Most of my triathlon race reports, or any event for that matter, usually start with “The alarm clock went off at 4:30 a.m.” This one will be no exception. I’m the kind of guy who likes to be methodical and relaxed on the morning of race day, and if that means losing half of an hour of sleep, then that’s just the way it goes. That’s not to say that I sleep very well the night before, but that’s another story.
This half-iron distance race would be my wife’s first tri at that length, and since she’d be facing “time cut-offs” for each of the swim and bike legs, there would certainly be some anxious moments until the gun went off for her wave. The more I could do to keep things calm, the better off her race would be.
Being as bikes were already at the lake, it was just a matter of grabbing our gear for the day and heading out for the 45 minute or so drive. We took a cooler to keep water chilled, as we both new the day would be getting long and warm.
The transition area for this event was approximately half a mile from the swim venue. That meant, once you made a last check on tires, hydration, T-1 and T-2 gear placement and size up your competition, it was time to head over to the start. The start would go off in five waves. Pro Men, Pro Women, All Women, All Men under 40, and the rest of the Men over 40, Relays and Aquabike. The weather was spectacular and the water temp was sitting at 72 degrees. This meant no wetsuits for the pros, and most of the Age Groupers would be sleeveless, given the option. I like the temps to hover near 63, as I feel just warm enough after the initial facial numbness subsides. Unfortunately my sleeveless top was sitting comfortably at home. Oh, well, that’s what it means by remaining flexible on race day.
Our wave hit the water at 8:40. This is a pretty late start for long course races, and most folks new that sunscreen would be an essential piece of equipment. The swim would comprise a single lap around a rectangle, measuring 1/2 mile on its longest sides, and about 1/10 mile on its ends. Counterclockwise meant buoys to your left, but there were so many intermediate sighting buoys, that it really wasn’t a problem for us right-side breathers. The second buoy was at the end of the first “long-side” and was dead center of the sun’s reflection off the water. This made sighting more difficult for those who watch the buoy instead of a distinct landmark above the horizon. A friend of mine actual ended up heading for the third turn buoy, and was directed back to the second buoy by a kayak.
All in all, the swim went well even though it was a little warm. We were allowed to hang dry bags at the swim, so if you wanted to run to T-1 in shoes, you could have them there. You had the option of bringing your wetsuits with you, or stuffing it in the bag to be brought over to your bike by the event crew. That’s what I chose to do, and was actually surprised when a volunteer came and help me strip my wetsuit. Bonus! The 1/2 mile run to T-1 was a new experience, but I have to say that I actually liked it. It gave my legs a chance to warm up some of the biking muscles, and be ready to ride.
T-1 was uneventful, just like I prefer it. Hopefully the sunscreen was still going to work? It was a short trip up to the main road to join the course, which was laid out as two loops of 27 miles each. The helicopter was already in the air for coverage of the swim course, and now it was zooming up and down the Columbia River catching the pro bike action, along with motorcycles getting footage on the course. It was a pretty cool experience being on course with the pros and watching them (hearing them actually) come whizzing past you turning 26 ~ 27 mph averages, including four complete u-turns. I managed to average 20.51 mph for the 56 miles and felt pretty comfortable the whole time. Wattage was right where I wanted it, as was heart rate. My bike performed flawlessly, and I had no problems passing when needed. Water stations were well equipped for hand-offs and distances were appropriate.
I felt better coming off this bike leg than I have in some time. I believe that it was a combination of controlling the output? But then something started happening about a mile into the run. My left inner quad and inner hamstring felt like they both wanted to cramp up. My right side was fine. I thought, “Great, this is going to be a long 13 miles!” At the first aid station, I took my weight to my right side, lifted my left foot off the ground while keeping my knee out in front of me. I then poured a cup of ice water on the head of the quad, and like magic, the feeling of cramping went away and never returned. It was weird. So I ran. The heat was starting to get to me, and I even used ice under my hat and in my back pocket of my jersey to keep cooled down. It turned into a struggle, but I had a lot of company. Misery loves company, right? I’d surge every once in a while and pick out landmarks or the next aid station to get to. I knew where the finish line was and just kept trudging ahead. I felt good to see the crowd still cheering everyone in, and likewise it felt good to cross that finish line. I can say that I did it with a smile on my face. In this link to the age group video, I have the unique honor of being the only one shown being presented with a finisher’s medal. Age Group Summary Video
Train With Grain!!