On Saturday morning I woke up to a stomach full of nerves and a sky full of rolling storm clouds. I had signed on to do the 3 mile run leg of a sprint triathlon relay with my cycling club and we were scheduled to take off in a couple hours if the weather allowed. Several weather-worry-related group texts later we met up on the soggy grass field beside the calm, misty swim route under skies that had mercifully decided to release only a heavy mist. Our swimmer donned her wetsuit and the rest of us ran around sorting out bike and run gear and prepping for our respective transitions. Our swim-leg teammate’s daughter was doing the kids’ duathlon after our race so joined in the nervous adrenaline rush and warmed up for her event by running around with all of us. I’m pretty certain she had more energy than all three of us combined!
Our swimmer took off into the chilly lake and came out of the water strong to hand off to our bike leg. I knew the times wouldn’t be crazy fast on the wet, slick roads, but was still a bit nervous about somehow missing my team’s rider as I warmed up. However, I was able to get a couple good miles in, use the bathroom and switch into my trusty Tangent flats, and even do some drills and strides before she came into sight in the distance. I scurried into the corral for some final legs swings as she came around the lake. She rolled in and ripped off her timing chip, passing it to me to strap around my ankle. I tightened the velcro strap, hit my watch, and took off!
I was lucky to have a nice string of full triathlon athletes to chase as I went, as the relay had started a bit behind the full event. The first mile seemed a bit longer than expected, but I distracted myself by gradually reeling in athletes ahead of me and cheering for those passing back on the out-and-back course. The short race on asphalt was a bit of a change from the long trail races that I’ve been doing, so I had to remind myself a few times to push the pace rather than conserve energy. My legs were still a bit sore from a tough workout on Wednesday but I was able to run smoothly with what felt like decent turnover.
Coming out of the turnaround I started to feel the strain, and apparently let it get to me – when I looked at my splits afterwards my 2nd mile was slowest in spite of having less uphill than the other two miles. That dang 2nd mile is always my downfall in 5k’s…it’s so easy to let doubts about the ability to maintain pace and the discomfort of the beginnings of exhaustion combine into a lapse in effort.
Luckily I snapped out of it in the third mile and dropped the pace, ending up with my fastest mile of the three and a finish verging on hyperventilation. I could hear my teammates yells of encouragement as I neared the finish and managed a little bit of a kick though I didn’t have anyone nearby to race to the finish. We ended up a solid third and first female team, and had a ton of fun cheering for other friends as they came into the finish and taking goofy photos while dodging the light rain. A good morning (despite the chill and sprinkling rain) with a fun team of women.
And now for the patience –
While I was pleased with knocking 15 seconds per mile off my pace since I last ran this course I’m also still a bit frustrated with my inability to move at anything resembling what I think of as a normal 5k pace. I’m still about 30 seconds slower than my out-of-shape 5k times in GradSchoolCity, even with the altitude conversion. I worry that this means I’ve somehow become incapable of getting into 5k shape and will be horribly embarrassed in a few weeks when I line up to race against young, speedy college women in a few of the local xc meets. I even bought buns to race in and now have the added bit of pressure knowing I don’t want to make a fool out of myself while essentially running in my underwear (*emits nervous high-pitched noises internally*).
So I’m reminding myself to have patience instead of say, freaking out and trying to make huge mileage and pace leaps and ending up a little pile of broken runner.
I haven’t done speed since who know when and have only been running what amount to long tempos in the few races I’ve done this summer. I’ve made progress in the amount of running that I can do and am really enjoying the training and ability to explore new routes. I still have time to get up to speed, and will gain better turnover and 5k pacing over the next few weeks if I focus on solid 5k training at my current level of fitness. I can’t magically jump ahead and just need to put in the work and make baby steps towards holding my own over cross-country later this Fall.
Waiting to send our swimmer off!
Anyone else here done a triathlon relay? Any tips for having ‘good old days when I was speedy’ amnesia when it comes to finding satisfaction in race results at a lower fitness level?