Karen’s GWN Race Report
(aka: Great White North: the race where you get wetter on the bike than you do in the swim!)
Today I participated in the Great White North, my very first ½ IM and my goal race for this year. In a word, today was FUN! I never thought I’d be using that word to describe the race, especially after how absolutely terrified I was on the beach waiting for it to start, and after reading all the race rules and infractions that can get you disqualified (I mean, what is fun about having to do “the lap of shame” or reporting to the “penalty box”?)
In a nutshell, the swim was wet and crowded and long and quite scary at first. The bike was pretty slow due to all the rain but still fun, the run was also long but with so many people around and aid stations, wasn’t too bad. Instead of going into detail about the details of the race, I thought I’d instead share with you what I have learned from this experience, a compilation of advice from various people. I call it:
Lessons for a Successful Triathlon:
1. Get support from your coach, family and friends – I made his rule up. A) I could not have done this without such awesome coaching, Thanks Todd! (and thanks Mary for the extra swim classes!) Going faster than race pace during training made today totally manageable. B) My amazing husband has had dinner on the table for me every day for over 5 months, and was with me on most of my rides as well as some of my swims and runs (although the early morning indoor spinning in the basement with him wearing slippers and a robe could count more as an entertaining distraction than a training partner). C) My friends really came through for me, supporting and cheering me on, and I especially want to thank my friend Scott who saw how petrified I was on the beach before the start and offered to swim with me to keep an eye on me. I owe him big time!
2. Any decision you make during a race is the right decision – advice from my friend Cindy. So when I stopped on the bike to put on my rain jacket, even though 10 people blew past me, it was the right decision: I ended up toasty and warm in heavy rain and heard people complaining all around me about how cold they were.
3. Figure out what you need to do to make this race your own, especially when things are not going according to plan – also from Cindy (who had things not go exactly according to plan in IM CDA last weekend). I did think of this lesson a lot today, because my own race today meant following the strategy and pace I planned on following and it didn’t matter if people were passing me or I was passing them. This was about me doing what I needed to do. The other cool thing about this lesson is that I actually have no idea how long it took; what my official time was. I’m sure I’ll look it up this week, but it wasn’t about the time, it was about doing what I needed to do to get to the end.
4. Avoid too many oranges at the aid stations – advice from Coach Todd. I don’t honestly know what to say on this one because I took his advice.
5. Take time to look around you: check out the scenery and realize all of these people are here for you – advice from a few people. It was amazing. The scenery was gorgeous even with all the rain, the race course was great, and the volunteers were awesome. It was great to have such a feeling of gratitude!
6. Don’t think of it as a whole: break the day into bite sized pieces – Coach Todd and other people. Just thinking about one orange buoy at a time or one aid station at a time was so much less overwhelming.
7. It’s ok to make up stories – I think this was Coach Todd. Self talk was something like this: “Oh now I’m running my long run…so it must be Sunday now…boy I’m a little tired from my long bike ride on Saturday”. In other words, trying to trick myself into thinking that it’s just three training days. In one!
8. Think happy positive thoughts – Coach Todd. I especially needed this on the run. I started thinking of things that make me happy and grateful…like my friends and family (and of course coach!), like the little green birds I saw on the bike ride, like the donut I would eat after the race. But when I started thinking of cute baby puppies, I started to cry, which made it hard to breathe, which made it quite difficult to run. So an amendment to this lesson is to think happy things as long as they don’t make you cry.
And a few other random things…as I write this I’m extra grateful for all the coaching (now that I’m home and have been up and down the stairs numerous times with no pain at all – just some fatigue – I realize that there’s something to be said for following the planned workouts. Don’t think about it – just do it. I also am thankful for peanut butter flavored Gu. I had 6. Don’t think I want another one for a while, but they kept me going (and the snickers bars and Swedish fish – yum). Other important skills I learned on race day were how to take off a rain jacket while riding 27 kph, and a fast way to put arm warmers onto wet arms. That’s it for my day. I’m still pumped and wondering what’s next but we’ll take that one orange buoy at a time. The first one I see has “SLEEP” written all over it.