Main image for Gillie Girl Sprint Triathlon 2017 Time to Read: ~10 min

The days before

Pre-race selfie with Lynn & Catherine

Pre-race selfie with Lynn & Catherine

My family traveled to Martha's Vineyard and to Boston in the few days before the Gillie Girl Tri. We enjoyed a day traveling around the island and then showed Elizabeth Boston University on Friday in Boston. We caught up with my brother-in-law and his family after he finished work on Friday ended our mini trip with a trip to see the RPO at CMAC in Canandaigua. We left during intermission so I wouldn't be too exhausted the next morning. It was such a great concert that it was VERY hard to leave early!!

These few days before were busy and I didn't sleep very well any of the nights. I also didn't exercise much since our Thursday and Friday were full days, I ended up with a 6 mile run on Saturday morning. Typically I wouldn't run that far the day before a tri, but I hadn't run in 3 days so it felt important to run.

I had a vague plan in the back of my head that I wasn't going to actually do this. I had signed up, but didn't feel ready or that excited about it. Xander had to leave for sleep away camp as soon as I would get home, and I wanted to be able to spend the morning with him. When I mentioned to my family that I might just bail, they were shocked though. "Really mom? Why would you sign up for a race and not go?" Ok, ok, I decided I would go. Even though I wasn't prepared I'd get a good workout in!

Race morning

Lynn and I drove up together on race morning. Because of my trip, we had to get our packets on race morning (something neither of us have done before), so we left a little earlier than normal. Pick up and body marking went quickly and pretty soon we were set up in the transition area. I was impressed with how easy they made the same day packet pick up at the Gillie Girl. As a race organizer myself, I always try to get my stuff at the pre-race packet pick up, but was pleasantly surprised with how convenient this was at a time that I couldn't make my normal routine work. We found our friend Catherine really quickly and soon the 3 of us were checking out the water.

Lynn, Catherine and me before the race

Lynn, Catherine and me before the race

It was 76 degrees so wetsuit legal! I was really excited to hear that and put on my wetsuit and popped into the water to check my google seal and swim a couple of strokes. After the "warm-up" we found our friends Katie and Tina and chatted briefly before the pre-race meeting. Then, it was time to walk over to the water.

Swim - 18:12.4 (18/25 AG)

This is my last year in the 40-44 age group. My group would start the swim at 8:07. This meant not too much time to get nervous watching other people. Catherine and I are in the same age group so we headed down to our start. I wished her good luck and we got one minute updates from the race officials as a count down. Pretty soon we had our one minute alert and what felt like moments after that the gun went off.

Due to the stormy summer and just a crazy busy summer, I've had only two lake swims this year. Last year I was in the lake so many times before this race. I started off with my head out of water like most of the other ladies, but after just a few strokes I decided I might as well just start swimming. I went out too quickly and lost my breath, water got into my goggles, and I quickly spiraled into negative thoughts of, "What am I doing? Why do I sign up for these things? I should drop back to the sprint on the CLT? I can't swim a mile if I can't swim a half mile." I slowed down. If I didn't get into a rhythm, I wouldn't end up being able to finish this swim and participate in the rest of the event.

As I slowed down, my negative thoughts abated. I tried to channel my friend Anne, reminding myself to keep a patient lead arm and even breath. I worked on getting into a swim rhythm and remembered to look up and get my bearings more frequently so I didn't go back and forth too much.

Soon, I was running up on the beach and plunging back in for the 2nd lap. Wow, the swim looked so short from land. Why was it taking so long? "Head in - just get it done Amy. The sooner you get this done the sooner you will be on your bike."

I'd like to say that I enjoyed lap two, and to some extent I did. I did fall into a decent flow and I didn't feel panic. However, I mostly felt annoyed that I wasn't faster but grateful that I had kept my head and hadn't freaked out too much. As I exited the lake, I looked back and saw that there were still orange caps in the water. I wasn't last in the wave. I had something to be happy about.

Transition One - 1:35.1 (6/25 AG)

I ran to my bike, grabbed a fig bar (more about this later), threw on my bike shoes and helmet and was off. It was an easy transition made even easier by the fact that the morning was humid and warm. I wasn't cold as I headed out onto the bike course.

Bike - 49:29.2 (5/25 AG)

This bike course is fun. It is essentially flat, the roads are in great shape and it is incredibly well marked.  I focused on the thing I struggle the most with; turnover. The only thoughts in my head for the first 5 miles of the bike were, "one, two, one, two, one two ..." I passed many people from the wave before me, but I counted the people that I passed from my age group. By the end of the bike, I had moved up 5 spots in my age group. Two people from the next wave passed me on the bike ride and just as I was congratulating myself that no one from my age group had passed me, my friend Catherine blew by me. I wasn't surprised as she's a really strong biker, but I was bummed because it meant I had failed in my goal of not letting anyone from my wave pass me on the bike.

Transition Two - 1:15.4 (17/25 AG)

Catherine and I were in transition together which was rather fun. I grabbed my second fig bar, popped my running belt on and quickly tied my shoes. Eager to have a better bike to run transition than last year (last year I fiddled with a visor for way too long) I scooted out quickly. I quickly regretted that, because my right shoe was too loosely tied. It is what it is. I would have to deal with it.

Run - 24:38.8 (2/25 AG)

The run is the only part of triathlon that I feel that I'm pretty good at. I knew I could hold a fast pace and have fun while doing it. I cheered others on and settled into a nice run, hoping to pass more people in my age group. I caught 3 more people which made me feel pretty happy! This course is mostly downhill for the first 1.5 after an initial rise out of the park. The hills back in the middle are challenging. I leapfrogged with another woman who is stronger on the uphills than I am. When we reached the entrance to the park, I asked for water at the last water stop. The guy who had offered me water as I ran by the first time was holding two cups. I said, "I'll take that water that you offered me before now." He said, "oh I don't have any water." He was holding Gatorade. I looped around him and grabbed water from another volunteer, feeling bad as I almost smashed into a runner heading out of the park. I apologized and kept on running.

The final descent into the park needed to be quick! The last person I passed was in my age group and she was still right behind me. I had no idea where I was in the pack, but I knew I wasn't going to lose a spot in the final .6 of the race. I just pretended she was right on my tail and kept picking up my pace. As I went by one of the last volunteers, she pointed out that I could catch the person way in front of me. I laughed and she said, "Really, I think you can." I had no idea if the woman was in my age group (later in results I could tell she wasn't) but I set my sights on catching her, and I got pretty close to closing the gap.

Soon, I crossed the finish line, got my medal and enjoyed some post race water as I watched other people finish. Tina was already finished, and Katie, Lynn and Catherine were going to be right behind me. Soon I'd be hanging out with my friends.

Race nutrition

I have never managed the sprint distance tri nutrition until this race! I have trouble timing breakfast, and always end up super hungry part way through the swim. Typically I'm nauseous by the end of the swim and struggle from that point onward.

Today, I ate my egg sandwich 45 minutes before I started the race. I threw in a fig bar that I was planning to eat after the race or maybe not at all. But, then I noticed that Lynn had honey stinger blocks or something like that and Catherine had Gu. Darn it, why don't I think about things like this? Hmmm ... I don't ever use those things in training, but I have used the homemade rice balls that Scott makes. What If I eat one of the bars in the package after the swim and the 2nd one before the run? Yes, this is my new plan!!

I tried this and it was the first time EVER in a tri that I wasn't sick to my stomach. Lately, I've been wondering if that sick stomach feeling in races is nerves, nutrition or a combo of both. Today I thought maybe it is all nutrition. I wasn't hungry and I wasn't nervous. I actually spent a bit of the 2nd half of the bike thinking that I actually feel like I can "race" a Sprint tri except for the swim part, vs concentrating on finishing the Olympic Distance.

I'll use this paragraph to thank my daughter Elizabeth and fellow cross country parent, Stacey Ives for introducing me to fig bars. Elizabeth was heading off to piano camp a couple of weeks ago and her brother was going to Boy Scout camp. She and I shopped for individually wrapped snacks they could each take to camp. She said, "Oh can we have these? I love them." "Sure!" I said. Then I asked when she had tried them. "Oh, Mrs. Ives always brings them as post-race snacks for cross country practice." She likes the gluten-free bars because they are less bready, so we bought a package of them. We split a package on the way home (each package has 2 cookie sized bars in it) and I agreed that they are delicious. After today I know they are also good for race nutrition.

Interested in a new tri?

Last year was my first year doing the Gillie Girl Triathlon. My only other open water triathlon experience comes from the Cayuga Lake Triathlon in my hometown. As such, I looked at everything with that as the benchmark. After doing the Gillie Girl for a 2nd year, I have decided that if I add another tri to my race schedule I'd spectate or volunteer the year before participating!

This year was SO much easier than last year. I knew exactly what to expect. I wasn't worried about parking, getting to transition on time, finding porta potties, or anything else. It was nice to know how they run the post race food, and what to expect from the transition area as well as to know the course. I feel like you could figure out all this stuff by spectating, volunteering or supporting a friend's race. That way, instead of having a first year learning curve year when you participate you feel "up to speed" so to speak. Of course, I'm also a slow adjuster, so this may be just good advice for me and all those other "slow adjusters" out there!

And the results

I was just about 50 seconds faster than last year. In the back of my mind, I still think they may have messed up my results last year though - they recorded a bike time that was 4 minutes faster than what I recorded and a run time that was 2 minutes slower. They didn't have a T2 time for me (and maybe anyone?) so I always figured they rolled the T2 time into the bike time, but it doesn't make sense that the run time is 2 minutes slower than what I have then. A bike time of 4 minutes faster would have been amazing - and not really feasible for my skill level. So, suffice it to say I think I was actually more than 50 seconds faster this year than last, but my net time is basically the same.

I ended up 3rd of 25 in my age group (last year I was 10th of 65 so essentially the same placement with an incremental move-up).

Tina, me and Katie - photo by Nick Tubbs

Tina, me and Katie - photo by Nick Tubbs

Thoughts after the race

I'm super glad I did this. I was excited to place 3rd, but in the initial listing I was 4th so I was bummed for awhile. I think it is harder to be close to winning something than it is to be far from it!! I got a text from Katie after I got home saying I had missed my award so that's how I found out. She was super sweet and picked it up for me though.

I went through and counted to see where I fell in the spread. I am pleased with my run and even though I don't have great results for transitions, I'm happy that I had more successful transitions than normal. I can still improve in this area a great deal and that doesn't require improvement in athleticism but is still part of the race!! The bike truly felt the best I could do at the time. I'm struggling with the high turnover needed for fast biking. I enjoy biking more slowly and am not really all that comfortable with speed yet. I haven't been biking as long as I have been running and I can totally feel that in the race.

The run was good. I was a little disappointed I couldn't get closer to an 8 minute mile to really crush this, but it was good. I had a good kick and great motivation to catch people because I knew I wasn't competitive in the swim!

About that swim ... oh there is so much to work on here. I was almost 2 minutes slower than last year with this and I wasn't impressed with my time last year. I have to remind myself where I started with swimming and that practice is critical for me. To focus on the positives: I used to panic so badly I had to flip to my back and just try not to drown. So, being able to bilateral breath and follow a mostly straight route and not panic is incredible forward progress.

Swimming is an area I must continue to work on and continue to be kind to myself about. I'm so grateful to Shane and his teaching. It is because of him that I have the skills to participate in a tri that has no buoy line! That is the aspect of the Cayuga Lake Tri that makes it easier than this event - a line you can just follow along with using any stroke - no sighting required. I am also grateful to my friend Anne. I met her in swim class and not only is she a great friend, she has a blog where she writes about her adventures. She keeps me honest with my swimming. I know she's working on her swimming and I feel committed to staying on top of mine as well!! I love to read her blog and see how her athletic endeavors are coming along for her as I work on my own. She is SO excited to swim in her next tri! I'll try to channel some of that enthusiasm in mine!!

Overall time: 1:35:51.7, 39/239 overall, 3/25 AG Official Results

This specific triathlon

Do you live within driving distance of Syracuse? Interested in doing a great women's only event? This tri is really a perfect one!! It is supportive, the proceeds all go to the Carol M. Baldwin breast cancer research fund. Check out the Gillie Girl race page for details!