Monday, July 21, 2008

Race Week - The Race Plan

It's race week - on Sunday July 27th I'll be partaking in the Rouge Women's Triathlon - and that means this week is race week, and that means lots and lots of nervous energy. This is not my first triathlon, nor is it my longest, but it is the first one in three years and that's a heck of a long time when we're talking athletics. In fact it's a whole new age group. I'll be racing with the "40 somethings" this time. This is a "super sprint" triathlon - 300 meter swim, 11.1 mile bike, and 2 mile run.

Despite the fact that I've done this before, I still get really nervous during the week leading up to an event. In some ways it's the kind of nervous energy that's generated when you're really looking forward to something. It's the anticipation and it's the waiting - you've worked really hard, you've put in the hours, you've taken care of yourself, you've prepped all your gear, and now you wait for the big day to be here. But it's also just plain, good old fashion, butterflies in the stomach, gee I hope I don't fall off my bike in front of all those people, nerves.

So what to do with all the nervous energy? Hopefully lots of knitting. The knitting keeps my hands busy, and calms the spirit, while leaving the mind free to think about the race. Which is good, because when it's race week the race is pretty much all I can think about. I'm pretty good at not letting this become obsessive worry, and at staving off any negativity or self-doubt. But in order to do this I have to focus my thoughts on something constructive, and that something constructive is The Race Plan. All smart athletes have a Race Plan. I may be old and slow, but I'm still smart. I have a Race Plan and I'm spending this week knitting and going over it in my mind a hundred trillion times.

I figured if I was going to be going over The Race Plan a hundred trillion times I may as well write about it. So here it is, although a few of the details have been edited to save space and spare you from any of the gross stuff.

Pre-Race: Arrive at the race site at least an hour and a half before the start. This will mean being on the road and out the door by 5:30 AM. First thing to do is get my body marked. Then I find my rack, top off the air in my tires and rack my bike. Set up my transition area. Keep my swim cap and my goggles in hand. Lay out my shoes, with the laces loose, socks on top of shoes, gloves inside helmet, sunglasses, and race belt ready. One bottle of fluids on the bike, and an extra bottle for before the start and available if I decide I need to do the run with water. Once my transition area is set up, I need to walk the transition area from where I come in from the swim, count the racks so I can find my bike. Walk from my rack to the bike exit, and from the bike return to my rack. Finally walk from my rack to the run start. It's good to know where you're going, it can keep you from getting frantic. Apply another, extra layer of sunscreen. Visit the bathroom. All the while hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Remind myself the nerves and the butterflies stop once I start.

The Swim: I'm a strong swimmer, and this swim is short. For many triathletes this is the part they dread, and they will be wanting to just get through it. The swim start is always a little weird, it's hectic, and crowded, you can't see a thing, and swimming in open water is completely different then swimming in a pool. The swim start can be scary. I won't freak out. I'll line up towards the front and swim hard for the first 50 yards, to get out of the crowd. Then I'll find my rhythm and settle into my pace. Remember swim cap and goggles off as soon as I leave the water, and remember where your bike is.

T1: Get geared up in this order - socks, shoes, gloves, helmet, sunglasses. Remember where the bike exit is and get there. Remind myself to drink fluids on the bike. Remind myself this is fun.

The Bike: I scoped out the course a few weeks ago and got myself totally freaked out about the hills on the bike course. I've been riding hills ever since, I need to remind myself I've gone longer and harder on those training rides, I've done it before I can do it again. This course starts with a steep climb. My strategy is to have left my bike in a low gear, and to just spin up this first hill. I will remind myself that no matter how much it hurts, I've got 5.5 miles of downhill and flats after this first hill which will be plenty of time to catch my breath, take some fluids, and get my legs back. Go fast. The back half of the course gets hilly again, but it's pretty rolling so gravity is on my side. Remind myself I've gone harder and longer. Remind myself it's almost over. Say "hello" to all the volunteers and shout "nice job" to everyone who passes me. I'll fly down the last hill and give my legs a rest.

T2: Rack my bike - helmet off, gloves off, sunglasses on, go. I'll put my race belt on while moving towards the run start. I'm riding in my running shoes so this transition should be quick. Remind myself to breath.

The Run: It will be hot by now, and there is no shade, but I've been training in the heat, and this is Texas after all, so just go. The run is short. I recently learned something called "the Ironman Shuffle" you lean just slightly forward from your core and let momentum get you started on the run, your feet will just have to keep up, I'll do this until the rubbery feeling goes away. This is a fairly rolling run course, if I use my arms to power up the hills, I can use gravity to pick up speed going down them. Remind myself to stay light on my feet. Remind myself to breath. Smile. Take water at the turn around and thank the volunteers. This run is short so I can go a little harder. I'll hold my head up, cross the finish line, raise my arms in victory, and smile.

Post-Race: I will keep moving, I'll find my Sweetie, get some fluids, find some shade, and celebrate. Enjoy the camaraderie and revel in the glory for awhile before I load up the bike and pack up the gear. Remind myself I can nap if I want to when I get home. Remind myself it was fun.

I'll be back next week with The Race Report and some knitting to share.

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