Ice in my pants was an excellent decision for two reasons. For one, from that point on, I didn’t have any problems with the heat and, two, ice in my pants made me want to pee… so I did… in my pants… it was awesome. I felt better and I didn’t lose any time!
Before long I was taking the left turn onto Barracks Rd. If you’ve done the Musselman, you know what this means… a hot and sunny 110ft climb on a gravel road in the middle of a 13.1 mile run. WHAT. THE. HELL.
As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, just as I started up the hill I felt a sharp pain on the top of my foot, and then another. I reached down and flicked a bee out from under the tongue of my shoe. Last I knew I was allergic to bees. I didn’t know what to do… so I just kept running. About 10 meters later, a pain in my quad, right above my knee on the inside, made me come to an abrupt stop. My muscle had decided that it was done working. "Umm, I’m not okay with this." In another idiotic move, I pulled my heel to my butt to stretch it and immediately sent my hamstring into a crap. I quickly let my foot down, stretched my hamstring and tried to massage/shake my quad loose. It relaxed. Yes! I had a hill to concur!
I’m not sure if the bee sting directly caused my muscle crap (it was the same leg) or if it was stopping to get the bee out that made my muscles so unhappy, but outside of a little extra tightness and discomfort in my right leg, I didn’t have any noticeable issues for the remaining 6.5 miles. Thank God!
I hit mile 8 in exactly 1 hour! I was thrilled because that’s some easy math… 7:30 pace exactly! I knew the course ahead was tough with some steep down hills and a few short climbs. I tried to stay relaxed, stay cool, and stay hydrated. It was helpful to have a few guys a head of me that I could focus on chasing down.
Mile 10 was bitter sweet. Only a 5K left, but I was almost certain my goal of going sub 5 hours was lost. I wanted to pick it up, but my body revolted. Slow and steady is how I would finish.
1st Age Group
|Age group award from Knapp winery.|
Until the next tale,