Ok so technically Eagleman wasn’t my very first race experience as a pro triathlete, but given that Panama was in February in the middle of the worst NYC winter in years, I hadn’t been on a bike outside since November, I’d only just come back from the wedding/holidays/honeymoon, my flight was cancelled which rerouted me through a different airport, and my bike didn’t arrive until the night before the race, I don’t really count it as my first pro race. I was very much looking forward to redeeming myself after a series of disappointing races this past spring and a nagging injury that seems to not want to go away. Overall I was happy with my race, although I was hoping to go a little faster. One of my goals this season is to break 4:30 and I’m confident that I will. I just missed it this time around but I was only 2 minutes off my overall PR that I did last September at the end of my race season… and this one’s only begun!

Instead of giving a full play-by-play, I’m going to sum up my race experience through three key lessons I learned out on the course:

  1. Always swim your course. I’m a pretty strong swimmer so usually I try to be aggressive from the start. I’ve been putting some big weekly yardage in lately (4500-5000 yards, 3x/week) so I was feeling particularly confident. I lined up at the inside buoy line where I usually do, and went hard off the start, pulling away relatively quickly from those around me. Except that there was this pack of 6 or 7 swimmers just in front of me by about 10 yards to my left. The buoys were to my right and it was a clockwise swim so I thought briefly about trying to stick with them but decided to keep my hard line on the buoys. By the time we got to the first turn buoy, they were still out in front of me but so far off to the left that the turn actually put me out in front with the lead 2 women after the turn broke up the path. The two leaders persisted to drift to the right and a quick sight for the buoy line told me that they were way off course. So instead of riding their draft, I decided to head more directly towards the next buoy. Soon enough, the 2nd place was dropped and the as we approached the 2nd turn buoy the leader was cutting back sharply to get around the turn. I stayed my course, turned the buoy, and ended up neck and neck with her. She persisted to zig-zag back and forth and although I would have gained some relief from her draft, I decided to let it go and head straight for the swim exit. Eventually her extra yards added up and I passed her just in the last few buoys to exit 2nd from the water in just over 28 minutes! I was super stoked.

  2. Strategy is everything on the bike. I had a reasonably fast T1 but was soon caught by a large pack of power bikers (including Laurel and Rebeccah Wassner, Cait Snow, and Ashley Clifford). I tried desperately to catch on the back of them but to no avail. I was way out of my power range to keep up so I resolved to plucking away on my own. A few minutes later Heather Wurtele and Rachel McBride zoomed past and once again I knew I couldn’t hang knowing that pushing out of my zones meant slowing down later. I was on my own pretty much right up until the hour mark, when another group of cyclists caught up to me, this time much more slowly. One, two, three, four bikers passed but not so fast that I couldn’t tag on the back of the pack. Even though WTC and USAT rules state you must allow 5 bike lengths (it’s more for pros) between you and the next cyclist, you still get an advantage from being at the back of a 5-bike pace-line. So I tucked in behind them and rode basically the next hour and a half a little more comfortably, knowing that I wasn’t working nearly as hard as I was to start off but also knowing that I wouldn’t be able to pass them nor would I be able to sustain once I did. My power numbers prove that – my highest 60 minute “peak” for power was in the first hour of the bike. Instead, I hung out behind a group of cyclists who kept vying to pass each other but kept getting drafting and blocking fouls while doing so. Four total red cards were given out. I kept my distance, but just as much as I was required to, and even though I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could have, I wasn’t getting penalties and I knew I was saving my legs for the run. The energy used to push on the bike just wasn’t worth the risk. This kind of race strategy is a whole new ballgame for me, so I was excited to see how much of a difference it made. And it did – I got off the bike in 2:27, a new bike PR by 5 minutes!

  3. Trust your body. This wasn’t exactly a *new* lesson that I learned, but it played out in a very real way during this race. I got T2 quickly, grabbed my coconut water and salt tabs, and headed out on what was now a very hot (low 80s) run course. I don’t do well in heat. In fact most of my major blow-ups in triathlon have been during the run on a hot, flat, unshaded course. And that’s exactly what the Eagleman run was. My HR registered 170 right off the bat which I knew I needed to maintain to avoid overheating. It read that as a steady HR until about minute 27 when it slowly started dropping… what I know to be an all-too-familiar sign of a malfunctioning HR monitor. Without an accurate HR reading, I had no clue what my body was doing, so all I could do was stick to the pace I knew I could and had been handling for the first 27 minutes and not waiver from that. I downed my coconut water, stuffed ice in as many places as possible, kept the salt tabs coming, and dialed into that pace. Sure I got passed by a few pro women, but I knew if I tried to speed it up too early I’d fall apart. When my HR read accurately again around mile 11 and showed 172, I knew I had executed my run as planned. With a few miles to go I started picking up the pace a bit and just powered through the last bit to finish in 1:34. Not my best, but also a lot better and more consistent than it could have been, and has been in the past.

Final time = 4:33:08, 14th place, and only 7 minutes back from 6th place, which means that 8 women finished in those 7 minutes between 6th and 14th! Tight field indeed. Still a great day of racing, though. Now it’s back to the daily grind and recovering/ramping up for Syracuse in a week and a half.