Monday, October 3, 2011

Race Report: Giant Acorn Sprint Triathlon

This sprint triathlon at Lake Anna, NW of Richmond, VA was a late addition to my race schedule. It was just one town over from Mineral, the epicenter of the recent earthquake. This was intended to be a low-key, fun, getaway wrap-up to the season with my friend Krista. Coach called it the “icing on the cake” race. I envisioned a relaxed little event with plenty of sunshine (and maybe rainbows and puppy dogs). What I got was a sold-out (870 registered) race with rain and temperatures in the 40’s. It was more ice than icing.

We stayed at Krista’s friend’s lake house with another racing family. The conversation provided a nice distraction from the falling temps. (We scored the room with the bunk beds and Barbies!) 

I agonized a bit about how to dress on the bike leg. Normally for a ride in the low 50’s I’d have neoprene shoe covers, leg warmers, a long sleeve shirt, a windproof jacket, and gloves. For the race, I contemplated riding in my wetsuit or perhaps slipping into some nice fuzzy footie pajamas.


Race morning I drove Krista crazy because I kept saying, “hey, at least it’s not raining.” So of course….here comes the rain to add to our pleasure. We all decided we would do each other’s body marking before we left the house to save needless COLD disrobing at the venue. At least the start time was a very civilized 10 am.

Winter hats required!
We set up in transition and I was happy to be very close to the bike start/finish. Despite Coach’s admonitions that “less is more” in transition, I laid out gloves, arm warmers, and extra socks just in case. We didn’t even warm up or take our bikes out. We did the minimum then retreated to the van to “preheat” until the last possible moment when we would have strip down to trisuits and don our wetsuits. We sat in near silence, there was no sense complaining. We knew what the other was thinking…what are we CRAZY??

We got out of the warm van and the air seemed even colder. We wriggled into wetsuits and found the ground was miserably cold to stand on, so we ended up ankle deep in the water that was quite warm at 72 degrees. There were a few brave folks without wetsuits -- covered in goosebumps.

750m Swim (47/304 - 15:52)

Coach told me to start wide left, so I was determined to be the absolute furthest left person in my wave for the in-water start and I was! My plan was to go out more aggressively than I usually do and try to keep up with the faster swimmers, maybe catch a draft. I never really found an opportunity to draft, but I chased someone and focused on a quicker arm turnover and swimming straight. I passed some folks and had a sense of racing the swim.

At one point my mind did briefly wander and come to the conclusion that they probably don’t use yellow or orange swim caps because they could be confused with the buoys. I was momentarily proud of myself for figuring that out, then got back to the task at hand. I actually got warm during the swim, and running to the bike I knew the windbreaking bike shell would be all I’d need. It’s not easy getting wet arms in sleeves and zippers zipped, but I managed.

20k Bike (7/304 - 36:18, 20.54 MPH)

The bike was uneventful, other than some winds, and not at all cold. Yes, the agonizing was for naught. The road surface was smooth and clean with gentle rollers that made for an all big-ring ride. I probably should have dialed up the effort, it might have been more Oly level than a quad-screaming sprint level. I don’t know if it was the winds or me being weenie but that pace was the same I held at the Patriots Half (not that it paid off!!). Something is wrong with that equation.

Folks wore all kinds of things to stay warm on the bike. The worst choice was the hooded jacket. The way they puffed up and caught the air, those riders would have been more aerodynamic with a parachute tied to them. I had the screaming yellow high-vis bike jacket and even it flapped around too much for my liking.

I took in a caffeinated gel on the bike and with the jacket on, I couldn’t reach my tri top pocket to store the garbage so I stuck it under the shoulder strap of my tri top…where it would remain…until about half an hour after the race. That was plenty of time for the remains to leach out and for the brown (chocolate) color to spread out like a bullseye, I looked like I’d been shot in the chest. Classic!

5k Run (12/304 - 21:59, 7:05 avg pace)

I enjoyed the run! In the last few weeks I have rediscovered the joy of running because the lower legs are feeling better than they have all year. I was having fun passing folks including a 40-year-old (my age group) just past mile 2. That turned out to be a critical pass.

This run is an out-and-back on roads, but the last bit of the return trip cuts through a patch of woods on a trail. I don’t know if anyone has seen Disney’s the Black Stallion, but there is a scene where the boy has a flashback to riding his stallion on the beach - wild and free. I know it’s cheesy, but I thought of that scene and how that bit of trail felt like our Pandapas Pond Trails in the Jefferson National Forest. I felt free, got super happy and found another gear. I passed a fellow in the narrow chute headed to the finish (yelling “on your left”!!). I crossed the timing mat and bid farewell to the 2011 triathlon season.


At this point I was just in my tri top, shorts, and running shoes. I was toasty warm. What was all the fuss about? Then about half an hour later, I went immediately from warm to freezing. All Krista and I could think about was changing out of damp clothes (done skillfully in the van).

Look warm clothes!

We had to get back to families and couldn’t stay for the awards. This race was really us against the elements anyway, and we had persevered. Krista and Cortney: 1.  Weather: 0.

That pass on the run? That made the difference between a master’s podium finish and an age group win. I was fortunate enough to finish 3rd masters. My age group (40-44) was huge – 49 women!


I’m really glad I did this race. It left me supercharged and excited for next year. I will need some time to process all that has happened this year, to take a break from the structure of swimming and biking, and to enjoy the remaining weeks of prep for the Richmond Marathon.

There is no vacation, no big home, no fancy car, no material possession that I would ever trade for the everyday adventure that is triathlon.

Such a gift, bringing with it deeply meaningful relationships.

What I do is only possible because of my husband Robert and my children Spencer and Grant, Coach Jim, and Kurt; my folks, my mother-in-law Therese, and great friends (including One on One training mates); my sponsors and teammates on Endurance Films Racing Team;  colleagues and my supportive boss and director, Peter Doolittle; the folks who keep me pieced together - John Thacker, Mario Travis, Greg Tilley, Beth Ashe, and Jim LeBolt; and those who equip me - Runabout Sports and Just the Right Gear.

Drying the wetsuit for the final time in 2011
Farewell, 2011 Triathlon Season!!