Thanks to 4sport for the picture
I had planned to do the Olympic distance at this race, but two or three weeks before race day, my coach told me that he'd prefer if I did the sprint, as my running volume was way down and he felt that I'd really suffer during the 10k run. This was a bit of a disappointment (although I knew he was right), but rather than getting discouraged, I decided to choose a new goal for this race -- to break the elusive 30 kph mark on the bike and go under 40 minutes for 20 km. That was my one and only goal for the race and it was all I could think about leading up to race day.
Following some very hot days, race morning was surprisingly pleasant. The water in the Sea of Galilee was a bit cold (about 22° Celsius), but definitely not too bad. I used earplugs to prevent dizziness and I was fine. In fact, I found the cool water rather pleasant.
The swim went well, or so I thought. Leading up to the first buoy, I pretty much swam alone. I'm fairly certain I swam in a straight line, as I lifted my head often to check. Going around the buoy, I got stuck in a crowd of swimmers and it took me a minute or so to break loose and find an empty spot. For the rest of the swim, I was more or less alone. There were people swimming around me, but they weren't hitting or kicking me or swimming on top of me, which was a nice change. And I kept lifting my head to make sure I was swimming in a straight line. So imagine my amazement when I looked at my watch when I got out of the water and saw 20 minutes and change. 20 minutes?! It was only a 750 meter swim. A week earlier, I'd swum 750 meters in the pool in 16 minutes. I did this same swim last year a minute faster and I thought that was slow. I didn't have a lot of time to ponder this strange swim time, though. It was a long, uphill run to the transition area and I had to concentrate on what was coming up next -- I was about to prove that I can meet my goals.
The transition went quickly and I was off. My total time for swim plus transition (very long run to the transition area) was 24:31. I was 8/14 in my age group, 14/42 for all 40+ women and 65/172 overall in the 40+ wave (men and women). Note that I am now absolutely positive that the swim was long. Every single person I spoke to did a much slower time than usual and there is no way I could have been in the top 40% of my wave with a time like that if the swim was really the right distance.
Pretty much the only thing I remember about being on the bike was that I passed a lot of people. A few people passed me, but not too many (and quite a few of those were doing the half Ironman distance). I'm pretty sure that not a single woman passed me, apart from one that I had passed earlier and who still ended up with a slower bike time than me. At the 5 km mark, I saw just under 10 minutes on my bike computer. At the 10k mark, I was at 19 minutes. If I could keep up the pace, I was going to meet my goal.
Coming towards the end, I knew it was going to happen. I was really psyched and I started urging myself (out loud) to go harder. When I reached the dismount line, I saw 38:something. I finished with a huge smile on my face. I had done it! My bike computer read 39:26, but that included running in and out of the transition area with my bike. Even with the run in and out of the transition area, that was a 30.9 kph average. I didn't even care what happened on the run. I had done what I'd set out to do.
There was no mat at the bike dismount. Instead, it was about 200 meters into the run. My total time for the bike plus transition and the first 200 meters or so of the run was 40:29. I was 1/14 in my age group (note that I have had the fastest bike time in my age group at all three races so far this season), 4/42 for 40+ women and 50/172 overall. Last year at this same race and on the same course, I was 105/149 on the bike in the 40+ wave. Times are hard to judge, as they can vary according to weather and course conditions, but relative placement is a pretty good judge of progress, I think. From 105/149 to 50/172 in a year -- I think those results speak for themselves. I'm doing something right in my bike training. Now I need to figure out what it is so that I can use it in my swimming and running.
Back to the race... The run. Um... Yeah... Well, all I can say is that riding hard has absolutely no effect whatsoever on how I run. I run at the same pace at every single race. The problem is, I've been running at that pace for the last two years. The run wasn't any harder than usual. It was just a run. It was very frustrating, though, because I got passed a lot and unfortunately, several of the people who passed me were women in my age group. I pushed as hard as I could and ran the "entire" 5 km, but no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to get below 6 minute kilometers, or at least not at the end of a triathlon. The only exception has been the Women's Triathlon, where I ran just over 28 minutes both last year and the year before. I'm sure the course there must be short. Anyway, as I mentioned, the mat was about 200 meters or so into the course and my time for the run was 29:05. Ugh. That put me 9/14 in my age group, 20/42 for 40+ women (at least I was in the first half) and 128/172 overall.
My final time for the race was 1:34:07. I was 8/14 in my age group, 12/42 for 40+ women (yes, most of the faster women were in my age group) and 86/172 overall. Not bad, but not as good as I had hoped for although I did achieve my goal). The woman who won my age group finished in just over 4 minutes less than I did. I'm not even sure if her time was "real", as her run time seemed incredibly fast -- 20:12, which put her in 5th place overall, including all of the fast men. Since she was very slow on the swim and slower than I was on the bike, she would have had to have passed me on the run to win. I don't remember seeing her. Weird. This is the same woman, by the way, who was disqualified at the last race for only doing one loop on the bike. Second place was less than 3 1/2 minutes ahead of me. The third place woman and I came off the bike together. She finished less than 2 minutes ahead of me. I could have taken 30 seconds off my bike time (I might have started with a better mount and dismount -- I wasted a lot of time there). If I had run faster, I could have taken 15 seconds off my first transition. If I could take 15 seconds per km off my run time, that would be 2 minutes total.
It's time to start figuring out what it was that caused my dramatic improvement on the bike so that I can use it on the run. I'm getting really tired of being a "slow runner" or someone who "doesn't know how to run".
In any case, it was a fun race.