Ah Crystal River … my favorite race to do and also the bane of my existence. For some reason the results I have from this race weight more heavily on my psyche than any other race. It’s my measuring stick. Has been Since 2012. It is usually the first,or close to the first, race of the season and is a series of three so easy to compare progress, or lack there of, through a season and from year to year. It is also one, as much as I hate to admit this to myself, that I feel in my head that I can actually place in at some point in time. It is the closest I have ever come to placing (placed 6th in 2012 in one race), and also has given me many last place finishes (as it did this year).
But I still love it.
Last year they started offering pre-race packet pick up, and I managed to get there the day before in time to both get a swim in on the course and get to the pick up location before going to the room. The last couple of years we have not had to get rooms because Jennifer lived close enough, but since she has moved to the Orlando area we are back to the old Holiday Inn Express haunt (which I actually enjoy to be honest … no long drive in the morning. A shower and bed after wards.). Transition opened at 6 AM and we arrived right at the time, parked, and since we were already set with stickers and body marking (we did them ourselves before leaving the room) went right into transition to set up. I was ready and went down to the water within 15 minutes. The temperature was in the low 70’s with a breeze, so was a bit nippy, but the water was 81 degrees. What happens in this case is you tend to stay in the water until right before race start because it’s warmer. Gotta love Florida.
Unlike the night before the water was calm with very little current, so I felt the swim was not going to be that difficult. I enter this season with the mind set of a reset year, so this ace, the first of the year, is going to be my benchmark of sorts. I have not done a triathlon of any distance since last September, so really had no idea how it was going to go. I had put in a lot of time in the pool and the bike, but running was once again an issue, but I thought I could get into the 2:05:00 area.
We are always the final wave in this race, which is nice in that it is the only race we actually start at the same time. Very different. The race started promptly at 7:30 and our wave went 15 minutes later. I felt good in the water from the very start. I normally let the crowd go then take my time getting up to speed. I feel smooth and comfortable the whole and actually though I was faster than it turned out. Exiting the water I looked at my watch and it was at 12:45 (my plan was 12:00), and then had to face the jog to T1 through soft sand. I ended up at 14:28 (190/221), much slower than I thought I could do but also, on the other hand, felt really strong and was not tired at all. I think I prefer it this way.
The one thing about this venue I do not like is there is no place to rinse feet after coming through the sand. Since it is only a 15 mile bike I do not use socks on the bike. Once I am to the bike I am pretty fast getting set and gone, so most of the time in transition (both) is the run to it, which I normally walk, especially though the sand. A 2:51 T1 is not bad for me looking at previous results though. I’ll take it.
I was planning on averaging 15 here, for a one hour ride, and was right on the money with a 1:01:22 time. I think I can be faster. There was a head wind on the 7.5 miles out but the training in Clermont recently helped me immensely power through these. I was in the 13-14 range most of the time, but I was not pushing as hard as I could have, and I know that. After the turn back I did start trying to ramp up, and with a slight tailwind managed to get into the 18-19 mph range. The best part about it was that I felt good when I got to transition. I am doing something right in my training, or I am racing a lot smarter than I have in the past, because not once during the entire race did I feel like I was losing energy. That might be a bad thing for some. Not for me. At least not at this point.
This was very slow and I am really not sure why. I did take a bit of time trying to get all the sand off my feet before putting socks on, so most of the 4:16 was due to that. I need to figure something out there. My plan on transitions was 3:00 each. Combining my actuals was 7:07, so about a minute or so slower. I can correct this though.
This continues to be my downfall. I was close to my target until this once more, but felt I was able to run faster this time than my normal 1 mile shuffle. The problem started here with a sharp pain in my left knee when I tried to run. No pain at all while walking. About a mile in Jennifer caught me and I told her what I was feeling. Turns out it was probably the grade on the road. The one bad thing about this race is that the run is on the same course as the bike and the shoulder has about a 10 degree embankment. My knee was not happy about that all of a sudden, and since it is an open course I could not get to the middle of the road to find a flat spot. Solution? Match Jennifer’s walking pace, which helped SO much. She can walk pretty fast, and so I kept her in sight and tried to match it. Not the easiest thing for me but it kept me in the 17:00 pace range. Once I reached the turnaround I could get to the other side of the road where it was flat and was able to run, going 2:00 faster over the last 1.5 miles than the initial. I caught up to Jennifer and we finished with each other, which is a nice thing also. That has not happened in a while. My run was 51:10, which is not far off from recent runs to be honest, but could have been much faster without the knee issue. Total race time was 2:14:09 … 9 minutes slower than goal but nothing that happened can’t be corrected.
The next race in this series is not that far away (June 13th) but is the week after the Fletcher Flyer ride in North Carolina. I am confident I will improve through this year though, just knowing how I felt afterwards.