My plans last Sunday included a little sprint race known as the DC Tri. As I wrote last week, I wanted to do this race because it was where this whole thing began — with an overall podium finish and the conclusion that I somehow found my calling without really intending to.
So when High Cloud offered me a free entry, of course I was going to take advantage of the chance to race around DC and relive the excitement. I was a bit worried it would just interrupt my IM training, but I’m so glad I did.
Before I go into the particulars, I want to point out that my only goal was to have a blast. And I definitely did that. Everything else was just icing on the cake.
I picked up my packet on Friday afternoon at the convention center, where I ran into several teammates. The expo was a little bit bigger than last year, but since I need absolutely nothing I pretty much ran right through. This was also in part due to my dinner plans — lasagna with Katie in preparation for our 5.5hr ride on Saturday.
Yeah. So a sprint race doesn’t mean I get to have a rest day right before and sit on my couch carbo-loading. I still had to get my miles in. So we headed out at 5:30am for an out-and-back on the W&OD. The theory was that we’d avoid the heat and crowds and be home at 11:30am, and for the most part, it worked. I still don’t love trail riding because it’s difficult to go side-by-side and talk, but overall it was great, included minimal stops and allowed me to keep up with my training plan. The 30-minute brick run after was brutal thanks to the heat, but a shower, burrito refuel and afternoon on my couch –after racking my bike in transition — were superb recovery tactics.
Went to bed at 8:45pm and slept very poorly — I was keyed up and my body was wondering why the hell it was still light out.
The beauty of living so close to the start is that I didn’t have to get up until 4:30am — even though transition opened at 4. Because the sprint started at 7am, an hour after the olympic, I didn’t have to stress about setting up, getting my chip and getting body marked in a short period of time. So I had my pre-race PB&banana toast, drove over to Foggy Bottom and walked the few blocks down to the Lincoln and transition. I know, it’s just a little too far to walk from my place.
Once in transition — which is huge, by the way — I found Anna to get my HC tri top (my one-piece still hasn’t arrived) and headed over to find my bike and set up my gear. It doesn’t take me long to do this, and I’m not one of those people that needs an hour in transition checking and re-checking things. I was so glad to find my bike in perfect condition — I left my baby outside overnight, forgive me for being a little bit nervous — but had a minor moment of panic when I realized that the bag on the back of my seat looked empty. I found a spare tube but no flat kit, which I’d left on the back of my road bike from my last hill ride. Sigh. That meant I’d been riding for a week or so with no CO2 or tire patches. I was just hoping that this wouldn’t be the first time I’d need any of that.
Amy is prepping for her first tri this weekend, and she posted today soliciting advice on various race prep things. If you have a few minutes, head over and help her out. One of my big things about transition — other than having speed laces in your running shoes, of course — is setting up all your gear in the direction and state you’ll need it. For example, loosen the velcro on your bike shoes. Place your helmet upside down on your aerobars facing you so you just flip it directly onto your head. Etc.
After I got everything in order, I headed out to get marked, pick up my chip and watch the Olympic race start. I had to run back and forth a couple of times because I couldn’t decide whether to check a bag with extra clothes for the finish, but in the end I chose not to and just head back right after to pick up my bike and gear before the awards ceremony/pro race.
Swim — 11:51 (1:22/100yds)
The swim this year was a time-trial start, which means eight or so athletes went off the dock at once, followed by the next group at 10 second intervals. We still were seeded into waves, but there was just a continuous stream of people into the water rather than a 3-minute or so gap. DC Rainmaker has a good breakdown of the whole day, which includes video of the start.
My wave (18-24) was the smallest, as usual, and we went off behind all several groups of older men and women. I’ve never understood how they choose which waves go first, but anyway. That meant I spent a lot of time swimming over people in the waves ahead of me, but in general I liked the time-trial start because I think it resulted in less crowding overall.
[Last year, however, the sprint race went first and I was the fastest in a very early wave, so the course was more or less clear for me. That was nice.]
I still need a lot of work in open water. I swallowed a lot of Potomac grossness and ran into a lot of people, but my sighting was much better than at Kinetic. Overall I had a fast swim time, but it’s still so different from the pool and I was never truly comfortable and smooth. Sigh. Despite my strength on this leg, my swim time wasn’t even that great for my AG — there were six girls out of the water ahead of me. 23rd women/64th overall.
T1 — 2:09
Uneventful. My transitions are pretty fast — and the space to run through at this race is large. It took a second to get my shoes on (still haven’t learned that whole flying mount/dismount thing with them on the bike), but overally I was pleased. Fastest T1 in my AG, which I knew heading out because I smoked all the other girls who were out of the water ahead of me but still standing by the racks, and the 5th fastest overall for women.
Bike — 36:10 (20.6mph)
This is quickly becoming my strongest — and favorite — leg. The course was fun but somewhat slow because there were a lot of hairpin turns — talk about dangerous and a massive pileup waiting to happen. There was one at the end of Constitution, another at the top of Whitehurst Freeway (which involved going over a manmade ramp in the median) and one on Rock Creek Parkway. There also were a number of sharp turns and tons of potholes. So, in summary, the course itself was a mess and required a lot of slowing down and watching out for the people around you. Plus, since the sprint went second, we were faced with all the Olympic people doing both their first and second laps. I spent a lot of time yelling “ON YOUR LEFT!”
On the upside, my bike FLIES. I was passing people like crazy, hammering it up the minor inclines and speeding on the downhills. I only got passed by a few men, most of whom were on very nice bikes with disc wheels and the like. A little part of my brain was saying “you’re going to die on the run if you keep working your legs like this,” but like I said last week, balls to the wall. 1st AG (by 1:30 plus)/11th women/89th overall.
T2 — 1:17
Again, uneventful. I had to pause for a second to take a few sips of water since I didn’t have a bottle on the bike — yeah, I told you I wasn’t doing any nutrition/hydration planning for this — and then started my usual strategy of picking people off one by one. (Sidenote — my teammate Francesca has super speedy transitions. I need a lesson from her.)
Run — 31:44 (6:50/mile)
So the run generally has been my strength, and in a sprint I don’t have to really worry so much about pacing. I can just go. I felt pretty strong off the bike and knew I could hold a really good pace for the 4.5-ish miles of the course. I was certain I was first in my AG but had no idea about my overall place, so I just focused on passing the men ahead of me. I didn’t see too many women, but because the Oly race also was in progress it was hard to keep track.
The run course, like the bike, had a lot of stupid/mean out-and-backs with 180 degree turnarounds. These ankle-twisting, momentum-killing legs really sucked, especially since it was a lot of running in a straight line and then turning around and running the same damn thing back. The good part about this kind of course is you can see everyone around you, gauge where you are and wave to the people you know. But still. I knew about all these little legs except for the last one — a quarter mile from the finish — where someone was yelling “Right turn ahead!” and all I could think was “What right turn? The finish is right there!” Sigh.
I did get a lot of cheers for HC and saw a lot of people I knew, which was fun.
Overall, I was really pleased with the run. I felt strong, overtook a lot of other competitors — which, along with seeing familiar faces, always makes me run faster — and was happy to discover that despite all this Z2 IM training, I’m still speedy. So are the other girls in my AG — 5th AG/6th women/34th overall.
Finish: 1:23:09 (1st AG/3rd women/21st overall)
Right after I finished, I ran into Francesca, who told me she thought she might have won the women’s sprint and that I might have come in second. I had no clue where I stood outside my AG place, but I was definitely curious and hopeful that people in waves starting after me hadn’t pulled out crazy fast races so I could, perhaps, repeat my podium spot from last year.
I took advantage of the post-race massage tent to get my piriformis worked out (thanks, SSPT!) and then jogged the mile-plus back to transition to pick up my gear and ride my bike back to the finish. I got to see other racers coming down Constitution along the way, followed by the pros heading out on their bikes for the first leg of their ride. I actually felt really good about how fantastic my Felt is when walking around transition over the weekend, but then I saw the pros come flying down Independence. Their gear is SICK.
It was drizzling throughout the morning, which kept things cool but made the air sticky. After being chilly at the finish, I was definitely sweating the whole way to and from transition. In any case, I met up with teammates Anna, Francesca and Mike at the podium, along with several other DC Tri friends, to wait for the awards. Anna got third for her AG in the Olympic race, which qualified her for 5150 nationals in Des Moines later this year. Hooray!
And in the sprint — Mike was on the podium for the men, while Francesca got second and I came in third. High Cloud, represent! The announcer totally called us out and made is explain what HC does. Way to put us on the spot when we’re tired, dude.
So, in summary, I had a great day, enjoyed the short race, realized I can still swim/bike/run fast and then followed it all up with a bike cleaning session and brunch with friends at Birch&Barley. Perfect Sunday.
Congrats to everyone who raced, and good luck to the ladies headed to Rock Hall this weekend!