Grueling General Smallwood 2012
This was definitely an interesting race: I knew with the forecast of 106* it was going to be a challenge. A few months ago, I looked up the times of the top 3 finishers in my age group and set a goal to land within those times for each of the three legs of the race. Fortunately, I thought better of it, determining that with my long term goal of competing in (or just completing) a Half Ironman in October, I needed to make this race just a stop along the way. Determining to develop metabolic efficiency through maintaining lower intensity training session for 2 weeks about 2 months prior to the race limited my training as well.
Train I did, and I looked forward to racing my first triathlon since April of last year. About 3 weeks prior to the race, the DC Tri Club hosted a ‘bric-nic’ (a brick work-out, consisting of biking and running the course, followed by a picnic). It was great to get to experience some of the course and meet some other triathletes. A fellow DC Tri Club member(Chris, an Air Force pilot) rode with me for the last half of the bike ride that day, and it was nice to have the company since I hadn’t met anyone else from the tri club yet. I drove out to General Smallwood Park the night before the race to get my race packet and get one more look at the lay of the land. I prayed for divine appointments, and prayed to just have the grace to enjoy the race and do it as unto God, do MY best, knowing that triathlon is a gift that He has given me, and He enjoys watching me enjoy it (regardless of how fast I am/not). After leaving an hour later than I planned to get my race packet, making a stop along the way and 2 wrong turns, who was the only other athlete in the parking lot when I pulled up? My buddy Chris! We talked for a couple minutes then went our ways. It helped to see the course again: where the swim would be, to see the transition area and finish line smartly set up, drive the bike course, and sit in on the pre-race meeting. Set Up Events did a great job organizing this triathlon, prepping us for the heat, and warning us of the seaweed.
Race morning woke me up just after 4. All my gear and bike were packed in the van the night before, and I was out the door by 5:15. On the way to the race, I had a wonderful time worshiping God along with the radio. I knew that my time spent with Him all week was paying off. I had plenty of time once I got to the race to get set up and warmed up. Once again, Chris crossed my path… divine appointments. Still not sure what God has in mind with Chris, but He’ll’ let me know when I need to.
The water was a record 87*, but the swim was not as bad as I anticipated. I was concerned that I would be hot by the end of the swim, but the seaweed was the biggest grievance! At the beginning of the swim, every time I would brush against the seaweed, I would swim faster to get away from it. However, I finally settled into the swim as I found my pace through the murky green water, which was no different than the other triathlons with open water swims I have done. Swimming strait from buoy to buoy would have knocked a few minutes off my time and kept me out of some the seaweed!
I realized I had a flat tire the minute I began pedaling. That’s what I get for taking the rear tire off at 11pm the night before the race to make sure there wasn’t a tire liner in the tire to slow me down! I quickly turned my bike upside down, untangled the rear tire from the chain, took out the spare tube and CO2 cartridge, and went to work. I knew enough to partially inflate the spare to make it easier to put in the tire, but couldn’t get my CO@ cartridge to work! After asking several triathletes who sped by if they had a spare CO2, I ran my wheel and CO2 to the bike tent for help. They kindly gave me anther CO2, and I ran my little bike cleats back to my bike. Could not get that stupid tube in the tire for the life of me, and rules forbid accepting outside assistance. Thankfully, a kind gentleman talked me through the tube change, and even lent me an illegal hand. The new CO2 wouldn’t work either. “Lord, I’m sorry for the swear word I said when I realized I had a flat. I do purpose to keep a good attitude and race as unto you”. Back to the bike tent with wheel and CO2 in hand. Good thing too, because my spare was flat when the kind mechanic illegally inflated it with his bike pump for me. I probably pinched it when I was wrestling to get it in the tire (in my flustration, I forgot about pulling part of the tire over the side of the rim before trying to get the tube in!). Back to my bike as fast as my bike cleats will run, though at this point I’ve lost serious time as the temperature increases by the minute. The kind gentleman broke the rules again by helping me put the wheel back on properly. (I really can do this on my own, especially when I’m not in a hurry, however I see the need to practice changing the dang tires!) By now I have lost 23 precious minutes to my competition. I would have beat every one of them if it wasn’t for the flat tire Winking smile The ride was beautiful, and much of it well shaded. I passed several cyclists along the way, except for Mr. Sixty-Something year old. Saving some energy for the run seemed prudent, so I decided I’d pass him on the run. I drank both bottles of Hammer Nutrition fuel (Heed in one, and Perpetuem in the other) and felt good through the ride.
The run was fine, until I got to the first hill 1/4 mile into it. The same phrase passed through my mind as did in the Half Ironman I did 2 years ago: “These hills are meant for walking!” I was out of energy, and it was hot and humid. It’s amazing what gel, HEED, and a little ice from an aid station will do. I found my legs after walking up another hill, and hit the plod gear for most of the rest of the 6.2 miles, and ran past Mister Sixty-Something who passed me on the bike. Several of us smarter triathletes walked (ooops, I meant ran) in the shade on the opposite side of the road, stopping at every aid station for HEED, ice and electrolyte capsules. Even so, I had cramping in my knees I never experience before, and cramping in my right calf in the last 3/4 mile, which required walking and rubbing out. The run was brutal, but I finished. It was a PR(Personal Record)…. SLOWEST Oly ever!
I hung around for the awards, just so I could see how much slower than my fellow age groupers I really was. It was fun to swap stories with other triathletes, and high five a fellow DC Triathlon club member when she said ‘that was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life!’.
In summary, it was a tough race with a slow time, and all I could think of the next morning was that God has made me to do this, I’ll prepare better for next race, and how much I want to organize an Iron Prayer event for the Half Ironman in October (Rev 3 half Full in Columbia, MD). The joy and peace and clarity of mind I had (despite the physical fatigue) at church that morning was nothing short of God’s grace and confirmation that this is all part of His plans and purposes. I purposed to race as unto Him, and no age group award could satisfy me the way His presence did. “Run in such a way as to get the prize…” (1 Cor 9:24) I got it!