Oops… Sorry this took so long. I was outside playing in the sunshine… Forgive the indulgence. Although my back and arms are really sore from the tilling, digging, pitching compost… more digging, raking *groan*
After helping set up on Friday in a driving rain and thunerstorm (eerily similar to last year… without the mud) I could only hope that the weather would blow through and calm down in time for the race. Several bike rides in a row in winds of 20+ mph wasn’t exactly subtracting from the percieved suck factor for this race, either. All I could do was hope my race mojo would bring good weather. And, for once… it actually did!
The morning of the race was slightly cool, but really pretty. The skies cleared and the wind let up to a gentle breeze. Great race conditions. The rains only left a few puddles on the run and ride courses, but nothing serious. Time to get racin’!!
I loaded up my bike and tri-bag with enough crap to dress the entire crowd, most of which I didn’t need, and headed to the race site early to help with final setup and then to body mark. I tossed my bike on a rack and set my towel and bag under it. I would set it up later. I headed to the bike in line and started body marking racers as they arrived. This year’s crowd was smaller than last year, I’m pretty sure, but no matter. This is a fun race and a good way to start the season off.
I knew when I signed up for the long course that I would be lucky if I didn’t finish last. The short course is full of new racers and a few short coursers, but if you want to finish higher, this is the distance for you. The long course is filled, for the most part, with serious racers. I just entered it because I need to start thinking longer distances if I’m ever going to do a half Ironman and this seemed like as good a race as any to begin that journey.
Once the majority of the racers had been inked, I went back to my bike and made final preparations. I set my bike up, helmet on handlebars, bag placed strategically and open so if I forgot anything I could dive in and get it. I put my shoes in the pedals and was eager to try the flying mount I had been practicing. Once I was satisfied with my setup, I went through my routine. I always start at the “run in” sign and visualize my transition. I count the number of racks between the sign and my bike so I can run right to it without getting lost or disoriented. Then I do the same thing from my bike to “bike out” just to get a feel for the distance. Finally, I come back from “bike in” to my bike, again counting racks so I run right to it. I do this same procedure for triathlons as well. Between that and putting down an obnoxiously colored towel, I haven’t gotten lost (yet).
They made the “5 minute to transition close” announcement and I realized that I still had my warm up pants on, so I ran over, hopped the fence into transition and dropped them off at my bag. By this point in the morning the weather was comfortable. Then I walked down to watch the short course people go off.
This course is fun and not too difficult. It starts off down a grass hill and the only (potential) choke point is at the bottom of this hill where it crosses a foot bridge and joins the path around the park. It narrows quickly and there is no room for error. Politeness and patience is critical here. You are not going to win the race here, but you can sure lose it. From this point the run course follows the park path around a softball field and then into the woods. Eventually it turns to gravel and is a fun little run out to the turn, then it doubles back on itself for a half mile or so before turning to go back up the concrete path and UP the hill to transition. For the long course, it’s a 2.5 mile lap done twice with a bike ride sandwiched between.
Transition is always clean and well set up, with plenty of space to get in, out, and around. Well marked in and out gates and mount lines, as well as lots of volunteers, make it easy to go about your business.
The bike course is a 7.5 mile loop (done twice for the long course). It is on relatively well maintained streets that are well marked and stocked with volunteers and Columbia Police Officers to help with traffic. It has one steeper but short hill about a half mile in which is right after a turn, so it’s a bit tricky to maintain momentum. The hill is less than 1/4 mile though so it’s over quick. Then the course winds through a neighborhood and down a hill before turning and going back up the longest hill on the course (1/2 mile). Not a tough hill, just a hill. Then the course rolls for the next several miles as it turns back toward the start/finish. Nothing remarkable. Just rural and residential roads. As you pass the start finish on the long course, there is a no passing zone that is strictly enforced. It’s really the only place you can get disqualified because it is dangerous here with people turning in to finish the short course and going past to start the second lap of the long course. Just don’t be stupid and you will be fine.
So, that’s the course… Now my race.
At go, I took off and tried to gingerly snuggle in on the path. Everyone was civil and we all made it through the narrow bridge without incident. I tried to settle in but as usual this year, so far at least, I was uncomfortable and unsure of my pace. I felt good and just decided to be smooth and relaxed. I watched several faster club mates disappear in the distance in front of me (with some envy…). I hit the first mile marker and… wait… WHAT? My first mile was 6:54… That, as they say… was STUPID. My goal was to average 8:00 for the two run segments. I backed way off and nearly got run over by several competitors behind me. All checked to make sure I was OK because I slowed up so much. “NO”…I replied. “I’m an IDIOT!”
See… One would “think” that running that fast (for me) would be a triumph, but it’s not. I know that I still have 4 miles and a 15 mile bike ride to go. I knew I was going to PAY for that mile with my last mile of the day. The second mile and a half was at about an 8:00/mile average. I ran up the hill and into transition without much problem.
My first transition was… I disaster. I got to my bike fine and put my helmet on, but it took me three attempts to buckle it because my hands refused to work. I grabbed my bike and shot out of transition, still with a decent time, but frustrated. I leapt onto my bike like I had practiced, landed perfect, and then hit the back wheel of a guy that cut in front of me and then STOPPED. I got off, pulled to the outside of him and hopped back on. I pedaled out and down the hill to the road, but something wasn’t right. I kept trying to get into my shoes, but they felt funny. I finally got into one of them and it was obvious. I had put them in the wrong pedals… *dumbass*. And, no… I was NOT going to ride 15 miles with my shoes on the wrong feet.
Knowing that all hope was lost to fix this on the bike. I just pulled to the side, dismounted (a lesson I DID learn last year… take a second and just FIX the problem, don’t try to live with it.), popped my shoes off the pedals and just stepped into them. Then I got back on and rode the rest of the distance without incident.
It’s funny. My bike is SOOO much faster than I am at this point. I can feel it when I pedal. It is capable of going much faster than I ride it right now. When I’m pedaling at redline, it always has another gear for me. When I’m grinding up a hill, it’s obvious which one of us is causing the slowdown. And when I get up out of the saddle to sprint or climb, I can tell it is just a much better bike. I hope one day I can catch up to it. It is a dream to ride.
I did manage to get off my bike like I planned. I got out of my shoes on the bike and then stepped off, then between my leg and the frame so that when I landed, my legs weren’t crossed up. It worked like a charm and my legs weren’t as tired as I thought they would be (I’m sure this, too, is due to the bike). I grabbed the seat and ran the bike into transition and right to my spot.
The second transition was much better. I got my bike racked, got out of my lid and had my shoes on pretty quickly. I took a risk with this race (since it was short) and ran/rode without socks, even though I hadn’t had time to condition my feet to it yet. Last years calluses held up and I had no problem. I would NOT recommend this. Condition your feet and find the blister spots in TRAINING, not races. Anyway, I didn’t blister or rub at all. I briefly thought about getting out of my long sleeved biking shirt, but just decided that if I needed to, I could take it off and tie it around my waist (which I did at about mile 2 of the second run). Other than chasing down my wandering helmet and putting it back on the towel, T2 was much better.
The run after the ride my legs ALWAYS feels crappy. But I have learned that, even though my legs feel heavy, my run time off the bike is always better than it feels. I also know that after about a mile my legs shake out and I’m fine. This run was no different. I just focused on running smooth. I passed a few people and got passed a few times. My son met me about 200 yards from the finish and ran a little bit with me which was fun. I finished just under 1:30.00 which was just exactly where I wanted to finish.
My bike split was slower than I thought it would be, but with the fumblings just out of transition and the pit stop to switch the shoes, I would have averaged just over 19mph. I’m good with that for the first race of the year. My goal is to get enough bike miles in to raise that average to 21mph for my last race of the year… whenever that is. My run times will be fine and will slowly get faster as the season progresses.
So I think I’m going to start a list somewhere of all the stupid shit I have done at multi-sport events. It’s already pretty long…