What a beautiful race! Great venue. Great weather. Hope it doesn’t spoil me for the rest of them…!
Since I had been on training in Kansas City during the week before I just couldn’t get it together enough to get a hotel room in time for the race so I unfortunately had to drive the hour and a half to the race site the morning of the race. Getting up at 3am is not my favorite way to start a race day.
I got up so early because I wanted to get to the site as soon as transition opened. This meant I needed to be there by 5:30am. When I woke up I didn’t feel particularly great due to my ongoing allergy onslaught. I had a sinus headache that would, unfortunately, stay with me the entire day and I was coughing a lot due to drainage. Nothing to do but suck it up and go.
I got to the site without a problem, tested the porta potties and started unpacking my stuff. I was a bit early so I volunteered to help a little bit which may have been a mistake. I was wearing my Teva sandals with no socks and the grass was wet so my feet got soaked. It was just cool enough that this was starting to give me a chill and my volunteer duty was to go get ice from the truck and distribute it around the race site. By the time I was done I was cold!
I picked up my packet and went to get inked. I was still one of the first few into transition and set up my stuff in a pretty favorable position. We were organized by male/female and long/short course. I would have preferred to be closer to bike out, but got as close as I could and had to be happy with that. It took me so long to set up my transition on my first triathlon that when this one was set up in less than two minutes, I was sure I had forgotten something! I actually did forget my sunglasses in my car, but other than that I think I’ve got the transition thing down. The rest of my time before race start was spent saying hello to friends and setting up my shade canopy. And sneezing…
I walked down to the lake where the swim was and the course looked strangely short to me. I guess those long swims at Finger Lakes have changed my perspective on swims a bit. On the way down to the lake I heard the announcement that this was a wetsuit legal race. That made me feel better since it was my first open water race. The security blanket of a wetsuit made me feel better.
The swim is in a beautiful lake. The water is relatively clean and clear. The swim is counterclockwise from the beach out to a buoy, then a left turn to a second buoy, then home. The transition area is up a pretty steep hill. It is mostly grass with a little bit of blacktop. The transition area is all grass. The only negative to all this grass is that it was still wet with morning dew so it made things a little slick, but not too bad.
The bike starts out in the resort and then goes on to local roads. It was well marked and FULL of short, steep hills! Very challenging. The first five miles were hilly. Once we got out of the resort the terrain changed to rolling hills. There were a few twisty sections but only one u-turn so it was easy to get into a rhythm. The roads were clean and free of cars (with one notable exception!)
The run was tough. No questions. It was on packed gravel roads and had 4 or 5 tough hills. The vast majority of it was in beautiful, shady woods which made it more tolerable but this was definitely a difficult run. I was glad we had been doing lots of hills on our training runs. I needed them.
I love tough courses. Granted my times are not as good, but the challenge of the course is part of what separates an average course/race from a good one. I’m just sick like that…
I decided that if I’m ever going to get into this for real, I need to just do it. So even though there was a last wave option, I just decided to go off the back of the main men’s wave and take my knocks. I got my wetsuit on and headed down to the start. The men’s wave was over a hundred swimmers but I picked a spot all the way to the left and at the back. The cannon sounded and we were swimming.
My total focus was not to panic and try to stay in my rhythm. Within 50 yards of the beach the first swimmer crashed into me. I checked my line several times and realized that it wasn’t me. The swimmer to my left was WAY off line. I slowed up and let him drift offline and then kept going. I caught a couple of slower swimmers and was planning my line around them when the same swimmer crashed into me again going the other way. He must have swam 800 yards to get his 500 in because he would hit me again before the first buoy. I realized that all the bumping was making me breathe a little harder so I put on a burst to get by a couple of other swimmers and away from him so I could take the buoy and find some cleaner water. I got around the first buoy and settled in. I breathed on both sides a bit just to check who was around me. I was surprised to see many swimmers behind me. I swam through the path of one of the boats as I was checking my line and got a mouth/lung full of boat exhaust which was lovely. First experience with that. Nasty. Then I was at the second buoy. I found a swimmer to draft on a bit and put on a surge. Before I knew it I felt the beach on my hand and I stood up. I was done with my first open water swim! Cool…
I staggered out of the water and headed up the incline to the transition. It seemed really hard for some reason. I began to peel off my wetsuit and hit the transition area. Swim time: 9:58 for 500 yards… Slow, but faster.
Getting out of my wetsuit wasn’t nearly as much of an issue as I thought it would be. In fact, it was easier than getting into my shoes for some reason. My transition time was slower than usual but I was being careful so I’m ok with it. T1 time: 2:37. This included the 150 yard run up the hill into transition. An OK transition.
The bike goes out of the transition and hits the first big hill within a half mile. My legs felt more tired than I thought they should. I tried to write this off as mental and kept going. I did manage to catch a couple of people on this first hill. The course has several speed bumps in it that cannot be ridden over at speed so you have to time your passes but that was the only negative about this course. I felt better as the ride went on and began a back and forth passing duel with two other riders that involved a lot of joking and commentary which served to both occupy my time and entertain me. That was fun. On the way back one of the other CMC riders caught me and was about to pass me when a car that was on the course decided to just… stop. We were going down a hill and were at nearly 30 mph when she just… stopped. Right in front of us. She said she just didn’t know what to do when she saw all the bikes (as reported to me by the volunteer who was yelling at her to get out of the way). The end result was that I got a VERY close look at her trunk lid. I didn’t hit her thanks to some fine bike handling skills but it was close. The other rider even mentioned that I handle a bike better sliding sideways and locked up than I do straight and pedaling… Gosh… Thanks.
Luckily that got my adrenaline going for the rest of the ride! I came around a corner and was staring at the crowd heading into the transition area when I realized that I wasn’t out of my shoes yet. Some quick and awkward panic unbuckling got me out of them just as I hit the dismount line and I staggered into the transition area for T2. Bike time: 57:23 for 17 miles. 18.8 mph pace. Slow, but better. Especially on this course.
This one seemed to go much better until I tried to get my left shoe on and my wet hand slipped and I ended up having to take the shoe off again because I jammed my foot/shoe into the ground and got it full of grass. I clipped on my belt and headed off. I wish I had known how tough the run was. T2 time: 1:06 OK… but I could have done better.
Is it sick to say that I really enjoyed a run that was over a minute per mile slower and MUCH tougher than usual? This was a beautiful run. Yes, it hurt. Yes, I was slow. No, my legs didn’t come back to me in the second mile like they usually do. But the volunteers were great and the scenery was really pretty and it took my mind off of how much those hills hurt. The real difficulty with this course is that there isn’t much time to recover after a hill. You either have a downhill right on the other side or another up so there is no flat to catch yourself on. It really pushes you the whole way. I know my last mile was faster than my first two but it is obvious that I need more endurance and better fitness. This will come. I just need to do more brick work and run with tired legs more.
In any case, the course comes out of the woods into an open, grassy area where you can see the impressive finish area Ultramax sets up. You can hear the announcer and the cowbells rattling. The finish goes down a hill in the grass and then slightly up to the finish. You come around a corner and you are done. I love this setup. Run time: 25:20 @8:27/mile. On this course and for the first time… I’ll take it. I know I can do better here though.
Overall 1:36:24 42/200 (7 out of 19 in age group). In my defense, the winner, and two of the top five were in my age group. To medal I would have had to gain 11 minutes somewhere. Not today…
Well if I wasn’t hooked before, I am now. I’m already chomping at the bit for the next one in July. It won’t be nearly as difficult as this one was but the swim will be twice as long so I have some work to do. I also doubt it will be wetsuit legal so I am going to have to get used to swimming without my security blanket. That starts today at Finger Lakes!
All in all I think I am still training right. Even though this race was hard and I pushed it, I am not tired or sore at all and feel like I could go out again today and race without a problem. I love not feeling beat up after a hard workout or race. Makes it easier to keep coming back!