Well, I could get used to writing race reports like this one. [Warning: it’s LONG.]
In other words, I’m still on a high from this weekend. Who’s pumped tri season is finally here? Me!
I’d been looking forward to Kinetic — the first half ironman of the season and my second ever — all spring but with some trepidation. As I wrote last week, I’ve been training really hard since January but have no sense of how far that’s gotten me. With a six-week running injury, few brick workouts, no open water swims and zero transition practice, this race could have ended very poorly.
At the risk of spoiling the end of this post, poor is the TOTAL OPPOSITE of how it went.
I chose not to head down to Lake Anna on Friday evening, instead spending the night at home and getting up at 3:30am to head down before the race. I packed my bags, got my gear ready to put in the car and went to bed early in anticipation of a very unpleasant alarm wakeup.
In typical race day fashion, I bolted out of bed as soon as my phone buzzed, ready and excited to get up and moving. I made myself my typical breakfast (PB toast with banana), got dressed and made the first of two trips down to my car. Justin was already waiting with his gear, and we played Tetris to get three bikes in the back of my car (his, mine and Emily’s). I wish I had a picture of our packing skills, but it was too early and my brain was a bit distracted.
We hit the road a little bit after 4:15am. Pre-race pump-up playlist, open highway and lots of excitement? Check.
As we neared Lake Anna, every car had a USAT or IM bumper sticker or a bike rack on the back. Almost 700 other triathletes? Check.
We arrived early enough that the packet pick-up line wasn’t too long, which is positive since I’d heard horror stories of waiting in line for 30 minutes and barely making it to transition before it closed. Apparently this still happened to a lot of people, but thankfully not me. The whole thing was pretty chaotic, so I can see how things got backed up. After that, we unpacked the bikes and gear and headed to transition to set up. I planned ahead really well (a skill I got from my mother — thanks!) and had a mental checklist of everything I needed to lay out, in what order and where (which included opening all my nutrition so I wouldn’t fall of the bike trying while trying to eat). This definitely helped me stay calm.
Unfortunately, panic set in when I realized I had about 15 minutes to get my transition bag back to my car, find my teammates — who had my tri kit — and get both that and my wetsuit on, get body marked and pick up my chip. Imagine me slapping on some sunscreen and Body Glide and running around barefoot in just my bathing suit. Yeah.
I calmed down a little bit when I finally had my shorts/top and found Emily and Katie to watch the first wave start, get my wetsuit on and take some ridiculous pictures:
I know. Wetsuits look so absurd.
We were in the fourth wave with all women under age 40, so when it was our turn we headed down to the beach, commented on how effing far away the buoys were and got set for the gun to go off. This was my first ever mass start — I’ve done three races where we started in the water and one time-trial start — but I kinda liked the excitement of running down the beach and crashing into the lake. Game time.
Swim — 1.2 miles, 34:30 (1:38/100yds)
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the swim. I’ve been in the pool A TON so far this season and I’m a good swimmer anyway, but I knew going in that no practice with open water or the wetsuit could work against me. I felt really strong in terms of my stroke and never panicked or even got tired, but my sighting was horrendous. There weren’t enough markers on the course, there was heavy mist coming off the water and my goggles kept fogging up. I basically just followed people around me and hoped they were on the right track. I had very little sense of where I was or where I was headed, and several times I actually had to pull up in the water and look around for the buoy. After the final turn I used the shore to sight, which made it a little bit easier, but overall I definitely was frustrated with how difficult it was. I saw my split on my Garmin as soon as I hit the mat into transition — oh yeah, multisport mode is the BOMB — and knew I could have gone faster without all the stops to look around. One unexpected positive was how empty the course seemed. Despite the fact that we’d started behind 400 people, I only actually touched maybe one or two for the entire 1.2 miles.
T1 — 2:36
My transitions aren’t too bad for how little I practice them. The run-up from the swim was kinda long but a good chance to get my bearings and start wiggling out of my wetsuit. It was easy to get off, but I added a few seconds putting on socks and shoes — rather than having them on the bike. I practiced this on Friday but decided I’d rather take a little bit more time than crash in the first 100m of the course. As soon as I headed out to the mount line I saw Rachel and Megan — best spectators and friends ever.
Bike — 2:44:29, 56 miles (20.5 mph)
This was by far my best leg of the day. I’ve considered the bike my weakest discipline since day one because I have formal training as a runner and swimmer, but I think it may be catching up! I rode the course two weeks ago and knew that it was more or less flat with a few hills (some people would beg to differ), and I settled in on my aerobars and just rode. I was nervous before the race because the rain and misty weather left the road wet and I’m not awesome at riding in the rain, but it turned out not to be a problem. I passed a bunch of men — oh, was that you getting your ass handed to you by a girl? — and played leap frog with a few others. Every time I looked down at my Garmin I got a little bit more excited about my split and the possibility of going sub-3:00. I felt so strong and comfortable up until mile 35, when my bathing suit started chafing like crazy, but as long as I didn’t shift too much in the saddle I was still moving fast.
Around mile 40 or so I had to actually get off the bike and fix my saddle bag, which was hanging by less than an inch of Velcro and banging around on my seatpost. Otherwise I stayed in aero, even for most of the climbing sections, which is a huge accomplisment given all my fit issues leading up to this race.
By the time we arrived back at the park, I was so excited because 1) I knew my split was going to be awesome and 2) I couldn’t wait to get off the damn bike. Sub-2:45? Are you serious? I’ll let this speak for itself:
As I came rolling toward the dismount line — slowing down, unlike other crazy people who were hammering on in — I saw Rachel, Megan, Lauren, The Rocketship and Thom all together, cheering and taking pictures. It was awesome to see them and some of my teammates throughout the day. You have no idea how much of a boost a familiar face can provide.
I was so excited about my split as I crossed the mat into T2 and so focused on hitting the lap button on my Garmin that I almost dropped my bike. This might also have been a function of how shaky I was right after dismounting.
T2 — 1:27
I always end up on the side of transition that involves running long distances with the bike. This one was relatively quick — I put my bike back on the rack, which wasn’t at all crowded, threw off my helmet in exchange for a visor, changed my shoes (SPEEDLACES, MAN), and sucked down some water and half a vanilla Gu to make up for my crappy bike nutrition. More on that later.
Run — 1:49:37, 13.1 miles (8:22/mile)
I was feeling pretty good right off the bike. I’m always excited to get to the run because I consider it my strongest discipline. If only I knew what I had coming to me.
I was not a fan of this run course. At all. Not even a little bit. It was three rolling loops with a stupid little out-and-back right out of transition and one enormous hill and was boring as sin. You also have to pass the finish line at the start of each lap. The only positive thing about it was that I got to see a lot of familiar faces with all the out-and-backs, as well as my friends cheering on each loop.
The first loop was pretty good — I was averaging sub-8:00 and felt like I was settling in. When I started the second one, however, my stomach said “F— you” and made me wish I could just curl up and go to sleep. I had really crappy nutrition on the bike, didn’t pee before the race and felt so gross for the entire run. I drank in some water every two miles because I thought it would make me feel better, along with a little bit of walking, but no dice. The irony is my legs felt great and I know I’m capable of a much faster 13.1, even after all that time on the bike, so if I can get all the other factors under control I’ll be able to crush the run at my next race.
The upside is that I appeared to be happy and smiling for the entire run — which my friends and several others commented on. I even had a big grin on my face going up that damn huge hill. There’s something to be said for that.
Anyway, the last bit of the course is down a trail through the woods, and all of a sudden you’re in the finish chute. Never been so excited to see the line in my whole life.
My friends and teammates were watching the finish — Justin, who was ahead of me, already had his post-race pizza in hand — and it was fun to hear them screaming as I ran across the mat. This was actually the first time that I had any sense of what my overall time was. In multisport mode on my Garmin I was focusing on the time for each leg rather than flipping back to total time and my math skills were so fuzzy that I had no idea whether I was at 5:10 or 5:50. So when I saw the clock at 5:20 and realized I had started 9 minutes behind the first wave, I was AMPED. I’m not sure it even registered that I’d just gone way below my goal time and totally killed my PR.
Total Time — 5:12:36
Uh — did that just happen?!?
Turns out I was 1st in my age group by 3 minutes (I had the fastest swim and bike splits as well) and 19th overall for women. Success? I think so.
To kill time before the awards ceremony, we got some food, caught up with other friends and teammates who were racing and did a quick outfit change (I am the master of deck changing thanks to many opportunities to practice at swim meets). Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of me accepting my bottle of wine, but apparently I had a huge smile on my face. The guy doing the awards asked me if I was 21 before handing me the bottle. Heck yeah, dude, pass it over!
After I had my award safely in hand, we were ready to head out and so went to transition, gathered our gear and hit the road back to D.C. I was feeling surprisingly good and able to drive — as compared to my first half, after which I could barely walk — and also pumped for a quick stop at Chick-fil-a for lemonade and waffle fries. Yeah. I earned that!
A huge thanks to Rachel and Megan for braving some gross weather and a long day to spectate the race. It’s so fun to hear your name out on the course and have people to share your excitement with. I mean, they didn’t have it so bad — a picnic blanket, Blood Marys, new friends? You guys are the best.
Rachel’s awesome sign-making skills:
A separate post coming on goals and the good/bad of the day. I’ve made you read enough for now!