My first triathlon of the season is complete! Of course every race provides at least one learning opportunity, and Saturday’s came in the form of learning how to rack my tri bike since this was my first race with it. But I’ll get to that in a second…
A beautiful morning for a race. So much farmland!
I woke up at 5am, made coffee, got dressed, and ate my toast with peanut butter and banana. Then I loaded up the car, put on my best pump up jams and headed out to The Middle of Nowhere, North Carolina for the Battle at Buckhorn triathlon. I parked, checked in, picked up my race number, got body marked, et cetera et cetera. For this race, participants were assigned a rack on which to put their bike and and things based on race number, but we could line up anywhere along the assigned rack. I picked a pretty open spot and started to set up my transition area. I went to set my bike on the rack and realized, “hmm I don’t have a clue how to make this bike balance.” I tried balancing it on the shifter bars but it wasn’t very steady (though it’s what I eventually chose and it did not work well, sorry dude next to me…), I couldn’t hook it under the other part (?) of the handle bars where the brakes are because my water bottle is in the way, I couldn’t rest the nose of the saddle on the bar because when I tried that my front wheel didn’t even touch the ground. It was a mess, and as I was flipping my bike all over the place, the racks were filling up so I was in more and more people’s way. Thankfully I had allowed myself plenty of time, but it was sort of a stressful start to the day. At one point the USAT referee was walking around to check people’s bikes and stuff (to make sure people arrange their stuff in their own space and that handle bar ends are plugged for safety), so I figured I’d ask her if there were any rules about how you rack your bike. Mostly I was afraid there might be a rule against racking your bike on the shifter bars because they are so unstable. Here is what she said, more or less: it doesn’t matter how you rack it, but your stuff (shoes, helmet, et cetera) need to be on the side of your bike that has a wheel on the ground. At that point, I couldn’t really flip my stuff to the other side because everyone else had filled in, and I decided it would be fine and after the race I’d take some time to figure out a better way to rack, which I did (under the back water bottle cages, in case you were wondering).
Here’s my transition as I finally left it. I realize now you can’t see how it’s balancing on the rack, but just know that it was precarious, and it eventually fell to the right. P.S. I am still so in love with my ISM Adamo saddle.
Once that was done, I headed down to the water to mentally prepare for the swim. There were about 160 or so participants, and only 45 were women. Again, is that normal? Maybe I’m so used to running races where there is a more even split. Anyway, after some announcements, the men were off! As the women gathered to wade into the water, I admit I looked around at the ages on people’s calves. I saw two women in my age group, one of which was wearing a Soas tri kit that I am currently coveting and the other was wearing a one piece tri suit and had been hanging out with a local tri team before the race. Basically, I decided that these women would be competitive based on their clothes and pre-race crowd. Perhaps not the wisest approach, but I decided I’d keep my eye on them and try to keep up on the bike and run if I could. Random thought: when I pulled on my swim cap, I was amazed at how fresh and different it felt from the one I’ve been swimming in for a year, which is from a race last year and I’m sure has deteriorated and it about to break.
The swim: I accomplished my goal of minimizing the amount of breast stroke I did. Success #1! While the distance of 750 meters isn’t intimidating and I don’t have any particular fear of open water, it’s just different to swim 750 meters straight without a wall to turn or push off from. It is just harder for me to get into a calm rhythm like I can in a pool. I suppose that’s a good argument for practicing open water swimming… Anyway, I actually caught some men from their wave, which was cool because I’m not a fast swimmer, but it was also annoying because the only people who hit me were the men I passed. It turns out I beat both the women in my age group out of the water, though I didn’t know it at the time. My split was 16:12, which includes the short run up to transition. If I were to do another sprint or Olympic distance tri this season, I’d want to bring that pace down somewhat by pushing harder on the swim, but for now, I’m ok with just the improvement of less breast stroke.
T1: After wading out of the water (is there a graceful way to do that?), I jogged up to the transition area. As I got there, the man next to me had just gotten to his stuff, and of course my bike had fallen on his. I apologized, set my bike back on the rack, put down goggles and swim cap, put on socks, shoes, sunglasses and helmet, grabbed my bike and ran to the mount line. Thankfully it was flat and not starting up a hill, so I was easily able to hop on and get started. (1:16 – apparently I was slow here – 22nd for women! I’ll blame the exchange with the poor guy who had to deal with my bike falling on his stuff).
The bike: The bike course was my ideal bike course – rolling hills with some flats, along farmland. I wanted to go fast, so that’s what I did! Occasionally I slowed down when I was worried about drafting off someone (another goal accomplished – no penalties!), but the bike portion of the race was “only” 17 miles, which for me is what I might do to squeeze in a quick ride before work. Certainly it’s a manageable distance for me and I needed to push myself. I leapfrogged a few people, which I always feel a little awkward about, but hey if you pass me and the slow down, I will pass you back. At one point the Soas girl flew past me and I decided to keep her in my sights. She was always a couple hundred yards ahead of me, but I didn’t want to totally ruin my legs for the run, and I figured I’d use her as a target when running. I averaged 18.6 mph, which is much faster than my training rides (15-17 mph), so I consider that a success for the “go fast” goal. I hope that with time, I’ll get more comfortable on my tri bike and increase that speed. As for nutrition, I sipped on water throughout but that’s it. I didn’t need calories, so this worked fine. (55 minutes cycling)
T2: Rack bike, take off helmet and sunglasses and cycling shoes, put on running shoes, debate whether or not to take a gel, decide to hold gel just in case, grab race number belt and exit transition. I somehow passed the Soas girl in transition and I saw her out the corner of my eye. I decided not to let her pass me on the run. (34 seconds in T2)
The run: I haven’t been running much this summer, so I didn’t know how this 5k would go. I started out just trying to hold a steady pace and get my heart rate under control. I couldn’t get my heart rate down for the first mile, and I didn’t feel like I could pick up the pace until I got it under control as this slower pace. Pretty soon my stomach started hurting, whether from nerves or lake water or heart rate drama I’m not really sure. Also, I pretty quickly thought back to what I wrote in my pre-race prep entry about how I wanted to start with an aggressive pace and pick it up from there, and I realized I don’t think I have an aggressive pace off the bike – I pretty much just have whatever my legs will give me. Anyway, the run course itself was pretty boring, as it was an out and back that you repeated twice. I didn’t mind because it was flat, I could see who was ahead of or behind me on the turnarounds, and for a 5k, I don’t need scenery. As some point I saw the Soas girl and she was running slowly, and then I saw the one piece tri suit girl, and she was further behind and didn’t appear to be catching up. I definitely let the fact that I suspected I was leading my age group (or that if someone was ahead, she was WAY ahead) allow me to take it just a bit easy. I was still trying to run hard, but my stomach and back were hurting, and my legs didn’t show up until about halfway through, but I could’ve pushed the pace a bit more towards the last mile or so. I will admit I wish I knew my paces for each of the miles to see if I slowed down even though I felt like I was speeding up. I was running with my normal running watch, but I just had the time going from the beginning of the race, and I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to hit the lap button at the start of the run and at each mile marker. Next time I’d do that. I sort of did the math as I went, but it was shaky at best – by that I mean, knowing I ran between a 7 and an 8 minute mile isn’t super helpful when I want to know how close to a 7 or an 8 it was. Again, as for nutrition, I didn’t take the gel I was carrying, but I sipped water a few times from the aid stations and dumped the rest down my back to cool me down. (24:06 for the 5k)
Post-race: This race was very organized and well done from the beginning, but the post-race food and drinks were more fun than more standard fare. Bananas and oranges (typical), granola bars, Ritz bits, mini Oreos, mini Nutter Butters, Dixie cups of gummy bears, oatmeal bars, muffins, bagels, peanut butter, pitas, hummus and on and on. And much to my delight, they had sodas in coolers. One Pepsi for this Georgia girl please. Yes I do prefer Pepsi to Coke, much to many other Georgia folks’ chagrin. I had to take some gummy bears in honor of Eric.
I didn’t know if they’d do prizes for top three in each age group since it was a pretty small race, but they did. And of the 5 women in my 25-29 age group, I was the winner! It’s always fun to win something, right? The yellow bracelet was to indicate when you finished the first lap of the out and back.
My big takeaways from the race: figure out a better way to rack my bike (check – I think), push the pace on the swim (work on pushing it in the pool), look for opportunities for open water practice, and do more brick workouts to get a better feel for my legs after riding. Overall, this was a fantastic race and course, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a pretty and simple sprint triathlon in the Triangle.