My first triathlon of the year was certainly one to be remembered! It was a fun-filled day of podium finishes, friends, and lots of hills. The Bartlett Lake Sprint Triathlon is known for its massive hills on both the bike and the run and is touted by the race organizers, Tri Family Racing, as the “toughest most beautiful race in Arizona.” I look forward to this race every year as it is a fun local race with lots of Tri Scottsdale peeps competing and it is by far one of the most scenic races I have ever competed in. It is always a great race to kick off the triathlon season with, and I will surely do it again next year.
I went into this race with a couple goals in mind, including a top-5 finish and an improvement on my previous year’s time, which was somewhere around 1:25:00. The weekend of the race, however, I wasn’t feeling like myself. I had gone through a rough patch a few weeks prior in which I experienced my first, and hopefully my last, overtraining episode. The three weeks prior to this race were a mix of regular training and complete rest. I had been feeling pretty good the week leading up to the race, but for whatever reason my overtraining symptoms began to re-surface during the last few days leading up to the race. I decided to continue with my plans of racing, accepting that I would either feel totally fine or like total crap.
Luckily I felt great with no signs of overtraining slowing me down. I felt a little fatigued the morning of the race, but during my warm-ups, those feelings began to fade. By the time I hit the water as the gun went off, I felt amazing. The swim (500 meters) went just as I had expected it to go and I found myself getting into a comfortable rhythm 50 meters into the swim. I noticed that I was swimming alongside a swimmer of a comparable speed, so I settled in on his feet in a comfortable drafting position throughout the remainder of the swim. I exited the water in just over 9 minutes, just seconds behind second place, and made my way uphill from the lake to the transition area.
The bike course at Bartlett is like no other bike course I have ever experienced. It goes straight uphill for 6.4 miles (gaining almost 1300 feet in the process) and turns around and goes straight back downhill the way you came for the last 6.4 miles. I felt better than expected on the uphill portion of the bike leg, keeping second place in my sights. I made it my mission to keep him within reach on the bike so that I could try and make a move on the run.
I haven’t invested in a power meter yet, so I rely primarily on feel and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) during my training and races. I always wear a heart rate monitor, and regularly check my heart rate after training sessions in order to gauge my effectiveness at hitting certain intensities, but I don’t rely on heart rate during races as there are just too many factors that can affect heart rate. I often find that my heart rate varies too much day-to-day, making it difficult to set heart rate ranges to stick to during races. It
took me a while to dial in my pacing based on RPE, but I have gotten pretty good at listening to my body and knowing how to pace myself based on RPE.
I definitely pushed the pace on the bike considering it was a sprint-distance race, but made sure to keep my RPE at a managable level in order to leave enough in the tank for a fast run. The 2.5 mile run that awaited me was going to be just as demanding as the bike course, and so I pushed to make sure that second place was within reach off of the bike, but decided not to push any harder
I got off the bike at just under an hour into the race and transitioned quickly to the run. The run course is similar to the bike course in that it is straight uphill for the first half followed by a downhill the same way that you came up. The first 1.25 miles of the course are uphill, with sections of the hill that average well over 10%. The fact that you just biked uphill at 6-8% for half of the bike leg makes the hill feel even more difficult. I had the second place guy in my sights and made my move early in the run, passing him within the first mile. I was grinding up the hill almost as hard as I could have pushed it knowing that the downhill would feel a little easier as I bolted back towards the finish. I reached the turnaroudn point at the top of the hill and took off downhill towards the finish line. By now I had a solid quarter of a mile on third place, but I didn’t let this slow me down. I flew downhill at a sub 6:00 min/mile pace until I crossed the line in 1:15:59, good enough for second place overall!
I finished this race incredibly satisfied with my effort and my pacing. I also spent a lot of time visualizing my race during the weeks leading up to it. I imagined myself having the swim, bike, run, and transitions that I knew I was capable of and that I knew would make me a contender for the podium. I truly feel that this visualization contributed to my success. I felt confident and comfortable the entire race, which is a new sensation for me as I am usually nervous and full of doubts when race day comes.
It was such a great feeling to have my first overall podium finish in a triathlon. I had many other friends that podiumed as well, which made for an even better day as we all went home with some hardware and gift certificates! I improved my swim, bike, and run times across the board, leaving me with a nearly 10 minute PR for this race. I couldn’t have asked for a better race to start my 2017 triathlon season, and I’m excited to see what is to come for the rest of this year. Next up on the calendar is another small local race, the Lake Pleasant Sprint Triathlon!