This was my 4th year in a row racing the Columbia Triathlon, but first time as a pro. It’s a local race about 30 minutes from home, and a frequent site of training rides. I really enjoy this race as there are always a lot of friends/training partners and familiar faces racing and the course is very challenging, but beautiful, and the race staff always have a way of making sure every participant has a great experience! The day before the race I did my pre-race workout then headed up to packet pickup with Esther and Chris. On the way we met up with friends Sean and Lindsey (fellow pro) for fajitas and made it to the pro meeting with 3 minutes to spare, followed by packet pickup. Then it was home to get all our gear ready for the race, have some dinner, and time for bed (why does the entire pre-race day always seem to become consumed by pre-race prep?)
More often than not, the week before a race I begin to have random aches, pains, and issues that would otherwise be alarming did this sort of thing not happen before almost every race and then end up being fine on race day. Before a couple races in the past, my back has seized up when I would move a certain way, or I would wake up with shin pain or plantar fascia pain (all of which are issues I’ve never dealt with in the past). Before this race, as usual I developed a lot of soreness in various parts of my right leg. I don’t fully understand why this happens but I’ve come to accept that this is a normal occurrence in my pre-race routine, take care of the affected areas as appropriate, pray for no issues on race day, and trust that I will feel OK for the race!
Race morning came pretty early at 4am. After hitting snooze once I got up, made a cappuccino and orange juice, and gathered my powerbar and Gatorade to eat in the car on the drive up. I’m still experimenting with pre-race nutrition but I think this combination did the trick- ended up having the best energy I’ve had during a race with no stomach issues! When we arrived at transition I set up all of my gear except my bike, said hi to my parents who had decided to come down for the race, then returned to the car to get out my trainer and warm up on the bike. I find that for Olympic distance races, getting in a good warmup on the bike is essential for me, otherwise my legs don’t feel warmed up until about halfway through the bike– but this is logistically difficult on the roads with darkness and race traffic. So, for the first time I decided to try bringing my trainer to the race site. I got in a good 15 minute warmup before heading down to the swim start. This was a great decision, and my legs felt the best they’ve ever felt in an Olympic distance race and I felt ready to go from the start.
The water temp was a chilly (but non-wetsuit legal for pros) 71, and male and female pros were to start in the same wave 10 minutes ahead of the elite amateur wave. The swim start was pretty uneventful… I avoided getting kicked and was able to draft off some people for the first 200 meters or so before getting separated (still working on the drafting thing!) Overall this is a great swim—the lake is calm and the buoys are easy to see with only two turns on the whole course. I could see someone close ahead of me for about half the swim but then fell back a bit more. I tried to focus on swimming efficiently and applying the new techniques I had learned in the past few weeks before the race. Given that it was a non-wetsuit swim for pros, my swim time of 25:00 was about what I expected, and given that I’d been working mainly on swim technique with only one fast swim in the past month (and didn’t feel overly tired at the end of the swim) I feel like I have made a bit of progress there (though definitely want / need to make a lot more!)
Coming out of the swim, someone yelled at me that I was in 8th place. I grabbed my bike and ran up the hill out of transition. Immediately after exiting and preparing to mount my bike, I noticed that my chain had dropped during the run through transition…. I stopped to get it back on which cost me a bit of time but I hoped not much. My immediate goal was to start riding at a good pace and track down as many people as possible. I thought I was capable of finishing the bike in 1:06 or a bit less, and my strategy was to keep an appropriately hard effort from the start. About 8 miles in I passed one girl and toward the end of the bike passed one more, putting me in 6th, with a bike split of 1:06– 2 minutes faster than my bike split on this course last year, and the fastest female bike split of the day.
When I got into T2 I discovered that my fellow rack-mates had completely taken over my space on the bike rack – nice! Instead, I threw my bike at the end of the rack and reached for my running gear which was now underneath one of the bikes. This made of a slower T2 than I would have liked, but I tried to quickly transition and get myself out on the run course. Early on in the run, I passed one female and then at about mile 2.5, passed another putting me in 4th where I remained for the rest of the race. The run course is brutally hilly but if mentally prepared for it, it can actually be pretty fun! I decided not to wear my garmin for this race as it’s pretty big and bulky especially in the water, but tracked my approximate mile splits on my watch and tried to give it a good effort and pace off of any males from the elite amateur wave that passed by. The temps were getting warm throughout the run and I kept pouring cold water on my head which helped a little. At the top of the last big hill, where the run is really starting to hurt a lot, you can hear the finish line (about 3/4 mile away) and hear the announcer, which is great motivation to push to the finish. I crossed the line in 4th, to see Lindsey doing her post-race interview- she had won the race! She put together a very inspiring performance in her very first race back since 2009!
Overall I was happy with my race– I finished with the 4th fastest pro run split and 4th place, and my time was about 1 minute faster than last year even with a non-wetsuit swim this time, which is encouraging given that my running (and biking, to some extent) has gotten a much slower start this year compared with last year due to a lingering hamstring injury. I also ended up in the money (top 6 receive cash) and the bike prime. As an added bonus, I had a lot of friends and family there at the race to share it with! After the race and awards, we all went to eat at one of my favorite organic restaurants which happens to be a couple miles from the race course- Great Sage- and had some great food there and a great time!
Up next: FFT Pro Development Team Camp (Memorial Day weekend) and Eagleman 70.3 on June 12th!