Monday, May 18, 2009

Columbia Triathlon - Another Rainy Race!

After many years of racing, I finally headed up to the northeast for the Columbia Triathlon (in Ellicot City, Maryland). Why did I go up to this race? Well, I did Eagleman 70.3 last year (run by same crew) and I really enjoyed this one; so, I figured I'd 'go shorter' and try their 'sister race' with the Columbia Triathlon which is put on in May. This race has actually run for 28 years. However, the venues are VERY different! Eagleman is in Cambridge, but you are looking at pancake flat and, at least in '08, HOT. This year in Columbia, it was cool and rainy (I am seeing a trend thus far...rain at every race!) and lots of hills! But, I do like hills and assuming I say upright on the bike, rain does not bother me too much either.

I had a wonderful homestay, the Schofields, who lived literally one mile from Centennial Park where the race took place. They were incredible; very accomodating, and to make matters more exciting, their 3 kids (ages 13, 15, and 17) were doing a relay competing with their dad! Unfortunately, dad came out on top. Well, unfortunately depending on how you look at it; fortunately for the longevity of (all of us) aging atheltes! He had a great race, doing a PR on the course...

I arrived Friday late morning and went straight to their house; relaxed, ate pizza, had a beer and enjoyed meeting their family that evening. Saturday was the typical, I rode towards the course but only a total of about 30 minutes, so not enough to really 'see' it; then got in the car and drove it later. I NEVER DO THIS. As in, I think this is the first time I have EVER driven a course. It was good, I guess, kind of boring... but I figure you have to be on your toes anyway so whether you do or do not drive it, you better keep your eyes peeled on race day. There were a few winding turns and a few short hills that were good to be prepared for (ie: knowing when to go into a turn in the small ring), so I am glad I drove it. We had a meeting @ 4:00 then I came back, drank some wine, ate some spaghetti and awaited my 4 am alarm. I have never liked the night before a race, and I doubt I ever will. In all honesty, I despise it and wonder why I do this stuff! Every time the night before a big race; I have the same thoughts.

Sunday was rise and shine at 4 am for a 6:45 start time. I arrived to the site at about 5:30, to a slow steady drizzle. Good thing was it started to get light pretty early, bad thing was the rain ensued. We were told it was a non-wetsuit swim, so I was able to try out my new Zoot speedsuit which felt great. I meandered over to the swim start and we all crept into the 71-degree water at about 6:40, awaiting our 'deep water' start...promptly we were off at 6:45.

We were sent off with the men, which made for a bit of a washing machine swim, but after a couple of minutes I found my 'groove'. The sighting was very easy; clear morning and calm water. As usual, I felt stronger as I went but I had no idea where any women were in relation to me. Until I was about 2/3 of the way through, then I saw whomI believed to be Rebeccah Wassner behind/next to me. I was pulling her along! Which is fine, she was in a smart position... that is part of racing! But, I was stoked to realize that I was likely the leading woman at this point. Rebeccah is on fire right now, so I figured I could not be having a bad day thus far. Can we just call it after the swim? =)

We exited and it was she, her twin sister and myself all 1-2-3. I felt strong and ready to roll on the bike. This course is beautiful, but the day was rather rainy so I kept myself pretty focused on the roads. I was passed by both Rebeccah and her sister Laurel within a few miles and then got passed again. This all happened before the half-way point, but I just kept on hammering as much as I could. My mantra to keep motivated is "Keep them in sight". Please don't laugh at this; it's what I gotta do to work harder on the bike! Oh, the day I'll pass someone and they'll say that about me... anyhoo, back to the race. I did feel a bit 'flat', and while I like racing in cool conditions, it probably makes the muscles a bit tighter. In any case, no excuses; I felt good but not terribly strong. I am hoping that my body/legs are just adapting to a higher cycling volume than I am used to. After many rolling hills and beautiful farmland scenery, I neared the end of the bike (ya-hoo!) and was happy to still have been in 4th at this point; well, 1st or 2nd would have been better, but I had to make due.

This was the most exciting part of the race. I dismounted, ran into transition (down a steep grass hill) into the wet, grassy transition area. I made it down the hill alright, but then when I got to my transition rack, my foot slipped out from under me on a muddy spot and I went flying! I felt right on my bum and my bike went down too. I jumped back up, kind of laughed at myself (or maybe I said a few choice words? that is more likely) and threw the bike on the rack, getting my racing flats and getting out of there. As I started the run, I had to smile... this is racing! It was probably somewhat entertaining for the spectators, and I thought to myself, "quick recovery!" Kind of made me want to do an Xterra; mud is fun.

The run was really cool, we ran down a path alongside the lake and then up a big hill, back down it and then into neighborhoods. I will say, there was very little 'flat' on this run course! But I love these kinds of races; they become a race of strength and a mental challenge, since you can never really relax. It was windy and hilly and challenging. I felt great, and the longer I ran, the better I felt. I felt like my legs wanted to go faster than I was able to make them go; does that make sense? They kind of felt like wheels. Interesting. I was able to hold my position and when I saw the mile 5 marker, I really tried to push myself. I cannot recall too many races (no matter the distance) whereby I have been able to do this. Perhaps a good sign of my endurance right now? However, as always the finish was nice sight to see and it was great to see all of the spectators on the grassy knoll at the end.

Thanks to Rob Vigorito, race director and the 600 volunteers out there who made this event happen! Post-race, I don't recall ever having gotten much colder than I did here. The winds kicked up and the temps had to of dropped into the 50's! Crazy. I was told that I had finished 4th overall, about a minute out of 3rd. I really wanted to be Top 3 or even better here, but I knew that I put all I had into this race on the day and that is all we can ask of ourselves. Thanks again to my awesome homestay, the Schofields, for allowing me to be so comfortable for the race weekend and everyone else out there competing in the cool, rainy conditions. These are the days that make us mentally tough! Coming from Austin where most days 90-100, I cannot complain.

Next up is a trip back home to Indiana this weekend; Derick and I will enjoy chilling out at my parents cabin. I imagine the weekend will include a few trail runs, lake swims, and much too much wine (or is that possible?) seeing that my Uncle Del is coming. When he is around, it seems our wine glasses are never empty... ah well, life could be worse!
Thanks for reading!