Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Double Whammy Part 2: Dewey Beach Triathlon Race Report

So much to write and so little time! I guess it wasn't very fair of me to call the last post "Part 1" of a "Double Whammy" and then wait several weeks to write "Part 2." My mother called me yesterday to give me a hard time about the non-existence of a race report for the Dewey Beach Triathlon. Sorry Mom, this is what I was doing instead:

 But I have decided to take a quick break from my dissertation and give you that long-awaited race report.

As I explained in "Part 1," Dewey Beach Triathlon was not originally on my race calendar. My mother and two of her friends were supposed to race Dewey Beach as a relay team, with my mother as the swimmer, her friend Starr as the cyclist and her college roommate Debbie as the runner. Life had other plans, however, and both my mother and Debbie were unable to participate in the race. My mother was ill and Debbie could not make it down from Massachusetts, which left Starr without a team. Of course when my mother asked me to participate, I jumped in happily. I always love another opportunity to race, even as two thirds of a relay team.

Race weekend I was coming off the high of a great race at Nations. I drove up to my parents' place and then over to Dewey. At packet pickup my mother and I had to spend some time explaining the situation, but eventually we got the registration all sorted out and picked up our nice long sleeve tech t-shirts and packets. The race was held in the state part at Tower Road, which is less than a mile from my family beach house, making for a very convenient race morning. Starr arrived later in the evening on Friday, with son and dog in tow, and we talked about our "race strategy" some (I swim. She takes the timing chip. She bikes. I take the timing chip. I run). Then, as usual, we all hit the hay early to be ready for the pre-dawn transition opening.

Saturday morning it was a little chilly out, but the ocean was as flat as glass when we first arrived at the race site. The transition area was much larger than I had expected, as was the race itself. Over 1000 participants were there, and there were 13 waves of swimmers, including a wave designated for first-time triathletes. My swim wave, for relay swimmers and Clydesdales, was 10th (in navy caps). As the morning drew on and race announcements were made, the race director started to issue reassurances that although the wind was picking up in one direction, the current was actually going the other direction and the course, meant to be down-current, was set up correctly. These reassurances became more and more frequent as the wind gusts picked up speed and racers grew restless.

Starr fights the ridiculous head wind
Now, I am an extremely comfortable ocean swimmer. I've been swimming in the ocean since I was small. Waves don't scare me. Currents don't scare me. The fishies and the sharkies and whatever else don't scare me. I was in fact, a picture of calm. I laughed at the people fretting over the current and the growing waves (needless to say, the ocean was far from glass at this point). I found the race director and volunteered to sing the anthem. Apparently my mother arrived before I started to sing and was out on the beach waiting for me to come over the dunes for the swim. She heard my voice over the loud speaker, said "Shit, that's my daughter!" and ran all the way back to transition to catch the last few lines of the anthem. When I found her she was coughing and laughing, not only at her antics, but also (like me) at all the racers grumbling about the swim. "You've never heard so much whining!" she was saying. We had a good laugh together.

If you can't tell, I am setting something up here about the swim.

Out over the dunes and onto the beach we went, many many wetsuit-clad triathletes in various colored swim caps. The ferocity of the wind was increasing with each swim wave. Looking around me at my fellow navy-capped athletes, I told my mother I was far less concerned about the waves and tide and far more concerned about the Clydesdales I would be swimming with. Some of these guys were very large and very serious-looking. I'm talking guys who just missed the NFL and have decided triathlon is their new calling. Big dudes.

Starr killin' that bike
Turns out I should have been worried about both. As our horn sounded and my wave sprinted into the water, I tried to jockey myself out ahead of these gorilla-men and almost immediately was kicked in the face. I quickly got my goggles back into place and went to work on the waves. And now we were talking serious waves, rolling almost perpendicular to the shore. This means you would swim up one, and then FALL down the other side. If you looked up to site at the wrong time (which was basically all the time) all you would see was a wall of water in front of you. At first I still felt pretty good, like I was moving fast despite the craziness. But I was having a horrible time staying in a straight line, given the aforementioned siting dilemma. And then things got worse. About halfway through the swim, I could basically feel the current change. Suddenly I felt like I was fighting to swim in one place rather than swim backward. It became the most epic 800m I have ever swam. It took me almost as long to finish as a full mile. By the time I got out of the water I was pretty sure I was going to puke, either from the rough seas or swallowing too much salt water or both.
Heading out for the run, trying to keep my seawater down

Most difficult swim of my life.

I ran up the beach and into the parking lot of transition area, found Starr, and handed off my timing chip. My parents had somehow managed to sneak into transition and were there to hear me rant and rave about how crazy that swim had been. I took stock of the other relay teams, however, and saw that almost all of the bikers were still there waiting for their swimmers. I wasn't the last! Actually, it turns out I was probably the 4th, and the 2nd female. As each swimmer staggered in, new tales of horror were told. No one had a good time out there. And as the bikers finally trickled in, we all learned that the wind had been just as influential on the flat, out and back course on highway one. "30 mph on the way out, 12 on the way back!" people kept saying.

I felt really bad for that wave of first time triathletes. They had been the 12th wave.

When Starr came in, she was the third female biker and she was only a minute behind the second. I knew that if I hadn't miscounted, we had a really good shot of making the podium. Once I was out on the run (going into that headwind) my legs felt great. I zoomed by the girl in second and kept up a nice clip for the entire 3.5 mile (3.5?! random...) course. I came in feeling happy and good, although still thinking I might puke up seawater.

Starr and I hung around and got massages while waiting for the awards ceremony. Ours was the very last category announced, and our relay results hadn't been posted on the board, so we had no indication of where we stood other than my counting. I seriously hoped I had counted correctly and hadn't made Starr wait around (for hours) for nothing. But my hopes were not dashed! Starr and I got second place in female relay teams! Go team "Tri-Tri Again!"

Overall, we of course had a complete blast. But that swim. Wow.

 So now, here we are, several weeks later and I am two weeks out from my last big race of the season. I'm in the beginning of my two-week taper, and as you readers know, I hate the taper. It just makes me feel like I'm not accomplishing anything. Luckily I have a lot to accomplish with my dissertation, so I am keeping myself distracted (or relatively distracted...).

I will do my best to make sure I get a race report, and maybe some pre-race stuff, up here in a reasonable time-frame...

Happy, Mom? :)

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