When we arrived at the lake Friday evening to pickup our race packets, the weather was beautiful. You really couldn’t have asked for a nicer evening perched on the side of the water.
Regrettably…the weather would not hold another dozen hours or so. Instead, the very violent storm system that moved across the eastern portion of the United States was due to smack Virginia upside the head as well…including our race the next morning.
There’s of course not much you can do other than prepare mentally and equipment wise for such conditions. They are what they are.
So that night we got everything all set in the hotel nearby the race. While last year we RV’d to it, this year we went with a cheap room at a local Quality Inn. We would have done the RV if we were part of both race days like last year, but this year we were only doing one race, so we stuck with the hotel.
The next morning the rain was in full effect. By time we arrived into transition pretty much everything and everybody was soaked.
And those that were attempting to hold off the soaking were really only delaying the inevitable:
I got my transition area all setup. Over the last few years my transition area has slowly become more and more minimalistic. There’s virtually nothing in it aside from race shoes (bike/run), my race number, my bike/helmet and nutrition.
In case you’re wondering about the above shot, I had tossed my transition bag off to the side out of the way along the fence and stuck a little Go-Pro waterproof camera in there to record transition for fun. Regrettably, with the wind and rain the camera slowly started pointing to the sky, resulting in more sky than bike. But more on that later…
With transition all set, it was time to join in the lake and go for a bit of a swim. Alternatively, we probably could have held the swim on land in parts of the transition area.
The water was initially quite cold to the face, but after a minute or two it wasn’t that bad.
I started the swim more or less towards the front of the pack. Without question this was one of the least-rough swim starts I’ve had in quite a while. Not sure if it was due to position or just the field, but it was quite calm.
The different fragmented packs made their way to the first turn buoy pretty quickly, but after that it was fairly clear confusion set in amongst just about everybody in the initial groups. Due to the rain and very slight chop it was pretty much impossible to make out the next turn buoy. Adding to that, they changed the course from last year. Of course I’m sure they listed that on the site…I just didn’t notice. Not that it’s a big deal on a swim course really unless you’re the first swimmer – but it just caught me off guard.
Nonetheless I kept on plodding along…for what felt like forever. I believe we swam all the way across the lake and back (or at least I did). On the bright side, with the bit of chop I got plenty of extra hydration along the way.
By the turnaround at the far end of the course I knew either the course was long, or my swim needed some more work. In reality, it’s probably a case of both.
Virtually everyone I talked to noted their swim times were a fair bit off, with one guy having the Garmin in swimcap method saying it autolapped at 1.0 miles at the last turn buoy, so about 1.1 miles all in (for a .9 mile race). Oddly I was planning on doing the swimcap method, but completely forgot on race morning.
At the end of the day the actual course distance doesn’t really matter, I still swam far slower than I would normally (usually in the 20-24 timeframe) – or would prefer to. Thus I still have quite a bit of work to continue on re-working my swim stroke.
All in I finished up the swim in 27:46.
From there it was into transition to head out on the bike. Despite all my transition practice this week the one thing I omitted was wearing my actual race-day tri suit. This meant that when I went to toss my nutrition gel bottle into my suit I couldn’t find the pocket. I thought it was in the center of the back, but in reality there were two pockets on my sides instead.
I figured this out a bit later on the bike, so until then I just stashed the bottles in the edges of my tri suit. And as you can see above as I try and find my pocket, the little camera sorta fell over. It caught my hilariously long transition time though in its fully glory…but I’ll save you (and me) the pain of watching my pocket confusion.
Soon though, I was headed on out:
Once on the bike after my successful quick mount I was speeding away down the course. Now while I did have two coats stashed in transition in my bag just in case I was really cold, I ended up going with just the standard tri-suit. I found that for myself I was fine, though I know many went with coats or the like to keep warm.
The first lap of this course is always pretty lonely for us younger guys towards the front of the pack. Being we’re in the first swim wave by time you get on the bike there’s only a handful of folks to keep you pushing hard trying to track down.
Around this time I started having some issues with my front brake. Despite actually taking a bit of time the night before to tighten The Girl’s brakes that were slipping a bit, we didn’t do mine (usually I wouldn’t). For some reason my front brake wasn’t tight enough and was starting to slip and rub on the right side against the wheel (thus, inducing braking action). You can see what it was doing in this shot afterwards:
(Note the gap on the ride side, yet the brake against the wheel on the left side)
This meant about every 45-60 seconds I’d have to reach down and re-adjust. It wasn’t a big deal as I’m down in aero anyway and would only take a second or so to fix. Just mildly annoying (on the same scale as going to grab chicken nuggets in the freezer and finding you only have like 4 nuggets left). It’s of course a super-simple fix with a hex wrench when you’re not riding a bike in a race.
I finished up the first lap of the Olympic distance course in 33 minutes and got right into the thick of things on the second lap. I actually really enjoy the second lap, because at that point you’ve got a bunch of folks out on the course from the later swim waves.
To me this provides plenty of motivation to keep on trucking and passing people. It doesn’t much matter which age group they are to me from a motivation standpoint. It’s just a person ahead to focus on and track down. One.at.a.time.
I’d end up just barely negative splitting the two laps by a few seconds, all in all coming in 1:05 on the official clock.
This would be a good time to mention I was also wearing the Garmin GTU 10 in my back pocket, which allows folks to track exactly where you are on the course. You can setup the concept of Geofences, which allows you to then alert via e-mail or txt when the unit cross into certain boundaries.
I set them up for the bike/run courses and transition. So each time I crossed a threshold it would alert virtually instantly. The geofence isn’t quite perfect for triathlons due to overlapping course portions – but between that and the actual tracking app/site, it mostly works.
(The above is pretty much the exact second I crossed into the finish area…very cool.)
Since nobody was actually following me, these just went to me. But for a longer race like a Half-Iron or Ironman, this makes quite a bit of sense. It uses GPS and has a tiny cell transmitter inside, wirelessly updating to the internet constantly. The unit is the size of a pack of gum, and IPX7 waterproofed, so you don’t have to worry about general rain/water.
Pretty cool. Got that in the review pipeline for the next 7-10 days. At any rate…onto the run!
With the bike behind me it was time to get on with the last sport of the day. I carefully left T2 across the mud-filled grass tracks out of the transition area. While a fall on the slick grass wouldn’t likely cost me much in terms of time, it would definitely increase the embarrassment factor. And I would be having none of that.
Once out of the grass it was onto the concrete I went. The run is an almost-two-loop out and back affair mostly on a portion of roadway. The road rolls a bit, enough to remind you that you’re going either up or downhill, but not enough to make you want to cry (such as the Providence 70.3 course).
The first mile (including the hill up away from the lake) clocked in at 6:16/mile – a pretty good initial pace. From there I managed to drop it down to 6:12 for the second mile. By this time you’re starting to work your way back towards transition.
The third mile brings with it a small increase in elevation going into the woods. While it isn’t much, it’s slightly more noticeable because of the 100m or so of gravel. From there you do a bit of ditch jumping before landing at the entrance of the wooded section. On a non-rainy day this section is a ton of fun. On a very wet day however, it’s just one giant muddy slip and slide.
But everyone’s playing by the same game, so it’s best to put on your thinking hat and get through it. I found the edges to be the best from a stability standpoint, so I hung out there. The third mile clocked in at a slower 6:39., and the fourth followed in its footsteps. Realistically the fourth mile shouldn’t have been any slower, but a bit of fatigue was starting to set it.
Around the 5th mile marker you’re headed back towards the finish area, at which point your brain finally understands it’s almost over and cooperates a bit more. Though my primary limiter was definitely my legs this time. The fifth and sixth mile were roughly the same, despite an increased effort.
It was around the 5th mile marker that I hung onto the back of a guy that made a pass on me. Albeit not in my age group I reasoned that it was only a mile left…how bad could it be? I didn’t have any problem hanging with him, back a few feet. Sometimes you just need a bit of motivation there to keep it kicked up a notch.
While typically you’d see the last 1.0 to 1.2 miles of a race at a faster pace – that wasn’t too much the case here. That’s the section of the course in the trees, across downhill grass and jumping over gullies:
On a sunny day that’d be a very fast section due to the downhill component as well….but not today with rubber soled shoes on slick grass.
I ended up crossing the finish mats with a 40:05 10K run. I honestly didn’t think I’d be in the 40-flat range after the first lap showed signs of slowing, but with the motivation to hang on the last mile I pulled it together and almost went sub-40.
After the race I waited around for the results to post. At one point the guys came out with the results on a board…but then used them as an umbrella…causing me to limp quickly after the moving results:
While I thought I might have snagged 3rd in AG after some initial results, either my counting failed or something changed as I ended up 4th in AG. My run times were on par with an AG podium finish, but my swim time hurt me a fair chunk, alongside with some lost time in T1 and a little bit on the bike. My final 2;17 time is pretty far from a PR for me, but given the conditions and the first race of the year I’ll take it.
Post-race I headed to transition to grab my bike and wander on out. Regrettably my bike that was all sparkly just the day prior now looked like it had gone through the trenches at Normandy:
On the bright side, they had pizza! They switched it up this year and went with Papa John’s pizza cooked hot there onsite. The line below looks long, but it actually went fairly quickly.
Each athlete got a little coupon for their own pizza…which…was awesome on a cold and rainy day!
Not content though for just one non-healthy meal, the girl and I headed home by way of Sonic. I’ve actually never been before, so we figured I’d get my first introduction to it.
No better way home than via a drive-in with muddy bikes to an otherwise deserted Sonic. After that we cruised home as thunder and lightening set in, just shortly following the races conclusion. Thankfully just missed it!
Thanks for reading and for everyone that cheered me or The Girl on out there this weekend! It was awesome meeting so many of you. So cool to be able to chat and hear how your races went, especially those of you completing your first tri’s. Congrats!