Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rockin' At Rock Hall 2013

I made the decision to race the Rock Hall International Triathlon a mere 4 days before the race.  I had been considering it as I was feeling good over Memorial Day Weekend and wanted to get another race in before Eagleman.  I had won a free entry to the Battle of the Potomac Sprint in the fall which unfortunately has been cancelled due to construction.  Luck for me both races are put on by SetUp events and registration was the same amount of $$.  The race director was nice enough to transfer my free entry and got me all registered.


Rock Hall is good 1:45 drive from DC, maybe a little fast at 4:45 in the morning.  I work at 4:15 had some cereal, loaded my bike in the car and took off for Rock Hall.  I didn't have issues making it over the Bay Bridge and was relieved to cruise the entire way.  I arrived at the race site about 20 minutes after transition opened and headed over to pick up my packet and use the Johnny on the Spot.   Once I had my race packet I headed back to my car to get my race #'s on my bike, helmet, and race belt.  Since I had more than enough time I also had myself another small bowl of cereal (yes, I took cereal and milk with me).  As I was getting myself sorted to head over to set up transition I heard the announcement of the water temperature - 79 degrees.  This means it was not wetsuit legal - the complaining and whining began from every direction.  The race director made it clear that those people who wanted to wear a wetsuit still could but they would not be eligible for awards or age group nationals slots.  To me it was somewhat of a relief - yay, I don't have to deal with getting it on and then off in transition!  Whoo hoo!

I finally gathered my stuff, leaving my wetsuit behind, and headed over to rack my bike.  It turned out I had a great transition spot (about 15ft from bike in/out).  I racked my bike (facing bike out) and set up my transition towel and goodies.  I took time to check everything over a few times, swim cap and goggles out, all my bike stuff and nutrition out and ready, my run gear out and ready to rock.  I walked over with a couple other  athletes to the swim exit to check out the "stairs" out of the water.  When I came back I decided to
move my car (fear of getting it towed, though it would have been fine) before grabbing my stuff to take the 10 minute walk to swim start.  When I came back from moving my car a late arrival had showed up and

apparently he decided he wanted to rack his bike right were mine was.  FYI the MTS puts a range of numbers (about 8) on each rack and it's first come first serve from there.  So #327 moves my bike over, moves my transition towel behind my front wheel and under the middle of the rack!  I glared at him, got on my hands on and knees and pulled my gear back out next to my front wheel and made sure he hadn't done anything else stupid.  I tried to let this go as quickly as possible, but all I was thinking was 'you idiot, if I wouldn't have come back I would've had a horrible transition awaiting me during T1!'  Ah, ok no big deal, I fixed it.

THE SWIM - 29:14 (12th AG) - 1500m

The swim was 2 loops of a 750m course.  It was well marked with large sight buoys and turn buoys.  My wave was rather small compared to my last 2 wave starts (maybe 40-50 people) and there weren't too many aggressive swimmers out.  The fasties took off and after hitting the first turn buoy I found some nice feet to hold on to, and hold on I did.  This was especially helpful as we turned directly into the sun and I couldn't see a thing.  The 2nd loop offered a lot more people to draft off of as the other waves were now starting (we were wave #2).  Lap two felt strong and comfortable and I was being helped out of the water in no time by some great volunteers.  The swim exit and entrance are both a bit unusual as they are at marinas.  The entry is a cannonball off the dock and the exit is a weird step thing about a foot under the water to help you back onto the dock.  Lucky for me the volunteers were great at helping to pull you up and out.  You then have to fun about 100m to the end of the dock before hitting the time mat.  I couldn't believe my time, if you read my 2011 and 2012 race reports it was not unusual for 1500m to take me almost 35 minutes.

T1: 1:38 (3rd AG)

This involved another 100m run across the road and into transition.  I quickly got my bike stuff together and shoes/helmet on before heading out toward the mount line.

THE BIKE: 1:08:22 (1st AG) - 25 miles

The mount line was wide and flat, so I cruised right past a couple women having some issues before mounting Mr.  The course started out with a decent tail wind that at times was a crosswind.  Advertised as pancake flat, the course was mostly flat, but definitely not pancake flat and not even as flat as Nation's bike course.  The course was fun and newly paved and dry roads made it even better.  The course was one big loop and as we turned back about 1/2 way through we hit a full on head wind.  Oi, thoughts of Kinetic and flat tire was rushing back to me.  No, I'm still passing people, I'm moving faster than everyone else around me, keep working, the wind will fade.  Unfortunately the wind never faded and I worked my butt off for the last 12 miles or so.  I was disappointed I slightly mess up my nutrition on the bike.  I had two gels, one specifically for early in the bike and one for later in the bike, and I accidentally took the wrong one first.  Once I ripped it off my top tube and realized what I'd done I thought about putting it in my jersey pocket to save for later, but I knew that would just end up a sticky mess and a wasted gel.  So I swapped my gel plan, and hoped for the best.  With less than a 1/4 mile left on the course I passed another girl in my age group.

T2: 0:47 (1st AG)

I racked Mr. and slid on my Kinvara's while grabbing my race belt to hit the run course.  Took a couple gels and stuff them in my jersey as I headed out as well.

THE RUN: 50:28 (2nd AG) - 10k

I was definitely expecting a faster run split than Columbia, even if only by a minute.  I'm disappointed in this run split but honestly it was a tough day out there and my run rank reflects that.  The course was 2 loops of a 5k course and the water stops were at mile 0 (T2 exit) and mile 1.  Whoever planned that didn't think about it.  I essentially exited T2 with the age grouper I passed at the end of the bike course.  She took off once we hit the run course and I told myself to hold my pace and run my race.  It was hot and humid and only getting hotter.  Just before mile one I saw said athlete laying in someone's yard stretching, yelling about cramping up.  As I hit the first short out and back she was nowhere in sight.  Unfortunate for her, but I didn't mind too much.  I took water and took my gels when needed and tried to hold pace, but I slowed down quite a bit as the 2nd loop came around.  It may have had something to do with the lack of water from miles 1-3 (hopefully they sort this out for next year).

FINISH: 2:30:27 (8th OA, 1st AG)
#2 (cramper) must have left early.  On top of the podium for 25-29 F!

Oi, 30 seconds faster and I would have hit a huge milestone.  There is still plenty of time for that this year and I can't be too disappointed with a 7+ minute PR.  With the spread of the wave start and the race directors want to have everyone off the course before awards started I had to wait almost 2 hours before awards.  At least this gave me time to cool off, pack up my car, change, eat, nap in the shade and find a couple friends.  Overall this race was awesome, it wasn't a bad drive for a day race, would be nice to at least spend the afternoon in Rock Hall if I do this race again as it looks like a great town with a cute beach and some waterside restaurants.  I can' complain about much since I raced for free, but I really hope they improve the water stop spacing or add one more at mile 2 for next year.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Columbia Triathlon 2013 Race Report

I had heard the descriptions of Columbia, the up and downs (literally), and despite the bad and the lack of good friends that would actually be racing I decided that I would sign up.  I felt I had to, it's practically a local race and it seems everyone else has done it at least once.  A small pro-field heads out for it and tons of age groupers trying to crush some hills.

PRE-RACE: Saturday

One requirement of Columbia is that you pick up your packet and rack your bike on Saturday.  At first I just figured I'd drive up on Saturday then back home and up again on Sunday morning.   When I learned transition closed at 6:30 AM and the drive is more than 1 hour I started leaning towards hoteling it.  Lucky for me Abby was on board.  We headed up Saturday afternoon, picked-up packets, tinsy-tiny arm warmer, race belts, bento boxes (lots of schwag) and racked our bikes.  We headed straight to Macaroni Grill to fuel up for the next days race before checking in to the hotel.  It was definitely nice to not have to worry about waking super early to get to the race site on time - and bonus our room have a mini kitchen so we were able to have our normal pre race meals.


We arrived with plenty of time to use the port-o-johns, set up transition, and don our wetsuits -- before watching the pro's take off.  The transition area was huge, but well organized and included personalized stickers with your name and number at your specific racking location.  The downside of large events and
especially those with a pro field is the spread of the wave starts.  I had a good 1:45 minutes to wait for my wave to take off.  Luckily I ran into some friends that I didn't even realize would be there and time flew by.

THE SWIM: 30:35 - 1500m

My wave start was big and aggressive.  With the 20 some waves that were already in (and some out) of the water before us the lake was very choppy which didn't help.  I didn't feel to great the first couple hundred meters - I was fighting too often just to keep swimming my line - my arms were moving way to fast and the chill of the water was taking my breath away.  I knew that I needed to find my own space, my own rhythm and get into it and then find some feet to hang on to.   After the first turn bouy things seemed to open up and I was feeling much better and much more comfortable.  Not too long after that I found some great feet to hold on to and rode those in for the rest of the swim (probably about 2/3 of the swim).

T1: 2:30

Uneventful really - slipped out of my wetsuit, grabbed helmet, sunglasses shoes, and bike and headed for the mount line.  There was a short, steep, grassy (wet/muddy) hill to exit transition so a couple volunteers were helping athletes and bikes up and out of transition.

THE BIKE: 1:16:03 - 25 miles

I was honestly hoping to do better on this bike course - but with the soaked roads from the evenings/morning rain storms and the previous weeks crash at Kinetic I was a bit nervous.  I was breaking on every corner and being a complete nervous nelly.  The humidity was causing my sunglasses to fog up like crazy so I was also kep busy trying to maintain decent vision.  I was passing many people the entire bike and felt strong on
the hills - though nervous descending them with the wet conditions and the fact that the guys behind me slid out about 3.5 miles into the race taking a corner.  I ran out of Gu brew in my aero bottle around mile 20 and was too stubborn to reach back and refill it with the 1/2 bottle I had in my rear cage.  I took my favorite PowerGel with abour 2.5-3 miles left on the bike to set myself up for a good run.  I decided to forgo the flying dismount so I wouldn't be running through the muddy transition area barefoot.


T2 was, like T1, uneventful.  I racked my bike, took off my helmet, slipped into my running shoes while grabbing my race belt and nutrition.

THE RUN: 50:00 - 10k

I started out on the run with a good pace and aimed to match the pace/effort level the entire time.  I planned on taking a gel at mile 2 and 4 and taking water at every aid station.  I was passing people at a consistent pace and feeling really strong on the run.  As the hills started I was feeling great, through a girl in my age group did cruise right past me as we hit the first big hill.  There was nothing I could do to stay with her, so I decided not to worry about her.  The course takes you up and out of the park and then up and down through a neighborhood for a couple of miles before heading back through the park.  It was great seeing so many familiar faces on the run course and being encouraged by fellow DC Tri-ers.  A young female came up behind me and started to pass me the last 1/4 of a mile - I couldn't let it happen and sprinted it out with her.  It was a great finish - even though she was an age group above me!  I was hoping to go in the 48 minute range on this 10k but I really can't be too upset with the result.  I'll keep working on my 10k throughout the season to bring it down to where I really want it.

FINISH TIME: 2:40:34 (7th AG)

I would have loved to go under 2:40:00 in this race but considering the course and the conditions I am was more than pleased with my result.  It was my first time back out at an Oly racing hard since 2011.  I felt like I lost a lot speed last year while training for Louisville and I am enjoying getting back into it.  The biggest drawback of this race is honestly the cost and the logistics - though it does qualify the top 15 finishers for the Hy-Vee US National Championship (decisions, decisions...) which is a bargain at only $99.  I was most happy with my swim and my run on this course.  This was my best 1500m (legit) swim since I've started triathlon.  Last year at collegiate nationals 1500m took me a dissappointing 36:?? minutes.  It's great to see the time and work I've put in to actually learning how to swim make a difference.