Anticipating traffic back ups, we left our hotel early and arrived in transition with virtually no problems at all. The main thing I remember about race morning was how chilly the air felt. Yikes! I was jealous of those who had worn long pants that morning. Luckily, I had a jacket and proceeded to my bike area.
As you first enter transition, you walk past the elite and pro area. Badmann was already on her trainer warming up on the cheetah. Meanwhile, I was still shivering and rubbing the sleep from my eyes wondering what the hell I was doing here.
Now, I’ve done a slew of triathlons, but apparently I don’t know much about “transition etiquette.” I had racked my bike correctly (opposite direction of the one next to me so as to gain as much space as possible), but I had apparently set up my transition towel on the wrong side of my bike. How did I know this? Because when I got back from the porta-potty to grab my wetsuit a race official was standing next to my area and the athlete next to me was pitching a fit about where I set up my towel. Basically, the official looked at her and was like, “Um…work it out.” This age grouper very condescending explained to me that I should put my towel under HER tire as it is much easier to get out. At first I wanted to be a bitch right back, but I was like, “You’re right. I don’t plan on winning the race today, but if it’s more convenient this way, let’s move it.” Turns out, she was right. I honestly thought it was proper to put my towel under MY wheel so as not to disturb anyone else’s space. You learn something new everyday.
The Race was due to start at 7am and my wave wasn’t taking off until 8:03am, but due to traffic snarls, they postponed the start by about 10 minutes or so. I was dreading that much lag time, but I used it to my advantage to continue to eat, drink and use the restroom a couple more times. I also took the opportunity to watch the pros finish their swim and exit the water. I knew right away it was going to be a tough swim judging by their exit times and the expression on some faces. The first guy was out in 25 minutes which is insanely fast, but still two minutes slower than the year before. I still had about 45 minutes and the wind gusts were just beginning.
Well, it was time for the coveted F 30-34 age group to be corralled. There we stood in all of our nervous anticipation glory. The sun was now up over the horizon making it difficult to see the buoys. We were to keep the buoys on our left at all times making it even more difficult for someone like me who tends to breathe more on the right. We made our way into the water as the Race Director announced that the current was calming down slightly. Audible cheers and yells were heard at this joyous news. They didn’t last long as the horn blew and our faces were firmly planted in the salt water of the Chesapeake Bay.
I should’ve known this body of water was called the “Choptank River” for a reason. There were many times I felt like I was being tossed around like a rag doll. I remained calm the entire time, but it didn’t take long to feel a sense of frustration as opposed to panic. Sighting was difficult and I sensed that I was already losing some ground to other age groupers. The turnaround point was to swim around a sailboat that was firmly planted at the end. Turns out it wasn’t firmly planted. You could see it swaying back and forth in the chop. I made my way around the “half-way” point and began to head back towards the shore. This is where it felt like an eternity. At least I could see the large yellow buoys now and the shore line in the very far distance. As I punched the water, it would punch back…A classic case of 2 steps forward, 1 step back. I would breast stroke for a while to see if that would help. Nope, I’m still virtually swimming in place. Not only was I discouraged, but I was pissed. My “sub 6:00 hour race” was literally flowing out to sea along with the rest of me. I hadn’t planned on being out here this long and exerting this much energy. How much would this affect me later? Plus, my arm hurts like a bee sting. Did something sting me or bite me? I was actually nervous that I wasn’t going to make the 1hr 15 min swim cutoff time. I was trying to stick close to the buoys, but it appeared that a lot of other swimmers were being pushed by the current to the far right. Maybe they saw a buoy that I didn’t see. I bobbed up and down for a few moments to make sure I wasn’t being thrown off course. After what seemed like 40 days and 40 nights, I was within meters of the finish. The water grew colder and muddier as I approached the ramp of volunteers. I swam a few more strokes and swallowed the nastiest gulp of mucky salt water on my way up. At any other moment I would’ve probably thrown up. I was just so relieved to be out of the water, that I swallowed it and probably smiled that I had made it through. I looked at my watch: 49:58…Yikes. It was 10-12 minutes longer than I had planned, but far less worse than I thought. Like I said before, there went my 6hr goal. Or so I thought…. Click here for photo as I exit water with Chesapeake Bay goop on my face!
T1 and The Bike
As suspected, the bikes on my rack were sparse as most F 30-34 were already into battling the head and crosswinds. I definitely wasn’t the last, but it wasn’t the performance I had hoped for. Such is life…I methodically went through the transition. quickly felt my tires and was relieved that they were both still full, grabbed my stuff and off I went.
My normal cycling strategy is to be slightly conservative and save the bulk of my energy for the run. I had planned on a 3hr20min-3hr30min bike ride in my mind. Having never ridden or driven the course (I like surprises), I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Race Director was right about two things: it was flat and it was windy. It was also surprisingly quite scenic. We were in a Nature Preserve afterall. I made a conscious decision early on in the bike that I wasn’t holding back. I was going to pass as many people as possible just as soon as I established a rhythm. 56 miles is a long freaking time to think about things! I was very methodical about my nutrition on the bike. Power Gel in the first hour, ½ Peanut Butter bagel in hour 2 and Clif Blocks in Hour 3. I wanted a variety so as not to overdose on Gels. Surprisingly, it all fit in my handy little Bento Box. I would also alternate liquids at every water stop. I started with one large bottle of water and finished it. I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade at the next drop point, and so on…Once again, it was a smooth way to mix and match the nutrition. Surprisingly, I never had to go to the bathroom and I never felt dehydrated. So, at this point I was looking for any person up ahead that even remotely resembled a female. I was so pissed that my swim set the tone so I was going to change it on the bike. I ducked in aero and began my little pursuit. I was on a mission judging by this photo. Naturally, I was being passed by people who were on similar missions, but I was sticking to my plan and doing quite respectively. Wouldn’t you know it? My bike computer was on the fritz so I never really knew what my speed was. In my mind, I was hoping for 3hrs20min. There was a short stretch where I got to see some of the pros on their way back. Damn, they were hammering. The sun was out, but it wasn’t that hot. Perfect. Lots of cross winds and headwinds…NEVER a tailwind! Actually, I’m sure there was, but you never notice those. The time passed quickly. Instead of counting miles, I counted hours. Three hours didn’t seem as bad as 56 miles. Plus, since my computer was malfunctioning, I never really knew where I was anyways. I was so excited when I neared the end. I could see runners on the course and the crowds picked up. I could hear the announcer in the distance. I pulled into the transition dismount area and hit the button on my watch: 3hrs 03 minutes…Holy cow! I was back in the game!! I didn’t know it at the time, but it was an 18.3 mph avg.
T2 and Run T2 was smooth. I could’ve shaved a little time off, but I was having trouble getting my ponytail through my hat. You’ll see in the picture that I eventually gave up. As per usual, the first mile or so off the bike felt so strange as I adjusted. Miles 1 and 2 were 7:40pace! Slow down sister…My original race plan was to run a 1:45 Half-Marathon or about an 8:00 per mile pace. I was going out of the box too fast and even though I felt strong, I knew better than to think I could keep it up for 10 more miles. At Mile 4, I took a Power Gel. The race course was a fabulously flat out and back. By this time, we were even being graced with some cloud cover. I gave a quick “shout out” to the skies above for showing some mercy on this race day. The Power Gel was a much needed pick-up as I could start to feel the exhaustion kicking in a bit. My mission was still in full effect. Try to pass as many people (i.e. women) as humanly possible. I started slowing down—8:15s, etc. I saw Ohio friends Tracy and Bob on the run course. Quick “Way to gos” were exchanged. I saw Shawn who was a couple of miles behind me on the run. By Mile 9, I was definitely starting to get low on energy. I took another Power Gel and dug deep to maintain the pace. The last mile was great and I was so relieved to still be passing people who were digging just as deep. I could hear the crowds and spectator cheers. As I headed towards the finish line, I was so happy and tired, happy and tired, happy and tired…I knew I was blowing my time goal out of the water. I crossed the finish line and hit my watch. My run split was 1:44:40. A perfect 8:00 min per mile pace. A sense of relief as I near the finish.