Race Recap: US Open Triathlon

November 3, 2016

On October 16th I raced my first Olympic distance triathlon! After previously completing four sprint triathlons, I wanted to push for a new distance. This course was a 1500 meter open water swim in Lake Ray Hubbard, a 20 mile bike, and a 6 mile run. 

My mom and I drove up on Friday before the race to enjoy the weekend in Dallas. We stopped in North Park Mall on Friday night for a quick shopping trip and dinner at Maggianos. We stayed at a Holiday Inn that night. Saturday morning we headed over to the Hilton Resort on the lake to spend the day. At noon there was a Swim Clinic and there were course/transition talks throughout the afternoon. I had not been in open water to practice and let me tell you- open water racing is totally different than you think.

After grabbing my race packet, I stripped down into my swimsuit just like others around me as we prepared to swim.

While I am glad I went to the Swim Clinic, it seemed to have increased my anxiety for race day. Windy days = super choppy water. I only swam about 50 meters during the clinic as I wanted to get back to the dock and not be in the crazy waves.

Do you see the second orange buoy in this picture? That was for the sprint.. the olympic distance went out to an additional yellow buoy that was 500 meters from the dock. Freaky!!

I laid out my race set up to make sure I didn't forget anything. It was convenient to stay at the Hilton as this was the race site. I woke up at 5:30am race morning to take my bike to transition and then went back to the hotel to rest and eat breakfast (room service). The race started at 7:45am so I had plenty of time!

The swim was a hot mess. The course was triangular shaped and the olympic distance went straight out 500 meters to a yellow buoy, then we swam across 500 meters to two other yellow buoys, after this there were orange buoys to follow straight back to the swim exit.

I jumped into the water, pushed start on my Garmin, and began swimming freestyle keeping sight on the first buoy. The waves were overwhelming and I choked three times on water before going to backstroke. I backstroked another 20 meters and choked again then decided to wave down a kayaker. No way was I going to quit because of the swim but I had no idea how I would continue for another 1200 meters as I was out of breath fighting the waves. Other swimmers around me were either backstroking or breaststroking. The girl in the kayak was the sweetest. After tearfully telling her "I didn't know it would be this hard! I don't think I'll make it." She told me that even the kayakers struggled to get out on the lake. She also told me that after getting to the first buoy it would be easier going back as the waves would be going with me. All I had to do was get to the next kayak.

I repeated to myself my mantra, "you're stronger than you think." My other mantra was "pull yourself together, Sara!" I repeated these as I confidently spent 500 meters backstroking.

After the hardest part of getting out, it was definitely easier to make it back. The waves were pulling me forward and I was able to freestyle back. I unashamedly stopped at a total of four kayaks to catch my breath/calm down. During one of my stops I looked at my Garmin time that read 00:00. Dang it! I must have not pressed the start button hard enough. As I made it to the last buoy, my goggles fogged up and the sun was coming up. I yelled to the nearest swimmer "I can't see! Can I follow you back to shore??" He yelled "Yes, follow me!" and we swam together back to the swim exit.

I grabbed my bike from transition and clipped in. The bike course was two 10 mile laps. Right when I started I realized I (literally) survived the hardest part- I'm going to do this!

Around mile 7 my bike started shaking and I thought ohh shoot I'm about to lose a wheel. I pulled over to tighten the front wheel and then tried to catch back up to where I was.

There wasn't anything notable for the bike. I just kept up what felt like a comfortable pace and pushed through the miles. 

The run was four loops that included a huge hill I would have to run up four times. I tried to keep up a good pace but I also didn't have my watch to tell me what pace I was at. 
I talked to runners around me, grabbed water and gatorade at every stop, and pushed through each hill. I didn't care how slow I got up that hill I didn't want to walk. Ever.

On my last loop, I met back up with the guy who I had followed in from the swim. We talked a bit then he said he was going to take a short walking break. He had helped me finish the swim and I wanted to help him finish the run. There was no time for walk breaks and we were almost finished with a tough race. We ran in together. I convinced him to raise his hands for the big finish.

We did it!!

Before the race my goals were to finish under 3 hours and finish top 10. I finished in 3:01:51. I couldn't find the splits online for each sport. I didn't make it under three hours but I was third place in my age group. I'll take it!

This was the perfect race to end the triathlon season with! Although it was mentally tough, I finished and now I will be more confident to race more Olympic distance tri's next Spring/Summer. I look forward to racing this again next year. And I already have four more Olympic tri's planned ;)

My Next Challenge

September 7, 2016

After the Boston Marathon I wasn't even thinking about my next race. During the early summer months, running felt so hard. I was frustrated that I was not at my usual fitness level of being able to run however long I wanted.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was losing motivation. It was frustrating to not even make it three miles without having to walk. However, I stuck with it. I turned my iPod on and let the music be my only focus. Walking occasionally and running when I caught my breath. I realized I needed a goal to focus on to help me have the motivation to run. My legs didn't feel "running strong" if that makes sense so I didn't want to do any running races. After stumbling upon a triathlon team- I immediately joined. I've done a few in the past and thought "why not do some sprint tris before school starts?" In which I signed up for the triathlon teams challenge- two sprint tris in two weeks. You can read my race recaps from Tri #1 and Tri #2.

But.... with me I can't do two races and be satisfied- I have to keep racing. I became obsessed with the idea of competing in the US Open Triathlon in October of this year. The course is Olympic distance featuring an open water swim. The length of each is: 1500 meter swim, 21 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run.

This race isn't just about finishing. I am 100% competitive (can you tell?). I have a goal time in mind buuuut that is for me only and you to find out during the race recap.

A look at how I am preparing for each:
In July I began swimming twice a week long distance with the team. In the past I thought 1000 meter swims were long and on my first day at practice we swam 2600 meters and I thought it was crazy far! I was slow my first swim practice but quickly got in swimming shape as we swim 2600-3000 meters twice a week.

I got outside!! Sure, there are still some trainer rides but I try to get outside once or twice a week to get stronger on the roads. I also updated my bike- front and rear lights, rewrapped handle bars, I switched from cages to clip ins, and bought clip in shoes. I rode 16 miles with a new group last week and then rode 21 miles with my dad on a morning ride. 

My dad and I on our 21 mile bike ^^

Running and I are friends again :) I run three or four times a week depending on when I can add it in. I run anywhere from 3-8 miles. I am training more to have a fast 6 miles on race day rather than run longer. 

What my training week typically/ideally looks like:
Monday- Easy run
Tuesday- AM bike or run/PM swim
Wednesday- Run + strength train
Thursday- PM swim
Friday- Off 
Saturday- Long bike
Sunday- Run or strength train or off

Training is my outlet from the craziness of nursing school. The reading and studying never ends! Being able to keep up with training helps me stay motivated to work hard for races and also work hard in school. Of course, the week doesn't always look like this and I listen to my body first. If I am overly sore or too tired I won't push it in a workout as this won't help me. Thursday and Fridays are long clinical days. By the time Friday comes around I am exhausted. I usually let Fridays be my no homework, no training days and just relax, watch a movie, then go to bed early to get my long training day in on Saturdays. 

So where are my other goals of running a half marathon and a full marathon this year? I'm still trying to make those happen of course. But for now I am getting serious with training and looking forward to competing in a triathlon distance that I have never done before.

Race Recap: Manly Man/Strong Woman Sprint Triathlon

September 5, 2016

Fast forward the next weekend, August 27th, my racing had not taken a break. I had another sprint triathlon to compete in. I have competed in three triathlons and one duathlon and this race was my favorite of all! Although the swim was a bit hectic, the course was beautiful.

After a nine hour lecture day (hello nursing school), the last thing I felt like doing was drive 45 minutes to pick up my race packet the evening before the race. But, after debating for a few minutes I realized that I didn't feel like waking up at four in the morning to pick it up before transition closed. Soo I turned up some pop music, ate some snacks, and made the drive. I was glad I decided that as I picked up my packet full of a t-shirt, backpack, and race tattoos. This made me more excited to race!! If you know me you know one of my favorite race items is race tattoos. There is nothing that pumps me up more than that. The race tats made me look like a pro! 

Race morning I had an early wake up but the perfect pre-race meal- pancakes, fruit, and coffee. 

The emails before the race warned of a steep hill on the bike that we could only go less than 20mph down or else we would be disqualified. Biking isn't my strongest of the sports and actually makes me a little nervous. I don't ride on roads, I only do trainer rides, the only time I am on roads is during a race. I was anxious before the race- what if I flip over my handlebars down the hill? what if I exceed 20mph and get disqualified? I tried to push back the fear and only think about how exciting racing is. 

I got to transition and set up my bike but this time- no socks!! Last race they were a hassle to get my wet feet into and took more time to put on. 

Transition area ^^

Swim: 300 meters// 7:40 minutes 

The course was around a local resort which had two pools. The swim course had us start in one pool and swim in a triangle shape then we got out and walked down to the lower area/different pool to swim back and forth in lanes the rest of the way. The theme is Manly Man tri and the men started the race first. The women had to wait a little while to begin. Once we were ready they had us stall as the last men got out of the upper pool. Once I got into the water I had a fast swim at the triangle shape course. However, I was a little upset at the swim course. First, a girl in front of me told me her swim time was faster than mine and I allowed her to start first. Soon after I realized I was much faster and had to drag behind her for awhile. ** tips to others during a swim: if I tap your heel, it means move over a bit so I can pass you ** I passed her but when I moved to the lower pool there were men still finishing their swim so the lanes were very crowded. I was hoping for another fast, effortless swim but I was held up a bit more than I planned. 

After that fiasco, I headed to transition where I remembered helmet first then put on everything else. I grabbed my shoes without socks and walked out of transition to start the bike. 

Bike: 10 miles// 39:29 minutes// 15.2mph

We went out five miles then came back five miles for a total of ten. The course was super hilly and my legs were burning within the first few miles! This lady in a super cute Coeur Sports tri suit passed me going super fast. She looked awesome- legit bike, matching tri suit, etc. She was strong, fast, and looked confident as she tackled the hills. In that moment, I decided I wasn't going to let cycling be my "weak sport." The course was tough but it opened my eyes to how much work I need to put into cycling before my big race in October.

Oh and the steep hill? I shouldn't have been anxious about. I braked my way downhill to control my speed. I don't wear a watch so I just braked the whole way. The hill winded sharp downhill and at the bottom is a speed bump. When I made my way back to the hill that I would now be going up, I put my easiest gear on and saw how far I could make it up. Halfway up my heart was pounding, I was breathing hard, and I jumped off to walk up and settle back down before the run. 

Can you tell how steep it is with everyone walking bikes up??

Run: 2 miles// 16:20 minutes// 8:10 pace

My legs burned after the hilly bike and now I was beginning a hilly run. Again, I focused on passing the next person in front of me to keep up my pace. 

The course was tough but it was very well put together and featured amazing views. I did this one with my triathlon group as well and each person placed top three in their age groups! I came out with 5th overall female and 1st in my age group. I was very happy with first!

I received a mug for overall winner and a mug from my triathlon group for competing in two races in two weekends! I loved the feeling of racing again after three months of no races. A finish line is one of the most exciting things.

Race Recap: Dam '09 Sprint Triathlon

September 2, 2016

    About 1/2 of the triathlon group- it's a big/fun crowd!!

On August 20th I raced my third sprint triathlon. It has been two years since my last two triathlons and before this race I was trying to remember everything I needed for each sport- goggles, swim cap, bib belt holder, race bib, shoes, socks (which I realized are more of a hassle but more on that later), water bottle, and race timer.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I joined a triathlon team back in July and I have been training with them as we prepared for these two triathlons. I got a text from the coach the afternoon before the race saying my group tri suit had come in so I quickly stopped by her house to pick it up. I didn't try on before ordering. When I ordered I went off of a ruler measurement. I was a bit nervous about the fit since my measurements were in between sizes. I had chosen the smaller fit. Hence why I was nervous- I was afraid it would be too tight or too short on my longer torso. When I put it on I was happy it was a perfect fit!

The night before the race I had everything laid out and then it hit me- I had no idea where my race belt was. It ended up being at my sister's apartment which meant she received a lovely wake up the next morning to hand it off to me (thanks sister!).

Swim: 400 meters// 8:03 minutes

The swim was in a fifty meter pool with eight lanes. We went down a lane then crossed over to the next lane to swim back another fifty meter lane. This was very well planned as it didn't overcrowd! The swim felt effortless and ended sooner than I wanted it too.

Transition #1-- I ran walked a little ways back to transition where I first put on my helmet, then socks and shoes.

Bike: 32.47 minutes// 9 miles// 16.5 mph

The bike was a three mile loop repeated three times. The bike was quick so not much to note here. One thing of importance- I realized how weak my biking is!

Transition #2-- I didn't have clip-ins during this race so my same socks and shoes I keep on during the bike are also on during the run. By the time I went out for the run, my socks were soaked and were sloshing around.  

Run: 2 miles// 19:19 minutes// 7:43 pace

The run was out one mile then back. My legs felt heavy as I started my run. I focused on getting to the next person in front of me and so forth.

Always smiling during my favorite part :)

It was a very quick race and I wanted it to last longer. I forgot how fun triathlons are! I ended up getting second in my age group.

On to the next!!
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