Women's Triathlon , Herzliya - 6 June 2009
If there's anything I've learned in my five seasons of doing triathlons, it's that if something goes wrong during a race, it will always be the one thing you didn't think of in advance. I saw the waves and even got knocked over by one while warming up. Didn't bother me in the least. I saw the number of women who would be on the course. Took it in stride. I knew I hadn't been running enough. No big deal. I had no gels. Didn't care -- it was only a sprint. My swim cap ripped when I put it on. I figured it would hold out for the swim. No worries at all on my end. I was right not to worry about any of those things.
The swim was an out and back instead of a triangle, supposedly because of the waves. The waves weren't really that big, but a lot of newbies come to this race and I guess the race organizers just wanted to be safe. They even shortened the course a bit -- something like 675 meters instead of 750. My main mistake in the swim was not standing in the first row. I was far from the fastest swimmer present, but standing in the first row would have kept me from getting stuck behind a lot of slow swimmers. I was completely blocked in for the entire first half of the swim, I was kicked repeatedly, including one nice hard breaststroke kick to the head, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find an open spot of water. The turnaround was a real mess, but I took advantage of the mess to move over to the right and find some open space, so the swim back was much faster. I didn't even notice the waves, apart from one that hit me in the face just as I turned my head to breathe, but I heard a lot of women complaining about them and apparently, a few women even turned around and got out of the water. I've swum in much worse. The breaststrokers were a lot more deadly than the waves.
I got to the transition area and saw that there were still quite a few bikes, so I knew I'd done relatively well on the swim. In fact, it was by far my best relative placement in the race.
I hopped on my bike and almost immediately, women started passing me. At first, it didn't bother me -- I figured they were just good cyclists and slow swimmers. But it didn't stop. For the entire five laps (20 km) I was passed again and again and again. I passed a few women here and there, but this was nothing like what normally happens during a race. The bike is not only my favorite part of the race, it's also my strongest. I'd done this course four times before and I'd never been passed like that. I briefly considered that maybe I had a flat, but it didn't feel like my tires were flat and I didn't have that "bouncy" feeling that I get when there's hardly any air in one of my tires. I felt fine, I just didn't have enough strength in my legs to pedal any harder or any faster. There was some wind on one part of the course, but since it was a loop, there must have been a tailwind on the other side to balance it out. Plus, everyone was riding the same course, so why were women in running shoes and even one or two on mountain bikes passing me??? I blamed it on yesterday's yoga class. Or maybe it was last week's long ride. I really didn't know quite how slow I was going, which, in retrospect, is probably a good thing.
The bike disaster finally ended and I headed out on the run. My legs were a bit stiff at first, but they quickly loosened up. I got to the spot where I'd totally lost it last year and had started walking and I felt fine. In fact, I was passing people. I remember thinking that all the 40+-year-old women in Israel must have been doing a lot of bike training and no running. But that didn't make much sense, as I haven't been doing all that much running myself. Then I remember wondering how the run could be so easy if the bike was so hard -- maybe it wasn't the yoga after all... I passed women during the entire run. I might have been passed here and there, but nothing like what usually happens. My run time wasn't stellar, but it was faster than last year's (because I walked a large portion of the course last year). My finishing time was the slowest I have EVER done this race. Three minutes slower than last year, which was my personal worst for this race until now. I knew I'd had a decent swim and I knew I'd run faster than last year, so this was around the time I realized that those women hadn't been super fast on the bike -- I'd been super slow.
Since this is basically a race that I do for fun, I just took it all in stride. I walked around a bit with my husband who'd come to watch me today, met a bunch of people I know and then went to the transition area to get my bike. As I was walking out, I took a peek at my speedometer to see how long I'd been on the bike. Over 50 minutes -- for 20 kilometers! Even last year, exhausted after three weeks in a row of racing, I'd managed to do 43:00. My slowest time ever on this course as a brand new triathlete on a bike that was too big for me was 45:00. How on earth could I have done 50:00 (actually, it was 51:00) for 20 km?!
I looked down at my bike and that's when I saw it. At first, I thought I was imagining things, but upon closer inspection, there was no doubt. One of my brake pads was touching the rim of my front wheel. I'd ridden the whole course with my brakes rubbing up against the rim! I'd removed my front wheel to put the bike in the car, but I remembered holding the brakes closed when I put the wheel back on, so it should have been centered. Then I also remembered having this problem once before -- I can't even remember when it was, but I remember wheeling my bike into the house after bringing it home from somewhere and noticing that my front wheel wasn't centered. I took off the wheel and put it back on again when I got home, making sure that I centered it properly and held the brakes shut when closing the quick release, but as soon as I'd finished, I looked down and saw that once again, the brake pad was rubbing the rim. I can't help wondering how long I've been riding like this and if perhaps this is the reason why I've had so many crappy rides lately. (Note: I have since fixed the problem. It required taking off the wheel and actually pulling the brakes to a better position)
So there you have it -- yet another way to screw up a race. I could probably write a book by now! I'm glad this was supposed to be more of a fun day than a real racing day, as that has saved me quite a bit of disappointment, though having that bike time posted online for the world to see is a wee bit embarrassing! I figure it was kind of like riding hills, though, and that I got a good workout. In fact, maybe I've had a few good workouts like this one -- who knows how fast I'll be on the bike now!