Woohoo! I am now an Olympic distance Triathlete! Today’s race could not have gone better! I’ll get to it soon, but want to start where I left off last week. I have not been training much at all in the past two weeks, which I am going to partially chalk up to “tapering” and partially blame on the dog. She’s been keeping me busy and we’re still trying to learn a routine that works, so it’s been hard to go and do my workout right after work, because she needs to go out. On Thursday, I was feeling a little stressed and out of sorts, and I think it has to do with the decreased training. My body loves its endorphins and when it doesn’t get it’s fill, believe you me, it lets me know! I have especially let my swimming go by the wayside, so I decided to go for a short swim that night. I did 1600 yards total, with a 50 yard warm-up and a 50 yard cool down. I wanted to swim a straight 1500 set to boost my confidence for the race. It worked! I finished the 1500 yards in about 24 minutes (I forgot my HRM, so I don’t have exact data). More importantly, I felt fantastic in the water. I felt strong and smooth, and significantly more confident about the race.
Friday was my planned day off before the race. I don’t know the reason why, but I’ve seen multiple sources recommending taking completely off two days before your race. My trainer had also recommended this, so I’ve been doing it. Does anyone know why this is supposed to help with your tapering? I had planned to do a short workout on Saturday, but we had a pretty lazy morning instead and the extent of my workout was walking the dog and taking her to a nearby field to play fetch. She doesn’t quite understand the concept of bringing the ball back, but we’ll get there. We took her on a 30ft lead so she could run without us having to keep up with her too much.
Around 4:00PM, Curtis and I drove into the city so I could check-in, attend the race briefing and rack my bike. Wow! What a madhouse. We don’t usually drive into DC because it’s a huge pain in the you know what. If we’re going to go into DC, we typically take the metro, but bikes aren’t allowed, so we had to suck it up and drive. When we finally got to the Washington Hilton, where the race expo was being held, we had just missed the 5:00PM race briefing, so we wandered around until 5:30 and looked at race belts and sunglasses. I ended up getting both, because I lost my sunglasses not too long ago and needed a race belt for my tri kit. At the race briefing we learned that there were 6000 athletes registered for the race! After the race briefing we were allowed to pick up our packets and goody bags. I learned I was number 4650 and going to be in the 26th swim wave starting at 8:15AM. The first swim wave would start at 7:00AM. We then drove down to the transition area and I went and racked my bike and mapped out my path to and from my row for transitions.
I was in row 41, so I made sure to memorize that and fix in my brain that when I came in from the swim I had to pass 41 and run down to my bike, which luckily, was very close to the end of the rack and easy to find. On the way in from the bike, I would be coming from the opposite direction so I would enter the row before passing the 41. After I had done all that, we headed home, finished packing up for the next morning, showered, and went to bed by 9:45PM.
We had an early morning this morning, getting up at 4:45AM in order to get to transition before 6AM. As soon as I got up, I took the dog out and fed her and Suli (our cat). Then I made myself my oatmeal in the microwave and added a little hazelnut butter to take in the car, finished filling my water bottles (I had started the night before), and got dressed. I got a new tri singlet and tri shorts recently that I wore today. They are the ZOOT Women’s ULTRA Tri Tank and Short. They are fantastically comfortable and were perfect for all three legs of the race. It was a great improvement on wearing any old tech shorts and shirt. We left the house at 5:30, a little later than planned, but still made it into the city in plenty of time. Curtis dropped me off at transition, and I got set up while he went to park the car. He also took some great pictures of the day, so I have those to share too! After setting up, the sun started to rise, revealing an absolutely perfect September day. We had clear skies, a slight breeze and the perfect temperature for a race, IMHO. It was awesome to see the sun come up behind the Washington Monument.
The shear size of the race was also pretty incredible. I haven’t been at any races that were larger than a couple of hundred before, so this was quite eye-opening. It turned out that only about 4300 and some odd people started the race, but it still seemed like a lot. You can just begin to get an idea of the size from looking at the bikes in transition.
This is only one small area of bike racks, to the right of this is a huge field of racks 4 wide and probably about 60 long.
Sorry for the low quality picture–I took this one on Saturday evening on my phone. This is the very back corner of the transition area. I didn’t manage to get anything interesting, like the run in/out or bike in/out. Just lots and lots of bikes!
After setting up, I picked up my timing chip and went to meet up with Curtis before the race started, so he could wish me luck. I then went to the “swim pen” where we were supposed to be gathering since transition was closing. As soon as I got into the swim pen, I realized I had my CatEye cycling computer in my jersey pocket, which was definitely not the best place for it since I would be jumping into the Potomac river in a little over an hour. I ran back to my transition area and attached it to my bike, then returned to the swim pen to wait until my wave was up. As I mentioned, I was in the 26th wave, starting at 8:15AM, so I had almost an hour and a half to wait since it was only 6:45. At 7:00AM the elites began, and a little before 7:20, the first swimmer was out of the water. I talked with some folks who were in even later waves, and we were marveling at the fact that the elites would start finishing before all of us were even out of the water.
The swim was an in-water start off a dock and began up-stream toward Memorial bridge. The course was counter-clockwise, and ended with a run up a ramp. That boat is sitting in the water right where we started from. You can just see the orange buoy out to the right, I think that’s one of the last buoys on the in-bound leg of the swim.
Curtis got a picture of the elites in the water waiting for the start. You can just see all the little white caps bobbing out of the water in front of the dock.
And they’re off!
The other end of the course is on the other side of Memorial bridge. In the picture, you can see several swim waves have already started. At this point, I’m still milling around the swim pen.
Finally, they called the yellow caps, females 24 and under into the line-up. We gathered in behind fluorescent green and fluorescent orange (I think).
I ran into a couple people from my high school before the race started. I found Bridget when we lined up. This was her first triathlon, and I’m really anxious to find out how she did. After the swim start, I lost track of her and never saw her again. Curtis got a picture of the two of us talking. I’m the angry-looking one with my arms crossed. I wasn’t really angry though, just really cold. Even with the wetsuit on, it was quite chilly standing around for over an hour before the race.
After wishing me good luck, Curtis ran off to the bridge to try and spot me from above. I can’t believe it, but he found me!
I’m the swimmer on the right in the picture. He says he managed to spot me because I was one of the only ones in my wave wearing a full sleeve wetsuit. I actually really enjoyed the in-water start. It definitely helped with getting my bearing before the swim. I was able to acclimate to the water temperature and slow my breathing and heart rate before the horn went off, which allowed me to swim at my pace from the beginning. I lined up to the left and the back (third row of swimmers) in the water as we were treading. It seemed to be a good spot. I didn’t want to be close to the shore because I could see that I could end up swimming a significantly longer distance if I did that. I tried to stay close to the sight line to the bridge. We could just barely see the first orange turn buoy on the other side of the bridge. There weren’t any buoys before the bridge, which was somewhat disconcerting, because they’re nice to break up the swim distance. Once I crossed under the bridge, there were two left hand turns and we were heading back to the swim exit.
I couldn’t see anything on the in bound leg. The sun was directly in our sight line to the buoys and it took several hundred meters before I could see any buoys at all. I decided to use the light from the sun as my directional, because it seemed the best option. On the swim back, I started overtaking swimmers from the previous waves. It was a little difficult to pass some of them because they weren’t doing a great job of swimming in a line and there were a number of times when they were in a big pack and tough to get through. There were also a few girls in yellow caps who I kept bumping into throughout the swim. I did manage to draft off one of them for awhile, but I picked up the pace and passed her after a bit. I was never completely alone during this swim. There were just too many people! The orange buoys finally came into sight, and we were in the home stretch!
I ran up the ramp out of the water and back into transition. I felt great out of the water, but had no idea where I was time-wise. I had forgot to start my watch prior to the swim, so I don’t have heart rate data till after I get out of the water. It turns out I was a little slower on the swim than my goal (28 minutes), with a swim time of 31:38. I think it was partially due to the number of people I had to pass, and the lack of swim training I’ve done lately. I don’t think I added on too much distance, but as you can tell from the pictures, you can add on at least 25 to 50 meters of distance if you veered too far from the buoys.
As I was running, I took the top half of my wetsuit off and pulled off my cap and goggles. I took my time in transition in order to catch my breath, and put on my cycling shoes, socks, sunglasses, helmet and gloves. I almost went without the gloves, but decided I’d rather not risk being miserable because my hands hurt. I grabbed my GU, Clif shot blocks and stuffed them in my pockets and away I went with my bike. Transition took me a very slow 3:34. Even with the distance between the swim exit and the bike start, it was a slow time.
I got to the mount line and had no problems clipping in and was off. The bike course was fast! It was mostly straightaways and very very little climbing and hills. I think the total elevation change was 582 feet or close to that. Curtis didn’t manage to find me on the bike (I was too fast!), but here’s picture of some other random cyclists.
It was really incredible to ride through the streets of DC when they were all closed. There aren’t many times you can have an opportunity like that to take in so much of the city on such a beautiful day. My bike split was 1:27:51, which is quite a bit faster than my goal of 1:45. It works out to about 17.1 mph on average. I did have an exact average, as calculated by my CatEye, but unfortunately I think someone stole it off my bike in transition. 😦 I’m really bummed about it, and can’t believe someone would do something like that! I know it was on my bike when I racked it because I remember looking at it, and since it clips in, I think it’s nearly impossible for it to have fallen off. Oh well! I guess it’s time for a new one…even though it only had 300 miles of rides on it. I ate a GU gel at about the 9 mile mark and my Clif shot blocks at about 15 miles or so. I also drank 3/4 a bottle of water and half a bottle of PowerAde throughout the ride. I felt great the whole time, and never felt like I was low on energy or really got that tired. After our 40K bike ride, we were back to the transition area and dismount line.
T2 was marginally faster than T1 at 2:56. I racked my bike and then had to retrieve all my stuff from under my neighbor’s bike. Apparently, my running shoes and race belt made the perfect wheel rest for her bike. It was an annoyance, to be sure. There was plenty of room, and it was really quite uncalled for to put her bike directly on top of my stuff. After I retrieved my things, I put on my shoes and race belt and headed out for the run.
The run course was really well marked with mile markers and had aid stations at miles 1-5 of the course. I got water at every aid station except mile 5. It took me about two miles to get my run legs and get into a groove. Curtis and my parents found me again on the run course and cheered me on at mile 2 and mile 4.
I think I always look really silly running, but I’m impressed with how happy and upbeat I look in this picture. Although my race belt pocket makes it look like I’m wearing a fanny pack. So, I guess I still look a little silly. I’m really proud of myself on the run, I managed to keep running for the entire race. This is the longest distance I’ve run in a race to date and I actually felt really great. My knee had been bothering me a bit on the bike, but there were no problems at all during the run.
Here I am again, with the huge line of people still coming. More than half of the racers have probably already finished at this point.
My run time was 1:04:59, which is about a 10:30 minute mile pace (5.7 mph). I’m happy with that, as my goal was to finish the run in 1:10. But, I think the run is the area I have the most room for improvement. So, that will be my focus through the winter for next season.
My overall time was 3:10:55. This is 34 minutes faster than my goal time of 3:45 and faster than my “stretch” goal time of 3:30, so I am ecstatic about how well it went. I finished 46 in my division, but I have no idea how many people were in my division.
After I came through the finish line (there were still people just starting the run and still people coming in off the bike!), I headed over to transition to get my stuff and meet up with my family. This is when I found out my CatEye was gone. I also picked up some water, Powerade, and food to refuel.
Curtis was kind enough to carry all my stuff for me after the race.
The aftermath of transition, with the monument in the background. There were still tons of bikes when we left.
My heart rate data from the bike and run was:
Average heart rate: 173
Max heart rate: 191
Overall, it was a really fun race, which I would definitely consider doing again. The only drawbacks were the lack of buoys during the swim and the difficulty of driving into and out of the city on the weekends.
Have a great week!
UPDATE: The results are posted and I found out that I was 46/96 in the Females under 24 division, and 663/1453 in all women and 2626/3933 overall. Not a bad showing! Top 50% in my division and of all women.