Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adventures in Racing!

You wouldn't know it by my smile, but a bit of uneasiness was taking over a piece of my brain as the Chattahoochee Challenge *Olympic* Distance Triathlon began this past Saturday in Columbus, GA.  For safety reasons, the Race Director decided to change the swim from a 1,500-meter swim to a 500-meter swim, 500ish meter run back to the swim start, followed by another 500-meter swim.  Since I had never done this type of swim/run/swim, I was a bit nervous.  But, I had to just go with the flow and take what was given to me in a situation like this.

My wave started from a wobbly boat dock.  Since it was still a little dark and I couldn't see the bottom of the lake, I decided not to dive, but to scoot in and start the swim.  As the cannon went off, I got in and immediately felt another swimmer dive extremely close to me and I was a bit surprised.  The dock was large enough for us to spread out, however she decided to get as close as she possibly could to me.  Whatever.  Onward.

During my warm-up swim, I could feel the strength of the downstream water.  I decided to not ride the water, but to push and go as fast as I could for the 1st 500 meter point-to-point swim.  I was at the last buoy before I knew it.  Sweet!

I swam until I could touch the boat ramp with my hands.  I popped out of the water and started running back to the swim start.  I must admit, it was so much fun running in my bare feet along the green carpet!  I was even able to pass a few athletes.

As I approached the concrete steps that led down to the 2nd 500 meter swim, they announced there were volunteers to help us down the steps.  NO NEED!  I just bypassed those folks by quickly working my way down the steps.  Before I knew it, I was back in the water and feeling great!

The buoy came quickly again and I booked it out of the water, along the green carpet and back to transition.

Swim/Run/Swim Time: 20:01 (2nd Fastest in my Age Group.  This broke down to be approx 8 min swim/4 min run/8 min swim.  This is unofficial because the race timing folks did not to officially keep these splits so I decided not to either.)      

Transition went quickly.  I was out of there and ready to mount my bike when I heard encouraging words from Tony Hammett of Peak Racing.  Woo Hoo!  That boosted my spirits!  I typically sneak away to do races that my athletes are not doing.  Sometimes it is nice to just worry about my own tri needs.  And, my athletes don't need to see my race-day neurosis.  Oh no!  So, when I am on the receiving end of cheering, I'm thrilled!

T1 Time: 2:01 (Fastest in my Age Group.)

The bike was an interesting adventure.  To start, we rolled around a semi-circle and had to be extremely careful not to crash in to the athletes coming in from the swim.  Then, we made our way on to the narrow paved path.  I was glad to be alone during this part of the ride because if I had to pass another racer, it would have been difficult.  I finished up the portion of the ride on the path and got on the road.  There were tons of police at every intersection which was fantastic!  I decided to play a drinking game: Take a drink every time I passed a cop!  Woo Hoo!  Okay, after feeling bloated after about 12 drinks, I decided to name myself the "loser" of my own game.

The road led us to yet another path.  Again, no athletes were around so I didn't have to negotiate a pass.  A volunteer then directed me to ride from the path, off the path, on the grass and finally on the road.  Then, I got on another portion of the path.  Okay.  Frustrated, because I was losing speed each time I made these switches.  I had to immediately lose the negativity and again "go with the flow".

I was excited to enter Fort Benning.  The course took us all the way to the back of the base where the airfield was located.  The base was quiet so all I could think about was that the guys and gals were holed up somewhere strategizing on a top-secret mission.

I continued my mission of having a strong bike leg!  After passing the halfway point, I exited Fort Benning, continued back along the grass and on and off the path.

When I approached the 20-mile mark, it happened.  I got passed by two females in my age group.  Shucks!  I didn't know it at the time, but until that moment I had been the leader on the bike course in my age group.  Dang it!  My thoughts went from "well, crap, it won't be smart for me to increase my pace at this point because I'm going pretty darn hard and I don't want to sacrifice having a strong run" moved to "there are still 6.2-miles of run that needs to be covered, right?"  I came in to transition to finish up the bike.

NOTE: Don't let anyone tell you this bike course is "pancake flat" unless your pancakes are lumpy and bumpy.

Bike Time: 1:14:23 (5th in my Age Group.)

Again, transition was quick and smooth.

T2 Time: 00:43 (Fastest in my Age Group.  Anyone interested in a transition clinic?)

On to the run!  It was wonderful seeing Big S on the course taking pictures with his new Snappy Cam app on his iPhone.  He was having fun and so was I!  <smile>  For those of you who don't know, my hubby who is affectionately known as Big S is a Physical Therapist at Grady Hospital.  I'm so proud of him for going back to school and changing his career in his 40s.  Because he chose to work at a hospital, he works a decent amount of weekends and doesn't always make it to my races.  At the last minute, his schedule was free and he decided to come down to Columbus to cheer me on!  YAY!

I made my way over the bridge to Phenix City, AL.  The next two miles were an out-and-back route along the Chattahoochee River.  It was shaded and really pretty!  I was smiling from ear-to-ear until I got passed by a girl in my age group.  Son (or daughter) of a nutcracker!  She looked super-strong and I wasn't under any delusion of running her down.  I only had one goal for the race and that was to keep a 9 minute mile pace on the run.  I was already keeping this pace and it was still early in the run.

On the way back to the bridge that took me back to Columbus, I was definitely feeling the fatigue from the swim, run, swim, bike and first part of the run.  I must have zoned out for a second because I caught the lip of the bridge with my foot and I fell to the ground, dropping my hand-held water bottle.  Oh shizz!  Luckily, there was no damage done!  I jumped up, grabbed my water bottle and kept going.  

I am so glad I took my hand-held water bottle for the run because the aid stations were few, far between and not well positioned.  For example, around mile 3, as I grabbed a cup of water to dump on my head, an athlete coming toward me also chest-bumped me as he grabbed his cup of water.  For some reason they had athletes who were coming and going reaching on the same side of the table for the cups.  <sigh>  Now that I knew this fact, I was very strategic as I approached the tables for more cups of water to dump on my head.

Unfortunately, the second half of the run did not have as much shade.  About the time I was feeling really tired and hot, I finally made the last turn on Broadway.  I could see the finish line in the distance.  I had to stay strong because I still had about a half mile left.  I could see Big S's bright blue shirt along the side of the course near the finish line so I decided to kick it in and finish up the race!  Yee Haw!  I was glad to be done!

SAME NOTE AS THE BIKE: This is not a flat run course.  There are inclines going up and down the bridge from GA to AL and back.  There are a few small rollers along the path in AL and there is a small climb around mile 3.

Run Time: 54:54 (7th in my Age Group, however I made my goal by averaging a 8:52 pace.)  

Total Time: 2:32:08 (4th out of 22 in my Age Group and 14th out of 81 Overall Females)

I am extremely pleased with my results.  This is the most difficult distance race for me because I go hard (ex. Heart Rate Zone: High 4) for the entire time.  Nutrition is very important for this distance.  I find it is difficult to take in nutrition while going hard.  For me, it must be achieved with liquid-only and must not be neglected over the course of the race.  If neglected, my run will certainly suffer.  Since I am not as strong as my competitors on the run, I need every advantage possible.  I felt good about my nutrition by finishing one entire 24 oz. bottle and half of another bottle on the bike.  I finished my 20 oz. bottle on the run.  I took a couple of cups of cold water to drink which was nice.

Regarding the race, I wish I would have familiarized myself more with the course.  I was unclear with the swim exit.  I was surprised with riding on the grass.  I was not prepared to get on and off the path.  I was not expecting the long stretch on Broadway to the finish line.  That was the price I paid by rolling in to Columbus late in the day and feeling too tired to scope things out ahead of time.

The race itself needs a few tweaks.  First and foremost, I was a little troubled by the fact that there was drafting along the bike course, however I never saw a USA Triathlon official.  I usually see at least one during the race.  When I reviewed the results, I didn't see any penalties listed.  I will be extremely disappointed if this ends up not being a USA Triathlon sanctioned race.  As USAT members, we only receive a ranking when we do (3) races per year.  I haven't had a ranking in the past two years.  One of my goals for this year was to do 3 - 4 races so I can get my ranking.  A bigger issue for me is the safety of the athletes.  When races are sanctioned by USAT, there are several steps Race Directors take in order to keep the race safe by USAT standards for the athletes.  I will follow up with the RD to confirm the details.    

All in all, I had fun.  I raced hard.  I loved having Big S at the race.  I enjoyed visiting Columbus, GA.

Next up: Lake Lanier Islands Sprint Triathlon on Sunday, September 29th!

Happy Training and Racing!

1 comment:

  1. Great illustration of keeping your cool even during changing and sometimes adverse race conditions, Mari! Also bouncing back from the fall on the run - that was a fantastic race! Well done, Mari!