The day before a race, especially a triathlon, brings a mix of feelings. Ideally it should be a day of rest with mild activity. There are many things to do to prepare for the race the next day along with managing nerves. This morning I slept in until 7:00, usually I sleep later, but my dogs had to get the groomer by 9:00, so I made sure to go to bed early. I had over 8 hours sleep and I am feeling much better. Since yesterday was a total rest day, my training partner and I met just after 9:00 to swim. We only swam 1,000 meters and did it easy. I was very happy with my easy pace. My 100 meter pace was right at 2:02. I am still amazed at the progress I have made in just one month.
After swimming we headed to the race expo to pick up our race packets. It opened at 11:00 and we got there just before noon. The line was enormous. Cleveland has two significant triathlons in the summer and as planning goes, they are both tomorrow. I was surprised to see how long the line was – until a guy walked in just after noon carrying the timing chips. Hence the delay – athletes couldn’t be completely registered and checked in until the timing chips arrived. At that point the line started moving. In all I probably was standing in line for 40 minutes or so – longer than I had wanted to considering it should be a rest day. By 3:00 this afternoon I had my bike all set with race wheels on, cleaned, chain lubed and packed in my car along with my gear bag. My sports drinks are made and in the refrigerator, my gels and food are ready to go too. It is a good feeling to know I have that done.
With extra time I decided to watch the Women’s Olympic Triathlon race that I had recorded from earlier this morning. I knew the results and saw how close the finishing times were, so I was excited to watch. First the finish – races just do not get more exciting that this. The clock showed 1:59:48 for the winning time – the excitement began at 1:56 on the time clock. American Sarah Groff did an amazing job to catch and hang on to the front pack of four. With less that a minute to go it was evident Groff was not going to medal and come in fourth, but she ran an amazing race. Surging to the finish Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and Lisa Norden of Sweden were literally at a photo finish. It took the officials over 6 minutes to declare Spirig the winner. Erin Densham of Australia crossed third only two seconds behind. The three women lay exhausted on the ground just past the finish when Groff crossed twelve seconds behind the winner – that is how close it was. Bonus points to Groff for staying on her feet in the finish area.
As I watched the bike leg, I was disappointed. If someone had never seen a triathlon race and saw this, they would have a very different view of what really happens in triathlon races for us age groupers. This race was draft legal – these women based a great amount of their performance on their ability to draft off of each other. First, that would be so intimidating to anyone who had ever considered do a triathlon. The crashes were plentiful as the women made a specific left turn. The road was wet, but riding that close to each other does not help. Second, as an age group competitor we are penalized for drafting. The most important rule of the ride is to stay at least three bike lengths from the cyclist in front of you, pass within 15 seconds, and once passed the cyclist has to drop out of the draft zone before attempting to pass. Also I was surprised that the women road on road bikes, not tri bikes. Many did not even have aero bars. Finally I noticed they were not wearing aero helmets. It was a very different race than what most triathletes compete in. In fact the Ironman international competition in Kona is much more like the sprint triathlons most triathletes compete in – just a bit longer…
In all it was a good day. I am rested, feeling good about my ability, and I was able to watch an amazing Olympic triathlon race. The weather forecast for tomorrow does not look good. Not only is rain in the forecast, but thunderstorms. Isn’t that just like life – I can rest and prepare all I am able, but there will always be things that are out of my control. Just like the bike course, I will just have to roll with it.