I don’t usually write race reports, but I think of the 7-8 triathlons I have done so far, the Musselman Half deserves one in my books because it was truly a fantastic race to be a part of. Musselman was my first half-iron distance race and I registered on the first day because it promised to be scenic, hilly, and benefits charity primarily, which satisfies all of my criteria for selecting races.
Pre-race: So I did not begin with good spirits pre-race. I had lost my wallet somewhere after picking up my registration packet the day before, and my iPhone battery was dying. I had exactly $8.19 in change stashed in my car’s glove compartment for parking meters. Before losing my wallet, I was planning to stop by the supermarket to stock up on food and water. I decided that I’ll just make due with drinking the questionable faucet water from the dorm bathroom and eating the food that I brought with me from D.C.: baby carrots, leftover potato rolls from an office party, cherries, and PB&J. On race morning, I woke up at 4:30AM, put on my DC Tri onesie, packed my car, and went over to Dunkin’ Donuts (opened 24/7) to pick up a breakfast sandwich with eggs, hash brown, and coffee for about $4.79. Eggs and coffee in the morning make me feel full and happy every SINGLE time. The world could have come crashing down on me at that moment, but if I had to die, I would have died full and happy while donning the DC Tri kit. Come get me World!!
Swim: The storm was about 45 mins away, but we got a green light to proceed with the swim. It was somewhat windy and the water was choppy even though it was like glass just the day before. Water temp was about 74 degrees and I wore a full sleeve wetsuit. At the start, the first 75 meter was more like a walk rather than a swim, because it was very shallow. I tried to swim, but folks were walking and got in my way, so I started walking too. Once the water got deeper, the race really started. The water was very choppy, but swimming in rough waters is my jam and I dig it. The buoys were easy to sight and I finished 49.36.
T1: My T1 time was 4:42. I didn’t really know how to quickly change my settings from swim to bike on my new Suunto Ambit watch and probably wasted a minute on it and still didn’t get it right until about a mile into my bike.
Bike: Once I mounted, I bolted ahead of the pack in front of me. I had new wheels and I felt like I was flying….that is until I hit the first hill. The hill was a false flat, so not very steep, but steep enough to slow me to 12.5mph. I’m not a fast climber, so I saw folks starting to pass me about 2-3 miles into the climb. I hunkered down for what I expected to be a very long bike ride. Since it was going to be long, I figured I at least try to get comfortable so I jumped at the first portapotty I saw at mile 10 and it was glorious! Refreshed and recharged, I tackled the rest of the bike in the pouring rain at times, but the scenery was immensely beautiful and there were some nice downhills and flats where I was going 29.5 mph to make up for the slow start. I also had the honor of getting spit on by Mike Locke’s wet tires while I was riding to his rear (haha, don’t think dirty), but I made sure I wasn’t so close as to be drafting. I also had the honor of exchanging leads with Alicia Salmeron. I would pass her on the flats and downhill and she would take over on the climbs. We ended up going into T2 about 3 seconds apart. Bike finish was 3:34:12.
T2: I completed T2 in 4:18. The rain had just stopped so I was glad to change into dry socks and dry shoes that were in my kayaking dry bag. Again, I fussed with my watch settings unsuccessfully.
Run: There are many great things about the race but the run stood out for me. There were aid stations every mile, and a live band every 3 miles or so. I couldn’t believe how many volunteers were around and how enthusiastic they were despite having to stand for hours in the horrible weather! The first 6 miles felt great and I was running at a comfortable pace. At that point, I was like, this half-iron thing is kinda easy. What’s the big deal, right? ……then the wretched mile 7 hit. At that point, my insufficient training was apparent as my legs were getting exhausted, even though mentally, I knew I had enough juice left in me to finish the last 6 miles strong. I stopped a couple of times to stretch my calves and quads and ran by slowly at each aid station to snack on fruits and pretzels, and drinks. I didn’t think I would be this hungry since my nutrition was good on the bike. I just kept pushing, fighting, struggling. The rain started again around mile 9 and it felt so good. I love the rain. I kept at it and before long, I was at 12.5 miles and stepped up my pace to sprint to the finish passing by the DC Tri tent and a large cheering section.
Finish: My finish time was 6:56:47. I didn’t train very much coming into the race and I did not have any goals other than finishing. I accomplished just that!
Conclusion: I would not normally repeat a race, because I get bored of doing the same route again, but I would make an exception for Musselman. I would do this race year after year, because I think it’s got everything right. Great scenery, great volunteers, great pre-race pasta dinner cooked by Ryan Troll’s mom, and great breakfast/coffee spots for day after the race. I have another HIM in two months and learned a lot from this race. I’ll definitely need to find time in my schedule to incorporate running into my training regularly and figure out how to use my GPS watch. I also need to load up on nutrition before the run and then eat midway. I also know that I cannot commit to a full IM race until I can devote a chunk of time to really be diligent about completing all my workouts each week. For sprints, olys, and HIM, I can usually get away with skipping a workout or two every week, but seeing how hard the last 6 miles of Musselman was, I definitely cannot keep skipping workouts for a full IM.
Hooray! Way to go out there, in tough conditions!
And your wallet made its way back to you, yes?
1. HIM racing and IM racing are two different beasts. I suffer more at the HIM.
2. Currently 10 weeks from my IM, I don't think that I've had a week this year where I've hit all of my training. I'm also quite confident that I have a legit chance of PR-ing at my IM this year. It's the nature of the beast. Work, Life, DCTri happy hours, and training load will always make you miss workouts. If you wait until the moment that you think that you'll be able to train without missing a handful of workouts during IM season, you're naïve ;)
3. One is never ready for their first IM. You just have to jump in and hope for the best :) You can be like me, never cracking the 6 hour barrier at a HIM, but have gone under 12 3x at the IM distance, including an 11:31. I have never gone under 2:00 on the run at a HIM, but have gone under 4 3x, including a 3:45 at the IM distance. The two times that I failed to crack the 12 hour barrier were due to 1. a fractured clavicle and 2. lying on my death bed two days before the IM. Longer distances do a pretty good job of scaring you into training and training harder.
4. Man up and work on your keyboard skills. I believed that's where you failed this year while trying to get into IM Choo ;)
Wait - Tuan - are you saying that since I haven't gone under 6 hours in a HIM or 4 hours in the marathon, that I too can go sub-12 in a full IM and sub-4 in an IM marathon?!! If so, then I'm REALLY excited to sign up for my next IM!
Meaghan .... You are so going to go under 12 at IM Barcelona next year ;)
Yes, I found my wallet under the seat at the safety briefing place when it reopened the day after the race.
....and thanks Tuan! You're always the encourager!