I'd Rather Be Lucky Than Good - But I'd Love to Be Both (aka "That Chick is Metal"): Battle at Fort Desoto Race Report

Perfect races don't happen by accident; they happen by design. As long as you train well, the elements that are not under your control or in your planning - weather, race directors, clouds, injuries - all these things are tiny setbacks or minor roadblocks. While I've always said I'd rather be lucky than good, I'd definitely rather be prepared than lucky.

A month ago, I did my first tri in almost 2 years, and the swim was atrocious. It was one of the roughest of my life, and took me so long that I was the third to last person out of the water, on the bike, the run.

So, what did I do about it?

For the next 3 weeks in a row, I practiced ocean swimming. Even on a weekend trip away, I forced the B to take me swimming in the ocean.

Still, if you had told me just four short weeks ago at the second Rice & Rose Sprint Triathlon, that I'd be celebrating a 13-minute PR, a 30-minute improvement over the Rice race, and a course record at Fort DeSoto, I'd have called you this:

(That's a common loon.)

Maybe I was lucky, maybe I was good . . . I was definitely more than prepared.

I've never gone balls out before. If you've never heard the expression, it's about more than just exposing parts of the male anatomy. Balls out is when you just don't give a damn. It's when you completely let 'r rip: if you stumble, if you puke, who cares - just don't leave anything out on the course.

I've never had the guts, the chance, the training, whatever, to go balls out. But this race was only a sprint, and my next race (an Oly) wasn't until November.

So I decided that I was going to try.

I told the B, "You are required to yell "balls out" at me every time I run by."
"Because it will remind me not to hold anything back."
He refused.
"Well, then, will you make me a sign that says "balls out?"
He also refused.
"Are you afraid you'll be embarrassed?"
I took the silence as a yes.

I thought, Listen, pal. I'm embarrassing myself by squeezing my fat ass into a tri suit in public. The least you can do is carry a silly sign.

Lucky for me, someone DID make a sign for me . . . except that it was someone thousands of miles away. (B did take pictures, put up with my race-day neuroses very well, carry my crap around and drive part of the way home He is Just Not a Yeller. Or a Sign-Carrier.)

This was not the best-organized race I've ever participated in, although the goodies and offerings were quite impressive for a race this short. Transition was a wreck - some athletes had to literally go in one side and run to the other side to get to their bikes, even though they were not racked across transition. "Athena" was a category not only for women 150 pounds and over, but also women over a certain age, which I've never heard of before. The swim-in wasn't clearly marked; I found it just by following people. And a several-minute run from the shore to transition made this one of my longest T1 times ever.

But it wasn't just the RD's fault; even the athletes (the male athletes, anyway) were missing waves left and right. It was unlike anything I've ever seen.

My goal for the 400-yd swim was 15 minutes or less; given my time of around 30 for the Rice&Rose race, which was only 200yds longer, I expected 20. My goal for the 10-mile bike was 40 minutes or less, but, given my weekly rides, I expected 45. And my goal for the run was not to walk, and not to run a 15-minute mile . . . which meant under 45 minutes.

The Swim
Our swim caps looked like little fish. Fins and all. They were real silicone - and I don't care WHO thinks I'm an asshole or a braggart, I'm TOTALLY wearing this little fish cap to the pool.

Calm waters promised to make this the best swim I've had in years. I did a pre-race swim and had absolutely no trouble. No one in my wave ran into the water - partly because there were so many of us. I've never had that many people going the same speed as me. I had one lady swim with me almost the entire swim. My first concern was getting away from everyone so I wouldn't be dragged/kicked/pushed under.

Nonetheless, I felt less nervous than I have in ages. Around the first buoy I didn't feel fast, but I sure felt pleased that I wasn't being elbowed in the face. I kept reminding myself to push, push, push. I know I could have pushed harder, but I got into a good ryhthm, my breathing was solid, and my heart rate was awesome. The middle buoy came up almost immediately, then the final, and people were standing before I got a chance to blink.

As I climbed out of the water, I forced myself not to take my time as I normally would; I typically use transition as a chance to get my heart rate under control. Remember, I told myself, your heart rate can slow a little when you stop for cycling shoes. Keep it up for now and really jog it into T1. I glanced down at my watch. My heart rate monitor wasn't functioning. But the time seemed wrong, too.


I expected 20. 15 at the best. This watch is telling me 10:44.


I'm going to PR! There's no way I can't!!!!

Then I noticed the B standing by the swim-in. He he said (in a very calm voice), "You're doing good, sweetie." I just waved and yelled "Balls out!" as I ran by. I'm sure people thought I was nuts; I didn't care, as long as they knew I was fast.

Longest T1 ever. Took everyone 3-5 minutes. I noticed on my way that my heart rate wasn't registering. I was so happy about my swim time that I showed everyone my belly fat as I lifted my shirt, trying to fix my chest strap.

I failed. My heart rate didn't register again for the whole race (just like at Rice & Rose), although it had registered while warming up.

The Bike
On the way out, I felt awesome. I glanced down at my computer and saw myself going 17, 18, 19, 20, better. I passed and re-passed several women. There was a headwind, too.

So I pushed. I thought, if I can push to the point of not-puking, and keep fighting back little burps, then all I have to worry about is not passing out. Because, really, your RPE is all you have to gauge your performance when you're not using a HR monitor (like you have for years). Besides, I'm going BALLS OUT, right?

Then I reached the turnaround, and I realized that the headwind was actually a tailwind. Now, all that effort I'd spent because I thought I was fighting a headwind was wasted. People started passing me. My speed dropped. I kept thinking balls out, but 15, 16, 17 . . . I had to let off. The girl I'd passed twice passed me handily, commenting, "What great speed on this course!"


I began praying for the entrance to transition.


The B was standing there, and I heard him say "Almost there." I looked ahead and realized I still had to turn around.

FUCK! I need to PUSH!

I pushed. I rounded the last turnaround and gave the B a "peace" sign as I rode by.

I didn't puke.

I was already out of my shoes. I saw some injuries along the way; I let my heart rate fall a little (as far as I knew); glancing down again, I saw that my time was 50 on the nose.

That meant I'd done the bike in less than 40 minutes.

Holy shit.
I'm fast.

There's no way I can't PR!!!!

As I passed the B on the way out of T2, I waved again and shouted, "Balls out!!"

The Run
I'm going to PR.
I'm going to PR.
I'm going to PR.

My legs felt crampy.
I'm going to PR.

The chick behind me was doing Gus and mumbling about waiting for them to kick in.
She passed me.
I'm going to PR.

I didn't stop once to walk. At mile 1 I grabbed water and glanced down at my watch again. Even from here, if it takes me 40 minutes, I'm going to PR.

My legs feel good again.

Mile 2. Ice water. Awesome. Even from here, if it takes me 20 minutes, I'm going to PR. I held the cup until the ice melted. I sucked it down; I was really thirsty. I didn't slow or stop to drink; I shoved some ice down my bra and keep rolling.

Behind me, some other participants were saying, "Do work!" They referenced The Jersey Shore; apparently, they didn't know THAT expression has been around a lot longer. I was trying not to feel faint-y; puke-y was long behind me.

I'm going to PR.
I'm going to PR.

A tattooed, tan, muscled dude in speedos was standing at the side of the course around mile 3, cheering people on. "From this point RIGHT HERE, you only have POINT TWO miles left!" He yelled, pointing down to the ground.

I flipped him double devil-horns.

I am a rock star.

I'm going to PR.

Some people behind me said, "THAT CHICK is METAL!"

I grinned and followed someone's mom across the finish line. I let her finish first. No need to pass out - I had my PR.

The Results
I crossed the finish line in 1:35 and change. This is a full 13 minutes faster than my fastest sprint. It is a full 30 minutes faster than last month. My swim pace was 2.5/100 (my fastest ever); my bike pace was almost 18mph (my second fastest, but, in any case, my previous race pace is back), and my run pace was 14.5/mile. (WAY far from fastest ever. Could have done better there, but at least I know what I need to work on: training in higher intensities more regularly.)

Still, the overall exprience taught me a lot.

For one, I'm not afraid to go BALLS OUT anymore, at least not for a sprint. Even afterwards, I felt great. Today I don't even hurt.

Second, although the race isn't won on the swim (an expression I've always used to comfort myelf about my slow swim times), it sure is nice to set oneself up for a nice race by swimming well.

Finally, perfect races don't happen by accident; they happen by design. As long as you train well, the elements that are not under your control or in your planning - weather, race directors, clouds, injuries - all these things are tiny setbacks or minor roadblocks.

This is probably the best lesson; a lesson I can apply to anything in my life.

Tomorrow, at work, I'll kick some ass, knowing I've planned as well as I can and have to handle whatever else comes my way as it comes.

Well, and knowing I'm metal. That always helps.

2 tidbits of wizdom:

Tribrit said...

Hey Chica,
That T1 at FDS is ALWAYS long - at Escape every year everyone has at least 3 mins of running!
Great job - looked at the winning Athena time - I would have taken her on the run, hmm, and the bike!!! Roll on next year for my return to the sport!

The Original MAJ said...

I totally forgot that! I look forward to next year . . . it's going to be great to be out racing now that I know so many people and have learned so much about myself.