Thursday, July 7, 2011

Finally! The race report!!

I've got one eye on the Tour de France this morning as I write this post. That, combined with the fact that it has been two weeks since the race, may mean that this won't be the greatest race report I've ever written, but here it goes anyway!!

A little back-story, in case you need a refresher: I came into this race without much behind my run training. I have been battling this hip pain for almost this entire season so far. Before the race I hadn't run more than 2.5 miles. I tried to keep my run together using the elliptical, which worked well for me in my sprint earlier in the spring. I decided to give my swim and bike the best go I could, and then to see what I could do in the run. I was prepared to forgive myself if my run was sub par.

The next thing I have to add is that I was pretty disappointed with a few aspects of this tri. The first of this was the parking and transportation. I had trouble finding parking for the expo, and so the morning of the race I arrived at the shuttle pick up very very early. This gave me much more time in transition than I needed, and I had to kill a lot of time between setting up my transition area and my swim start. The transition area was the largest I have ever seen. Rows and rows and rows of bikes, and a long run to get all the way through. I prepared well for my race though, in terms of gear prep. The only thing I forgot (I mean, you have to forget something, right?) was bodyglide.

Unfortunately killing time before the start did not include getting in the water to warm up. As far as I could tell, that wasn't allowed. There were 3700 participants lined up to enter the water off a tiny tiny dock. The swim start was done in stages, time-trial style. The girls in my corral didn't seem to understand how that worked, so I ended up at the very front of my corral, while my fellow racers were all bunched up in the street looking confused. The start of the race was slow. My wave didn't start until almost 30 minutes after the first. I did really like jumping in off the dock with only 8 other girls, though. And I was surprised when I got in! It was downright pleasant! The water was relatively clear, the temperature was perfect, and the course was pretty neat. We swam under a bridge, turned around, and swam back through a different part of the bridge. I did find myself getting relatively off course, however. I was very wide around the buoy and probably added a few hundred meters weaving around in the river. I think my swim time wasn't half bad, considering that. I also grabbed the tushes of several of the men I passed from the waves before mine. Sorry gents! I bet you didn't really mind...

The swim exit was crowded and the video footage taken by the photography company shows me shoving a man out of my way on the ramp up. Oops! I remember it being much more polite than it looks on the movie. I think I said something to him, cause he didn't look miffed. Anyway, I ran (and ran and ran and ran) into transition, all the way to row 24 where my bike was racked (out of more than 50 maybe?). My first transition was slow. I still need to practice wetsuit removal, and I'd really like to be able to start with my shoes already clipped to my bike. We'll have to work on that.

The bike course was a single loop that the international distance participants rode two times. It was a very interesting course, with several hairpin turns. The technicality of the course wouldn't have bothered me too much if it wasn't so flipping crowded. Being a relatively quick swimmer in the first wave of women, I started the bike amongst the bulk of the men. It was a cluster****. Seriously, passing people while getting passed by someone on a super aerobike with disc wheels (that sounds like a flippin' car coming up) was the constant state. I was yelling "on your left" while hearing "on your left" for the entire first loop. And avoiding drafting? Impossible. I have no idea if they gave anyone penalties on the course, because there was no point in which any cyclist was far enough away from the person in front of them. It was total insanity, and on the second loop it only got worse. Just as we passed by the transition, the sprint distance participants were entering the bike course. The fast ones begin zipping by again, while the slow ones on their cruisers and huge mountain bikes are weaving out in front of me. Ahhh.

Needless to say I was thrilled with a 19mph average on the course, given the amount of braking I was forced to do to not kill or be killed. Later I heard the race director say that the scenery is unsurpassed in this race and that should make up for the congestion problem. Scenery doesn't replace safety. I never had a chance to look around cause I was constantly navigating a crazy group of cyclists who are used to racing without drafting and have no idea how to ride in a group...

Ok sorry for that rant. Anyway, I left the bike course (thankfully in one piece) and ran (and ran and ran) through transition to my rack again. Second transition was still slower than I would like (always room for improvement, right?) but much better than the first. Then I headed out for the run, filled with questions about what I had left in my legs and what my hip would do over 6 miles. I went out pretty slowly, knowing I had to be careful. As I ticked off the miles I felt relatively good. It was tough, but my hip was holding up. It started to drizzle just as I started the run, which was a blessing in terms of the heat. With a mile left, the course looped back towards the finish and the fans were all there. We could see the finish line and I started to feel really good. But then I realized I still had a mile to go, and the course took us out on this ridiculous, never-ending clover. Ugh. That last mile was torture. I was very very slow. By the time we actually got to the finish, though, I found the strength for that last kick. My run average was 9:30 something minute miles, and I although I don't know what my splits really were, I am convinced that the last mile really brought it down. It was a crawl.

I know I should have been excited just to make it through the run, but once I did I immediately wondered if I could have pushed the pace harder. This is surely the triathlete's greatest weakness. Second guessing one's performance. Well that and overplanning/overtraining. Well. We have many weaknesses I think...

Anyway! The race was complete. It went well, all things considered. But then I had to get my bike back. That meant waiting in line for almost an hour for the shuttle back to transition, then riding my bike with all of my gear on my back, all the way to where I parked. I couldn't believe that this was what the race officials expected us to do. The most dangerous part of my day was riding around with all my gear on the streets of DC, totally off balance and exhausted. This was the final straw for me. I decided that I am not doing this race again next year. Maybe when they work out the kinks in a few years, with fewer participants, I will come back. But the current situation is just not my kind of race. Awesome to get the experience, but it wasn't the kind of race that I enjoy.

I finished in 2:47. This was much slower than I wanted, but I think a faster run would help significantly. Of course I would like to shave more time from my swim, bike and transitions, but I need to focus on how to keep away from injuries in my running.

Sorry for the brief report, and for the negativity. I am so used to loving every aspect of my races, and this one disappointed me. I'm super excited for my half ironman though, because I know it is a much smaller race! :)

Gotta get to the bike shop!


  1. You are right - we tend to always say "I probably could have done this or that better", but I think you had a fabulous race. 3700 people is just too many for a tri... plain and simple. Sounds like it really made safety a problem. Way to tough it out, stay safe, and finish strong!

  2. Hey Colleen! Thanks so much!! I am overall happy with how I did, for sure, but I am definitely sticking to smaller races from now on...