This race is held at the beautiful Lake Moomaw, which is in the middle of nowhere in the western portion of the state north of 64. It’s about a 25 minute drive from the famous Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, which, coincidentally is also in the middle of nowhere. I saw a lot of B&Bs, some charming stores, and a lot of golf courses, but I still wonder where these people do their grocery shopping.
This was my transportation to the race. Just kidding! We saw this car -- a Jaguar -- parked in front of the Homestead with two expensive tribikes hanging off the back. What a way to travel!!
My dad drove down from Pennsylvania and I had Grant, my 8-year-old, along and we met at the Vine Cottage Inn where we had the third floor to ourselves with two quaint rooms and the smallest bathroom and shortest door I’ve ever seen (yet it still had two sinks…what was the point of that?). We left my dad’s new Corvette behind and loaded up in my minivan with squeaky brakes and a missing hubcap and headed down the twisty gravel road to the marina to check out the race site.
YAWN...who would want to ride in my dad's car when they can ride in my sporty minivan?!
We had a mellow evening on the Inn’s large front porch and I barely managed to stay awake till 9 pm. We all slept pretty well and were up by 5:30 and on the road at 6:00. It takes me about 90 minutes at the race site to set up and warm up. My friend John and I took out bikes out for a quick spin and our legs out for a quick run.
Lining up for the swim, I just felt like my head was not where it needed to be. I felt almost too calm and laid back. The day before too I knew I was feeling off, so I asked my highly-motivational and energetic ultrarunning friend Shannon to give me a little peptalk via Facebook and he responded in typical Shannon style. He reminded me I’d never get this day back and that I should “go out like a wild animal determined to pick off the person in front of you. Don't let the thought of I am going too fast come across your mind.“
In the last race, I was least satisfied with my performance on the run portion. My goal for this race was a stronger run, physically and mentally. My trainer Jake put together a meal plan to ensure I’d have good energy reserves and I stuck to it faithfully during race week, particularly the day before. My mantra for this race was “suffer more.” Winning takes a willingness to suffer more than the competition.
As I watched the first wave of pink-capped swimmers (all men, haha!) leave, I got into race mode and off I went with wave two (in our white caps!).
There were four waves of swimmers and I was with the 44 and under women, which meant that most of the master’s women would be starting two waves, or 8 minutes, behind me. I would have no way of knowing how that field was racing and it eliminated most of the head-to-head racing among master’s women on the bike and run course. I’d have to run my own best race and let the chips fall where they may.
My habit had been to swim to the outside of the fray but in this race I chose to swim in the middle and was glad. I figured if I could see a swimmer to each side of me, I could be pretty confident I was not wildly off course and it would reduce my need to sight which slows me down and disrupts my rhythm. I also swam behind some feet for a while, with the understanding that it reduces the energy needed because you are swimming through water that has already been “broken”. I’m not really sure how that works, but I’m rolling with it! I’m getting the hang of this swim thing, and I felt like I came out of the water in a reasonably decent position.
The bike course starts with a big hill up, then it’s pretty rolling. Jim had given me a detailed game plan and said to push hard on the first half in particular. Using my “suffer more” mantra, I was constantly asking myself if I was suffering as much as I could in a given moment, and if not, I stepped it up. I worked to steadily pass as many riders as I could. Coming up the final big hill, out of my saddle, my chain slipped and pedals temporarily locked up. No sooner had a loud expletive left my mouth than the chain reset, thank GOODNESS. I hate when that happens. I had a good flying dismount (so fun!!) and was off on the run.
There were a few bike-related incidents among friends at this race. As I left on my bike, I saw my friend John returning with a flat. To his credit, he changed the tube and made another go of it, only to flat again. His day was over. Coach Jim, due to a vehicle change, left his cycling shoes behind. Unflappable as always, he rode in his running shoes and STILL won the master’s division. What a great reminder that in the end this sport is about endurance, fitness, and determination….NOT who has the best gear.
The run starts up a pretty significant hill and my hamstrings put up a fuss. Jim said to go conservatively at the bottom and ramp up. Let’s just say the ramping up for me was very, very subtle! Based on the breathing patterns around me, I could tell folks were struggling but I was feeling really positive. I got in a good rhythm and just stayed there. I did the usual dumping water on myself at the water stations, and worked to pick off the runners. That is very fun, especially since it was pretty much all men. One of them yelled “you’re an animal” and I thought of Shannon’s animal reference kicked it up another gear. I ended up shoulder-to-shoulder with a guy for much of the last mile and although we never spoke a word, it was implicit that we were pushing each other along. The last stretch is downhill and I gunned it. I finished strong, knowing that was my best race so far.
After the race, Grant put on his swimsuit and joined this big group of kids who were jumping off the boat launch pier, swimming, and frolicking. When I think of this race, that is the image that will remain burned in my memory. It was a great day with my dad and son, with friends and fellow athletes.
Joining me on the ride home was Brooke, a 16-year-old seasoned triathlete from Blacksburg. We talked non-stop on the way and I was amazed by the maturity and focus in this young woman. She was a tremendous example of what triathlon can offer to youth.
I'm pretty happy with this one! I was really pleased with the bike phase and I think I have the most fun with that one during the race. Swimming is obviously my weakest but I do enjoy it. I’ll continue to log the drills, laps, and miles and refine my technique. I would love to watch a video of a swim wave and see what the strong vs weaker swimmers to differently. Is it all in the stroke? Are there other things I can do to shave time off? T2 could be reduced if I went sockless, but I’m not sure I’m willing to do that.
Next up is my first Olympic/International distance race in August at Luray so I have nearly two months to make the necessary improvements. I’m excited!!
Official results http://www.setupevents.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=event_results&id=1914
TOTAL - 01:16:58 (3rd/108 women racers; would have been 26/148 among men)
Swim – 0:16:33 (31st)
T1 – 0:00:43 (4th)
Bike – 0:36:46 (2nd)
T2 - 0:00:41 (8th)
Run – 22:18 (4th)