The Pleasant Prairie Olympic Distance race has really had my number the last two times I’ve raced it. I was feeling optimistic about the day and how well I would be able to do.
Starting of right after the paratriathletes and grouped with the Elites, Relays, Athenas and Clydesdales, I knew I would be in the company of a few competitors, but not really sure how many. I was under the impression that it would be a time trial start, going one right after another and I should’ve seeded myself a little farther forward than I did. It’s about 20 yards out to the small marker bouy for the turn to get away from the rocks and from the start until about 200 yards out, it seemed to be quite a washing machine. About what I expected at the get go, but I tried to navigate my way through the chaos and avoided getting kicked in the face. That was a success. I didn’t avoid swallowing lake water unfortunately… which crept up on me later on. More on that later. I knew it was about 350m to the first bouy, a 750m stretch, then 350m home directly into the sunlight. I wanted to really focus on sighting well and swimming the most direct line. I was right on pace for a 30 minute swim and after the first turn I finally felt really comfortable and started cruising along. Two different instances where someone was swimming real crooked and threw me off to the point where I basically had to stop and redirect. Once was close by the first turn and then the second time was in the home stretch about 150-200 meters out from the shore and this guy kept stopping and starting and swimming diagonally. I did my best to avoid and route around them. I noticed my watch about halfway into the last section and I was at 27 minutes… so I felt great about my anticipated time. I got out of the water and saw my watch was 31 minutes and I was pretty happy! My fastest swim prior to that was 38 minutes… surely a huge improvement!
I exited the swim and made my way through transition as quickly and as comfortably as I could. Pretty Uneventful. I like uneventful when it comes to Triathlon… seems much easier that way! Plus, you might remember from previous race recaps… I love transitions. I think I manage them well. Get to my spot, make the changes, get going. No-nonsense attitude. dropped the wetsuit, threw on my helmet, and got my bike. Off I went!
The course is relatively flat and steady when it comes to elevation. It’s a split course in the sense that you pass the entrance to the park on your way to the second half of the loop. There’s a climb along the frontage road on the way out (lots of fun on the way back), two back to back rollers after the park entrance, then a little elevation to navigate on the way out. The toughest part about the second half of the course is the Sprint course also meets up with the Oly course and there’s a lot more traffic to deal with on the course then. Really not terrible to manage, but cornering and dealing with congestion in certain parts can be a hassle at times. I had consciously thought about over exertion and trying to keep my effort strong for the entire bike ride. I did the best job of any races so far in terms of HR consistency. I dropped a few beats on the second half of the course, so maybe I could’ve rode the course maaaayyyybbeeee a little faster, but at what cost? I was having a good day and kept pedaling to make the most of what I was being given. I flew back into transition, happy to see that not only did I ride well, but I PR’d the bike course. 20.4 MPH average!! Dismounted, ran through transition, and made my way to my spot on the rack!
Second transition is sometimes a scary thing… you have to get off the bike and quickly analyze how your legs feel… I have this fear that I’m going to dismount my bike and crumble to the ground like Jenga collapsing, but it never happens. My legs felt fresh, I seemed to be feeling great and that’s when I could start to hear my fan section screaming for me right around the corner of the run out marker. Racked my bike, stumbled a little getting my shoes on, grabbed the rest of my gear and off I went.
Let’s talk about how much I hate this course… Well, not completely. It’s really just a mentally tough course that can beat me down. It’s flat, with 3 out and back sections. One of which is this deceivingly long out and back stretch on a crushed gravel trail that I always underestimate the distance. It’s at least 3 miles total. I never think it’s as long as it is. But it never changes. That stretch is so tough for me for some reason. I ran out of transition and had a smile on my face and saw my Fiancée, all of my nieces and nephews, and my mom cheering with signs… Definitely a spirit lifting experience! Family Support has been incredible through this journey. Another nice surprise was that my dad was just down the trail a bit and got to give him a high five and heard his words of encouragement. I was feeling it! I had hoped to run about a 1:05. I knew that would set me up for a day that I could reflect on and feel as though I aced. I was prepared to hurt. I wasn’t going to be fun, but bring it! Fast forward to mile 3, where I started to feel like I was ready to blow chunks on the side of the road, assuming this was from the lake water I drank during the swim. I was constantly pushing the limit of living on the edge of being the mayor of Barf City and not losing my nutrition for the remainder of the run. What started off at a very comfortable pace, made me reevaluate what I was pushing. I had to stop running 3 times… basically once a mile for the last 3 miles. This left me feeling disappointed and frustrated. I should’ve just blew chunks and got all of that out of my system as soon as it came to that. I pushed through and averaged about 30 seconds slower than my goal pace for the last 3 miles and one of the miles where I was really feeling it, I did about 90 seconds slower. I ended up running around a 1:10 for the 10k, which is only a few minutes slower than my hopeful, best case scenario time.
I can’t really say that I had a bad day out there yesterday. I’m not training for speed, I’m building endurance and it was really just about pacing, pushing, and finishing. I’m sad that I didn’t PR, but I was only 90 seconds off of my best day there. For that, I’ll consider it a victory. 5 years after my PR and getting back to that time, didn’t come easy.
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