This year was my fourth Columbia Triathlon as an individual. I had previously done 2007, 2008 and 2010. 2009 was 7 weeks after Hayden was born, so I feel I have a good excuse for missing that year. Last year, I did the swim leg of a relay, so it's been 2 years since I last did all of Columbia. Over the winter and early spring, I was training for Gettysburg Marathon, so did a lot of running, but not a lot of biking. I was recently diagnosed as having osteoarthritis in my left shoulder (thank you genetics, 11 years of competitive swimming, and 2 kids who like to be carried), so hadn't been doing a lot of swimming either. Even still, I was counting on my aptitude for swimming and overall fitness from a marathon training schedule that resulted in a 3:48 marathon giving me a good chance at a Columbia PR.
I got up around 4:00, hit the car by 4:30, made it to the park by a little before 5am. I always park in the lot off of Centennial Lane so I don't have to contend with all of the traffic entering the park (and later trying to exit the park). It's about a half mile walk to the transition area. I quickly got my transition area set up and then just hung around in transition for a while, looking for other MMTC and Team Fight folks. I eventually made it over to the MMTC tent where I then waited for the next hour and a half before my 7:46 start time. I really do not understand why all the women ranging in age from 25-44 end up in the last few waves every year. Can't we get an early wave some time? Anyway, it was eventually time to get my wetsuit on and then the nerves started setting in. No matter how many races I do, I always get really nervous and anxious in the last little while before I start. I guess I'm just ready to get going and tired of waiting around.
Swim: 23:16 (1:34/100m)
Not a bad swim for me. Not my best, but still decent. Given my shoulder, I wasn't expecting a PR on the swim. Surprisingly, my shoulder didn't feel bad in the water (although the 800mg of ibuprofen I took before the race started might have had something to do with that). I tried to keep my stroke long and even and my elbows high under the water (gives you a more powerful stroke and it doesn't hurt my shoulder as much). Off the start, I aimed straight for the first yellow buoy. Unfortunately for me, the wind had pushed the buoy in toward the middle of the lake, so I ended up way inside and had to cut back hard to head for the first orange turn buoy. It cost me a bit of time, but what can you do? Still, I managed to cut the turn buoy close and kept close to all the remaining buoys. As always, I swam as far as I possibly could before standing up and wading the last couple feet to the exit.
Not much to say. Not a great time. Ran slowly into transition, trying to get my wetsuit unfastened and down to my waist. Thought the neck velcro was unfastened, but it wasn't, so I struggled a bit with getting it pulled down. Eventually got it down, ran to my spot in transition, and finished stripping. Got my bike shoes, sunglasses, helmet, and Garmin on. Grabbed my bike and ran up the hill to the exit.
Bike and T2: 1:21:16 (18.5 mph)
Somehow my T2 entrance didn't register correctly, so my bike split included T2. Since I spent early spring training for a marathon, I had had only 2 chances to ride the Columbia course this year (and one was in the rain) so I really wasn't sure how the bike was going to go. I was hoping for close to 19 mph, but I'm not going to complain about my time. I felt strong throughout the bike, passing lots of people on both uphills and downhills. Got caught a few times behind cars that wouldn't pass the bikers, so had to slow down or risk hitting either other bikers or the cars (both of which would have been detrimental to my race). I went through 1 and a half bottles of Cytomax and half a bagel thin with peanut butter and craisins (I like to eat real food on the bike). More quickly than I would have expected, I made it back to 108 and then the park. Even though I haven't focused on my bike training much this year, I must have gotten stronger because the climbs didn't seem as hard as I remember from previous years. I'm looking forward to doing some focused bike training before my next race. I'm confident I can break 19 on the Columbia course next time!
Don't have split, but I felt it was fast. I tried Bob V.'s suggestion of just doing shoes and race number in the transition area and everything else once you leave. Seemed to work pretty well (except for dropping my M&M's outside of the transition area and having to stop and pick them up). Ironically, I didn't end up even eating them.
Run: 49:19 (7:58/mile)
I had pushed pretty hard on the bike, so I was a little worried I would bonk on the run. My run has improved dramatically over the past couple of years, but I had yet to put a good bike and good run together in a triathlon. I usually go out too hard on the bike and my legs refuse to run when the time comes. Still, I started pretty strong and hit the switchback somewhere around 7:37 pace (the only time I looked at my Garmin the entire run). The switchback was hard (when isn't it?) but I recovered quickly on the downhill. I just kept plugging away one foot in front of the other, sipping at more cytomax that I carry with me. I was passing quite a few people and was starting to get passed by the fast 50-54 and 20-24 men, but so far not by anyone in my AG. I hit the mile 2 marker feeling tired, but still strong. I knew I would get a great pick-me-up shortly thereafter because Dave and the kids were helping with the Gatorade Wall water stop and had promised they would stay until after I ran through. Sure enough, about 200 yards before I got to the water stop, I could hear a young voice yelling, "water, water". Then I saw Kaylie standing there holding a cup of water. I grabbed the cup from her and dumped it over my head. It put a big smile on my face and made me pick up the pace again. The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. I took each hill as it came, thinking "just keep running, just keep running". I was tired and hurting a bit, but a good kind of tired and hurt - I never felt like I was going to bonk. I did get passed around mile 4 by a woman in my AG, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it. I was running my race as best I could and wasn't going to try and chase her. When I hit Gatorade Wall the second time, I knew I was so close to the end. Dave and the kids were gone by then, so I knew I would see them somewhere closer to the finish. I saw them right as I got to the end of the dam, and seeing them again gave me a burst of energy such that I made it through that last little hill at mile 6 (I hate that hill) and around to a strong finish.
It took a while before my results were posted and imagine my surprise (and chagrin) when I saw that I had beaten my goal time and gotten a 10 minute PR, but missed the podium by about a minute and 15 seconds. Still, I couldn't be happier with my race and I can't wait to see what I can do at Celebrating Heroes in a month and a half and Age Group Nationals in August (my "A" race). Between now and then, I plan on doing a lot of speed work on both the bike and the run. It was fun seeing everyone today. I really love this race. How can you not love a race on your home turf!