I was debating between North East and Luray for a long time this summer. So long in fact, that I only decided which race to do about 3 weeks ago. Since I hadn’t registered for a race, it didn’t really seem real to me. As a result, my training had been pretty inconsistent and unfocused. This was only my second Olympic distance race ever after doing the Nation’s triathlon last year.
I decided to drive up on race morning instead of springing for a hotel room. That meant my alarm went off at 4:25 AM, which is much too early for an alarm to ever go off. After a delicious, but probably ill advised chocolate chip scone and coffee for breakfast, I headed to the car. When I pulled out of the garage, I was immediately met with a downpour of rain. That was a pretty ominous sign of things to come.
The drive to North East, MD was uneventful, with the exception of sporadic, extremely heavy rain. I was more concerned with the occasional lightning, though, because I really did not want the race to be changed to a duathlon. I arrived in North East to a light drizzle and a pretty health 10-15 minute walk from the car to the race site. I did the usual pre-race routine (with a smattering of race-day packet pickup!). The rain was picking up, and there was a ton of murmuring about canceling the swim, and flooded roads. I found my assigned row in the TA, but the only place available to set-up was a small lake with about 4 inches of standing water. Not ideal. I chatted with some other racers, and everyone told me to move back one rack where there was still ample, relatively dry parking. I set up my TA, covered everything with garbage bags in the faint hope of it all staying dry.
While setting up, the race organizers announced that all racers (spring and Olympic) would be doing a 750m swim and an 11 mile bike because of the threat of debris in the water and flooding on the Olympic bike course. Bummer, as I was hoping to gauge my fitness on a full Oly to see if would be able to take on a half this fall. So it goes I guess, and I was still relieved that they didn’t turn the race to a du.
The Olympic waves went out after the sprint waves. It felt like we were waiting in a downpour forever. I saw more people shivering than I would have ever expected at a mid-August triathlon in the Mid-Atlantic. Since I have a comfortable layer of beer-fueled insulation, I just giggled at their fit, freezing bodies. I also probably jiggled more than a triathlete ought to….
The water was much warmer than the air when my wave was finally able to jump off the dock. Even though I ended up right in the middle of the pack, the start didn’t seem too rough. Throughout the swim, I had a really hard time sighting. Basically, I couldn’t see any of the buoys, so I just followed other folks in Orange swim caps. It really didn’t work out very well for me. I just could not get into a rhythm, and I think I was doing a good bit of zigzagging across the course. I turned in my slowest 750 swim in quite a while (17:33)…almost as slow as when I lost my goggles jumping off the dock at the Dextro Energy Tri in DC a couple of years ago. Really disappointing start to the day…and it makes me really question how nasty a 1500 m swim would have been. Looking at everyone else’s times, the course was possibly a bit long, but it still wasn’t a great feeling swim. Anyway, I shrugged it off as best I could and splashed my way through muddy grass and puddles to the TA.
In transition, I feebly tried to wipe the mud and grass off and dry my feet, but my towel was soaked, and despite being in a garbage bag my socks and bike shoes were also soaked and really difficult to get on. Anyway, got it done and splashed my way out of the TA in 2:58.
It thankfully stopped raining during the bike. Even though the course was only 11 miles long, it was nothing but rolling hills. While the grade wasn’t too steep on any of the hills, the constant up and down prevented any sort of rhythm. I was either going 10-14 mph up the hills, or 25-30 mph down the hills with nothing in between. I am generally not a terribly fast biker, but I was constantly passing people from the Sprint (and I like to think some from the Oly). It felt pretty good for a change to be the one doing the passing. I was passed a couple of times by folks with sexy bikes, but it wasn’t as commonplace as usual. I finished in 36:54 or 17.9 mph. Definitely a slowish avg speed on the bike, even for me, but I’ll take the mental victory of passing much more than I was passed!
Transition was again a sloppy jog through puddles and mud. I felt bad when I splashed a substantial amount of mud on someone I passed on the run-in, so I yelled a quick apology and on I went. After racking my bike, I had the hardest time getting my wet running shoes on. My legs felt great after the short bike, but both of my shoes refused to go on. After a long, long, frustrating battle with my wet shoes, I was on my way again in 2:20 (which was sneaking up on the slowest T2 of the race). Then to top it off, on the way out of transition, you were forced to run through a little lake with about 6 inches of standing water. Stupid rain.
Speaking of stupid rain, it returned with a vengeance during the run. It absolutely poured for nearly the entire run. The run course actually followed the bike course, so it was nothing but hills. At that point the rain was actually kind of nice, because it kept me cool as I hauled myself up the hills. Also complicating matters was the fact that it was an open highway, and we were running on the slanted shoulder the entire distance. Despite it all, I felt pretty good during the run. The only thing that really bothered me was a sharp pain that came and went on the bottom of my right foot. I assumed it was a blister forming from running on a slant while completely soaked. It really started to bother me after the turnaround. I was doing battle with a skinny 18 year old for most of the run. I passed him, I thought for good, at about mile 5, but that stupid pain in my foot acted up and forced me to change my gait a little bit. He also saw what I assume was his girlfriend, so he picked up the pace substantially and ran by me like I was standing still at about mile 5.5. Another frustrating moment in a frustrating day.
As it turns out, the pain in my foot was not a blister, but just plain idiocy on my part. I forgot my Road ID in my shoe. So I ran a 10k with the little metal name plate digging into my foot. Good work me! At least my foot could identify my emergency contact and blood type. I could feel the slight twinge of a cramp developing near the end of the race, but I just pushed through the finish. I just wanted to go home at that point and be done. I finished the run in 56:10 or a 9:04 mile pace.
Overall I would have finished 17th/24 in my AG, but I signed up as a Clydesdale because I embrace my linebacker build and am a realist about competing with folks who are naturally designed as endurance athletes. I finished as the 4th Clydesdale out of 8, so I just missed getting a fat guy medal!
All in all, it was a miserable day for a race. Credit to the organizers for actually being able to have the event, but it definitely wasn’t ideal for my first actual triathlon this season. I’m still not sure if I am just going to try and do a normal Oly in early October or push on and do the half. After that performance I am thinking that less might be more.
Good work choosing North East -- I debated doing the North East Tri vs. the Lum's Pond Tri that weekend. LPTD cancelled the swim and the bike due to the heavy rain and lightening. Instead, there was a 10k mud run. About 50% of the run was a cross country course through the woods, so that was a ridiculous (and fun) experience. It was a good time and the folks at Piranha Sports sent everyone a 50% off coupon for their next race, but it really wasn't the great pre-Nation's training tri I was hoping for.
For a moment, thought this was the IM Germany 2011 race report. But the Hurricane Irena Nor'Easter Triathlon narrative instead....Nice summary of awful conditions.