Well folks, welcome to my first race report of the season! If you're looking for the quick and dirty version: my hip held up much better than expected, the competition was surprisingly fierce for such a small-scale, local race, and of course I had a great time, as usual!
Now, if you want the real version, get comfy, maybe get a snack and a drink, and dig in:
Last I spoke with you I was worrying my way through my rest day on Friday. I was honestly happy when the rest day was over and I could go to bed. I packed up and checked through all my gear Friday night since we were heading to Salisbury, MD in the morning. I always get out a big plastic bin to pack my stuff, then go through my upcoming race in my head. Swim, T1, Bike, T2, Run. I lay stuff into my bin as I go through the stages, thinking head to toe. I'm a relatively forgetful person, and I almost never travel without forgetting something. And I travel a lot. So I have a fair amount of practice trying out strategies for averting disaster. I have to say, this one works pretty darn well, and I did a great job this time around. I almost forgot to change my shoelaces out for my lock laces, but I remembered while visualizing transition. Highly recommend the technique.
Anyway, went to bed early Friday, trying to be ready to travel Saturday, as well as to try to keep up the good fight against the slight head cold I felt looming in the background. Saturday morning Erin and I finished getting our stuff together, and then went out to tackle the new bike rack for her car. She had sweetly agreed to drive me to the race, and this turned out to be invaluable as my car's transmission decided to fail last week.
So we had this bike rack...It was a hand-me-down from my father, but we've had it for probably 6 months now and haven't attempted to use it yet since normally I can easily fit my bike into my Rav4. Being a familial donation, this bike rack does not come with a manual, so a significant amount of time was spent wrestling this thing onto the trunk of Erin's car, squinting at fuzzy downloaded photos from the internet, and fussing over whether or not the rack would leave marks on her beloved Jetta. Then we had to worry about whether or not the thing could actually keep my bike from flying into any sorry sucker who decided to follow us on our 3 hour trek. Eventually after some interesting antics and tactics, a little cussing, and some creative packing, we were loaded up and ready to go. We only pulled onto the shoulder of the highway once for me to readjust the seemingly tenuous perch of my bike...
We arrived finally in Salisbury with Erin ready to burst. No it was not a bathroom break she needed, but a hockey break. The Flyers were playing the Bruins, game one of the series in the playoffs. Semi-finals of the Eastern Conference. She could go no further until she had her hockey fix, so I dropped her at a pretty neat little bar and restaurant overlooking a small riverfront. The bartender was friendly and found the game for her immediately upon seeing her bright orange jersey. Once I felt she was sufficiently entertained for a while, I left to drive another 20 minutes to Bivalve, MD for packet pickup. Found the restaurant for pickup down a long flat stretch of road that I knew from the course map was part of the bike leg. After getting my packet and swag bag (nice tshirt, a water bottle, and even a pair of socks! sweet!) I took my bike out for a short spin on some of the roads of the course. I don't know about anyone else, but I have mixed feelings about completely flat courses. Of course I appreciate that I won't have to hammer up hills, but on a flat course you have no chance to coast for just a second. I feel like I can never find the right gear for a flat course, and that I have to constantly readjust to avoid..ahem..numbness...So I was mentally preparing myself on this little warm up ride, as well as checking how my bike had fared the bumpy, precarious ride down. Things weren't quite right. The shifting was tough, something seemed to be unhappy about my rear derailer. I decided it would have to do for the race, since on a flat course I shouldn't be shifting much anyway...(heh. suuurrree.)
So I packed it all up and headed back to the place I had last seen my wife. She was still perched on a stool, yelling at the big screen over the bar. Unfortunately, the game didn't go as she would have liked, and the Flyers lost rather spectacularly. I had a pre-race dinner of grilled tilapia, sweet potato fries and lots of water. (not my normal choices, but its what I could get) We then found our hotel (got the job done, but a bit sketchy...) and I ritualistically laid out everything for numbering. I then repacked everything into my transition bag, drank powerade, ate a cliff bar and made Erin go to bed very early...very tolerant of her...
Tossed and turned, but eventually fell asleep. Thank goodness the neighbors we could hear clearly through the wall were morning people, not night owls. They got up and started banging around their room about the same time we did. My pre-race meal is always bagels or bagel thins with peanut butter, which I make sure to have with me. I also get a cup of coffee and usually a banana, but the continental breakfast at our restaurant was sadly lacking in fresh fruit. I also had G1 prime with me (not the drink, but the new little mini-bar things. they're awesome) and I had two in the hours leading up to the race. They're little and tasty and 50 calories each, coming in packs of 4. This was a sprint, so I didn't need to overdo the pre-race nutrition.
Got to the race site feeling good and alert. It was a relatively late starting race, so it was actually light out as I got my body marking and headed in to set up my transition area. The race was a small, local race and they didn't have pre-numbered transition spots. They were catch as catch can. I found a place to set up where I was pretty sure I could find my bike, and then started getting pretty cocky about how well I could do if the race was really as small as the transition area made it look. Looks can be deceiving, however. Getting cocky never ends well for me. I did check myself though. I am coming off this injury, I came in with almost no run training, even if everything went perfectly, I knew I needed to just be happy to finish.
Transition area ready, Erin and I watched the youth tri that started before mine. So adorable and fun. The swim was really close to the transition, which was a nice break from the triathlons I've done in the past where you have to run a half a mile from the beach to T1. Eventually I got my wetsuit on, got into the water to swim a few strokes, pre-race meeting went as usual, and the swim races (2 and 3 milers!) went off. Then it was time to wade into the Nanticoke again and start my first tri of the season!
The water was really nice. I didn't start off with the same panicked feeling I've had for most tris. I expected to be fast and started at the very front of the pack, but for some reason I didn't sprint out off the front the way I normally do, almost like I was too relaxed. Next thing I knew I was getting pummeled by arms and legs and heads and knees and elbows...ah the churn of an open water start. I kept calm, and later wondered if maybe I stayed too calm. I had a good rhythm and form for the whole swim, but didn't come out as early in the pack as I normally do. It started to dawn on me that this might be a really competitive, albeit small, field. My half mile swim was 12:47. Not crazy slow, but definitely not the speed I wanted. I was going more of a mile pace rather than a half mile pace...
Got to T1, struggled with my wetsuit and had an abysmal, 2 minute transition. I mean that's really bad. Guess my transitions have gotten rusty over the course of the off-season...time to brush those up!
Got on my bike, pedaled off into a bit of a headwind and tackled that flat course. Felt all right, but realized quickly I hadn't built enough of a lead on the swim as three or four women from my age group passed me over the course of the ride. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a practice race, I am not in peak fitness, and I'm training for longer, slower races right now. Eventually I got over myself and started to enjoy the race, like I am supposed to. Still, I would have liked to shave 3-5 minutes off of my bike time, which was 50:26 for 15.2 miles.
I was careful not to kill my legs for the run, and I did some high RPM spinning as I came into T2 to get my legs ready for the run. My second transition was a bit slow too. I need to learn how to mount and dismount my bike with my shoes clipped on. New skill goal for the season.
Got out on the run course with that glorious jello leg feeling I love. Seriously, I would prefer to run and race off the bike than just run. Something about the jello makes me embrace the pain rather than fight it. I go hard and love every second. I was cautious at first, worried about my hip and my run fitness. It wasn't till I hit the turn around and realized that I was more than halfway through the run, and had gone further without pain than I'd been able to in a month, that I let a but loose and really took it home. I got the the finish line pain free and with a kick left for a sprint. Erin told me when I crossed the line that I had completed the run around 25 minutes, and at first I didn't believe her. When I checked my time I was astonished. 3.1 miles in 24:51. That is a PR for me, for any 5k, let alone one done after a swim and bike! I mean dang! Maybe my body would prefer I barely trained for running!!What the heck?!
So with a 1:31:02, I finished my first tri of the season. I could definitely take time off my transitions, and would have preferred a faster swim and bike, but I am honestly pretty happy with my time. And it will likely be my only sprint this season (except those I do as a relay team with family), so if I am more tuned into a long distance pace, I guess that's ok! It wasn't enough to get me on the podium, however. I was 3 minutes away from a medal. And the girl who won my age group was 4th in women overall, beating the 2nd place girl in my age group by 11 minutes. She had an 8:30 swim. That's crazy. She was so fast. But my finishers medal has a bottle opener!
The race was pretty well organized, despite being small. They even let my darling wife eat three hamburgers and a hot dog while she waited for me to finish. And they had turkey burgers for those of us who aren't into red meat. I was sore and my hip started to hurt a few hours after the race. Got in lots of protein and let my fully fed wife drive me home. All in all, an excellent first race of the season.
I could go on and on of course, but I've already written a small novel. Took the day off today. Swimming tomorrow, then going to work at the bike shop! And now I am full on fighting this cold...
Happy training everyone!