Monday, June 20, 2011

Officially a triathlete!

I finished the .8k swim, 20k bike and 7.5k run in 1 hour 44 minutes and 10 seconds, good enough for 14th in the 18-24 year old women's age division and in the top 19% of all women competing in the sprint distance. Those results are better than I expected and I am more than pleased with my time!

Let me go into details on the race: The DC Triathlon had over 3200 registered racers for the sprint or international/olympic distances. That is a pretty big race logistically and I have to give a lot of thanks to the race organizers because it was very well run! Saturday I went to pick up my race packet at the expo at the Washington Convention Center and we took our bikes from there over to the transition area for racking via a police escorted bike ride through DC, meaning that we got to run a bunch of red lights and piss off the tourists and motorists! Sunday morning I woke up at 3:45am (when some of my housemates were getting home) and drove to the parking lot at the expo center to take the athlete's shuttle over to the transition area. Even leaving that early I didn't get to the transition area till 5 or a little after 5am.

I set up a transition station right next to my bike where I put down a plastic bag (because the ground was damp since it was drizzling out), a quick dry towel to stand on when I changed out of my wetsuit, my bike shoes with socks ready to go in them, behind that I put my running shoes with my race belt with bib race number attached and a hat in case I wanted it for the run. On my bike I put my two full water bottles in the cages, taped a larabar onto the top tube so I could grab it while on the bike, used the velcro on my bike gloves to attach them to the handlebars, and placed my helmet on my aero-bars with my sunglasses inside it. This set up worked really well for me because the less you have to worry about during the actual transition, the better. Having a bunch of stuff attached to my bike got me out of the transition area much quicker.

I got my chip timer and attached it to my ankle, and made sure that my body markings (when they write your race number on your legs and arms) was still clearly visible. I used bodyglide (an anti-chafing deoderant-like stick) on my ankles and places the wetsuit would rub so that I could make sure to get it off easily and it wouldn't chafe my neck, arms or legs too much. I then saw a woman who had a message written in pen on her leg - I mean I didn't lean over and read the message, I just saw that it was written there - so I took out my sharpie and wrote a mantra inside my swim cap. It was something that I knew was there but didn't need everyone else to see and because I wrote it down I remembered it and repeated it to myself on the course. By the time I had done all of this it was time for the 6am international distance to begin and we all had to be out of the transition area. I put on my wetsuit, stowed away my gear bag, and chatted a little with some fellow triathletes.

Before I knew it, it was time to get with our age groups and line up to jump into the water in groups of 8 (it wasn't a mass start but instead a time-trial start meaning our chip started to time us as soon as we jumped off the dock.) I don't think I was prepared enough for the jump into the Potomac River because I kind of had this moment when I was a few strokes out into the water from where I jumped were I was like "holy shit, I'm swimming in the Potomac!" I didn't think about the grossness of the water and instead just started a rhythm and tried to avoid and swim around people. I've never really timed myself on an 800 meter swim in the pool nor in open water so I don't know how far I am off of my normal swim times, but I swam this in 14:30 - which I think is pretty good for a newbie, plus I really just started swimming in late April. I'm proud of it whether it's better than average or not!

My wetsuit came off easily in transition, I was soaking wet but somehow got my feet dry enough to slide on my socks and velcro my bike shoes on and run with my bike out of transition. Once I mounted my bike, I flew. Biking is my strongest leg of the triathlon but if I had been able to bike the course before hand I could have shaved off a few minutes by knowing when the uphill and downhill sections were and where their weren't turns and I could have pushed harder on the straightaways. That is the problem with having a bike route in a city that is normally so crowded with cars that you can't recreate the route on your own. It was a very technical course with a lot of turns and u-turns that tested my bike handling skills. I kept an 18-20 mph pace most of the time - unless I let an unexpected uphill section spoil my cadence. I ate a larabar on the bike, but I think I ate it too quickly because I could feel it in my stomach once I started running. What I know for next time is to probably eat half of it within the first three miles of the bike and then the other half towards the end. I made sure to drink almost an entire bottle of water over the 20k course though which was good since sometimes on a ride I forget to drink until I'm already thirsty. I got back to transition and realized I was 2 events down and had only the run to go.

I undid my bike shoes dismounted from the bike and ran it into transition, slipped on my colorful Asics Noosa Tri shoes and pulled the toggle on the no-tie laces. Clipped on my bib and was on my way out. This course was originally going to have a 5k run, or so I believed. Then during my open water race clinic I learned that it had been extended to a 7.5k which I had not been training for. I was overtraining for a 5k but it still had a kind of mental influence on knowing that the run was just a little over a mile longer than I was planning for. So I came up with a different way to approach it. I decided that I would take the first 2.5k to just get my legs back from the bike - then I could just run a 5k once my legs were back. That really helped me mentally to break it down like that. The run was still pretty hard, with some uphill portions, a lot of turns on roads that seemed self defeating, and I was experiencing a little bit of stomach cramping from eating the larabar on the bike. I got water at every aid station but I never stopped or walked, I kept going. It helped that all around me were majestic monuments or DC buildings and there was a light drizzle all morning that actually kind of kept me cooled down. I got to the last section and I still had enough in my legs to sprint to the finish, I smiled and raised my arms up into a strong woman pose! I was now officially a triathlete.

I was handed my finishers medal, a water bottle, powerade and a wet towel. Then I went over to the place where the racing receipts from the chip timers were printed. That was where I saw I had placed 14th in the women's 18-24 year old division and that I had an official time under 1:45:00. I was appropriated exhilarated, exhausted and a little dazed.

I got some food, qdoba naked burritos, ate and found my friends. They got some pictures of me and we stocked up on free Pom juice and sat around and talked for a while and figured out a way for them to get my car from the expo center and meet me to pick me up with my bike and stuff from transition. They're awesome so we got everything handled and with everything picked up we headed to my house where I had beer, wine, chips, salsa and guacamole waiting for us, but not before a pit stop at Shake Shack where they bought me a chocolate milkshake - which was what I had earlier decided I wanted as a reward for this triathlon since I haven't had one in probably more than two years. It tasted well-deserved!

Showering was wonderful, sleep was even better, and now I have a week of training off before I gear back up for the Amica 19.7 Sprint Triathlon in Boston in August!

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