LURAY 2021- first tri POST (or in) PANDEMIC
This year, I will admit, I was NERVOUS going into the race. I didn’t train this year as I would typically- among still being mindful/semi-nursing my hamstring and hip injury, I felt like I wasn’t 100% sure the race WOULD happen, and….. maybe I’m just older and a bit more mellow?! I trained, but not my 100% committed and focused Sharon-level training!
I hadn’t swam over the summer, so I Really just got back into the pool in June. I swam 2x/week as a goal, and those were both 1500. I never went over that distance which also had me worried since I normally do more volume, PLUS more actual workouts- intervals and hard work in the pool. This summer, I really j ust swam, enjoyed, did a little pushing here and there, but… mostly… honestly… tried to get a tan!
I biked 2x/week as well. I tried to build up to doing one longer distance of 30-35 and one was shorter and more interval based- honestly even 12-15 miles sometimes, so not much bike training compared to what I typically would do. (one of these bike workouts was always a brick, if not both). (*For comparison, I used to try to bike 4-5x/week and I would definitely have a long of 50-60 miles/week).
My run was my current standard of 35 miles/week.
The week of the race made me even more nervous. I was OFF. Mentally and physically. I even looked weird, my eyes swollen/puffy, my attitude just frustrated and irritable and TIRED. TIRED TIRED TIRED.
I honestly hadn’t had a break over the summer and really needed one. Needed to not be talking so much, expending energy. I needed to somehow refill myself. The things that normally fill me weren’t even doing it- I wasn’t even going out to garden because I was in a low place. Ugh. The week of the race, I didn’t even do my taper plan because I was tired, irritated, and I wasn’t eating my normally healthy food.
I of course tried to mentally get myself into a good place and be excited for the race. I know I love going there and being in the mountains and I was hoping for the race to be a good solid day. I just didn’t want to be disappointed and feel terrible.
Race morning- we got there of course early, long dark drive. Saw a black bear ambling in the street in front of us when we were 2 miles from the park! I felt okay that morning physically and was very nervous as people were lining up for the swim. It has been so long since I”ve been in an open water swim, plus environment with others swimming so close to me. The swim began, I did start relatively at the front, even though I’m not a strong swimmer. I was wave #5 so I knew there were people to follow and I love this lake to swim in. The swim was changed from previous years to 2x the sprint distance loop instead of the typical longer loop. The first 3-4 minutes, something that has happened to me before happened again and I had to work through it: my legs felt tired. My legs are barely kicking in a triathlon, they shouldn’t feel tired- I wasn’t even going that fast or hard. So, when my legs get this weird feeling, I mentally get nervous/ think is something wrong with my body and am I going to drown. I got myself into a good self- talk saying slow down maybe just a bit, don’t let the weird leg feeling dictate anything, etc. And, when I let my breathing stay easy and relaxed, my leg feeling seemed to get better. The first buoy AS USUAL at luray- you turn the corner and BANG. You are blinded. Every year. The sun is apparently RIGHT THERE and when I say blinded, I mean literally there is nothing to see. It is as if you are IN the sun. It is very strange. There is nothing to even see. So, then you literally feel like you are swimming blind. I kind of glanced right and saw there was a line in the lake- like a rope line and was lucky to angle myself to that and that ended up bringing me in line with the buoys to follow and so this worked out PERFECTLY! The triangular course took us back almost to the beach and then we began again. I wasn’t sure how I was doing among others, but I knew I was swimming well enough for me, staying steady and strong, breathing easy, staying relaxed, and that was my whole goal. On the 2nd loop, it did have some snags with slower people that I had to go by basically pushing down on my body as I was going by, and getting pushed around a little. I had to do some kicking back, which I don’t like to do, but after being repetitively smooshed under the water by large men, I was like STOP DOING THAT. Ugh.
Happy to get to the BEACH and ON LAND!!!!
BIKE: This is never an easy course, particularly if you don’t train enough on the bike. I definitely felt my lack of bike strength. Within the first 5 miles, I was worried. My left quad/glute/low back was having an issue. It was oddly tightening up and fatiguing SO much more than my right side. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t know what it would lead to- particularly with my back and being able to stand up after the bike. I would say about halfway through, it seemed to normalize and just both sides/ full body felt sluggish and not like I was really “BIKING”…. I was just kind of trying to push pedals and survive and keep going. However, I was doing a good job mentally. I was aware that I could have been beating myself up a bit for not having done more, for how different this felt than previous times on the course, but I was doing good telling myself to stick within my means on this day and keep plugging away. That became kind of my motto. Plug away. I made sure to eat a bite of bonk breaker at mile 10-12 and then I had a block at mile 18. Water throughout. The views, as always were GLORIOUS. Glorious. The roads were narrow and always a bit scary with cars coming the other way. But the views- GLORIOUS.
The hill at the end… again… laughable. You turn the corner and it NO JOKE looks like a WALL. But… it was doable! I was trying to maintain a pace that was not going to put me over the edge for the run.
T2- was able to stand up straight right off the bike, so that was good news (stretched a few stretches in last 2 miles of bike to get my back mobile again after being hunched so much).
RUN: now here comes the gritty part. 6.2 miles, 4 segments in my head, out #1, back #1, out #2, back #2. I love breaking it up that way. First segment out, just tried to start smart. My mile time surprisingly was like 7:45ish (it also has a downhill), but I was sure happy with that, and reminded myself based on this time to not give up ever. Mile 2 included the first gravel uphill and downhill that is just so stinking hard, did it and flew by a guy on the way down the hill and that downhill gave me momentum to the turn around. On the way back, I hit mile 2 still with a real good split. This section of going BACK to the start is the most challenging. A section is really hot in the sun/ no shade cover and HILLY… I created a rule for myself that the entire way back, there would be no negative self talk or commenting- everything had to be positive. So, I was reminding myself in the heat that I was getting a tan at least. When in the shade, I was noticing how much of a difference that made. I was being thankful that my calves were doing okay and not exploding, being thankful that my GI system was not making me stop to go to the bathroom. It was all good, I was honestly so thankful to be out there with a positive attitude and not giving up.
My way out #2 I was just telling myself- you can start to push a bit more, but mostly stay steady and smooth and smart. Be aware where you are on the road/ ride the lines well. I would see some people walking and think, nope, that is not an invitation for MYSELF to follow suit. I was taking cold water at some of the stations, heed at the mile 2.5 and mile 5 stop. Also pouring cold water over my head. I had a honey stinger block at mile 2, mile 3.5 and mile 5.
The 2nd time up the gravel uphill didn’t actually seem as bad as the first, and I tried to mimic the strong downhill I had the first time. Hard to get to the turn around, but when I did, I was on my LAST SEGMENT. Even knowing this, it was hard, again- here I am on the hardest segment, body at it’s max. But I stayed strong mentally. When going through the hard heat and hill the final time, I did a funny thing that I am still laughing about, but which WAS so POWERFUL FOR ME. *who watched the women’s marathon in the Olympics with Kara Goucher commentating when Molly Siedel got gold? Kara Goucher was the most POWERFUL commentator I have ever heard and IJ loved her so much.. SO…. In my mind during this hard part of the race, I put Kara Goucher in my mind commentating on me! I said the same things she said for the Olympic marathon: “She is running focused and brave. She is trusting her training and BELIEVING IN HERSELF. She needs to stay patient. “ and I kept repeating this, and I could hear Kara Goucher and I used this to help me be brave and patient and believe in myself😊 It was honestly FUN!
Last ½ mile I was just pushing what I had, and then I got to near the finish chute and there was this SUPER TALL girl we had seen before that we were oogling over how long her legs are, Phoebe and I wondering if she may be a volleyball player. Well, I saw her in front of me and had a burst of energy to hammer it home and pass her. I wanted to make sure I made a point to phoebe that “height isn’t everything”…. (although I Know… different sport)…. But.. she did enjoy my huge effort that she saw at the end!
I finished HAPPY. I knew I did ALL that I could. I knew I had just made myself more fit by (quasi) training for the race, but also in DOING IT. I knew I made myself mentally stronger by being in the arena, showing up, being scared and doing the hard thing anyway. I am always motivated by races. It feels good to ask big things of myself, work daily, and see where it brings me. I am grateful to have had another chance to be out there in this gorgeous lake, on the beautiful country roads, and under the hot and blue beautiful sky😊