Last month I returned to my favorite place on earth to enjoy a fun weekend and compete in the 2014 Nantucket Sprint Triathlon. This is the third consecutive year that I’ve raced this event and each year I show up less and less prepared. It’s embarrassing.
Back in 2012, after 2 years of cheering on friends at this race, I signed up for my first ‘ACK Tri’. I was excited. In 2009 and 2010 I raced several triathlons both sprint and Olympic distance so this was going to be fun. Six months after registering for the race I had splashed around the YMCA pool a few times and rode my bike only twice (including riding to rack my bike for this race) but went for it anyway even though the swim was a little scary that year. You can read more about that adventure in the blog post from July of 2012 (ACK Tri ’12). The following year, I had been in the pool even less and once again barely broke the bike out long enough to blow the dust off. I opted to bring my wetsuit that year to be more comfortable in the water and I’m used to riding my bike in terror so I decided not to set expectations and just go for it (ACK Tri 13 Report). Both years I was actively running and in decent shape so even if I was one of the last people back on the bike I was going to pass a ton of racers in the run and I’d finish just fine.
I survived both of those races so why not register again for the 2014 race.
This year, my preparation was a little different. I felt the same about the run with a little extra confidence thanks to my transition to racing in Newtons (somehow they make me run faster – science or coincidence – topic for a future post). I had a few good bike rides before the race this year and felt like I was a little less stressed while riding. Unfortunately, I had not swum AT ALL since the triathlon the previous year. I had plans to get into the pool at the YMCA or squeeze in a swim at one of the pools of the hotels I visited traveling this spring. At the very least I would do a practice swim during my 4th of July weekend trip to Nantucket. None of these happened. At least I had my wetsuit to give me buoyancy but the swim was just going to be a challenge and probably a little uncomfortable.
We flew to Nantucket on Friday afternoon hoping to arrive with some time to drop off our gear and then go to Jetties Beach right away to pick up our athletes packages and rack our bikes. At the race site we immediately bumped into our friend, fellow ACK tri competitor and co-owner of Maple Water, Kate Weiler. We caught up with Kate and enjoyed some Maple Water before getting all our gear. I felt such a sense of relief once that part of the day was over and we had the rest of the evening to enjoy dinner and come home to get organized for the race.
My parents were also on the island and looking forward to spectating at a triathlon for the first time. Doug and Priscilla Dempsey are expert road race and marathon cheerleaders but they had never been to a triathlon. They were excited to see me in action on the bike but were not thrilled to hear that they would have to make their way over to the beach before 7 am if they hoped to catch any of the action. We discussed their viewing strategy over dinner at Pazzo and we were home nice and early to get organized before going to sleep nice and early.
The alarm was set for 4:00 am and I was organized well enough that I was ready to go in about 30 minutes. I did have one problem – I forgot that the island is very chilly this early in the morning and I didn’t have a lot of warm clothes to wear over to the race. For long pants all I had was a pair of white skinny jeans and my PJ pants. I went with the PJ’s and a big white sweater over my race gear (there are no photos of this – such a shame) and our cab showed up at 5:00 am to take us to Jettie’s Beach. More often than not, triathlons are a ‘hurry up and wait’ situation. I got my transition area ready and wandered around trying to shake off some nervous energy. I was hoping to jump in the water and splash around a little bit before the race started but they forced everyone out for a ‘mandatory meeting’ where they thanked a bunch of people and we sang the national anthem.
Before the first wave started I did have an opportunity to at least jump in and swim a little bit. We watched the first wave take off and even though it was high tide, the athletes were walking in the water – déjà vu from last year’s swim. It looked as though the water was deep enough to swim but shallow enough that you could walk in the beginning. Some people walked all the way past the first buoy. I did not intend to walk the swim but I felt a little better knowing if I needed a break I could touch the sand part of the time. I was in the 4th wave and when it was my time to head in I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I could swim and this might be difficult, but manageable. The horn blew and I dove right in. I did my best to swim as much as I could and tried to stay relaxed. I swam most of the first half and reached the turnaround quicker than I thought. Halfway through, I became very tired. The fact that I had not been practicing caught up with me and I had to really focus not to get too stressed out which would just make it harder to breathe. I made it to the next buoy and found that I could touch the sand. Started to count to 10 allowing me to calm down a little and then I would swim again. I repeated this until the water became too shallow to swim and I ran out to the beach attempting to peel out of my wetsuit. I hate the run from the beach to transition because it hurts my feet so much but every time I do it I’m thinking the same thing ‘Holy crap, I survived another one’!
I ripped my wetsuit off pretty easily thanks to some great stuff called tri glide and got ready for the bike. As I mentioned, I had been biking a little more recently (like 3 times instead of 2) and was feeling much more confident this year so I was looking forward to this part. I love the ride out to Madeket and I’m pretty familiar with it by now so I was much more relaxed. I don’t have a computer on my bike so I never know fast I’m actually going but I managed to remember to turn my watch on so I could at least keep count of the miles. I pedaled out toward Cliff Rd and started looking out for Jared who was in shape to crush this race and would be flying back toward transition at any time. Sure enough before I was even 4 miles in he came racing by. He looked great and I was excited that he was having such a good race. Just a few miles later I made it to the turnaround. As excited as I was to be headed back, this is a hairpin turn which is not my cycle specialty. I almost dumped my bike with a little off-roading action thanks to taking the turn too wide. File this under ‘things I need to work on’.
I felt like I was working hard to pedal fast and pass as many people as I could. There were definitely a few girls I was leap frogging with and one who every time I passed her she would show up on my left within a few minutes. I kept moving and worked on passing more people and eventually it was time to make the sharp turn on to North Beach. This is another tough turn and to make sure I didn’t wipe out I came to almost a complete stop here. I’m sure the athletes behind me loved that. Also, I later learned that my parents did make it to the race and were right around this spot cheering on the athletes and looking for me. Not long before I got there they witnessed a girl fall at the sharp turn and apparently it was pretty rough (but she jumped back on and finished –ya girl!). So, when I did finally make it down there my Dad wanted to yell my name and cheer for me but my Mom wouldn’t let him because she was afraid it would distract me. They did get this picture though:
I am always so happy to make it back to transition on the bike. I jumped off at the dismount and threw the bike somewhere near my transition area. I couldn’t get my running shoes on fast enough but did take the time to get down some fluids before heading off toward the run. If you have already read the blog posts from the other two ACK Tri’s you know that I can’t seem to grasp the art of drinking while on the bike and not losing my balance. This is still the case (another thing to work on) so I am always really really thirsty after the bike.
The run course for this tri is 3.4 miles and while it is by far my best event of a tri, it takes a half mile or so to get rid of the post bike wobbly feeling in my legs. Running out on to the course I tried to just get my legs to turn over as fast as I could. I did see my parents on this part of the course but leaning in to high 5 my dad I almost lost my balance. There is a nice big hill in the beginning of the run but I felt pretty good and was excited to be almost done with the race. I clocked a 7:53 for the first mile and decided I would be happy as long as I kept my pace under an 8 minute mile. Finishing up the 2nd mile I had averaged 7:59. I was losing speed but still under goal. I finally got my legs back and found some kick in the 3rd mile averaging 7:37 and really wanted to finish strong so I pushed the last .4 miles of the course. Mom and Dad were cheering for me along Bathing Beach Rd as I came in to cross the finish line. I finished the 2014 Nantucket Tri in 1:30:27.
My number one goal for this race was to improve from previous years and I was thrilled that I accomplished that by finishing more than 2 minutes faster than last year and over 6 minutes fast than 2012. The swim is so unpredictable in this race that I didn’t count that much as a factor but I really wanted to bike faster this year and tried to put a lot of effort into that part of the course. This year I clocked 17.2 MPH on the bike which is a big improvement for me from the 16.3 and 16.4 I did the two years before. In a tri, I always want to do well in the run since it’s my specialty. Last year, my pace was 8:13 on the course and I was disappointed in that so I really wanted to be under 8 minute miles. I averaged 7:54 minute miles on the run and I was very happy with that. I’m hoping that the results motivate me to keep trying on the bike. All of my confidence problems would be solved if I committed to spending more time riding.
Jared also had a terrific race finishing in a speedy 1:07:41 (more than 5 minutes faster than his time from last year) and 4th in his age group. We all had our hearts set on him being on the podium this year but his division was just too competitive. In any other group he would have been in the top 3. I told him it was something to look forward to when he turned 40 in a couple of years. I think I made that comment right before we took this photo:
One of the best parts of competing in this triathlon is being able to enjoy the day and celebrate on Nantucket afterwards. After cleaning up we headed over to see some friends at Cisco Brewery where I got to try a new beer –Shark Tracker Light Lager as part of their partnership with Ocearch – a non-profit doing research on great white sharks. With the app they are developing you can ‘scan the can’ and it looks like a shark is swimming around the beer. This kept me entertained for quite a while.
We also got to spend some more time with our friends from Maple Water who helped us rehydrate after the race. They are also partnering with Cisco and came up with some fun cocktails at the distillery.
That evening we went to Nautilus, a new restaurant on the island this season. Before dinner we had some cocktails with friends and my parents came over to congratulate us again. We were, of course,still wearing our race numbers on our arms so everyone knew we had raced the triathlon earlier in the day and enjoyed some of the local bars to celebrate our accomplishment. Another super fun night on Nantucket.
When I talk to non-athletes, I’m often asked often why I run long distance or wake up at crazy hours to do something like a triathlon. Sometimes, I don’t have an answer…I just like doing it. Sometimes, it’s a little clearer. I love the challenge of working through something physically difficult and then completing it. It makes me feel good about myself both physically and mentally to know I had the strength (again physical and mental) to see this through. In previous triathlons I have thought (usually on the bike) ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m doing this’ but the more confidence I build the more believable it is. Of course, I am doing this because I’m strong and capable and I look awesome in a wetsuit.
Thank you to everyone involved in coordinating another great Nantucket Triathlon especially the volunteers who get up so early in the morning to help us out and cheer us on. Thank you also to everyone on the island who had to cooperate with road closures and inconveniences so we could enjoy the event. It is such a special race and I hope to be back next year and many years after.