Bandits Challenge

After the start to the season I’ve had, I’ve spent the last few weeks wondering why on earth I do triathlon! A flat race at Belews, a DNF at White Lake followed by a slower run split than bike split at Eagleman has my mental game in the toilets, to be quite honest. Adjusting to a new, slightly more aggressive bike position, coupled with some super flat, windy bike courses (not my forte) has taken a toll on my run….and my pride!

After White Lake and Eagleman, thoughts of quitting triathlon have been brewing so I knew I needed to do something…soon! I’m a better athlete than I’ve displayed and more than anything, I needed a race to remind myself of that. I spent last week trying to workout out arrangements to sniper my way to Syracuse 70.3 next weekend to race with some friends because my fitness is really longer course right now, but between time off work and the cost of travel, it just wasn’t working out. I’ve had my eyes on Bandits Challenge for a few seasons now; its one of only 3 races in the series I’d never done, but I’d be lying if I said the course didn’t intimidate the hell out of me. Given the trouble I’d been having with the uber flat courses, I figured I might as well go back to what I know…the hills!

I decided Thursday afternoon I’d be racing Bandits…and I was excited. Other than my sister, who I would be coordinating dogs with, I didn’t tell a single sole other than my coach because I just wanted to go and do my thing with no pressure and no expectations. Of course, sister / Iron Sherpa didn’t want me to go alone and she was there to support…as always!!

We left later on Friday after work to miss traffic. I laid in bed Friday night pondering if this might truly be my last race…at least for a while. I eventually dozed off and the alarm was going off before I knew it. We were up and out the door in no time; my legs felt good and I felt very focused.

This would be only my 2nd mass start with the Open athletes. I did White Lake mass start but given I woke up 28 minutes before the race, I didn’t really have much time to digest that fact then. There was a smaller field here and I knew my generally lackluster swimming would be more of a factor on the shorter course.

Swim: 29:13 / 11th

The 80’s song by Paula Abdul comes to mind after this swim. It goes something like “I take, two steps forward, I take two steps back”. You can listen here if you’d like. I had what I considered a “good” swim at Eagleman just a week ago and turned around a week later to have a not so great swim. Leigh-Ann and I discussed a few of the girls whose feet she thought I could stay on, which was an epic failure. I was off the back by the first turn buoy and was on my own for essentially the whole swim. I felt like at some points I wasn’t moving. Who knows. Nonetheless, I decided to not let it bother me and decided to use it as fuel for the ride.

T1: ?? 1:20ish.

So I have no T1 or bike split because I went out the “Bike In”…behind some guy who I was following. In America, you would think we would exit out the right side, but maybe I’m too logical for my own good. Oops. My sister was yelling “go back, your chip didn’t register” and I was like “are you on drugs?” 🙂

I learned last week to do a “flying” transition and would have loved to test it out, but unfortunately, the hill coming out of transition here is entirely too steep to try to muscle up not clipped in and there’s not enough time to get your shoes fastened before you hit the hill. Standard bike mount, standard transition time.

Apparently the hill made me smile

Bike: 1:22ish – Technically 1st – nothing registered given my goof on the exit

Seeing a 28 and change on your watch after an Olympic swim fires me up enough to ride my heart out. I knew Carrie and Lynn would have swam low to mid-20’s and, well, I was right. As a result, I knew if I wanted to even be IN the race at all, I was going to have to do some work on the ol’ Guru. Based on a metabolic efficiency test I had a few weeks ago, I knew I should be able to ride Olympic effort (~200-ish watts) whilst still burning mostly from my fat stores and still have enough to run. I put the results to the test.

This course is the reason I ride a bike. I have forgotten how much I love the hills, I feel comfortable riding them, and hillier courses are the ones that suit me…they always have. I was alone for about 1/2 a mile, got caught by two age group guys, one of which rode on, the other which I ended up jockeying back and forth with for the remainder of the ride (David Koontz / 1:22:06). He would accelerate past me on the hills and I would open a nice margin on the downhills and flats. It was nice to have someone to pace off of to be sure I kept my effort and power output up. There was one nice 1 mile-ish long climb and the rest were a series of 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile rollers followed by some fun 40+ mph descents. The weather was perfect, the course was quiet and it was honestly one of my favorite bike courses I’ve done to date.

I had passed one other Open female about 3 miles in but I was getting discouraged by the 20 mile marker in that I hadn’t even seen the other two girls. I knew my swim was bad and I knew I was riding strong, but I didn’t realize just how bad my swim was in comparison. Right as I crested a big hill at the 24 mile mark, I looked ahead to see two little specs down below. I knew there were no men ahead of me that I’d be gaining on so I knew that it must be Carrie and Lynn. At the same time, I was passing David and he said “I think that’s 2 girls straight ahead – go get them!” I was able to catch them somewhat quickly as my bike is certainly very fast on downhills and flats. By the time we pulled into transition, I was about 30 sec or so ahead of Lynn and maybe 90 sec ahead of Carrie and the first female in for the day.

T2: :55 Good transition, first flying dismount executed perfectly 🙂 Shoes on, hat on, out the door – still could use some work.

Run: 46:29 – 6th

I ran out of transition about 20 or so seconds ahead of Lynn. I knew it wouldn’t be enough but I was determined to just run my race and not worry about her. I came to Bandits to have a good race, not necessarily “win” (though that would have been pretty cool). After leaving transition, you get a solid .25 miles to catch your breath and settle down a bit before you hit the first wall hill of seven to come. It’s a doozie on your bike, running it is also less than awesome. Thankfully I didn’t wear my HR monitor and just raced on feel as I’m sure I would have seen a number that would scare any cardiologist.

The rest of the first mile is generally flat with a slight false flat and I was feeling really good. We made it to the 1 mile marker and Lynn was still behind me but as expected she was gaining on me quickly. She passed me as we headed down the first descent; I kept her within a few feet of me for a while and we climbed the 2nd big hill but she inched away a little every mile. There are a lot of turn arounds which made it nice to see where everyone was. After we turned around to head back up the 2 ginormous hills we just ran down I could see that Carrie was about 2 minutes behind me. I focused on just maintaining my stride and not thinking about anything else – oh, and breathing.

The huge hill is nothing short of…well, huge. It is about 1/4 – 1/2 mile long and I would guess the grading is 15-20% maybe? It’s a bitch, no other way to say it. I was able to run all but a few steps on the first time up it, I walked about 10 steps towards the top because that seemed faster than the run I could manage. The 2nd loop and the rest of the run was all about just holding pace. I walked (hard) a bit more on the 2nd time up the hill as I knew Carrie was not going to catch me and there was zero chance of me catching Lynn. My mile paces were ALL over the board from 6:53 to 8:12 on the mile with the big hill but I guess that’s somewhat standard. I don’t consider this a great run, but it got the job done for today.

2:40:36 total – 2nd female / 1st Open

Certainly one of my slowest Olympics but with good reason and I feel ok with that. I felt strong, mentally controlled and most of all, I had fun…exactly what I needed to get back to my old self. It was new and different being out there actually racing and knowing exactly where you stand in the race, as opposed to racing age group you have no idea where you’ll slide in at the end. I love it; thanks for a super fun race Carrie and Lynn and congrats!

I’ve learned that I need hilly bike courses and that I do prefer flatter run courses. I’ve learned that I don’t need to quit triathlon and that I still have a lot of fire in me to keep working and improving. I’ve learned that when the day comes that I have a bad race and I don’t that the urge go to out and do another for redemption, I’ll know that my time had come with this sport. For now, I’ll be swimming and doing hill repeats 🙂

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