This was the second year I've done Nation's Triathlon and while I enjoy the race itself, the logistics are still a nightmare for me. Anyone who knows me well, knows I hate driving. Especially in cities. I did packet pickup Friday via the Metro, so that wasn't bad, but Saturday bike racking was such a horrible experience, I almost quit the race before I even started. My plan had been to drive into DC Saturday evening, park outside my boss's house (where I would be spending the night), bike the ~3 miles down to transition, rack my bike, take the shuttle from transition to the Hilton, then walk the ~1 mile back to his house. Well, best laid plans. About 3pm it started storming. Hard. By 5pm when I left home, the thunder and lightning had stopped, but it was still raining pretty hard. I decided I would just drive down to transition to rack and skip biking in the rain. I figured it shouldn't be too hard to find parking since there likely wouldn't be many tourists out in the storms. Of course, when I got down to transition, I found that there was no place near transition to park. They had closed down Ohio Drive, so I couldn't get to any of the parking lots near the memorials. And not being one who drives in DC often, I had no idea where else to go. I drove around for 45 minutes trying to figure out where I was supposed to go (and getting horribly lost despite the GPS). I was on the phone, hysterical, with Dave, about to just call it and come home, but knowing I wouldn't be happy with myself if I did. I finally ended up on 17th street about a mile from transition and saw the meters and decided to just park there and feed the meter. I only had about $1 worth of change with me, which doesn't go very far in DC, and then the meter ate one of my quarters, so I ended up with about 27 minutes on the meter. 27 minutes to bike a mile, rack my bike, and run back to the car. I managed it with about 7 minutes to spare. I wasn't really planning on starting my race early.
Then I had to drive back to Jim's house and find parking outside of there much later than I had originally planned. It took me 20 minutes of circling the block until I finally found a parking spot there. Again, I was on the verge of going home, but knew it was pointless because my bike was already in transition. Once I got into the house, I just crashed and went right to bed. I wasn't in the best state of mind for racing the next morning, but I also knew I would feel better in the morning.
I slept okay, all things considered. I was up by about 3:45 to get dressed, collect my things, drop stuff into my car, then walk the mile to the Hilton to catch the shuttle bus down to transition. After my experience the night before, I had no desire to move my car until it was time to drive back to Maryland. I caught the first bus down to transition and we got there just before transition opened at 5am. The first thing I heard the announcers say was that the water temperature was 81.1 degrees. Awesome! No wetsuit! I hadn't brought it anyway since the water temp the day before had been 84. I went into transition, got body marked, then set up my station. Two people near me hadn't shown up, so I had a ton of space. I clipped my shoes into my pedals (still trying to master the flying mount), then had about 2 hours before I could expect to start the swim. Nation's has a time trial swim start - 6 people start every 7 seconds - so I didn't know exactly when I would start, but it would certainly be after 8am. I was in wave 29! It was cool outside - in the low 60's, so I kept my jacket and bag until after the first waves started, then dropped my bag at bag check and proceeded to shiver for another hour. It was a little lonely waiting, not having my usual MMTC crowd to hang with. I met and talked with a woman from Ohio who has a 3.5 year old and 1 year old twins! Triathlete Moms are awesome!
Swim: 24:20 (1:29/100m, 1st AG)
I actually didn't care for the time trial swim. It was nice in the sense that it does take less time to get everyone into the water, which is nice for those of us in the later waves (why do the women always have to go last!?). But, since there are continuously people going into the water, there is no break in swimmers. I was continuously passing (swimming over - sorry about that) people the entire 1500m. It's a nicely marked course with HUGE labeled buoys every 100m. There's really no way you can go off course. My swim wasn't as fast as I've done in the past, but I chalk that up to the crowded conditions and I think the swim included all of the run up to transition.
Sweet! Love not running with the bike shoes or having to take a wetsuit off! I thought it was a pretty good time until I saw the results and some people had sub 40 seconds!
Bike: 1:14:18 (20.0 mph, 4th AG)
The flying mount went better than at Nationals, but still have a lot of room for improvement. The bike is fast, flat, and crowded. I passed a lot of people and was not passed by anyone, which was cool. The bike route is nice because it is completely closed to traffic, but some of the roads were pretty rough. I almost wiped out on one really bad patch, but was able to recover. I was honestly hoping for a faster bike time, but if I had pushed harder I probably would not have run as well. It's a trade off I'm still learning. I drank one and a half bottles of Cytomax and ate my PB and craisin sandwich.
Not much to say. Rack bike, put on socks and shoes, visor and race number on, grab water belt and go. Would be faster without socks, but I'm not willing to run without them.
Run: 45:42 (7:23 mpm, 6th AG)
The run is also very flat. There are a few very, very, very slight uphills, but by the time you realize you are going ever so slightly upwards, it levels off. The first couple of miles is a little strange with several out and backs with 180 degree u-turns, but then you get down to the water and just run along the water for pretty much the rest of the run. It was very pretty and I just kept running people down, trying to maintain a good pace without pushing too hard. Only 2 fast college guys (the only male wave after mine was the 20-24 year old men) passed me. I always carry my own drink so that I don't have to deal with the crowded water stops, so drank about 14 oz of Cytomax. When I reached the 5 mile mark, I tried to pick it up just a little because I was still feeling good and knew the end was really close. Then, when I rounded the corner and saw the finish arch in the distance I pushed as fast as I could. I'm not sure what that last 0.25 mile was, but it felt good (and bad!) at the same time.
After crossing the finish line, I went over to the timing tent where they give you your results immediately (very nice!). I was pretty stunned when I saw 2nd place AG, but I also figured it wouldn't hold up. My AG was broken into two waves and I was the very beginning of the 2nd wave. With the time trial start, there could easily have been someone behind me that actually went faster than me. So, I grabbed some food, got my bag from bag check, got my stuff out of transition, then went back over to the timing tent to get another print out. Wow! It still said 2nd place AG. I was pretty shocked by that. To finish 2nd in my AG at such a large race was pretty amazing to me. And it was a PR for an Olympic distance race. I got a really nice engraved beer glass (which I used that night). It wasn't until I got home and checked the results that I found out I had missed 1st in my AG by 23 seconds! Another bad thing about the time trial swim start - you have no idea where everyone else is in your AG. Turns out I was faster than that woman in the swim, we had almost the same run time, but her transitions and her bike were faster than mine. I can't help but wonder if I had seen her pass me on the bike if I could have found 24 seconds somewhere.
All in all, I've had a great season! Thanks again to Tim for helping with my speed work. And thanks to Dave for always supporting me (even when I'm crying hysterically on the phone because I'm lost in DC). Time to shift focus to long distance stuff. Goofy in January, then IMLP next July! I'll be back to the Olympic distance races in 2014. I think they will always be my favorite distance!