When choosing which races I was going to do this season, Black Hills was not even under consideration. But things did not go quite as planned, and after taking myself out of my A-race in August, I needed another one to look forward to; my body was craving a race. My coach suggested Black Hills--with a longer bike ride (which I've been working hard at) and a shorter run on trails (good for an injured knee), it seemed like a perfect fit for me. So I signed up, and I'm so thankful I was able to run this race.
It was a very small race, with a total of less than 200 participants in the triathlon and duathlon combined. There were 58 women, eight of which were in my age group. I seem to enjoy the smaller races because they feel more like a community and less like a crowd, and I tend to get lost in a crowd (and no, it's not because I have a greater chance of placing, though that may also be true).
With the exception of my wonderfully supportive husband, I went to the race alone, not expecting to see any familiar faces, but as it turned out I ran into a few people I recognized. There was a family there--a mom, dad, and two daughters--who belongs to the same gym I belong to. The dad and two daughters were all racing (congrats on finishing your first olympic triathlon, Lindsey!). There was also a Team FASTT teammate who decided last minute to run in a relay. Their relay team was called Kick-Ass Moms, and they really kicked ass by taking first place in the relay division.
Aside from my very first triathlon, I've always worn a heart rate monitor (HRM) to gauge my pace. It's a really helpful tool, especially when training. This race, however, I did not wear one because mine had stopped working and I never got one to replace it. Furthermore, my bike does not yet have a spedometer, and I don't even own a watch. So I ran this race without any gadgets or gizmos, and it was kind of freeing. I know that there are many benefits to using such gadgets--they can encourage us to go faster, but sometimes they can also become a good excuse to go slower. Either way, I was able to focus more on having fun and doing my best without the distraction of numbers. Besides, after training so long with a HRM, I had a good sense of my zones by perceived exertion.
During the swim, I felt great. In the beginning, one swimmer unintentionally zig-zagged her way across my path (she even apologized). I eventually swam around her, and caught up to the white-cap swimmers in the group ahead of me that had started five minutes before my group. I even felt that gliding feeling you're suppose to feel when swimming in the water, thanks to a master's swim class I went to where I was the only one who showed up--the swim instructor worked with me for an entire hour just on my swim technique. It was just what I needed, and seems to have paid off already. I finished the 3/4-mile swim in 19:15.
At the end of the bike course, I got to test out my new transition technique, where I take my feet out of my shoes while on the bike and dismount bare-footed without stopping to get off. My husband caught it on video using our camera, and maybe I'll put it up on this blog if I can figure out how....
My stomach felt a little uneasy as I began the run course, which is often where people feel sick. There's something abrupt about running right after being in the aero position on the bike for so long. But I finally adjusted, and then my knee started to hurt, as expected (it started hurting after a marathon in June). I had decided that I would push through the pain for this race and then let it heal during the off-season. It was a little frustrating because I knew I could have run faster if it wasn't hurting. But I went as fast as I could, sprinting especially hard at the end. I had a lot of energy left because the run was actually a bit shorter than advertised (I highly doubt I ran five miles in 32 minutes on trails with a hurting knee). I'm assuming it was closer to four miles.
I finished strong at 2:21:41, which placed me first in my age group, and third overall. I was very inspired by the woman who placed first overall--she went up to claim her award holding a 3 1/2 month old baby in her arms. So it is possible to do triathlons while raising young kids...not that I've been thinking about that or anything.
So, the Black Hills triathlon was a great way to end the racing season. And as autumn approaches and the leaves begin to change, I am looking forward to the off-season training and what lies ahead. If there is anything I learned this year (besides triathlon technique), it is that "in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). God will guide our steps and enable us to run the race marked out for us, which may be a different course than the one we had originally planned. It isn't always easy, but it is always worth it in the end.