In lieu of killing myself on a half I was not prepared for, I asked Rev3 if I could drop down to the Olympic distance. They graciously obliged and I got to race a triathlon for the first time since Alcatraz (I know right?) and be sure that I wasn’t going to injure myself from lack of consistent training.
Prior to the my mom was spending some time at Virginia Beach and asked if I wanted to go with her for a few days, so I packed up the tri bag a bit early and headed down to VA Beach to enjoy the ocean for a few days. The plan was to pack up Wednesday with all the gear, hand off my bike to The Accomplice for transporting, head down to the beach with my mom for 2 days, and then take her car to Williamsburg Saturday morning where I’d meet The Accomplice for the practice swim.
Aside from ruining my mom’s brand new stand up paddleboard with our inability to tie it properly to the roof of her car, the beach bit was actually pretty great. We had a hotel on the boardwalk & a view of the water. While she spent time finding someone to fix her SUP, I hit the boardwalk for a quick run & float in the pool. Aside from not being a complete sloth on taper week, these workouts were also pretty important because I was testing out some new tri clothes. I am always very frustrated with my clothing options and recently a few of the pieces that I’ve been wearing for a few years now have fallen apart completely and I had to find new. A mad dash to REI got me some options but the verdict after the run/float was a little disappointing: my Danskin tri shorts chafed me in the rudest of places. The good news was that my new Pearl Izumi tri top passed the swim test with flying colors (i.e., did not billow around me while I swam), so that one was a keeper.
On Friday, I concentrated on making it a lazy rest day. Mom and I went for a 40 minute bike ride on the boardwalk with some beach cruisers and I got to teach her the concept of head winds. It was good to spin out my legs a bit and keep them loose, though she seemed to think we were doing some strenuous exercise. We packed up lunch and gear and headed to the beach for the afternoon shortly thereafter. I’d planned to do a proper swim in the ocean, but the lifeguards had the red flags up all day. I splashed around a lot because I can’t not get into the ocean when one is available, but spent most of my time on a beach chair reading & looking at the view below.
On Saturday, I got up early, had breakfast at the hotel, and then drove my mom’s VW to the practice swim in Williamsburg where I’d meet up with The Accomplice & The Accomplice’s Accomplice, Raoul. I got there a bit late, but felt like I had plenty of time to do the full course. I’m glad Rev3 had the practice swim and gave us a chance to do the full course. I was less glad about the actual swim course, though. It was a bright and sunny day, the current was strong in a weird but helpful direction (upriver, tides apparently), but I could not for the life of me find the appropriate buoys to sight to. None of the sighting buoys were lined up and it made me feel like we were swimming around a maze rather than the simple triangle it was supposed to be. I finally got out feeling confused & frustrated, but shook it off as pre-race disorganization. I’d get a better explanation of the course at the race briefing and at packet pick up, and I’m sure they’ll redo the buoys tomorrow so that they are better. Surely.
Packet pick up, race briefing, bike course driving (always an excellent idea), and bike racking were uneventful. Dinner with local friends was great (and I got a bit of important background on how the James behaves given its geography), and by 8pm I wanted nothing but to be in bed asleep. Actual bedtime? About 10pm. Rats.
The Accomplice and I have a long and unending debate about the appropriate time one should arrive in transition on race morning. My position (the rightful one) is that, while you don’t want to arrive when transition is closing, the later and less time spent there the better. Maximized the sleeps. The Accomplice is more of a futzer. She can spend an hour happily staring at the 1 ft space next to her bike. We compromised for this race by convincing Raoul to drive us in the van rather than rely on the shuttle buses. This turned out to be a great thing because it rained on race morning and we had somewhere dry to sit, and I’m given to understand that the shuttle bus situation was a giant clusterfuck.
We threw our things down in a bag at T2 and then headed to T1 at the beach to do the same. Raoul had his moment of glory by being the guy standing directly outside of transition with a bike pump. I set my stuff out and went back to the van for naps and to see if I could put anything else in my stomach (answer: no). In order to accommodate everyone who was late on the shuttle they started the race a half hour late. I was in the last very swim wave so wasn’t fussed to see the start. We sat around in the van for a while & then at 7am got out, headed for the empty portapotties (the 1 great thing about being in a later wave, I’ve found), & wandered over to the beach. It was a damn good thing I didn’t rely on the late start to buy me time because they squished everyone together and the last wave was getting in the water when we strolled up. Perfect timing! My stomach rolled.
The wind had picked up but I knew from my handy tidal app that we wouldn’t have much tidal current being so close to low tide. Of course, being so close to low tide meant that when the horn went all there was less running and swimming and more wading and walking. I walked for a good 2 minutes on either end of the swim. I noticed as I started that there was a bit of chop and I was getting pulled slightly down river, but it wasn’t as bad as the day before. Unfortunately, that was the only improvement. I got to the first turn buoy, looked up river, and had the exact same problem as the day before: The giant yellow buoys were clear but the orange buoy was barely visible. I made the best guess I could and tried swimming to the yellow buoy figuring that surely they had fixed the line problem at least. But no, that was a mistake. I got to the yellow sighting buoy and realized I was hundreds of meters further off than I needed to be for the orange buoy and I just veered off course for nothing. Fuck me. I swam to the second orange buoy, angry. It rained a bit while I swam and the wind/jetskis were making a bit of chop, but it was a pretty uneventful swim after I passed the second buoy. I stood up as soon as I could because I figured it’d be just as fast as swimming and was greeted by a lot of grousing by other competitors.
According to my Garmin I swam 1.1 miles for what was supposed to be a 1500 meter course in 44:38. Fucking buoys. As an aside, I didn’t actually think the water was that bad. Yeah, it was a little choppy and I had to breathe to one side because it was splashing over my head a bit, and yeah, there was no point where you weren’t going across or against the current (thanks, race organizers), but it didn’t feel that bad! The water was warm! You did feel like you were going somewhere eventually! There were buoys even if I was upset about their placement! Many people, The Accomplice included, disagree with me on the conditions, though, and I can only conclude that Alcatraz has forever skewed my idea of difficult swim conditions.
Out of the swim, walking to transition (7 min transition including a quarter mile walk, not bad), and out onto the bike. My favorite part of the day after the finish line. It’s just such a relief to get on the bike and take a few minutes to breathe. I did something new for this race on the bike: I wore a heart rate monitor. I’ve been doing a lot of work on cadence this year (trying to get mine from low 70s to the 80-90 range) and to keep my heart rate down while I race. I’m pleased to say it worked…and I probably could’ve gone harder. See, I was training for the half so I’ve put a lot of effort into getting myself comfy in the high Z2 range and haven’t done all that much in the way of speed work or longer high intensity efforts. So I paced my 24 mile ride as I planned to pace my 56 mile ride, which was fine–I’m ultimately pleased that I kept moving on the flats and did move quickly up the hills–just not a PR effort for an Olympic. On the plus side? I got off the bike feeling ok. My legs didn’t feel trashed at all.
The course was mostly flat with a bit of a technical/windy section in the middle. We were with the half people for all of it but because they break off and do another 25 miles elsewhere, you get two distinct flavors of half racers in each part of the course. In the second half that flavor was mostly pro men. Awesome. I got a glimpse of who was leading the bike, what a chase pack looks like when everyone is technically draft legal but still looking very pack like, and I got to watch poor Kevin Collington flat on a gnarly bump as I went by him. Two glorious minutes of passing a pro triathlete! He then passed me like I was standing still on a hill once he started riding again, natch. I nommed a Picky Bar & some Shot Bloks, drank my water, and just generally had a badass time. Oh, and I’ve decided that this whole men/women tri short difference is complete shit. I picked up a pair of mens Pearl Izumis at packet pick up to replace my chafey Danskins and they were awesome. No chafing, and the padding was just fine on the bike.
Biking continues to be my favorite part of the triathlon. It helps that it’s one of the few times in a race I pass people instead of getting passed. Time: 1:28:22.
T2 was marked by seeing The Accomplice & Katrina, my fellow racers, hanging outside of transition. I spent a lot of time yelling WTF at them while pulling my running shoes on (and off, pulling out the gels I put in them, and on again). I think I had a 1 minute transition, which is good for me. So the run. The sport I dread like others dread swimming. I walked a lot. More than I should have? Maybe? I was tired but I wasn’t dead tired like I’ve been in other tris. The first 2 miles I spent “collecting” myself and walking. I did eventually pick up the pace to a stately shuffle, but then we encountered a .75 mile hill and I continued on with the walking. I ran into a friend who was having a rough day. She DNFed the swim but figured she was there so she might as well enjoy the course. The entire run I got to be entertained by the half pro racers. I got to see the lead pack, the chasers, the lead women, the chase women and the very first of the age groupers. It was very cool. Some of the pros even took time to wish me luck, which was really lovely of them. Margie Shapiro, who I saw flying by at around 4 mile for looked like the winner of the women’s race, but Kelly Williamson how was down a minute when I saw her, apparently managed to catch her a few seconds to the end. So cool.
There’s a long out and back where the majority of the run course takes place and then there’s a tiny out and back where you cross in front of the finish line and have to go a half mile more. I hate those. Crowd support was deep, though, and it kept me running down the hill and partially up the hill on the way back. I finished at a run because dignity demands no less, but man, was I tired. I finished in 1:41:02, which is…a bit not good. This was also the one time in the race where I got passed by someone in my division. Curses. I’m am kind of disappointed in my run, feeling like perhaps I could have walked less and given it more of an effort. On the other hand, at max effort and without a swim/bike in front of it I probably could have knocked about 9 minutes off of it and that’s it. It’d be a 1:30 10K, which is still quite crappy. My run fitness has suffered the most from these long injury breaks.
Final time: 4:02:10, not a PR.
I was glad I got the chance to do a Rev3 race, though perhaps I will do one that is not a first time venue. They clearly had some growing pains. Overall, though, they were friendly and it was a good race. I hope they tweak a few things and make a go of it again next year. For me personally, I’m spending some time this summer doing what I’ve mentally dubbed Basic Training. I’m heading to the doctor to get a few niggling issues checked out, I’m continuing with daily yoga, I’m adding in, god help me, strength training, and I’m learning to run if it kills me. At the needling of a Maniac friend, I’ve signed up for a marathon in January and I’m looking spending the summer training to train for it come September.
I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.