Wisdom Oak Winery Oly Tri Race Report (Also Known As The Only Triathlon I Ever Won)
This race report is long overdue – but better late than never.
After an incredible race season, which culminated in Ironman Kalmar, I thought tri season was over for me. I had the Marine Corps Marathon to train for, after all. But, I had such a fantastic recovery I got a little restless, and felt the urge to do one more triathlon before the official end of the season.
So, I talked Tobias (or maybe he talked me) into tackling the Wisdom Oak Winery Olympic Tri on September 14. This event is hosted by Charlottesville Multisports, and after racing Monticelloman 70.3 with them in May, I must say I’m a big fan of this organization. The distance for this race was a 1500 meter swim (.93 miles), 40k bike (23.5 miles), 10k run (6.2 miles).
The race was held on a Saturday and had a 9:00 a.m. start time, so I got to sleep in until 4:21 a.m. Tobias picked me up at 5:00 a.m. on the dot – well, actually he was early, per his usual MO – and we hit the road to Charlottesville. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of coffee, half a bagel with peanut butter and jelly, and some grapes, on the way.
We arrived to the race site in plenty of time to set up in transition. There were bike racks for the Sprint and bike racks for the Olympic, but the racks were not numbered so they were first-come, first-served. T and I racked our bikes next to each other, which was fun because usually I’m stuck racked next to people I don’t know. Just before the pre-race meeting, T lost an earplug and we frantically looked around transition but could not find it. So, we headed to the pre-race meeting.
The Wisdom Oak Winery triathlon was an inaugural event so the pre-race meeting seemed a little disjointed. I’d been looking forward to a quick, non-wetsuit swim (one of my strengths since I’m a very good swimmer without a wetsuit) but we learned the water temp had dropped from 84* on Thursday to 76* on Saturday morning, so the race was wetsuit legal. No matter, I had brought my wetsuit just in case, unlike some of the other grumbling athletes who had left theirs at home in anticipation of water too warm to be wetsuit legal. (For all my non-triathlete readers, 76* is not very cold water without a wetsuit, but a wetsuit provides buoyancy and compression, which is why these athletes were so upset to be at a disadvantage.)
T and I headed back to transition to don our wetsuits, then headed down to the beach for a swim warmup. I got in the water, which felt much warmer than 76*, and swam about 200 meters. At that point, I knew I felt GOOD. I mean, really good. I mean, really, really good.
The Olympic distance race field wasn’t very large, maybe 100+ athletes, but neither was the lake, so there were two waves of swimmers: the men who wore red caps, and the women who wore blue caps and were scheduled to start three minutes behind the men. The start was in-water, about waist deep, so there was none of the treading that usually accompanies an in-water start. Because the course was a clockwise, slingshot, two-loop setup, I positioned myself at the front on the right, so I could head directly for the first turn buoy. I told the women in the water next to me, “Let’s chase down those red caps, ladies!”
The 45 second warning came, and then the announcement by the race director, “Ready, Set, Go!” No gun, no cannon, no fireworks, just a spoken word that started the frenzy of arms, legs, heads and bodies careening (if it’s possible to careen through the water) toward a buoy. I had it set in my mind that I would chase down as many red caps as possible, so with strong, long, steady strokes, I started pulling and never stopped. I quickly took the lead over all the females, and by halfway through the first loop I was reeling in the red caps. I hit a bit of vegetation on the back stretch but held my line since it seemed the men were not sighting very straight. I made the turn for the second loop, hit just a bit of sun glare and had to do a couple of breaststroke strokes to get sight of the buoys again. After that I put my head down and continued swimming. I felt better in the water than I had ever felt in a race before, and I knew I was going to have a fast time. I held the line and kept reeling in those red caps, and when I made the final turn for the swim exit I saw there were only a handful of swimmers ahead of me. I exited the water to a volunteer saying, “First woman out of the water!” and I peeled my wetsuit down to my waist as I ran across the beach toward the stairs that would take me up to transition. (I love being a fast female swimmer; the crowds always love to see a strong woman come out of the water ahead of the guys. Call it gender bias if you want, but I’ll take the support.)
Swim time: 19:31
I ran across gravel (ouch) into transition and noticed only a couple men getting their bikes ready. I peeled off my wetsuit, quickly put on my bike jersey (I was already wearing my shorts and sports bra under the wetsuit), helmet, glasses, shoes, race belt and gloves, took a quick drink of water and ran my bike out to the mount line.
As we drove in to the park that morning, I had noticed that it was a downhill mile to get to the race location. So, on the ride out the first mile was uphill. What looked like a mild-to-moderate hill was in fact a more-than-moderate climb. After about two minutes on the climb I was approaching anaerobic, so I switched to granny gear and tried to calm my heart and breathe to the top of the hill. When I looked at my bike computer and saw I was going 6.1 mph, I thought, “Well, you’ll have a lot of work to do to overcome this slow start if you want a PR.” The top of the hill finally came, and I settled into my aerobars for what would turn out to be a much more challenging, and hilly, ride than expected. I fueled on four Naturebox Figgy Bars and took in a bottle of water as I rode. Through the course of the ups and downs on those back roads, I noticed something amazing, that had never happened to me before in a race: I was passing people. At the very beginning of the ride I got passed by two men, but in the remaining time I reeled in a handful as well. Now, to be clear, most of the athletes were still in the water when I got on my bike, so there weren’t that many people to pass, but this was a new experience, and one I really enjoyed. Fellow triathletes who are strong in the water and weak on the bike know that miserable feeling of getting passed by legions of people on the bike, and the endless “On your left!” warnings that can quickly deflate the accomplishment of a fantastic swim.
Throughout the ride I played chicken with another athlete, Number 42, who will later reappear in this narrative. Toward the end of the ride he passed me (for good) on the ride and as I made my way up the last hill before the turn back to the park into transition, a bystander yelled, “Way to go! You’re the first woman!” Then it hit me, I had been leading for two disciplines and all I had to do was run a 10k and stay in the lead, and I could WIN a triathlon. I zoomed down the hill and had to pull the brakes hard to slow down in time to dismount. I jumped off the bike and ran it to the rack, determined to be a fast as possible to keep my lead, because I had no idea where the second place female was in relation to me.
Transition 2 was fast. Rack the bike. Off with the helmet, gloves, bike shoes and glasses. On with the Garmin, visor and running shoes. A quick hit of water and I was out.
Remember that hill we had to ride up at the beginning of the bike leg? Well, we had to run up it too – and we knew it was coming. I settled in to a steady pace and tried to keep the pace as close to 8:30 as possible. Halfway up the hill I saw Tobias heading in on his bike and he said, “There’s one woman ahead of you.” That couldn’t be, I thought, but alas, I looked up the hill and indeed saw a female form running, about 250 meters ahead of me.
I dug in deeper, passing a couple men who were walking rather than running, and decided to reel this lady in early. It took a couple minutes but as I approached I saw an R, written in black marker on her calf, indicating that she was part of a relay. Good, I was still in first place, as I blazed past her and charged to the top of the hill and out of the park. The run was an out-and back, and at about mile 2 there was a hard right turn down a hill. And it kept going down, down, down. All I could think was, “I have to run back UP this thing? I better make up as much time as I can on the downhill.” I continued to play chicken with Number 42. He got me on the downhill but at the turnaround and back up the hill, he was walking and I chugged by him. Around this same time, I also saw the second place female, probably two or three minutes behind me. She looked like a runner. With under 5k left to run, I told myself, “Deb, you’re WINNING this triathlon. If you hang on to this, you will stand at the top of the podium.” So hang on I did, to the top of that blasted hill and back toward the park entrance where I knew a downhill mile awaited me. Number 42 and I started running together with about 1.5 miles to go, and I thanked him for pushing me on the bike. I thanked him for pushing me on the run.
He asked about my race history and I told him I’d just done Ironman Kalmar a month before. He told me he was racing against his 27-year-old brother that day, a brother who was 14 years younger than he, and that he was currently three minutes ahead. Even though it was clear Number 42 would prevail over his brother, as we entered the park I said, “Let’s do it!” and we kicked it up a notch. We were running about a 6:15pace all the way down that hill. I told him this and he said, “You are incredible.” I said, “So are you!” and in that last quarter mile he found another gear and left me in the dust. No matter, I had started three minutes behind him to my race time would beat his anyway, but I turned on the jets with everything I had left and headed toward the finish.
As I approached I thought, “I’m about to win a triathlon.” I composed myself for a moneymaking finish line shot, and as I crossed the timing mat noticed the race clock which read 2:34 and change. In that moment, I realized I would have a PR because I had to subtract three minutes from the race time since my swim wave started three minutes after the race clock. An overall win! A PR! A tough course just four weeks after Ironman! I was on top of the world! I wish my mom and dad were here to see this! I wish my Sherpa Kristin was there with her cowbell!
Run: 49:26 (sub-8 pace!)
Total race time: 2:31:48
My previous PR, set six years ago at the Motor City Triathlon, was a 2:34 and a mark I haven’t come close to since. Until now. When I signed up for this race I never anticipated an overall win, or a PR, but I’m thrilled with both. And I was ninth overall. Not a bad showing.
This has been an incredible race year for me, and I am uber excited to see how much I can improve in 2014. Thanks to the family and friends who have constantly supported me, who have not made me feel bad about the skipped happy hours, the parties I had to leave early because of a 100 mile ride or 18 mile run the next morning, my 9:30 p.m. bedtimes, and my 5:30 a.m. workouts.
And, thanks to Don, Mindy, and the rest of BLTCE who, upon hearing that I did not get a medal or trophy, presented me with a Winner’s Cup and 1st Place ribbon at the Columbia Firehouse that night!
The full race report, with photos, can be seen here: http://dhops7.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/wisdom-oak-winery-olympic-triathlon-race-report-also-known-as-the-first-triathlon-i-ever-won/
Congrats on a dominating performance!! Next up MCM and another PR! :)