My third Columbia Triathlon has come and gone. I am elated by my performance, especially under some challenging circumstances. I am also incredibly disappointed because (at least thus far) it appears my timing chip malfunctioned after the swim and my race results say DNF and only show a time for the swim. I am so glad I wore my brand new Garmin 910XT because at least know for sure how I REALLY did.
Unofficial Results (based on my Garmin 910XT data):
Swim – 26:23
T1 – 2:56
Bike – 1:22:24
T2 – 1:36
Run – 56:01
Overall Time – 2:49:20
This should have put me in 14th place in the Women’s 35-39 age group.
I did everything I could to prepare for this race. I have been working with a wonderful coach, who by the way finished in 2 hours, 25 minutes in the Open Elite Division (yeah, she’s awesome!). She helped me with a training plan and I worked out with her training group for one of my weekly swims and for a weekly Bike/Run workout over the last couple of months.
I’ve also worked hard since January to get down to “racing weight” and have less body fat to drag up the hills of the tough bike course. I have dropped about 10 pounds this year, probably a bit more than that. This is great, except for the fact that my wetsuit was way too big when I put it on a couple of weeks ago! So on Saturday I headed across the river to Virginia to Bonzai Sports to rent one a size down, which fit great.
My wave was not scheduled to start until 8:05am, second to last. Still, I had to be out of transition before it closed around 6:45am. I got up at 4:45am. I had preset my coffee maker the night before so I would have it ready in the morning. I filled my travel mug, pulled on my tri suit, and made some Kashi Hot Cereal to eat. This has a bit more protein than regular oatmeal so I thought it would be a better choice. I headed out the door and made it to Centennial Park by 5:30am. That would give me plenty of time to park and set up my transition area. I like to be on the early side just to be safe! I set up my transition area and pumped up my tires.
Every time I go to a race and spend some time in the transition area I get a serious case of bike envy! Seeing all those fancy triathlon bikes is both inspiring and intimidating! I love my Specialized Roubaix road bike, but I still really want a tri bike!! The other thing about the transition area I noticed was just how badass these women looked. My age group is pretty awesome. I was definitely impressed with the incredibly fit, serious looking athletes setting up their transition areas around me. My rack placement was fine. I was just a bit closer than halfway down the row, so not a serious advantage, but not a huge disadvantage either. I spent some time internalizing my bike location, because I’ve overshot in past races and wasted time trying to find my stuff. Before I left the transition area I got by body sprayed with TriSlide, which seems to be akin to triathlon-branded Pam. I figured I needed all the help I could get to speed up my T1 by making my wetsuit come off more quickly!
I headed over to the start area with my friend Wendy and we found our coach’s tent. We had nothing but time, and way too much of it! I ate a few bites of a bagel with some peanut butter. I drank water. I used the porta potties. I chatted with my training group. I shivered uncontrollably, partially because I was cold and partially from nerves I think. I tried to watch my coach start, but really couldn’t see anything so I went back to hang out some more. I got a quick lesson in how to use the Multisport function on my new Garmin (thank goodness for that!). I decided to get my wetsuit on my legs to keep warm. After what seemed like forever (because it kinda was forever), it was FINALLY time to start. I headed over to the start and did a quick round of the dynamic stretches my coach taught me.
Centennial Lake smelled particularly gross, and was particularly weedy. The sun glare made it extremely tough to see the course buoys for the first section of the swim. When the race started, I hit start on my watch and got moving. I started close to the front of the group and near the inside of the course. In retrospect I should have started a bit further to the right because of how the course turns. I didn’t push the swim at all, knowing I needed to settle in and get warmed up. My right goggle filled up with water as soon as I started swimming, further complicating my ability to sight. I swam the whole course with my right eye closed. I stayed steady and probably sped up as I moved along the course. After the initial start there wasn’t too much of a crowd, although it did seem like while hardly anyone was around, every time someone was nearby they were RIGHT ON TOP OF ME. I’m sure they were thinking the same thing about me! I finished the swim strong and feeling nicely warmed up. As I got out of the water I hit the button on my watch to switch to T1.
I ran towards the transition area listening to the cheers from the spectators and volunteers, just a tad disappointed that I didn’t have any friends or family at the race to cheer me on, but glad for such a friendly and enthusiastic crowd. I fumbled for the wetsuit zipper rope and pulled down the wetsuit to my waist. I ran straight to my transition area and immediately slid out of wetsuit. It came off pretty easily, so I guess the TriSlide made a difference! One at a time I wiped off each foot and put on a sock and bike shoe. I pulled off my cap and goggles and replaced them with my helmet and sunglasses. Then I grabbed my bike and headed up the steep hill to the bike out. I hit the button to start the bike time on my watch right before I mounted my bike.
I had a great bike! I have ridden this course, or at least major sections of it, several times over the last couple of months. I know it well enough now that even with my natural hesitations about turns and downhills I can keep my speed up almost the whole way, except for a few sharp turns. I rode the hills pretty strong, mostly passing people. I did get passed by a few men who I must have passed on the swim and by some really fast women from the wave after me (which was the last wave of the race). I am always so impressed with the speed of the really fast people out there! I held my own though, and averaged over 18mph on the course, setting a personal best of 1:22:24 according to my Garmin. Better yet, I know I can do it faster because I had to hold back a couple of times to keep from breaking the no-drafting rule. It’s really hard with a crowded course! I did have one problem on the bike, and it would prove to be a biggie in the long run. As I headed up the big hill on Green Bridge at the back of the course I decided to drink some water, knowing that the day would be hot and already feeling very thirsty. I am really bad at drinking while I ride, and true to form, after I took a sip of water my bottle slipped out of my hand as I tried to place it back into the holder under my seat. I only ride with one bottle because I barely ever make a dent in it anyway. I figured it wouldn’t be too big of a deal because there’s a bottle handoff on the return section of the course. When I got to the handoff area, however, they had only Gatorade, no water! I didn’t try to take a bottle of Gatorade because it doesn’t usually sit well with my stomach. In retrospect, this was a huge mistake! I finished the bike course strong, but definitely thirsty.
Nothing much to say here. I hit the button on my Garmin and made my way down the hill with my bike carefully so I wouldn’t slip. I racked my bike, switched my shoes, took my helmet and sunglasses off, snapped on my race bib belt, lamented my missing water bottle, and grabbed a couple of Gu Chomps to take with me on my run out of transition. Out of transition once more, and I hit the Garmin button to start timing my run.
The run leg is where I have the hardest time and where I generally fall apart. I knew during this race that my body was fully capable of this run after the bike. I have done the full bike/run course twice in the last month. I also knew as I started the run that the heat would be an issue, and that I needed to try to get some water at the water stops. I took a cup at the water stop right outside of transition and managed to get a swallow to help get down the Gu Chomp I was chewing. I ate two chomps, but couldn’t stomach the third, so I tossed it into a trash can. I was running slowly, but thought I would settle in to a better pace. The first hill on the run course is brutal, and I shuffled up it ever so slowly, managing to avoid walking, but questioning whether that might have been faster than my shuffle-run (I don’t think so). A mile into the run I was still slow, and I still didn’t feel any better. The heat was really getting to me, but I knew the hard part of the run was still ahead. I had to accept that my pace was slow, and just keep chugging along. I was getting passed by some amazingly strong runners, but for the most part they were from other age groups, so I wasn’t going to let it get me down. At that point, I just kept reminding myself that my body can do this, and that I have to run my own race. As I started to hit the hills (and shuffled up each one agonizingly slowly), I took my coach’s advice and kept looking a bit ahead to a target to run to, then another, and another. I never stopped running. I never walked. I know I looked as awful as I felt because after the race when I talked to some of my friends who had seen me on the run, they said I was looking pretty bad and wobbly. I tried to get water at each stop, but didn’t want to walk them, so I would try to swallow some and dump the rest on my head to help cool me off. I was so hot!
I finally emerged from the hilly neighborhood, knowing I had a little bit of a break until the dreaded “Gatorade Hill.” I tried to stay calm, knowing how awful I felt. I got to the hill and refused to let myself look all the way up, instead focusing on my next marker (a piece of grass, a shadow, a tree, some spray painted words of encouragement). When I crested the hill without having walked I grabbed a cup of water and dumped it over my head. I should have tried to drink, but I didn’t think I could aim well enough without stopping. I was in bad shape! My coach has been telling us to give a little push of effort on the straight flat area along the dam (about a half mile to the finish), but as much as I tried there wasn’t much push I could give. I kept going and reached the last stretch of the race, which is a bit twisty and hilly, where my coach saw me and yelled encouragement. All I could think about was getting to the finish. I had come this far, and I knew I could make it to the end. I heard someone coming up behind me and was so glad it was a guy and not someone from my age group! I tried as hard as I could to push to the finish line. I heard my name from the announcer as I approached the finish, but things were getting a bit blurry. As I crossed the finish line I almost collapsed.
Two volunteers held me up, one on each side. They decided I had to go to the medical tent. I couldn’t even argue, I knew they were right. They got me to the tent and helped me sit down (I resisted at first because I didn’t want my legs to start cramping up). The nurses starting doing tests (pulse oximeter, blood pressure, etc) and they made me drink some Gatorade. I suddenly realized I hadn’t stopped my Garmin! I hit the button and saw the time said 2:52 (and I knew I had actually finished a couple minutes earlier). I spent quite a bit of time in the medical tent, very well cared for by the volunteers, nurses, and the doctor. When I had recovered to the satisfaction of the doctor (and could pass a drunk driving… er balance… test), I left the medical tent and headed to the MMTC tent for some food and friends. After quite a while I realized I still had on my chip, so I walked back to the finish and gave the chip to one of the volunteers. I waited around for a long time hoping to see my results, but couldn’t ever find them. I did note that the top 15 in my age group didn’t include me, and that the 14th and 15th places were around 2:50:00, so I thought I must have JUST missed it. It wasn’t until I got home later that day that I found out there was a problem. The results were available online and I wasn’t there! I emailed my coach, and she eventually found my name under DNFs, showing only a swim time. I downloaded my Garmin data and realized I should have placed 14th (assuming nobody else in front of me had a similar issue). I felt sick, and sad, and frustrated, but so very proud of my race.
The missing official results would have, under any circumstances, been disappointing, but this time I feel especially distraught and upset. This race is the very first one I have ever truly trained for with a plan and put my heart into so completely. I stayed committed over three months of training, juggling work, the two rugrats, and having my house on the market and over the last three weeks negotiating a contract to sell it and a contract to buy a new house. Not only did I train my heart out, but I truly left it all on that race course. I know because I almost collapsed at the finish and had to be helped in to the medical tent immediately after crossing the finish line.
After emailing the Columbia Triathlon Association yesterday, this morning I received a note from them saying they have forwarded my issue to timing, so I am now optimistic that it will get straightened out! I also very much appreciate their responsiveness to my request. Fingers crossed now!