As I sat around waiting for the Williamsburg swim start a couple of weeks ago, I made a decision: there would be more races in my life. Due to logistics, cost, and laziness, I tend to train for ‘A’ races and completely ignore any potential B or C races I could be doing for fun. What I realized when I was trying not to barf on Williamsburg race morning was that my race frugality had the unintentional side effect of making me a really serious-faced racer. Every race was super important! I couldn’t screw it up because it was the only chance I’d get! Near vomiting with nerves over something I knew I was completely capable of doing was the norm!
Blegh. That’s no way to run a hobby.
So, more C triathlons. Which is a hilarious conclusion to come to now that I’m starting up marathon training for January and sidelining triathlon for the rest of the season (still swim/biking, but no A race goals for the rest of 2013). However, I was signed up for the General Smallwood Sprint after they had cancelled the race last year, and it seemed like the perfect no pressure situation to get me started on this more racing=less pressure strategy. Plus, I’d never done a SetUp Events triathlon either, so I was eager to see what kind of race they put on (spoiler: a pretty good one, actually).
Because this tri was pretty small, we could do packet pick up the morning of the event. Score. I woke up at the perfectly reasonable hour of 4am for a 4:30am pick up time from The Accomplice. She did a lot of pre-puttering in preparation for the lack of time in transition, which was definitely a good call. The drive out to Indian Head was uneventful and we even had time to drive the bike course, which was a little hillier than I realized (not with Proper Hills, just…rolling).
Transition was a snap, port-o-john lines were short, and before we knew it we were strolling down to the creek for the start. The water temp was a little gross at 88F, but the creek itself was fine. The course was properly marked (I’m still bitter about Williamsburg, apparently) and sighting was a cinch. I particularly appreciated the giant yellow blow up dude they had on the boat dock on the way back in. He was very easy to keep track of. I lucked out and got to go in the second wave while the Accomplice had to wait around until the last one.
I knew going into the race that I wasn’t going to do much in the way of tapering for it. It was supposed to be fun and easy, not uber planned. So my training the week before, while it certainly included a few more off days than usual, also included things I don’t normally often do, like run a 5 mile race in the 4th of July heat or spend a few hours stand up paddleboarding less than 24 hours before I jumped into the creek for triathlon funtimes.
Which was…fine. But it did mean I got to feel extra fatigued the whole race, starting with right after I rounded the first turn buoy. I paddled along, trying to find competent feet (almost impossible at my slow speed), and noticed my arms were super tired. I had, mind you, gone all of about 300 meters. Endurance swimming this was not. I pulled a bit more and noticed some distinct soreness across my upper back. As I rounded the second buoy and just really wanted to be done (again, I’d gone all of 500 meters), I finally admitted to myself that perhaps this would not be a day where I surprise myself with some well tapered fitness.
Swim: 00:21:08, 2:23 100/m
I have historically had some pretty terrible transition times. And, objectively, I still do. I don’t race between sports like I’m terrified of losing a minute of time, but I have come a long way in my transition preparedness and smoothness. For example, this is the first time in any triathlon that I have jogged the entire way between swim and bike. And, pesky sock donning aside, I’ve got the transition drill down too. Squirt water on feet, don sock, shoe, squirt water, sock, shoe, race belt, glasses, helmet, go.
It’s finally dawned on me how much my experience on the bike influences my perception of how a race goes. I mean, yes, you do spend the most amount of raw time on the bike, but the bike is always relatively uneventful compared to implosions on the swim or run no matter if I rock the bike or am limping through T2.
I had an awesome ride in Williamsburg. I felt strong the whole time. I handled the few hills that there were well. I passed people. For reasons that baffle me now, I was convinced that I could do that same thing here, two weeks after, without really tapering like I did for Williamsburg.
One you hop on the bike at Smallwood you have to climb out of the park to get to the main road where your bike ride really begins. I was very resentful of this climb because it didn’t give me much of a chance to calm down and get myself situated. I’m not sure why, whether it was because I’m still experimenting with breakfasts or because I swallowed too much creek water, but my stomach felt awful once I got on the bike. I spun up the first hill with a distinct lack of power and once I got on the main road there were a couple of times there where I wondered if I should pull over and throw up whatever was bothering me in my stomach. I pedaled along, tried to eat and drink, but couldn’t even stomach water. Sitting in aero was even a little too constricting to my upset stomach, so I sat up much of the time and just pedaled along trying to will my stomach to feel better. I got a lot of encouragement from the many folks who passed me from the waves behind, but I was definitely not having the fun bike leg I had 2 weeks ago. Around mile 10 I started feeling a bit better, was able to get into aero more without feeling like I was vicing my stomach, and was able to pick up the pace to something respectable (I averaged about 16 mph for the back half of the bike vs. 12.5 for the front half).
Bike: 01:08:27, 14. 14.3 mph
I walked my bike over the rack (until I figure out how to make my feet not go numb on the bike, I will, unfortunately, always probably need to walk my bike. It feels super hazardous to run when I can’t feel my feet) and quickly changed shoes.
My rack neighbor was sitting down putting on her shoes and as I was getting ready to leave she was complaining that she had no water. I, be a sucker for the potentially dehydrated (my worst fear), stuck around and gave her some water from my water bottles and waited for her while she got herself situated. We ran out together and chatted a bit before she pulled ahead of me on a hill and stayed a bit ahead of me the whole race. It turns out, she was the 3rd place Athena to my 4th place finish. Damn it all.
The run was hillier than I expected. This was also my first time doing a two looped run (I know, I’m not sure how I missed this joyous occasion in prior triathlons). It was a nice course. It took us through the park, and we went around the camp sites, across a little bridge, and through the trees. There were ample water stops and it was mostly shaded. I walked all the major hills, of course, as well as the water stations, but dutifully tried to trot the rest of the way. There was a bit at the start of the second loop that I also walked. I’d only been out on the run for a half hour, but there’s something so sad about having to go for another loop when the finish line is right there. I’m fairly sure I’d have felt that way no matter what pace I was running. In any event, I was still deathly slow and lamenting my lack of run fitness the entire (short) time I was out there.
Run: :49:30, 15:42 min/mi
Not my best effort, but it was a nicely organized race on a nice course and it was good to get out and do something that wasn’t my goal race for the year. The Accomplice also happily reached her goal of not being last in any leg of race. Score.
Now that I know where Smallwood Park is, I wouldn’t mind coming back to do this race in October when they run it again. So long as it doesn’t conflict with marathon training…