Arrived in Spokane just in time for the packet pickup at 3pm on Saturday. For some reason, they didn’t have a pre-race meeting. I found that to be weird. Even though it always seems annoying to listen to the same thing over and over again at each race, without a pre-race meeting it seemed like a part of the race experience was missing. Maybe I just like to check out the competition :-)
After picking up the race packet I headed to Medical Lake to drive the bike course. I did Troika 2 years ago, but the course was changed due to construction in the park and one of the roads being freshly cheap-sealed, so I wanted to see what to expect. Like the original course, the updated one has lots of rollers in the beginning including a beautiful twisty road around Clear Lake which wasn't part of the course 2 years ago. One of the added hills had a pretty nasty grade, I was glad I got to see it the day before. I rode my bike on the trail part of the course that wasn't accessible by car which gave me a chance to ride my bike one last time before the race, go through all the gears, etc. Overall, the new course doesn't lose quite as much elevation in the middle section, but on the plus side the climb out of the park back into town wasn't as long.
It was dinner time when I finished, so I headed to Olive Garden. Apparently, so did the rest of the 200 racers, because the wait for one was 45 min. Thankfully, there was an Italian-American Grill place around the corner that had no wait and a selection of pastas on their menu. Their grilled veggie pasta turned out to be just perfect for me.
The rest of the evening was spent making sure all the gear is ready to go and going through my race plan and visualizing the race. I was in bed by 9:30 and asleep shortly after.
Woke up at 3:45, went through my usual race morning routine. My breakfast consisted of a scone, OJ and coffee. At 4:30, I headed out to the parking lot where the shuttles were supposed to pick us up. There were a bunch of other athletes there, but no buses. At 5am our bus driver walked over from the Red Lion Hotel across the street and said they were told to wait there. Funny thing, some of the people in the parking lot, actually stayed at that hotel, but came to the parking lot where athletes were told to wait at. Once we boarded the bus and headed over to Medical Lake, the bus driver asked us "Does anyone know exactly where that Waterfront Park is?" Of course, most of us knew how to get there, but still hilarious that they told the bus drivers to go to the wrong parking lot and didn't even tell them where they were supposed to take us.
At Troika, it does matter when you get to the transition, because the bike rack space is on the first come first serve basis, so the closest spots to the swim exit and bike exit are gone fast. We arrived to the transition at about 5:30am and I still got a pretty decent spot. With it being a point to point course, they give you a big garbage bag, in which you are to put your wetsuit and all your morning stuff once you are ready to go on the bike. This forces to pack lightly and not bring lots of extra stuff "just in case" (the less stuff you have to put in the bag, the faster the transition). Less stuff to mess with in transition also meant faster prep time. I had everything ready to go, visited the bathroom twice and it was still 30 min till race start. This never happens to me! I sat at a picnic table overlooking the swim and studied the swim course. It was great to have this quiet time.
Swim – 32:04
Unlike the previous 2 HIMs this summer, I started the swim at an easier effort. I focused on reaching as far as I could with each stroke and keeping my motions smooth. Felt great at the turn around, so I picked it up a bit and even a bit more in the last 500 yards. I couldn’t believe my watch when I came out of the water! I've never broken 35 min in an HIM swim before, so cutting 3 min off is HUGE. I don't know if the course was short or my new 2010 Helix is doing its magic – whatever it is, I'll take a 32 min split!
T1 – 1:40
The wetsuit came off quick and easy, dropped it the bag, put the shoes and race number on, sprayed some sunscreen on, put on my glasses and helmet and off I went. Unlike the other two races I did this season, the run from beach was really short which helped with a fast split, but still, happy to finally see a sub 2 min T1 :-)
Bike – 2:36:58
Felt good getting up to speed and into my target watts range. Got passed by a girl (who later won the race) in the first mile. I tried to pass her back, then tried to hang with her, but she was riding stronger, and I wasn’t going to ride harder than my plan, so I watched her slowly ride away. Passed a few women in the first few miles and then it was mostly passing and getting passed by guys. There was about 5-10 miles in the middle when I was mostly riding by myself. I saw a porcupine in the middle of the road that was killed by a car. How sad is that? You never see porcupines, what are the chances of running one over? Also I can't imagine that the little guy sprinted out in the middle of the road out of nowhere like a squirrel, he must have been slowly crossing and the driver wasn’t paying attention :-( Once I got on the descending part, I was surrounded by other racers again. This was also when the official motorcycle decided to start monitoring me. He stayed within sight for a few miles during the decent/faux flat section. I obviously wasn't going to draft, but having the motorcycle right there made me nervous about trying to pass people. I may have soft pedaled or coasted in some cases where I would have otherwise tried to pass the person ahead. Oh well, I don’t think I lost that much time there if any at all. Once we got to the park, the motorcycle reappeared and followed me for a while again. At this point it was a slight uphill and I was actually passing a lot of folks. I got tired of worrying about the official. I was riding clean, so if he wanted to watch me – fine. Overall, I feel like I nailed the ride. I rode consistent and strong the whole way – kept my watts in the target range on the flats, climbed the rollers a bit harder, drank some water or Carbo Pro every 10 min and ate salt caps every 30 minutes. I don’t think I could have ridden any harder.
T2 – 0:57
They make it easy for you to have a fast T2. A volunteer grabs your bike and helmet/shoes, another volunteer has your T2 bag ready. There's a bench right there to sit down and put the shoes on. I think I should have been a bit faster, but I'll take sub 1 minute T2.
Run – 1:31:04
Felt great from the start. I had left a small bottle of coke in the T2 bag. That tasted wonderful in the first mile (after I sprayed half the bottle all over myself trying to open it). Some spectator or volunteer told me that I was the 3rd woman. That was good news. I thought I had a chance of catching one or even both of the women ahead of me even though I had no idea how far ahead they were. I was passing a lot of guys, but didn't see any women until after mile marker 6, when I saw both of them coming in the opposite direction, pretty close to each other. The turn-around is at 6.5, so I must have been less than a mile behind them, so I needed to be running about 0:40-1:00 a mile faster than them. Not entirely unreasonable given that I was dropping sub 7 minute miles. I caught the second girl about a mile or two after the turn around. After I was ahead of her, I heard someone yell "Go Kara!" and I realized that it was a friend and ex-Microsoftie Kara Nielsen. I kept running really hard and passing lots of guys and hoping that I'd see the woman leader's blue jersey as I passed every turn. I only got passed once during the whole run (by a relay guy), but still I never saw my leader girl. At mile 10, my calves started having slight spasms. I basically ordered them to stop it and just kept running through it. My last 3 miles were a little slower because of it (7:08-7:09), but it didn’t get nearly as bad as it did during the Desert Half 3 weeks ago. (Note to self: I probably should have taken more salt caps on the bike.)
Overall – 4:42:43
It was pretty awesome to finish hearing the announcer say "Our second female finisher Lilia…" Turns out that the winner beat me by 3 minutes. She was running pretty strong too! If I didn't have my spasms in the last 3 miles, I could have maybe finished 1 min faster, but no way I could have caught her. Glad she was there to push me to go as fast as I could though! Overall, I feel like it was a very well-executed race for me. Great confidence builder after not having a good race at Desert Half. Of course, it helped having cooler temps yesterday, but I feel that I would have done well even if it was hotter.