On Sunday, August 4th I did my second Olympic-distance triathlon of the season in Sylvania, OH, which is just south of the Michigan-Ohio border. I received an email from RunToledo a couple weeks before the race about signing up in time to guarantee a t-shirt. That’s the first time I really looked into the details because I thought I was going to sign up for a race in Ann Arbor that weekend. I realized the Olympic race in Sylvania only cost $5 more than the sprint in Ann Arbor. Aside from the bike part of it, I usually prefer the longer Olympic distance. That helped me make the decision in addition to comparing the prices. I also liked that the Sylvania race said it had flat and smooth roads for the bike and flat and fast roads for the run.
It took around an hour and a half to make the drive the morning of the race and I arrived at Olander Park by 6:30. My event didn’t start until 8:00 but the sprint distance started at 7:30. Getting there early gave me time to eat, hit the bathroom, get set up in transition, and go scope out the beach.
As the events began, I had plenty of time to kill at the beach. I was in the 10th wave for the swim start. The sprint distance had the most participants and was broken into seven waves. They swam 400m so I got to see plenty of them finish before I was even close to starting my race. I wanted to make sure I was hydrated enough, so I was glad there was a drinking fountain I could use a couple times to ease that worry while I waited. I planned to get into the water before my race but waited a bit so I wouldn’t have much downtime when I’d be standing around cold and wet. It was really nice that we could warm up in one part of the water away from the start, but it was close enough that I could work my way over when it was time to start. The water was reported to be 80.5° which meant we didn’t need wetsuits.
The fast men and women were the first Olympic racers to start, followed by an open men’s division and then my open women’s division. “All My Life” by Foo Fighters played over the speakers while we waited which was the perfect music to get me fired up. I started all the way to the right of the crowd to avoid as much congestion as I could. Olander Lake was small enough that our 1600m swim was basically one loop around the outside of the lake. I managed to avoid congestion for a bit and did a little breaststroke when I needed to find a clear path. Unfortunately one of the times I tried to go around people I ended up in a patch of really tall seaweed. I had to move back over pretty quickly and find a different way! Other than a few moments of trying to navigate around people so I could maintain my comfort zone, the swim went really well. After having a lackluster swim at the Cannonball Run race last month I’ve been really hung up on trying to figure out what went wrong and hoping it wouldn’t happen again. Fortunately I was back to normal at this race and finished in 29:24.
There was a bit of distance to run from the beach, across a couple drives, and into the transition area. It took me a minute to get moving comfortably back in the vertical position. My first transition time was 2:02, then off for 24.45 miles on the bike.
There was a little bit of traffic in the early miles but plenty of police and volunteers along the whole course to keep us safe. It didn’t take long before we were out on more peaceful country roads that were pretty smooth. There were plenty of farms to look at and the occasional cow or horse to grab my attention. I don’t think there was any significant wind in the forecast, but I noticed some on the way out. I kept telling myself that I had to get through half of it and then I’d have the wind at my back. When I finally did turn around I jumped from averaging around 17mph to 19mph. Although I didn’t keep that speed going for long, I was still moving a little faster than I had on the way out.
Eventually I still felt like I was dragging. It doesn’t help when at least half of the people pass me. I reached a point where I really didn’t want to be on the bike anymore. I think my helmet was a little tight and made me uncomfortable, my left thumb kept going numb, and I just wasn’t into it. I was riding along at a speed that was typical for me and I didn’t feel wiped out, but I wasn’t very excited about being out there and wanted to be done. I thought about how nearly an hour and a half’s worth of time on the bike would be enough time to watch a movie. Although it seemed like a smarter option at the time, I was glad I was out there pushing myself instead of sitting on the couch. I saw a woman in front of her house with a walker and reminded myself that I’m fortunate that I can do this. It’s not like I could quit the bike segment so I just had to get through it. The bike is always my least favorite part but the level of disinterest and desire to be done was higher than usual. I’m not sure if I’ll squeeze any other triathlons into my schedule this year, so I told myself after this it might just be swimming and running for the rest of the season.
I finished the bike segment in 1:24:27 and averaged 17.4mph. That’s typical for me so at least the mental struggles didn’t seem to affect me physically. I got through the second transition in 52 seconds and my legs had a tough time adjusting to running. Still, I managed to run a pace that was faster than it felt. We started with a loop around the lake before going out to the main road, into some neighborhoods, and past Lourdes University. Aside from the lake, the university, and some friendly volunteers, I didn’t notice much about my surroundings because I was working so hard.
At one point I realized it was kind of warm and that was probably didn’t help. By 10:30 it was 75° and the real-feel was around 87°. No wonder it felt so tough! I’m glad the route was flat but I couldn’t keep my ambitious pace of 7:30-7:40 going for the second half of the run. I still did pretty well but it got harder and harder to maintain. I managed 7:50 for a couple miles, and eventually I felt like I was in survival mode as I slowed to an 8:00 pace. It sure felt like I was going a lot slower than that and I kept counting down how much distance I had left.
When I rounded a corner and saw the finish ahead, I suddenly remembered that the run was 5.86 miles, not 6.2 miles like I’d kept thinking. What a relief to shave 0.3 miles off! I finished the run in 45:42 with an average pace of 7:48/mile. My final time was 2:42:27.
I was really wiped out. I had to pace around for a while to settle down and I had moments when I started to get a little lightheaded. Not enough to actually worry, but I knew I’d really pushed it and needed some time to recover. I drank some water and eventually went to find the post-race snacks. Being a picky eater was a disadvantage, especially since I’m not eating much meat these days. That ruled out the more substantial stuff like hamburgers and hot dogs and left me with some pretzel sticks and chips. At least there was beer too. I had two beer tickets, but considering how I’d already felt a little lightheaded, I knew one would be plenty. I’m glad I’ve learned to always pack snacks of my own just in case. I had a Picky Bar handy in my transition bag and made sure to eat a few more snacks in the car before I left.
The awards ceremony started around 11:30. Results weren’t posted online until later. The printouts that were posted on a tent listed the fastest to slowest but didn’t sort by the age group results. I tried to roughly calculate how I did and thought I stood a chance at an age group award. I was right – I placed second in my age group!
Although I battled some mental and physical struggles during this race and felt like I was torturing myself at times, I still felt accomplished and proud of myself. When the run started to feel really difficult, I thought about my “keep showing up” shirt that I bought in Boston. It’s not always easy, but I’m going to keep showing up and fight my way through if it gets tough.