So this past Saturday I completed my first Olympic distance tri. I realize that this is not a huge accomplishment in the scheme of athletics, but it was one of those things that took me a while to tackle. I have never done “Columbia” because I am fearful of the distance and the intensity of it all so I was happy to find Diamond in the Rough in July on the schedule. Why I chose a race with “challenging and technical bike course” is beyond me, but I figured it would be ok.
I came into the race feeling under-trained. With two weeks away from the pool and a mile swim ahead of me, I wasn’t sure how I would handle the water. I had finished the Columbia bike course twice since returning from NJ and I didn’t think running would be an issue. So I packed it all up on Saturday morning and headed up to Perryville, on the Susquehanna River.
Surveying the scene it appeared that the water was going to be quite calm and then came the announcement, “the water temperature is 82 degrees therefore no wetsuits will be allowed” Darn! I’m not particularly fazed by open water but a wet suit just adds that little bit of buoyancy that is really nice. Alas, I went on preparing transition and getting ready for the race.
All the women went off together in the last wave. I positioned myself in about the third row back to as to try to place the really fast ladies ahead of me but not to get stuck by the unsure swimmers. I think this was a good position. The water was warm but not so much it was uncomfortable. I think training at the CSC in its warm water has been good for my prep for summer open waters. I struggled to get into a good rhythm because just as I felt like I was alternating well, I would run into someone’s feet. As I reached the first and subsequent buoys I was surprised at how comfortable I felt. I tried not to look at my watch, but I knew that my time wasn’t as slow as I thought, which was good. I did zone out a bit between the second and fourth buoys. I think that this comes from not doing race practice. But soon enough, there I was swimming towards the last buoy and the steps to finish. I reached the ladder and then the two flights of stairs (ick) up to the path to transition. I was pleased that the swim plus the steps and the run down the path ended up being about a half an hour, 29:03! (118/378)
T1-Fine. No problems. Really think the new “tri top” was a good choice. It saved me probably 20 seconds on transition not having to change or add to my clothes except for socks. 1:34
I was so afraid. I know that I’m not strong on the bike. Everyone knows that, but I had hope that my cadence practice in NJ and my last minute Columbia practice would help a little. I think it did help, a little. But 27 miles is still 27 miles. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so as I went through the flat windy start, I finagled into my gloves (to try to reduce ulnar nerve tension) and caught my breath. It wasn’t more than a few yards before the passing began. I realized I was in a slow gear so I picked up my cadence, clicked into my big ring and started to pedal. The rolling hills were more up than down but there was a bit of “flat” comparable to parts of Homewood from Jumpers Hill to FQMS. I felt like I was in a good gear with a pretty decent cadence but I still just kept getting passed and passed. It was frustrating. I saw the sign ahead “caution/slow” and they weren’t kidding. It was a sharp L turn to a very steep descent, I actually used both sets of brakes to come around the corner and witnessed an ambulance helping one crashed rider and three others sitting on the side of the road fixing various problems. Yikes. Happy to slow down and cross a bridge only to have another ascent, ick. Around mile 19 there was a nice flat patch along the river, I found myself having ADD and my mind wandered. I think I was definitely in a ride rather than race mentality. But, all of that changed when I turned the corner and there it was…mile 22…the mile long 7% grade climb. On the scale of Tour de France like climbs, this was a baby hill, but in my world, it was the longest hardest climb I have ever encountered. So down into the granny gear I went and just kept turning the pedals. It plateaued deceptively only to turn and continue up and up and up. When it finally eased up it was good to know that four miles remained. The hills continued to roll and then finally a return to the winding road to transition. I believe my exact words at the dismount were, “oh, my butt is so happy.” 27 miles done. I had anticipated at least two hours for the course, so I was very pleased to come in at 1:47 (15 mph). Almost the slowest bike ride of the entire field, but for me, a very good job.
T2: 1:11, pretty good. I would like to get it down to a minute or less, but I did some extra tightening of the shoes.
The run course was a 5 mile out and back. It was not as “flat” as advertised and it was completely sunlit, but I knew it would be attainable. I had been really disappointed by the pace at my last race and wanted to keep consistent. A typical 5 mile race would be sub-8 but given the heat and my leg fatigue from the bike, I knew I would be hoofing. Finally though, a chance for me to pass some people. Not many (this was a very qualified field) but still, an ego boost just the same. Reaching the turn around I was noticing that my overall time was looking in the 2:50-3hr range and I was shocked. I had anticipated 3:30-4:00 for the race, so I was really excited and think that it gave me motivation to pick up the pace. I kept thinking I was near the end, trying to recall landmarks from the out course, but it just kept going. The heat radiated off of the path and straight up to my head. The last few water stops were more about cooling off my body temp. than hydrating. Finally, there it was the big red finish line, up a hill, of course. (run 41:14) And the finish of my first Oly…3:00:38
I can safely say that I left all of my energy on the course. I may not be the fastest triathlete, the strongest, or the best prepared, but I definitely felt like this race was a positive experience. I am not tremendously disappointed with my finish. I don’t have anything particularly profound to reflect upon from this race. But I report just the same….
Happy Racing, Dear Reader.