This weekend I finished my third triathlon for the season and with the completion I will be USAT ranked this year! I had this race on my schedule at the beginning of the year but at the start of this month I removed it due to uncertain financial issues relating to my employment. Things worked out and I was able to add it back onto the schedule at the last minute last Wednesday. I pulled back the training a bit to prepare for this race and all things were good to go on Saturday as I registered for the race. My brother, who has done triathlons for the past several years had marked this as the last race of his season and I was glad I got to run it with him (although I am slow enough that he has an hour wait before I finish!). Additionally this was the first race of my second half of my season and provided a good first race practice for my Olympic race in October, which is the focus for the remaining months.
From what I could gather this race is a local favorite. It is held near Athens Georgia, home of the University of Georgia. A large part of its popularity stems from the fact proceeds go to the local cancer foundation. Overall this race was pretty full with close to 600 people. On race morning I could tell there were numerous new triathletes in this race.
All weekend it had been raining and storming, so I was uncertain what the final weather race morning would bring. When I stepped outside from the hotel on race morning it was very wet and damp, with an even drizzle covering everything. This drizzle continued half way into the swim and finally let up by the time I got on the bike. By then, my running and cycling shoes were damp and my bike pedals were slippery. The remaining overcast sky kept the heat low and the humidity down through the end of the race.
I woke up a bit later than I wanted to,but I still managed to calmly get some oatmeal down and prepare everything and get out the door in a decent time. This race started at 7AM, just as the sun came up, so it was awkward having to get up early when the event location was just minutes down the street. Smartly the bulk of my stuff was packed the night before, I just had some last minute items to get together and I was off to the race. When I arrived I got myself setup and oriented in transition. I ate a cliff bar and sipped on sport drink, tapering this consumption as race start loomed. I have found that relaxing and just taking it easy helps calm my swim start down allot and eases my mind and calms pre-race jitters.
Swim: 400 Meters/0:09:56
Turns out this swim start was a timed start with 3 people going at a time instead of a mass start. Because I registered late I was a the back of the line. I found out later that I could have moved myself up, but I did not hear this announcement and ended up surrounded with inexperienced swimmers. I am not a big fan of this format and I have had difficulty with it in the past. The biggest issue is the amount of time you have to wait to start which makes timing the pre-race gel difficult. By the time I was in the water, I had not had anything to eat in almost 45 minutes and the gel I took was negligible. Luckily I have had some practice with this in my races and I calmly changed my plan to take a gel when I got on the bike immediately to give some quick energy. Because of a 20 minute wait, my body decided it had to go to pee while I was in line to take off. I innocently walked into the water and just let it go. Not my proudest moment, but I did not have to swim or race with an unhappy bladder and nobody realized what was going on as several people were waiting in the water to try and adjust to the temperature of the water.
The problem with being in the last heats with all the newer triathletes was that I ended up passing allot of people in my swim as I can eek out close to a 2 minute per 100 swim and allot of these people seemed to be very uncomfortable in the lake. I feel for them, but I had a swim to do. As I swam I started out slow and eased myself into my swim. I went around the first buoy and started to speed up as I planned, When I sighted the second buoy I noticed suddenly one of the kayaks float in front of me, between me and the buoy. I adjusted to go around and this kept happening repeatedly. One time I even pulled up to find if there was a problem and I noticed several heads bobbing up and down instead of swimming, the kayaks were trying to position themselves to help the weaker swimmers and give them a platform to lean on. Unfortunately that was right in front of the path I was swimming to get to the next buoy. After passing allot of swimmers I finally made it out of the water and climbed the hill to transition. I made sure to splash in the kiddie pool and get any sand off my feet. At this point it had stopped drizzling, but it was still severely overcast.
As I was a late register, I was close to the swim finish entrance, but far from the exit. I got to my spot and started putting on my helmet and bike gear, but the shoes decided to not cooperate. I guess wet feet and wet shoes added allot of friction and I had a terrible time getting my shoes on. Not my fastest transition by far, but not terrible considering the long run to get out of transition and my lack of brick practice leading up to the race.
As soon as I mounted my bike I ran into issues clipping in. My pedals were wet and my feet kept sliding over them instead of clipping in. After struggling a bit I got clipped in and instantly grabbed my planned gel off the bike. A trick another athlete taught me at another event is to use electrical tape to tape the top part of the gel to the top tube, thus allowing you to pull and have it ready to eat. I had taped two to the bike, one for immediate use if needed and one for later, before the run.
My brother had done this race last year and had told me there were only two major climbs. With this in mind I pushed the climbs hard and as fast as possible. After finishing the second major climb I reached a third and a fourth, instantly I had to shift tactics before killing my legs too much for the run. In the future I will never listen to someone else regarding the severity of a course, NEVER!!! (Later he admitted he did not remember the bike leg being that technical.) My pace was not great on this leg, but riding with other people is difficult, especially trying to keep within the drafting rules.
The best part of this ride happened when I was going down from one of the climbs. I got myself into a good position and pushed it hard going down. I started to build speed. At one point I thought to myself “This is fast… if I hit a patch of water I am not going to be in a good place”. I looked down at my speedometer to see I was topping 41 miles per hour!!! I buckled down and went with it. At the bottom of the hill I saw another guy on a mountain bike or hybrid who was going slower. I got ready to pass him and let him know I was on his left. He started to try and block me. I had to slam on the brakes or collide with him, a very dangerous maneuver at that speed.
Overall a good bike leg. Not my fastest and not my slowest with some pretty good technical climbs.
This transition went a little smoother than the first and I was able to get off my bike gear and get on my running shoes in a decent clip. Once again, I had a long run to my transition station and as I went out for my run. Can be a little faster, but I am happy with this time in the end.
Run: 3 Miles/0:41:07
I was overall pleased with my run as I had no brick sessions leading up to this race. My basic plan was to push a series of 1:1 run/walk ratio. Immediately my legs were heavy and the run/walks allowed me to ease into the run. Looking at my splits, I managed to increase the speed with each mile. One thing I did differently was to carry a bottle of sport drink with me. Usually on the run I start to get a bit nauseous. I thought I might need to do a gel on the run but at the last minute I decided to just carry some sports drink with me and sip it during my walks. This actually worked perfect giving me some hydration and some carbs and calories. At the 1.5 mile mark a Facebook friend of mine was manning the water station and I got a great boost of cheering as I went by and again when I passed later down the home stretch. It was a great boost and she captured some pictures of me on my run!
Total Time: 2:02:26
Not sure how this stacks up to my other races, but it felt good. This might be the first race I felt totally in control and was able to really just relax and enjoy it. I would love to be faster, but hopefully that will come in time. I feel like I had an extremely well managed race and I had a great time and got to support a great cause. Additionally I ironed out a few areas that I had issues with, especially nutrition and the swim. This race provided a great confidence boost leading into my final sprint for the season and my Olympic race at the end. Its funny to think this is only my third and already I feel familiar with all aspects of race day. Coolest thing was I got to share in on my brothers final race of his season too. Til next time.
- Top 5 Ways You Know Your Summer Triathlon Season is Almost Over (youngtri.com)
- Change of Plans (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- Random Thoughts from USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships (fitnessandfrozengrapes.com)