Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nations Triathlon, Olympic Distance, September 8th, 2014

Last race of the 2013 triathlon season, done! I decided to do this race after getting injured for the Rock and Roll D.C. Marathon in March. I have been to the DC area a few times and have loved it. So choosing this race was a no brainer! I figured what a great way to end the season in a city that I love, and a shorter distance!

I drove to the race Saturday morning and checked into the host hotel, The Washington Hilton. The expo was right there. For an Olympic distance race this expo was awesome! There were plenty of vendors and free stuff! I scored some free gels, tire levers, a souvenir cup and a pair of running socks!

After the expo I had to get my bike ready to take to transition for overnight. I fixed my race number on my bike and decided to ride it to the transition area since it was at least two miles from the host hotel. Seriously, what a great idea! I rode my bike through DC with running shorts and run shoes on. But the best part was, I got to maneuver myself and Trekie around the National Mall! The day before the race I try to get in a 30 minute easy ride, just to get my legs spinning, and then follow that up with a 10 minute run just to get my legs turning over. So I decided once I dropped my bike off in transition I would do my 10 minute run back towards the hotel.

Trekie got to take in all the sites!

Transition was located next to the Potomac River and by the Lincoln Memorial. The transition area was huge!! I had no idea how many people were doing this race, but come to find out it was close to 5,000 athletes!

During my scenic ride to transition my brakes seemed to be rubbing, so for the first time in my triathlon career I took my bike to the onsite mechanics. It was bothering me, and mentally I knew it would be better if I had someone check it out, that way I didn’t have to worry about it come race day. I have learned this year to make races as stress-free and relaxed as possible. There is no use in wasting valuable energy. So the awesome dudes at the mechanic tent fixed my bike, nothing major was wrong, just a little adjustment needed.

Now I had to find my spot on the transition rack. Where to start? The best part about this transition was that each row was numbered. There were huge numbered flags in the middle of the aisle, there were about 30 rows! I was row 24 and about 3 spots from the end of the rack! I remember smiling and laughing, thinking if I lose my bike in this transition there is something seriously wrong! For once this season, I am not going to lose my bike! Run to row 24 out of the swim, left hand turn down the aisle, run to the end! Check!

As a pre-race ritual, I walked my paths into T1 and out of T1, and then into T2 and out of T2. I knew I had a short run into T1 but a long run out. Short run into T2, long run out.
Race Morning: 5am wake-up and caught the complimentary shuttle by 5:30am. Transition closed at 6:45am, race started 7am. They announced in transition that the water temperature was 80 degrees and therefore it was a non-wetsuit swim. I was stoked! But seriously, who would have thought that in September I would have my first ever non-wetsuit swim!  The only down-side for me was that I was wave 30 at the swim start! So I figured I would have a good wait after the race was officially underway. It was a time trial start which meant that a few athletes were sent every 20-25 seconds. With 5,000 athletes, I was in for a wait. I took my time walking around to stay loose, and ventured down to the water and watched other athletes take off to become familiar with the process. I sat a lot, trying to save my legs. I had so much time at the swim start, I was bored! I swear time stood still. The waves of athletes before me seemed like they were barely moving. People were EVERYWHERE!

Swim: Finally, it was time to move and time flew now! Next I knew I was in the swim chute and out onto the boat launch staring up the Potomac! I realized that all athletes had to SIT on the boat launch and at the sound of the whistle enter the water feet first. I can’t say that I was a fan of this swim start. However, the best part about this course is that it is shaped into the Washington Monument! How appropriate! I knew heading out to the turnaround I would be against the current, but coming back I had the current. This was probably the most well marked course. Huge orange buoys, clearly marked by 100 meters and floated nearly 6-7 feet off the water! If I swam off course, something would definitely be wrong! It was also really neat to swim under the bridge!

I do have to say that being wave 30 made for a lot of congestion from the start. I had mentally prepared myself for all the congestion and stayed relaxed through the swim. And, I didn’t swim off course!

SWIM TIME: 25:12

T1: I found row 24 like it was nobody’s business! Left hand turn, ran down the aisle, and whoohoo found Trekie faithfully waiting for me!

Bike: This was a two loop course. I headed out feeling great and my legs were ready to rock! After only being out on the course for a short time, I came upon a volunteer waiving a caution flag telling cyclists to slow down because there was a no passing zone coming up. I tried to get ahead of any slow riders before that zone came but to my luck I ended up behind someone who I believed to be a novice rider. She was constantly on her brakes. It got to the point where I yelled at her to keep moving forward and to lay off her brakes! At this point I realized that I should have gone to the athlete briefings that were offered throughout the day at the expo. I decided not to attend one because I was rushed for time. However, note to self, always attend!

Another reason I should have went to one of the meetings, was that there were many turn arounds on the course. It would have benefited me to know where they were. By turn around, I mean sharp turns where my speed was reduced to 4-5 mph. At one point on the course the turnaround was over a wooden ramp!

Positives to this course: it was very well marked! Mostly flat. A few inclines. None of the inclines required me to get up out of the saddle.

Negatives: besides the no passing zones and turn arounds, I was under the impression that the course would go around the monuments. The only monument I was ever near was the Lincoln Memorial. So that aspect of the course was deceiving.

BIKE TIME: 1:14:15

T2: I dismounted my bike and started to run into transition only to find another wooden ramp that I had to push my bike over and run over with bike shoes on! I was able to find my rack without any effort. Racked my bike, threw on my run shoes, visor and race belt and out for a 10k I went!

Run: I had full intentions on giving this run everything I had left in the tank. I promised myself that when it started to hurt (as it eventually always does) that I would push through it and run harder. The first mile of the run was uphill, not tremendously, but enough that my legs felt the incline. As I approached mile one, it was marked with a huge flag and was very easy to see. At this first mile aid station, I grabbed a gel that one of the volunteers was holding out. Yes, I was already hurting and it was only mile 1. But one great piece of advice I have been given is that when things start to suck on the run, eat something! You will always feel better. Truth! The gel was a GU Orange Cream. Damn, did it taste good! I gulped it down and washed it down with a cup of water as I ran through the aid station.

A volunteer yelled as I passed that mile 1 was the only hill on the course and that it was all flat for the next 5.2 miles! I started trucking and he was right. It was a very flat 10k right along the water.

As flat as the course was, I saw many signs of weakness from other athletes. Maybe it was the heat? By the time I was on the run course, it was late morning and I do remember being hot. Other athletes were walking, breathing heavy, grunting, checking their watches every second, etc. I smiled a few times and told myself, “no matter what, never show any signs of weakness!”

I checked my watch at each mile and knew I was running the same pace and I was feeling great! I made sure to stay up on my nutrition and hydration, so at every aid station I made sure to grab something, even if it was a cup of water to hold on to for a few minutes and then dump on my head. It made me feel better. I only took that one gel at mile 1 though. After that gel I knew my stomach wasn’t going to handle anything else. I knew that if I just kept myself hydrated and cool that I would be just fine.

Indeed I was just fine. I ended up finishing with my best pace off the bike all year and not to mention a new PR by 2 minutes at the Olympic distance!

RUN TIME: 52:30


2013 has been a truly great year for me. I have learned so much about the sport of triathlon, about myself, about training and especially about racing. I have met some inspirational triathletes that I have the privilege of calling my friends! I have taken all of their advice and I believe it has truly helped in my performances this year. I have the best support system and the best training partners. I already cannot wait for 2014!

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