Racing Back-to-Back: two races in two days

Super Mom Sarah takes on two races in two days? What?? Here's how they went: 

Doing the Double: Race Reports from Giant Acorn and Frederick YMCA Triathlons - by Sarah W. Flynn

There was a time when it was HUGE deal, physically, for me to do one triathlon, let alone two in one weekend. Basically, I never trained enough (or was just not fit enough) to even consider competing again 24 hours after a race. But since I’ve learned to be better about managing my time among workouts, work, and being with my little ones, I’ve been feeling stronger than ever. So my attitude about back-to-back races was downright cavalier.

Disclaimer: Both were sprints, and the second race could probably fall under the super-sprint category. Each race not much more than an hour, so I knew I’d be able to handle it. But I also wanted to race well, and the shorter races are more prone to destroying your legs since there’s no time to coast. My plan? Red line start to finish on Saturday, and see what I had left on Sunday.

Here’s how each went down: 

The Race: Giant Acorn Sprint Triathlon

The Place: Lake Anna State Park, VA

The Distance: 750m swim, 16 mile bike, 5K run

The Outcome: 7th overall (2nd non-collegiate), 1st 35-39 Age Group

Time: 1:24:05 (7 minutes, 19 seconds faster than 2013)

Swim: I was completely relaxed before this race. Probably too much so—but inexplicably, I don’t get nervous before triathlons (running races are another story). The gun went off, and I raced out to the front to try to get a position out of the fray. Although it was a much cleaner swim than Irongirl Columbia, we did run into the stragglers from the prior waves within the first 300m. So there were plenty of obstacles to navigate. By the last stretch I’d not only found clean water, but the feet of a faster swimmer in my wave. I’ve never drafted before, but I made the split decision to give it a whirl and swam directly behind her for about 200m until we hit the shore. I think it helped: I swam 2:03 faster than last year.

Split: 12:11 (3rd AG, 20th overall)

Bike: So, here’s where I had a big ol’ laugh: As I was racing towards the bike mount line (or more so, walking slowly…I got stuck behind a pack of men who were traveling at a turtle’s pace out of T1), I looked down and panicked. Turns out, when I pulled my wetsuit on, I forgot to take off my capris. Yep, I swam in them. And yep, I was stuck in these cold, wet things clinging to my legs for the entire ride. I was so distracted by this development that I had a horrendous time mounting my bike. But finally, I was up, and tried to ride like a bat out of hell…which, in my world, is about 18 mph, tops. Ugh, I am SLOW (more on that later). But, on a positive note, only three or four women from my wave passed me (and passed me good). So, I knew I had a deficit to make up on the run, but I felt pretty good about how I stood…aaaand I improved 4:01 from ’13.

Split: 48:17 (5th AG; 51st overall)

Run: I did not feel good when my feet touched the ground. And immediately started worrying that it was going to be a long slog to the finish line. But once we were up the first steep climb, I regained my confidence. I kept my stride short and choppy for the first mile, when the course turns deliciously downhill. It was then when I saw eventual overall winner Katie P. who seemed to have a massive lead (it was hard to tell, though, because there was a big group of college girls—who started in the first wave--mixed in front and behind her). Seeing the leaders motivated me to run faster, so I picked up the pace and set my sights on any woman in front of me. By the time we reached the last part of the course that winds through the woods, I caught everyone who had passed me on the bike, but noticed a few more ponytails ahead. I felt good enough to switch into another gear and approached two women who were having a duel in the home stretch. There’s definitely something to be said about catching people from behind…they did not see me coming. I managed to nip both of them at the line. And, as it turns out, one of them was in my age-group, and my little kick secured me an age-group win (and boosted me to a :58-second PR on the course). A small victory for me in many ways, since I’ve never had the strength (both mentally and physically) to truly fight until the finish.

Split: 20:22 (1st in age group, 5th overall)


On to Sunday…

The Race: Frederick YMCA Women’s Tri

The Place: Middletown, MD

The Distance: 300-yard pool swim, 10-mile bike, 3-mile run

The Outcome: 2nd overall in 1:00:55

Swim: Hello, wardrobe malfunction #2: The zipper on the very cool tri suit Bec gifted me would not budge. Fearing the suit would fill up with water, I pinned it shut, Frankenstein style. Very chic. Other than that hiccup, swim was uneventful. I went out too hard, died a little at the end, and made it to transition without any fanfare. Done and done. Split: 4:34 (10th overall…there were a lot of speedy young swimmers in there!)

Bike: Wouldn’t you know, but I struggled yet again at the start of the bike, this time failing to clip in as I clumsily pedaled away from T1. A competitor flew past me in the process and I never saw her again until the run. About 3 miles in, my legs began to burn. BAD. Guess that’s what happens with doubling up. I shifted down into my granny gear, tried to spin a little on the flats to give myself a break, but I couldn’t get into a groove. Knowing that the faster ladies started behind me (they seeded us slowest to fastest based on estimated finish times for the swim), I was cycling scared. Just as a huge hill approached, eventual winner Sarah M. passed by me, cruising along like she was out for a lazy Sunday ride. I tried to keep her in my sight as I hammered the best I could up the hills. But ow, my legs were DEAD, and I couldn’t have been happier when I got off that bike. Split: 35:49 (7th overall)

Run: This is where things got fun again. The course consisted of two rolling, 1.5-mile loops. As soon as I got my legs underneath me, I pushed the pace. That burning lactic acid in my legs dissipated as I kept my eyes up and focused on the ladies before me. At a turnaround near the mile marker, I saw Sarah M. I did some quick mental math and figured I had to run about 2.5 minutes faster than her to make up the time from her fast bike (and the fact she started after I did). That motivated me enough to pass her and continue to gain ground on the second loop. I’ve never felt better at the end of a triathlon—I was running 6:25 pace but managed to cheer and shout out encouragement to Julie, Kristen, and all of the Luna Chix DC ladies on the course, and smile. And when I crossed the finish line, I threw my arms up in celebration of finishing another race—holding out slight hope that I may have actually won the whole thing.

Sigh. I came up just 20 seconds short of the W. While Sarah and I swam nearly the same time, and I did run nearly 2.5 minutes faster than her, she biked the same margin faster, and whooped me in transitions. Still, I’m giddy about my 19:15 3-mile split. I’ve never broken 20 in a sprint triathlon and I likely would have run 19:53 for a 5K. It’s the little things. Split: 19:15 (1st overall)

The takeaway: I’m really excited about how things went in both of these races. But I’m not so psyched about the disparity among my swim and run and my bike. So, you guessed it, I’m now going to focus on getting faster on the bike…and likely getting a new one, too (my Felt bike is practically vintage). I hope to return to these races next year a more confident biker so I can really mix it up from start to finish—and not just hope I’m lucky enough to run people down.  ‘Til then, I’ll keep on running: The Annapolis Half Marathon is up next!