Not my finest piece of racing … or was it?
Superior Man 41.5, Duluth, MN – August 28, 2016
0.5 mi swim / 35.4 mi bike / 5.6 mi run // 41.5 mi total
Expect the unexpected, my mother once said. Because the unexpected most certainly will be expecting you.
~ Marjorie M. Liu
Leading up to the race
Superior Man 41.5 was my last scheduled triathlon for the 2016 season. Since it was two weeks after the USAT Nationals and two weeks after my work at Bemidji State University had started up again, we tried to hold over my A-race fitness with high intensity, low volume training.
Last year I had an Achilles’ tendon injury going into this race, so I was only able to do the swim and bike portions, but those had gone really well. So I was looking forward to the race this year, to see what I can do on this race course.
Morning of the race
With Diane Hankee, only one of the three podium finishers of last year’s Superior Man 41.5 women’s podium was scheduled to do this year’s race. However, this year’s women’s Superior Man 70.3 distance was stacked with talent. So, I was not really too surprised when Diane Hankee told me during the set up that she had decided to switch to the seemingly more competitive 70.3 distance. But wow, does this mean that I suddenly had the chance of actually winning this race? Another motivation to definitely go for it.
Swim > 14:39; 1:40 / 100 yds; 1st female, 1st age group
Garmin > 1:35 min / 100 yds (929 yds = 0.53 mi)
Being one of the faster swimmers, I was scheduled to start in the last wave of the day. This also meant that we had to wait the longest once on the boat before we could jump off the Vista Fleet boat into the water. Sitting on the floor of the boat in my wetsuit, my legs started shaking like I was freezing. I had to hold on to them to stop them from quivering. I was not cold, so I guess it was just my nerves playing a trick on me.
The start is done in time trial fashion, with two athletes jumping into the water every four seconds, one on each side of the boat. I decided to be the last woman of the boat, this way I knew that any woman I could reel in and pass would be behind me in the overall ranking. I generally find it easier to chase people than to be the chased.
This year’s water temperature in the Duluth Harbor Basin was a comfortable 69°, but I knew that the initial contact with the water after jumping off the Vista Fleet boat would still be quite a shock for the body. So, I poured a whole bottle of cool water into my wetsuit just before getting ready to jump. I think it helped somewhat. The water was rougher than last year, and there seemed to be a current that was pushing us off course. So I was working quite hard to stay on a somewhat straight line between turn buoys. So in the end, I was not surprised that my swim pace was slower than last year. But I was first woman out of the water by almost 2 minutes, and 6th swimmer overall trailing the leader by just over 1 minute.
T1 > 2:22; 1st female, 1st age group
The transition area was inside Paulucci Hall at the DECC. All the running aisles were covered with carpet, because the hall’s concrete floors get really slippery when wet. I realized that very quickly when I accidentally stepped off the carpet at a 90° turn and almost landed on my behind. I could catch myself just in time and continue running.
At the transition spot, I quickly threw my wetsuit under the rack next to my bike, put on my sunglasses and helmet, grabbed my bike, and headed toward the exit. I already was out of the transition rack aisle and on the main runway toward the exit, when I realized that I was dragging my wetsuit along. The lining of the wetsuit was caught on the Velcro strap of my bike shoe that was already attached to the pedal. That was a first. Note to myself: Next time, do not throw your wet suit too close to your bike shoes already clipped in your pedals. 🙂
I had to stop to bring my wetsuit back to my transition spot. As a consequence, the rubber bands holding my shoes in a horizontal position for easy mounting were broken, and my shoes were dangling upside down on the pedals. This obviously messed up my running mount. I actually had to stop, straddle my bike, and adjust my shoes before I could start pedaling. I felt like a first time triathlete.
Bike > 1:41:36; 20.9 mph; 2nd female, 1st age group
Garmin > 20.7 mph (35 mi)
The section of the bike course leading through downtown Duluth, mostly on roads parallel to Superior Street and London Road, were quite rough and technical. One of the pot holes popped the lid off my water bottle and Skratch Labs matcha + lemons started splashing all over my legs, despite a splash guard. I tried several times to get the lid back on without losing speed but couldn’t get it properly aligned. I finally had to sit up, and slow down, to pop it back on.
The sections along 61 Expressway and Scenic Hwy 61 were somewhat bumpy but a lot better. Last year we had an 8 mph wind pushing us north on 61 Expy and I felt like flying, this year with no wind to speak off, I was quite a bit slower despite seemingly working quite a bit harder. Riding along Scenic Hwy 61 is always fun, maybe I had too much fun looking at the scenery :-), I ended up not going quite as fast as I would have liked.
Towards the end of the bike leg, my glutes started tightening up again. I really need to look into this issue.
T2 > 1:15; 1st female, 1st age group
Nothing special to report about this transition.
Run > 43:07; 7:43 min/mi > 3rd female, 1st age group
Garmin > 7:33 min/mi (5.7 mi)
I was on new territory with this leg of the triathlon. Last year, my injury did not allow me to do the run. The run course was leading us along the shore of Lake Superior using Duluth’s Lakewalk, and it was a lot hillier than I had anticipated; and my glutes did not like the uphill running.
The out-and-back course allowed me to see how many women were ahead of me – I counted two. I did not know how far ahead of me they had started, so I tried to chase them down. A friend and fellow competitor later told me that I looked like a woman on a mission when our paths crossed. I could not catch up with the two women, so I was at least third, but maybe I got close enough to still end up with a faster time?
Jerry MacNeil, the otherwise all-things-triathlon-knowing announcer, asked the same question. And it did not take the Pickle Event crew long to answer the questions. I indeed had won the Superior Man 41.5 race. For the rest of the day, I had this big smile on my face.
Veni! Vidi! Vici!: 🙂
Winning isn’t everything, but it sure feels great!
Overall > 2:42:59; 1st female, 1st age group
The best conversation of the day:
Jerry MacNeil: Wait, I want to check how your time compares to Diane (Hankee)’s time from last year.
Me: “Not even close, you better check for the Master’s record.”
But thanks Jerry for the thought.
Turns out, I was about 11 minutes slower than Diane Hankee last year, but about 46 minutes faster than the previous Master’s record.
Overall, I did not feel it was my finest piece of racing. Just two weeks after Nationals, my A-race and the highlight of my season, I felt somewhat flat and not quite on the top of my game. But who can complain about a 1st place finish and a new Master’s record? I certainly cannot and will not.
What’s coming up next?
On October 8, I will be racing the Blue Ox ½ Marathon in Bemidji, MN.
(click on any picture to enlarge)