Race Report: The PolarBear Sprint Tri


2013 PolarBear Tri (www.tri-maine.com)

Going into this race I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, I was about 90% sure I was going to DNF after the bike due to the major knee pain that I have been having. I saw my chiropractor on Thursday and she worked things out a bit and then taped up my knee to help with the patella tracking. I woke up Friday feeling great. After work I did my quick 20 minute bike and then 10 min run. Knee felt pretty good and towards the end a bit sore. I iced and rolled before hitting the sack.

Sweet Taping Job

Sweet Taping Job

Race Morning

Woke up with a stiff knee. Awesome. Ate my breakfast and threw all my stuff into the car for the 1+ hour drive to Brunswick. The race is a pool swim and thus only 32 swimmers could be in a wave at a time. I had to be there and set up in transition but 8:10am, but my swim wave didn’t start till 10am. Lots of sitting around and chatting time. My knee was definitely sore and I was visibly limping to and from my car to get my stuff. Not a good way to start a race morning. I met up with my fellow TriMoxie athletes and also saw some other athletes mingling about all waiting for their respective wave starts.

This was my first PolarBear Tri. It is considered to be the season opener for us Mainers who have to ride our trainers all winter long and swim in the pool until June when the lake water becomes tolerable (with wetsuits of course!). This race tends to bring out the big guns in the sport too so I was excited to see how I would do in a very competitive field. I was not expecting much at all due to my recent knee issue and the fact that my general fitness, and especially my speed, is pretty poor this year. My coach wanted me to race this race and I really wanted to. Of course, this was given to me before the knee became kind of a limiter. I told her before the race that if I felt good then I would race. If my knee was okay then I would just turn it into more of a training day. If the knee was causing a lot of pain then I was going to DNF after the bike. I was completely okay with a potential DNF too. It’s not ideal, but my ultimate goal this year is Lake Placid. A little sprint tri in Maine is not going to derail me from that goal.

The Swim

The swim is a 525-yard pool swim. I didn’t bother to warm-up because I would have just sat around from 90 minutes waiting for my turn. This definitely put me at a bit of disadvantage because I am the type of swimmer that needs a lot of time to warm-up to truly find my groove. I chose a lane in the middle of the pool and luckily ended up having the lane to myself. The whistle went off and I found a comfortable pace and settled in a bit. My intention was to keep track of my laps, but somehow I managed to forget after the first 125 or so. Typical. About what I estimated to be the 300 mark I tried picking up the pace a bit. I felt okay. It wasn’t my best swim, but it was not bad. I tried not to kick too hard because of the knee. I finally got the “last lap” sign and I pushed it to the last wall. I struggled a little bit getting out of the water trying not to somehow tweak my knee getting out. I hit what I thought was the correct button on my Garmin 910XT, but turns out it wasn’t. Opps. From looking at my data afterwards it appears I hit the 525 mark at about 8:42. I then set out on a half jog/ half jumping on one foot to the transition area. My knee was definitely sore, but tolerable. The swim time (I’m pretty sure) includes the run from the pool to the TA so my time is a bit slower due to my inability to “run” like a normal person. I can’t imagine what I looked like when the Capstone Photography person took my picture leaving the building…

Swim: 9:20 (1:47/ 100 yards)

The Bike

Transition went by quickly. I made sure not to dilly-dally around too much. I grabbed my bike and headed out on the long run to the mount/dismount line again with my awkward little attempt at running. I hopped on my bike and headed out on the 11-mile bike course. I hadn’t ridden the course before, but from what I was told that it was pretty flat with a few rollers. I had my Garmin Edge on my bike so I had turned that on in TA. The satellites took forever to find. I checked my watch to see my bike time, but didn’t realize that the watch was still set in swim mode. The course was relatively flat so I kept my power up and pushed it. The course was pretty empty, which was nice. I got passed by one speedy woman on a road bike and tried to keep her in my sight the entire time. I then got passed by some big guys flying on their tri bikes. I let them go since I had absolutely no hope in catching them. There were some upgrades at times so I ended up doing a lot of shifting to keep my power consistent and my cadence in a good range. My Power VI was 1.08, which is pretty damn good for me! 🙂 Even though the course is pretty flat, it has a lot of sharp corners. I’ve always been pretty timid going around corners, especially sharp ones, but I have made a good effort to get over my fears. I did super good today not slamming on my brakes and really riding the corners and then accelerating hard out of them. I’m quite happy with my bike performance. I was second in my age group for the bike split. I missed the top slot by 5 seconds. I probably lost those by trying to go the wrong way into the TA after dismounting. Opps! Knee felt good on the bike so I made the decision to run.

Bike: 36:06 (18.3 mph; 133 watts, 1.08 VI)

The Run

Transition went fairly quickly. I found my rack quickly, hung Azul up and grabbed my running shoes and headed out. The first 300 yards or so were very painful. I thought about just throwing in the towel, but made the decision to keep going. I made it this far and after having a great bike split I knew that I could be on my way to a podium finish in my age group. I just needed to keep my legs moving. The first part of the run was on the baseball field. My legs definitely did not like the long grass. I focused on taking short steps and moving forward. Then it was a quick jaunt on the trails and then onto the road. The further I got the better my knee began to feel so I kept moving. I passed a few people and a couple of people passed me. Finally I came to the first aid station and ran through it. I knew the first mile was almost done. During transition I realized that my watch was messed up so I was able to set it in run mode. Because of the pool swim I had no satellite data. Luckily I knew this would be a problem and put my foot pod on my shoes before the race. I hit mile one around 9:50ish. Not my fastest at all, but I was okay with it. I was running and that was what mattered. A 54-year-old woman cruised by me at this point so I picked up my pace. Funny thing was the faster I seemed to run the better my knee felt. Around the 1.5 mile mark we turned onto dirt trails. There wasn’t many people on the course so it was a bit lonely. I hit the second mile at a 9:11/mile pace so I know I doing better. My goal at this point was to negative split the run and also not get passed by Tammy, a super fast TriMoxie athlete who started about 20 minutes behind me in the pool waves. I knew since she was super fast that she might pass me in the run so I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen. Plus it kept me motivated to keep moving. The third mile was a bit mentally tough. We looped back on the same dirt trail again and I could feel my knee pain again. I just knew I needed to make it to the finish. I passed a 65-year-old man in the final yards of the run. I crossed the finish line and limped my way over to the Med Tent to get ice for my knee.

Run: 28:04 (9:22/mile)

Race Bling

Race Bling

Total: 1:15:44; 3/12 AG; 32/133 W; 111/257 OA

Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth - all taking home hardware after a great race!

Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth – all taking home hardware after a great race!


Overall, I’m pleased with the result. Obviously, I wished my knee would not have been an issue so I could have pushed it more, but it is what it is. I know my speed isn’t there and my general fitness is lacking. However, I had a good first race. My transitions were good. I didn’t stand in TA and play with my watch forever like the Y for the Tri race last year. I went in, did my business and left. I had a great bike split and I did manage to pull off a decent run split. My knee was definitely sore Saturday after the race and I spent a long time icing it. Hopefully, we can get this knee issue figured out so I can start running again without pain. Ironman Lake Placid is in less than 3 months! Yikes!

~ Happy Training!

Tri for the Y Race Report

As previously mentioned, I decided to forgo my graduation ceremony this past Saturday in order to race the 2nd annual Tri for the Y in Freeport. It’s a small race and apparently smaller than the previous year. The race is a 325 yard pool swim, 13 mile bike, and a 5k run. Much of the bike course follows the Lobsterman bike course except you veer left up Pleasant hill instead of veering right onto Flying Point Rd. It was a beautiful day. Sunny and low 70s! The race started at 9am, but my swim wave didn’t start till 10am.

Normally I would have gotten my race packet the night before, but Friday was a bit hectic and I was driving all over the place so I decided to get it race morning. I’ve always been a bit of a nervous nellie race mornings. My worst fear is being late for a race! However, I wasn’t really nervous about the race as I was just anxious to get it over with. I chose to do this race as my season oper just as a run through for Mooseman and I’m glad I did. I definitely had some cobwebs to get rid of, especially involving my transitions, which were quite pitiful.

I went into the race with very high expectations for myself. I wanted to win my age group and place top 10 women overall. Was it out of the realm of possibility? No, I don’t think so. Was it a bit of a stretch? Yes. I severely underestimated the number of fast women runners, since that’s where I lost yet again! Race morning was different then all my other races previously because a) I picked up my race packet the day of the race, b) didn’t have a wetsuit with me so I kept thinking I was missing important items, and c) had a late start. My coach had me do a quick 10 minute warm-up on the bike, followed by another quick jog, and a few laps in the pool. My warm up was complete by 8:30am. I’m glad I took Azul for a quick ride because my front derailleur was acting up and having a hard time shifting from my small ring to the big one. I played around with it for a bit and got it working, but she was still making a few funny noises and start to make me nervous. There was bike support pre-race, but I’m not a fan of their shop and I only let a few select, trusted people touch my bike. I would have used them if I felt that something was really wrong with my bike though.

Since this race was a pool swim only 12 people could swim at a time. People were put into waves based on their projected time for completing a a 325 yard swim. I gave the time of 6 minutes knowing that I should in reality finish much closer to 5 minutes. When submitting our times we were informed that if we swam over our projected times then we were in danger of being pulled from the pool and thus I decided I’d rather be safe than sorry. The first wave started at 9am. My wave started at 10am.

The Swim

The first wave of swimmers were people who predicted to take 15 minutes to finish. I ended up watching most of the first wave because it was rather inspiring. A majority of the swimmers were either obese and/or over the age of 65. The best part was watching all their faces as they finished their swims. It was a huge accomplishment for many of them. Personally, for me finishing a 325 yd swim is not even a warm up. Last night I swam a tough 3200 yd swim and still could have handled more. It reminded me that sometimes not everyone’s goal is to win. Sometimes just finishing it enough!

In a nut shell, I had a horrible swim. I’m the type of swimmer that takes a while to warm up. I usually don’t feel good in a swim till after the 1000 yard mark. I’ve discovered that I am either a sprinter (and can sprint up to 150 yards good) or swim distance (0.5 to 1.2 mile) strong. I did a 200 yard warm up around 8:15 and then either sat around or walked around aimlessly till my 10am start (or in the bathroom with some gastro issues, urgh!). By this time I was cooled down. I shared a lane with a tall, first-time triathlete. He asked me before we started what time I aiming for. I told him around 5:15ish. Soon it was time to start. I took off and instantly knew this was going to be a bad swim. I couldn’t find my groove quickly. The guy kept crossing the black line and swimming into me. It was annoying, but I can deal with it since this is what happens in OWS. Just as soon as it was started, it was over. 325 yards goes quickly when you normally swim anywhere between 2500-3200 yards at a time during training. My average pace was 1:45 yd/min, which is absolutely horrible for me. I know a lot of women I have swam with would kill for that average, but I should have been more like a 1:25-1:30 yd/min. I’m still upset with myself about my swim performance. Grr..

Swim time: 5:40          Pace: 1:45 yd/min        Swim Overall Place: 26/123

The Bike

The bike course follows most of the beginning parts of the Lobsterman course. It’s a rolling hill course with a lovely climb up Pleasant Hill, around a neighborhood and back down and head back towards the Y. My coach told me to hammer it. My legs felt pretty good coming out of the swim. My transition time wasn’t bad. I didn’t have to worry about a wetsuit. However, my bike got stuck on one of the old-school road bikes in my rack so I had to untangle her to get her out. Once out of transition I put Azul in her big ring and went for it. I’ve been working on my cadence so I concentrated on spinning my legs compared to mashing the pedals. I passed one women who was doing exactly that and burning herself out. I yelled at her to just spin her legs, but I have no clue if she even heard me or just said “screw you lady” under her breathe. She never passed me. I was only passed by a couple of people on the course. I passed a few of course too. The course was pretty empty due to the small size of the race. I averaged 18.3mph on the bike. I was really hoping to be closer to 19.5mph, which indicated to me that I’m not exactly where I want and feel I should be bike fitness wise. However, I did have a few good things occur during my ride: a) I pushed it on the downhill parts and stayed in aero position without wanting to cry or piss myself, and b) I cornered in aero position on several occasions again without wanting to cry or piss myself. Azul kept making a weird “rubbing” noise during my ride so I was slightly worried that sometime might happen, but I was pretty confident that she would be fine. At one point a boat with boat trailer pulled out as I was descending a hill near the boat yard and made me a bit nervous due to the fact he was hugging the white line, but I survived!

Bike Time: 42:42       Pace: 18.3 mph         Bike Overall Place: 30/123

The Run

My transition from bike to run was dreadfully horrible and this is clearly where I lost third place. Bike went into the rack no problem. Bike shoes off and running shoes on, no problem. Garmin watch on, big problem. I was stupid and couldn’t get my watch on and stood there for about a good 45 seconds trying to latch my watch on my wrist. STUPID MISTAKE! Should have grabbed the watch and run. The only watch that matters is the official time clock! Grr… legs felt great coming out of T2! I quickly was able to find my pace. My garmin was telling me I was running about my 5k pace, but I felt like I was running sooo slow. I saw bike shop boy out on the course and he yelled at me to run faster. Typical. I just kept moving forward. The first aid station came after mile 1. I grabbed some water and ran through the station. I was able to throw a few drops down my throat, half of it up my nose, and then the rest over my head. It was starting to get a bit hot on the course. Then came the hill. It was a gradual incline for about 0.25 mile, turn around, and then back down. I passed a few people on the hill and was passed by a couple fast running men. I passed at least one girl in my age group! I was starting to slow at this point due to the climb, but I made sure to push it on the downhill to make up some time. Then it was a right hand turn down a small incline to the turn around and then up a slight incline and about a mile to go to the finish. I passed a few people here, but I was starting to slow a bit, but still sub-9:00/mile according to the Garmin. Once I could see the finish I picked up my speed to finish strong. I had a very good run, but I do believe that I could (and should have) pushed it more. And, the awesome announcer guy called me Catherine. Sorry buddy, not quite!

Run Time: 27:24       Pace: 9:08/mile         Run Overall Place: 46/123

Total Time: 1:19:43    Overall Place: 35/123   Women Place: 16/80   AG (W20-29): 4/12

Was it a bad race? No. But I’m still disappointed. I realized several things from the race though:

  • Pool races are really not great for me due to the fact I need more time to warm up for swimming. Will I do another? Most likely. It was fun.
  • Don’t dick around in transition! Grab the watch and run!
  • I don’t like not knowing who was in my age group. In most triathlons you start your swim wave in your age group. In a pool swim you usually don’t due to the swim times. I had no clue who was in my age group really even though we all had our ages on our legs. I’m very competitive so I need a target to really bring out my inner speed demon!
  • My run has become much stronger and hiring a coach was the best decision I have made in regards to all my training.
  • I’m still not happy with my bike fitness at the moment but I know it will come and I will be a much stronger and more efficient rider. Two good things about my bike leg occured: I pushed it hard on the downhills and also cornered in aero position!

Mooseman is in 10 days. I got my race plan from my coach earlier this week and got strangely excited about it. Race season has officially begun!

Happy Training!

Weekend Rap Up!

I took a long weekend this past weekend because I had a very busy Friday schedule. On Friday May 18th I got hooded a la Harry Potter style (I have never read or seen any of the Harry Potter books and movies. It’s not my style, but have you ever noticed that graduation garments, especially in the graduate degree fields look very wizard-like?). I don’t actually finish my Master’s in Public Health until December of this year but I was able to attend both the Hooding Ceremony and the Graduation Ceremony. However, I chose not to attend the graduation ceremony on Saturday because I preferred to race a triathlon and I also did not like the chosen commencement speaker. The Hooding Ceremony was actually kind of exciting because a) I did not attend my undergrad graduation so this was my first college graduation, b) I got a cool hood that I paid $55 to wear once (must find other uses for it. Ideas?), and c) I got to meet in person some of my classmates since my degree program is online.

A few of the 32 MPH graduates from the class of 2012

On Saturday I raced the Tri for the Y at the Freeport YMCA. It was a 325 yd swim, 13 mile bike, and 5k run. I’ll have a full race report later this week, but I did not do as well as I was hoping for. I missed 3rd in my age group by almost 30 seconds and it was mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t get my darn watch on and I stood there playing with it! Stupid mistake! However, it was nice to get the first race over with for the year. It was a beautiful day, many of my tri group members were volunteering, and bike shop boy was able to come watch (and pass out flyers for my Women’s road ride out of Allspeed Wednesday nights at 6pm) so overall not a horrible day.

Sunday was spent doing an easy recovery swim in the pool, an awesome self-butt kicking strength training session outside in beautiful weather in my front yard, and also doing a lot of reading for my personal training certfication. It was a super productive day!

Who doesn’t love a little TRX?

Yesterday I had an appointment with the chiropractor who I have been seeing for over six months about my pelvis that was unaligned and also my super tight calves. She was very pleased that my pelvis has remained in place for the past couple of months and that my calves were not very tight even after racing on Saturday! She was especially impressed that my body is relatively injury free. She told me that many of the athletes she treats tend to become injured or their body’s are more broken down going into taper for the big race. Mine body is in great shape going into taper for Mooseman in 12 days! I guess I can’t use that excuse for my race… But, I’m pleased and I feel great!

I’ve complained many of times recently about my lack of bike fitness and confidence this year. A friend emailed me yesterday to ask how my race was and I told her my bike was okay, but I was still disappointed by it. She asked me if it was due to fatigue from the intensity of my training. No. I know it’s not because overall I feel great and I make sure that I focus on proper recovery and nutrition in my training. I told her that I believe it’s due to the fact that I have always muscled my way through my rides with lower cadence and grinding gears. Through working with my coach I have learned that riding this way is actually very bad. It’s best to push lower gears while maintaining a higher cadence because it will save your legs for the run. My coach also emailed me Monday after analyzing my powermeter data from my race to inform me how to ride in my future workouts and also in Mooseman. I need to be more consistent in my riding. This is very important in riding long course triathlons. I tend to have power spikes in my data, which is not good. As she put it, I only have so many matches to burn. If I burn too many then my legs are toast on the run. My goal is to remain consistent and also pedal the whole damn time. No coasting, expect whenever absolutely necessary. I feel like I’m learning to ride a bike all over again. I’ve been very frustrated by this because I don’t have the strength I use to have, but in the end, I know it will pay off because I will be a stronger and more efficient rider.

I use to have extremely strong legs, which I think is the main reason I could always muscle my way through tough rides. The reason my legs were so strong was growing up riding horses. I had a riding instructor who use to make me post without stirrups and hands on the reins for my entire hour-long lessons. BELIEVE ME, that is no easy feat! It hurt like hell, but it gave me a super strong seat and I could ride just about any horse and stay on, including my off-the-race track Thoroughbred who seemed to think he was a bucking bronco at a rodeo. He never dumped me! Ha!

This is what a posting trot without stirrups looks like, except I would be on a lungeline and have no use of my hands. You definitely learn balance very quickly!

This is Mystery Knight, my crazy Thoroughbred. His grandsire was Seattle Slew, who is one of the last horses and the only horse to win the Triple Crown while remaining undefeated. Myst was a dud on the track, but man did he love to jump!

Happy Training!

I have the POWER!

Yes, I know I don’t have pedals on Azul. They are on my road bike (perhaps someday I will actually buy a second set of pedals!)

Two weeks ago Azul (my tri bike) got an upgrade, a SRAM S975 Quarq powermeter! A powermeter is something I’ve always wanted, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen earlier this year due to extensive car repairs, but I received an unexpected (well, maybe not really so unexpected) bonus at work and I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the powermeter. What also catalyzed the purchase was my need to switch from a standard crank (which came with my bike) to a compact crank due to my cadence issues and also I ride a lot of hills. BEST DECISION EVER! I feel much more comfortable and stronger on my bike now that it has a compact crank!

So, I got my Quarq about two weeks ago and my awesome bike shop put it on Azul for me. I got her home and put her on the trainer and tried syncing the Quarq with my Garmin computer. FAIL! No connection. Would not read at all! So, on Saturday I brought Azul back to the shop for troubleshooting. No bueno. Then I thought why not change the battery, even though this is a brand new powermeter and the battery should be fine, why not? I went to the store purchased the battery, replaced it in the Quarq, and BEEP “powermeter detected.” Seriously?! A new battery? Urgh, why did it have to be so simple!

Once Azul and I were home I put her on the trainer for my pre-long run easy spin. I made it 45 minutes before the new battery in the Quarq died. WTF?! Next morning I went out and purchased two new batteries at the grocery store. I put a new one in, the powermeter was detected for about 5 seconds, my Garmin succeeded to tell me that the battery in the powermeter was low and then finally died. Awesome! My Quarq was clearly defective and I was super upset. I tried calling Quarq, but of course, they are not open on Sunday. So, I emailed their customer service department to tell them about the issue and that I will be calling first thing on Monday morning! Later that afternoon I got an email back from Quarq (on a Sunday!)! On Monday they called my bike shop and decided to send me a new spider (the electronics part of the Quarq) because a Quarq that does not hold a battery charge is clearly not normal. I got the new spider in a couple of days and my bike shop put it on Azul by the end of the week. The new Quarq works flawlessly! I was very impressed with the Quarq/SRAM customer service. They were very professional and super fast! Thank you!

I’ve only ridden with my powermeter a handful of times so far, but I really like it. I’ve been reading various articles and watching webinars from TrainingPeaks about training with power. It is extremely effective to train with power on the bike and I know I will become a much stronger rider over time. My coach will now start giving my bike workouts in terms of power intervals compared to heart rate. This past weekend on my long ride I had some tempo and VO2 max intervals that were all written pre-powermeter and thus set to HR. I finally learned how to input my workouts into my Garmin Edge 800 so as I ride it just tells me what I’m doing so I don’t have to memorize my workouts. I set all my intervals for my HR zones, which turned out to be rather annoying because my Garmin would beep about every 5 seconds to tell me my HR was too high. Well, no shit, I just climbed a hill! But, I must admit, that I really love when I end a workout. My Garmin will “sing” a tune to let me know it’s over! It was rather amusing I thought.

I have my season opener triathlon on Saturday! I’ve decided to forgo my graduation ceremony to race the Tri for the Y in Freeport. It’s only a 325 yard pool swim, 13 mile bike, and a 3 mile run. It’s a short one, but my coach told me to go all out. I’m interested to see my performance. I have not done a sprint tri in almost a year and most of my training has been focused on long course, but I feel ready and I’m definitely itching to race. Two weeks from this Sunday is Mooseman 70.3! I’m still super nervous about this race. I think the main reason I’m nervous about this race is because I have high expectations for myself. I want to do well and I want to PR; however, from everything I’ve read and heard, this is not the race to PR on. At this point, my goal will be to finish in one piece and have fun. I definitely plan to push myself during this race, but my real “A” race is going to be REV3 OOB.

In other more exciting news, I have officially signed up to volunteer at Ironman Lake Placid this summer! You know what that means… 🙂

Happy Training!