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This was sent to me by Jen Ward/Barber after her K-Town triathlon yesterday.  I decided it was okay to post it here (and I hope that was an ok decision):

So after two gorgeous days spent in quaint Kingston, ON with friends, Sunday came in like a lion. I woke up at 4 am (nerves nerves nerves) to a full-blown wind and rain storm raging outside the window. By 7 am it had calmed only minimally, and we were soaking wet by the time we arrived at the race site.

The race was a strange distance: a 1.2 mile swim, 35 mile bike (56 k), and a 9.3 mile run (15 k). The swim was no calm August morning on Cazenovia lake (tri #1), or clear crisp jaunt at Green Lakes (tri #2). Nope, this was feisty Lake Ontario with its choppy surface, rolling swells, and power boats. I would go as far as to say that the swim was pretty awful. I got so dizzy and disoriented trying to freestyle the first few hundred feet (the rollers toss your body all over place, and when I'd go up for a breath I'd get a mouthful of gross water), that I ended up breast-stroking until the turn-around buoy. This seriously hurt my knees for some reason. I don't think wetsuits are so cut out for the breast stroke. By the time I hit the turn-around, the waves were pushing me back into the harbor and I managed to take advantage of them and get some freestyle in. It took me so long to get into my groove, and I feel like I spent a lot of energy on the swim alone. I felt less like an athlete and more like a tiny, helpless speck trying to survive something far beyond me.

The bike started out fine, but after the half way point, the rain went from misty to stormy. The winds got progressively higher, and my quad cramped up in the last 15 or so miles. The course also had a lot more hills than I expected.

The run was 99% mental. As I listened to the squish and slosh of my soaking wet runners (wind must have blown my handy black garbage bag cover off of them in the transition zone), I kept telling myself I was just out for a rainy Sunday afternoon easy run. I didn't have any major cramping, but the run was still quite painful. It's a nice out and back along the waterfront with a few steep inclines, and I would've taken rain any day over heat and humidity. Still, as I collapsed in Mark's arms at the finish line, I said something to the effect of "I think I'm an Olympic distance person."

Overall, I feel a little disappointed with my performance. When I look at my season of sporadic training and weeks on the road, however, I'm glad I did as well as I did: I placed 4th out of the 8 women in my age group, with a total time of 4:26:14. I think it's when I look at the three legs individually that I'm most bummed: 48:10 on the swim, 17.5 mph avg on the bike, and 9:50 min/miles average on the run. In my two other triathlons I was in the 20 mph range on the bike and in the 8 mins for the runs. I expected better, but I guess my body and the weather had other plans.

As is my usual post-race habit, I find myself debriefing my performance, expectations, and emotions. This experiences has left me, once again, looking at the sport and asking where my place is in it. Why was I upset with my performance when I didn't even have a specific goal until the last 3 k's of the run (under 4:30:00)? Why didn't I have the same exuberance as I did in my first triathlon...was it just because I missed "placing" by one spot? The increased distances in this event were really difficult, and I had thoughts along the way of how much it means to me to ever complete an Ironman. What am I best suited to, in terms of training time and quality, body composition, and just pure grit? In which of these areas was I the weakest? Maybe my goals had just suddenly shifted from just wanting to finish, to wanting to do well.

Upon asking us how our days were going, our lunch server looked worried as my friend and I both answered "horrible." We started laughing soon after, and told her about our painful 4 hour mornings. But as we gobbled up our pizza and beer, I said to my friend (a first-time-triathlete) "oh just give it a day and you'll be searching for your next one." I only know because it happens to me...every time.  

I will add that the K-town tri is an exceptionally well organized race. You have to get your bike safety checked the day before, and they assign transition zone areas to the competitors. Some people might not like this, but it sort of takes away the stress of finding a good spot. The elites are at the entrance, then it goes long course men, long course women, and then the short course and duathalon racers. There are lots of water spots and a full, hot lunch at the end with loads of food and desserts.

Hope to see you all as soon as my knees (and quads and hams and hips) heal up!
Thanks for the recap Jen, and job well done!  I have found from personal experience that there are some races where you're focused on specific goals and other races where you're simply focused on getting thru. It looks like K-Town was more of the latter for you.  The funny thing is that it's often the "getting thru" races that I look back on with the most fondness, and they're certainly the ones that make for the best stories.

I have never been in swimming conditions like what you describe and I can only imagine how much mental and physical energy was spent on simply surviving out there.  That sounded rough.

My guess (and you've alluded to this yourself already) is that if this was your 1st tri you'd be simply elated to have gotten thru, but because you already have a couple of others under your belt (and have done well) you're now making more challanging goals for yourself, whether consiously or subconsiously.  I don't want to sound patronizing but I think that yesterday's race was a huge success just for getting thru - to have done so with good times for those conditions is great.  Way to go Jen.
Tom & Lori
We diddo Scott's comments ... Well done Jen getting through a tough race and looking back will no doubt be less about performance numbers and more about overcoming the conditions!

Thanks for the update Scott on one of our "extended TrgCoop-ers - USA faction".
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