Throwing it Down in the Heart of the Country: Des Moines Tri Race Recap

Last Sunday, I raced at the inaugural Des Moines Triathlon and came away with the WIN for the amateur race, besting even a few pros! (For full results, see here).

Des Moines Tri was made possible by number of sponsors who came together when the HyVee series dissolved in an effort to continue the Labor Day Weekend tradition, even if it was no longer the HyVee Championships. I jumped on the opportunity to race in Des Moines when I heard about it, knowing that some fast women would also be heading there to toe the line. Of course as I signed up I was thinking, “Iowa is close! TOTALLY driving distance!” I later looked at a map and saw it was a litttleeeee further than I thought.

Covered a lot of territory in 72 hours!

Covered a lot of territory in 72 hours!

Luckily 6 hours is righttt in the top end of my personal “driving radius” for a 2.5-day trip, and it actually was a great opportunity to catch up on calls to family and friends that I have been meaning to make, interspersed with some solid Pandora sing-along time (toggling between my “Fight Song,” “Royal Concept,” and “Today’s Top Hits” stations).

I do LOVE my road trip sing-alongs!

I do LOVE my road trip sing-alongs!

The drive through Iowa was beautiful, and the green cornfields I had driven through in June en route to Pigman were now golden brown. Des Moines had some equally pretty views! One thing I will say is Iowa sure has a healthy bug population! Poor Eth (my Prius) is in serious need to a car wash after the weekend!

Beautiful sculpture garden in downtown Des Moines!

Beautiful sculpture garden in downtown Des Moines!

Anyhow, as I reflect on the weekend, I thought I would share three takeaways that I may have recognized before but truly came into play in my win this weekend:

1. Race performance is not just about race day

DayBeforeRoutine

So often we focus on the race itself when we see someone to do well – What bike did they ride? What wetsuit did they wear? What kind of shoes did they run in? I will not deny that each of these contribute to one’s race split to a certain extent, and I will also be the first to admit that I am constantly thinking about my equipment and any changes I need to make to gain seconds here or there.

But there is so much more that goes into race day performance. Obviously, there is the cumulative training. Among the many other factors, there is also recovery, including nutrition, rest, etc. It can be so easy to overdo it in the days leading up to a race, and I can’t tell you how many people I see doing legit intervals the day before the race. On the flip side, you can’t just sit on the couch for days, “tapering” for your race. My day-before-race-day routine is comprised of an effort to straddle these two extremes. People often ask what that routine looks like… I’ve laid it out on the right for your perusal!

Hitting up the YMCA for my swim!

Hitting up the YMCA for my swim!

Dinner in the hotel night before race day.

Dinner in the hotel night before race day.

2. Mind over Matter

Coach and I agreed that I would train through the race and place our focus on Age Group Worlds in Chicago (9/20).  So while this was a race, it was primarily a training opportunity! I did 2-3 lighter days leading into the race, but come race morning, I felt flatter than I would have liked. In the swim and bike in particular, I was not moving as well as I had hoped. It was constant self talk of “keep working with what you have,” and “just keep looking for a little more – you can do more than you think!” I focused on staying particularly aero on the bike if my watts were less than I had hoped. That was just enough to get me to the finish line ahead of my competition with my body pushed to its limit (thank you med tent/volunteers for the ample water and ice to cool me off!).

Below, I’ve outlined how this played out in each portion of the race:

Swim (23:00, 1:25/yd)

My natural strength lies in getting in a groove and going, which has historically played against me at the start when people are pummeling on top of each other. I’ve been working this summer with Greg and my Team IE teammates to be more comfortable getting beat up in the water. Sunday, I focused on staying calm, keeping my head down, and just looking for bubbles as opposed to the natural instinct: head up and looking around at what is going on. While my arms weren’t pulling quite the water I would have liked, I was happy with how I kept my mind focused on the effort in order to handle the mayhem at the start, chop throughout the swim, and sun square in my eyes for the 2nd half. I came out of the water 9th female overall (3rd amateur female).

T1 (0:58)

I pulled my goggles and cap off as I ran out of the water. The water was 81 degrees, so no wetsuits involved! I got to my bike, tossed goggles/cap, clipped on my helmet, grabbed my bike (with shoes rubberbanded on pedals), just as we’ve practiced so I didn’t even have to think. I was off!

Bike (1:06:05, Average Pwr = 170W)

Ouch. My heart rate was higher than usual and legs felt like lead when I got on the bike. Looking at the positives, I did a better job than I have in the past of getting up to speed and THEN putting feet in shoes. I saw Cindi Bannink just up the road so I made her my first target. After passing her, I glanced down and my watts were hovering around 20-30W lower than what we shoot for (insert: “what the eff!?”). There were many moments on the bike when I wanted to just get off and be done. But I willed myself to keep on pedaling (one stroke at a time!) and hold at least the power that I was putting out, reminding myself that the race isn’t over ‘til it’s over! I also focused on nutrition, sipping from my super handy Profile Design aero bottle and taking in 3x more calories on the bike here than I did at Nationals.

T2 (0:46)

Flying dismount, complete! Finally! I’ve been practicing that, and it definitely allowed me to maintain better speed and flow coming into T2. I racked my bike, threw my helmet off, slipped on my sneakers and grabbed my race number as well as sunglasses to put them on as I ran out of transition.

Run (41:28, ~6:42)

Ouch, again! I settled into a pace of about 6:25 coming out of transition, and that is about what I held until the last mile. I had learned from Nationals the impact of overextending out of T2, and the pace felt brisk but relaxed and sustainable. I was able to overtake Daniela Williams at Mile 3, and from there I focused on pushing her back and reeling in (or maybe just minimizing the gap between) the pros, who I knew were crushing it up ahead! I got to Mile 6 and I could feel the heat and wind starting to set in. I focused on forward lean and keeping my legs moving, both of which Coach and I have been working on. I succeeded until that last hill, at which point my legs really began protesting. I barely remember the finish line other than the announcer saying, “Here we have another pro… No, wait, this is our first female amateur!” I had to smile to myself – fast enough for them to think I was a pro, even with a start time 5 minutes after them.

Top women's results on the day (source: http://edge.raceresults360.com)

Top women's results on the day (source: http://edge.raceresults360.com)

3. The devil is in the details

You may be thinking as you read this, “Sheesh this is wayy too much info!” Indeed, I was very focused on the process the entire weekend, not just during the 2hrs 12mins that I was on the race course. That is an overarching theme that perhaps you can see arising in my training, my day-to-day existence, and now my racing. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Focusing on the execution of every detail was a key ingredient in my success this weekend and will continue to be important as I continue to develop.

Winning the amateur division this weekend while racing alongside some of the top pros in the sport was a reminder of how far I’ve come and how far I have to go. It was an exciting step in the right direction, but again, one step of many on the road to the top! Thanks to my amazing coach, fiance, friends, family, and sponsors who have supported me thus far and to all the volunteers out on the course!

The pro podium - that'll be me someday! :)

The pro podium - that'll be me someday! :)

Until then, I'm keepin’ it real in The Bend and getting back to work as we build to Chicago in a little over a week!