The first real race on my calendar for 2017 was Kinetic Half at Lake Anna in Virginia. Kinetic is the only half-ironman distance race I’ve done, having raced here in 2014 and 2016.
Going into the race, my head likely wasn’t in the best place. I had been feeling a bit sick for the week leading in, and therefore feeling a bit flat. Additionally, until about an hour before I left for the race, I was unsure if I would even have my triathlon bike available to race on. Some mishaps at the bike shop had meant I had not had my triathlon bike to train on for the two-and-a-half weeks leading into the race, and only a last-minute, makeshift setup made the bike able to be ridden for the race. The combination of some minor illness, the uncertainty about even having a bike to ride, and rain in the forecast, meant my mind was not quite in race-mode as it ought have been.
On race morning, the rain largely held off, making the race conditions far better than expected. In the swim, I quickly found myself largely alone, not having latched onto the pack of 5 or so swimmers just ahead. Despite theoretically being in better swim shape than in the same race last year, I came out of the water more than a minute slower. I was also a few places further back.
I took plenty of time in the first transition, partly because I’ve yet to master than art of quick transitions, and partly to put on arm warmers given the cold and wet conditions. After settling in on the bike, I felt good for the first part of the course. Other than passing a few people early on, and being passed by an eventual podium finisher, the bike course was pretty lonely. While my target power for the bike felt relatively easy early on, I started to feel the effects of not having ridden my triathlon bike (or in aero position) for a few weeks. While being comfortable with effort aerobically, I was feeling some real stress in portions of the glutes and quads that take on more of the load when riding the triathlon bike. This resulted in a steady decline in power across the ride, as mounting muscular fatigue kept me from holding my target power. Additionally, in the first mile or so of the bike, I dropped the energy gels I had taped to my top tube, leaving me with only my bottles of Base Performance for fuel. It was a rookie mistake, having realized the night before the race that my new Louis Garneau race kit did not have back pockets as I had been used to, I hastily put together a makeshift solution of taping the gels onto my top tube (and apparently did not do a good job of it). To top it all off, I managed to drop one of my two bottles part way though the ride after my cold hands couldn’t manage to maintain my grip on the bottle. Despite all of the mishaps, my bike leg ended up a few minutes faster than the prior year (though surely partially the result of equipment upgrades, including an aero helmet and race wheels).
Excited to get off the bike, I began the run with already sore legs and no feeling in my feet. With nearly the whole course being either uphill or downhill, I did not bother to check my watch for pace and simply sought a sustainable effort (and hoped my legs would start to come around). I managed to pass one other competitor on the first loop of the run, but otherwise, there was not much of a racing dynamic. I would only come to realize after the finish, that the final podium spot had only been about two minutes up the road on me. Given the lack of calories I took in on the bike, some low spots on the run were inevitable. However, making the effort to take a few swigs of Gatorade out on course helped get my blood sugar back up, and made the latter half of the run closer to what I had hoped for. Overall, my run wound up being a few minutes slower than the prior year.
While all three legs of the race had been a fraction off what I had hoped for going in, I was able to take some solace in having finished the race pretty spent and not having left anything in the tank. I also took some confidence in seeing that race times were slower across the board for other competitors, indicating that maybe my race effort was better than the numbers indicated. Overall, having won my age group and finishing 4th overall is a performance I can be proud of. While it stung a bit realizing I had finished so close to the podium (and would only have needed to match my run time from last year to have snagged 3rd), I did fulfill the goal I had set for the race: to be in the hunt for the overall podium.
Having relatively few triathlon races under my belt, I know I still have plenty of room to improve from simply fixing my mistakes and dialing in some of the rougher edges of my performance. And unlike last year, I still have a few upcoming races this season to race up to my full potential.
It was a fun weekend overall, with some other great performances by DC Tri/District Taco Elite Team members, including second overall on the women’s side.