Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Nation's Triathlon - September 13, 2009

Note from me: Grab a drink. This one is kind of long.

Let me start off by saying that I love The Nation's Triathlon. It is truly a first rate event, well organized, well run. If I didn't know it, I would not have guessed that the field doubled in size from 3,000 last year to 6,000 this year. Last year was my first time at this race and this year won't be my last .... look for me in 2010. The Nation's Triathlon - Registration 2010

I can't talk about the weekend without talking about Team In Training (TNT). What a wonderful, fulfilling adventure it has been to be associated with such a great organization. There were almost 600 TNT athletes there, and together we raised over $2.4 million for cancer research and patient services.

If ever you are interested in training for a marathon, triathlon or century bike ride (100 miles), please consider Team In Training. Beginners and advanced athletes both reap the rewards and the ultimate winners are those helped by our efforts.

Find a local chapter of TNT today!

On to race weekend:

We arrived Friday morning to cold and rain. We all looked at each other and said, "Ummm. Its supposed to be sunny and in the 80's." No matter - you can't control the weather. Acknowledge and move on. Friday we had to attend our race briefing and pick up our race packets. The race packets had our race numbers and race bibs and important information. When I picked mine up, the volunteer put on my athlete's wristband. I looked at it and said

Is it okay that my race number and this number are completely different?

The answer is no. He had accidentally given me the wrong packet and number, which would have been very, very bad. Nothing like racing under someone else's number and not having the race count! I told myself that I would always double-triple check my number from now on.

That night, as a team, we went to dinner at Clyde's in Georgetown. Good food, good service, good atmosphere. I highly suggest it if you are in the area. Not to mention, it's across the street from Nine West (shoes!)

Saturday was a big day: Racking our bikes and the practice swim.

Our bikes were shipped from Orlando, so we had to pick them up and put our pedals back on before we could rack them in the transition area. The bikes would sit there, guarded, overnight. The transition area for this race was CRAZY with a capital HOLY COW! With 6,000 entrants, this race is one of the largest in the country and transition was over 240,000 square surface feet. To put it in perspective, that's about 1.5 times your average Super WalMart. I found my spot in Row 48, racked my bike, said goodbye and went off to the practice swim.

Swimming in the Potomac. It really isn't bad like people think. In fact, it's cleaner than some lakes I've swam in lately. But brrrr! It was cold! I guessed it to be about 74 degrees. Yes, I had a wetsuit on ... but still! Earlier in the week, I had been swimming in 86 degree water so it's a bit of a shock to the system. People from places like Michigan and New Jersey said we were wimps. I give that a big eyeroll! It's all relative I suppose.

Before the our practice swim, we took a team picture in our wetsuits. I have to say, it turned out to be a pretty cool picture. We all look like toughies!

That night was our inspirational dinner. At this meal, a young man spoke to us about his battle with Leukemia. He was travelling abroad with family and ended up being diagnosed in Rome with a fast growing type of Leukemia. It was so aggressive he was only weeks away from Stage 4, and hadn't even known he was sick.  He told us when things got tough during his treatment, his mantra was

You can do this. Just keep going!

I knew more than a few people in that room would be thinking about him and his inspiring words the next day. Myself included.

Then it was off to bed because we had to get up on Sunday at 3:15. In the morning. I am not a morning person. I'm just saying. The alarm went off, I said a few choice words, and dragged myself from bed. We met down in the lobby at 4:00 and were on the transportation bus by 4:30-ish. I was definitely awake and getting excited by then.

When we got there, we got body marked with our race number and picked up our timing chip. Each person is assigned a specific chip with their number, and it starts timing when your swim wave starts. We then set up our transition area under out bikes. Then we waited, and waited, and waited.

The race began at 7:00 with swim waves starting every three minutes. My start time was 8:03. As I was waiting in the swim pen with the other women in my age group (35-39), I realized that the wave behind us was Men 25-29. Great, I thought. I'm going to get bumped and swam over by a bunch of young pups. Still don't understand why they did that.

And here is how the race went:

My wave jumped in the water at 8:00 for an 8:03 swim start. Official race day water temperature was 72.3 degrees. I could've lived without knowing that. At 8:03, the horn sounded and we were off! We swam parallel to the shore and underneath the Memorial Bridge. Just before the first left turn, I could see the Lincoln Memorial every time I took a breath. Swimming cross river to the second left turn, where I could see Mount Vernon. It was here that some of the young bucks caught up to me. I got bumped and pushed a bit, but held my own. Back under the Memorial Bridge and to the finish line was a little difficult because the sun was coming up. This made it hard to sight the course markers.

But I swam my heart out, and as I hit the exit ramp my watch said 32:36. WHAT? Impossible. I've never swam one kilometer that fast! I was super excited, but knew there would be additional time added to my swim for how long it took me to run to transition.

  • 2009 one kilometer swim + run to transition: 33:42
  • 2008 one kilometer swim + run to transition: 36:08
  • Time gained: 2:26

Coming out of the water, I ran up the river bank, across the street and through the chute into transition. Peeling my wetsuit off the whole way, I began thinking about what needed to be done once I made it to my bike. When I got there, I noticed none of the other bikes were gone from my rack yet. That meant I was first of that group of women out of the water. Kind of neat. Took a fuel gel, put on my bike shoes, and tried to put on my helmet. My ponytail and my helmet decided to fight and it took a bit to set them both straight. But then I was running with my bike out of transition to the bike mount line.

  • 2009 Transition 1 time: 4:06
  • 2008 Transition 1 time: 3:54
  • Time gained: -0:12  I am not upset by the 12 second loss because transition was so much bigger

The bike course was, how do you say, interesting. There were a lot of potholes and patched parts of the road, which means lots of bumping and rattling of bikes. As such, tons of water bottles bounced out of their cages and were all over the road. I saw one guy walking back to the start carrying his bike in one hand and the entire crank (pedals and all) in the other. A TNT member from another chapter hit a bottle, crashed, and broke her leg. And another guy I met hit a bottle, crashed, and got back on his bike. But when he did, the frame completely snapped in half. Race over. :(

The bike course changed this year. I knew that but didn't really pay attention to the actual route because the volunteers direct you when you need to turn. Last year the bike portion was relatively flat. Flat enough that even someone from Florida says

Yeah. It's pretty flat.

Famous last words. There were hills on this course. Now you Northerners would probably call them "slight rises", but when you live at sea level the hills might as well have been mountains! Fortunately we train in an area that is hilly (yes, its true. there's even a mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain. See it here.) So it wasn't hard on me physically, I just wasn't mentally prepared for it.

I have an aerobottle on my handle bars for water, and there's a duck pouf that helps keep the water in. The duck and I; we talked on those hills. Our conversation went like this

Me: Duck, this hill wasn't here last year.
Duck: (smiley stare)
Me: Duck, why does there have to be a headwind going up the hill?
Duck: (smiley stare)
Me: You know what, Duck? I'm passing a lot of people. I feel pretty good about that.
Duck: (smiley stare)
Me: Duck, you aren't very talkative. Are you trying to keep from bouncing out on these horribly patched roads?
Duck: (smiley stare)

Duck is the strong silent type. Before I knew it, I was approaching transition and the dismount line. With a quick check of my watch, I realized I was doing great on time!

  • 2009 40 kilometer bike: 1:18:31 (19.0 mph)
  • 2008 40 kilometer bike: 1:22:10 (18.1 mph)
  • Time gained: 3:39

Into transition to rack my bike, fuel up, change shoes and get running!

  • 2009 Transition 2: 3:38
  • 2008 Transition 2: 5:02
  • Time gained: 1:24

The run course was different this year two. Last year ended with the Capitol building as the backdrop. But it was also miles from transition - yuck! I was glad that we ended close to transition this year. The run was great. The temperature was good, I felt strong, my legs quickly lost the jello feeling from being on the bike. The support from Team In Training fans was really strong. I couldn't go more than 100 feet without someone yelling encouragement. GO TEAM is the rally cry. 

I was super proud of myself because I did not walk through a single water stop. I just grabbed my cup and drank on the run. This is a big deal for me because in my first marathon I slipped, fell, and twisted my ankle when I slid on a cup. At mile nine I thought all my training had been for nothing. I finished, but not without pain. I swore after that to never run through a water stop again. Never say never!

I was focused on the run, and don't really remember the sites along the way. But I do remember coming around a bend and seeing the finish line. Part of me wanted to sprint and finish fast, and part of me wanted to take it slow and savor the moment. Of course, I kicked it up a notch and finised with a nice kick!

  • 2009 10 kilometer run: 56:49 (9:10 per mile)
  • 2008 10 kilomter run: 1:10:00 (11:18 per mile)
  • Time gained: 13:11

As you can see, I gained a lot of time at each stage of this race. In fact, I completed it 21:16 faster than last year. I beat my personal best by 9:31. A successful race, I would say! Which is why I was so excited to get the print out of my times. Imagine my surprise when I told the timing folks my race number and they told me I never started the race! Ummm ... pretty sure I did, folks! Long story short, I was given a timing chip with THE WRONG NUMBER! That whole checking my number thing came back to bite me again! But they figured out the problem and fixed it right away. Class act!
  • 2009 Total time: 2:56:44
  • 2008 Total time: 3:17:11
  • Time gained: 21:05
Again, I can't rave enough about this race. So much fun. And the best part isI got to improve on my "Tri Tan"

Thanks again to all those that made this race possible; to all those who supported me in training .. emotionally and financially. This was a great experience and I wouldn't have traded it for they world!

See you next year!

1 comment:

  1. So awesome. I knew you did well, but you improved so much from last year. I hope you are super proud of yourself, bc you should be. Love you. xoxo