race report: columbia triathlon

In the mid-April, I had a dream that I had a triathlon the next day, and I forgot to train for it. This was about a month before TriRock (May 12), five weeks before the Columbia Triathlon (May 20). Sure, I wasn’t ready yet … but I had plenty of time!

Well, that month went by fast. While I did fit in some swimming and bike workouts, it didn’t feel like enough. And after a pretty rough  TriRock 500-meter swim, I was a little concerned about the 1500 meters I’d be swimming in Columbia. I also knew Columbia’s 25-mile bike course was very hilly, and my longest training ride was 18-miles, mostly flat.

Still, I had a pretty good attitude going into the race. This was my first Olympic-distance triathlon, so I had nothing to compare it to. Automatic PR!

When race day came I wasn’t as nervous as I expected. I was really glad I did TriRock the week before, because I knew exactly what I needed to pack for race day.  I was able to get my gear together quickly the night before.

I had a very early morning on race day, even though my swim wave didn’t start until after 8am. I was in the second-to-last swim wave, with the first starting at 6:40am. We had to be out of transition by 6:45, and I had to factor in potential traffic since there’s one road in to the park. This is the same venue as the Iron Girl triathlon, and I was prepared for cars to be backed up for quite a while, but I got into the park pretty quickly.

I had plenty of time to get my transition area set up, pump tires, get body marked, put on sunscreen and eat my peanut butter sandwich. And then it was time to head to the start!

Of course I had a lot of time to kill. Much of it was spent in the bathroom line. Sure they had plenty of port-o-pots, but there was an actual bathroom, too. I decided that was the better option. In line, I ran into a woman who was racked near me at TriRock. We chatted to pass the time then, and did the same here.

The wait didn’t seem nearly as long as I expected, and before I knew it, we were getting in the water!

I knew ahead of time that the lake temperature was nearly 71 degrees. I was pretty happy about that since I was pretty sure most of my TriRock swim troubles were because of the cold water.

I’m also happy to report that I was right about that hunch. I felt amazing during the swim! It was still a little rocky at the start — I don’t like to be crowded!  But once the fast swimmers pulled away and I got a little room, I settled into a pretty comfortable stroke.  I actually really enjoyed my time in the water.

And when I got out and looked at my watch, I was in shock. I figured in a worst-case scenario, I’d probably finish the swim in 45 minutes — my slowest Iron Girl swims took 30 minutes (1000 meters), and my slow TriRock 500 meters took nearly 15.

My swim was 34:23. Wow!

I jogged over to transition and stripped off my wetsuit in a reasonable amount of time. It didn’t take long to get my shoes and helmet on and grab my bike. And I was off!

Parts of this course are familiar because of Iron Girl, but I was happy to learn one of that course’s worst hills was not included in Columbia’s course. Of course they replaced it with a bigger hill!

Yeah, that was pretty tough. There was one incline in particular that I underestimated (I believe it was that little one after mile 10). I didn’t shift my gear low enough, and got to a point where I could barely move my pedals. I really thought I was going to fall over! I was even watching the grass to my right wondering if I should head off the road for a soft landing … Fortunately, I managed to keep moving and stay upright. At least nobody was near me at the time, so  I wouldn’t have had any witnesses if I did tip over!

Even though it was a hard ride, I had a great time on the course. The weather was perfect, and the course is beautiful. Lots of farmland and amazing views.

I’ve only ever ridden 25 miles or more three times before — two rides of 28 and 30 miles on my hybrid bike on vacation last year, and a 25-mile recovery ride with a friend after her first half ironman. All three of those rides were pretty slow, so I set my worst-case scenario pace pretty low. I figured I’d be happy to finish the ride under two hours.

I finished in 1:41:29.  Pretty slow when compared with the other racers, but pretty great for me considering just a handful of outdoor training rides and minimal hill training!

After dismounting my bike, I jogged my bike back to my transition area, accidentally knocking over the bike next to mine. Oops! No time to fix! (I got back to transition before her post-race and put it back before she noticed!)

I was feeling a little discombobulated as I started to take off my hydration pack … oh wait, I still want that! I still managed to change shoes, put on my visor and start running without losing too much time.

My legs didn’t feel too bad as I started the run. I kept waiting for the jello-legs to set in, but I felt good! Well, when we weren’t running up hills …

This course was pretty tough, too. I was familiar with some of the hills from the Iron Girl course, and the additional three miles added plenty more. My legs felt surprisingly good the whole time, but the hills wore me down. I gave up and started walking up them (as did most of the other athletes on the course!), but I was able to keep moving at a decent pace. Actually, at one point I was walking faster than a girl who kept running uphill. I knew I made the right choice to walk!

The run was the only part where I had some expectations. Running is what I do, and I know my 10K pace! But I also knew that this was not going to be my best 10K, and set reasonable expectations. I hoped I’d be able to finish under an hour.

Run time: 58:39.

With all my worst-case scenarios plus transition time, I was looking at close to four hours. I’d say this was a success!

overall time:  3:21:28.21
overall place: 1327 out of 1696
division place: 71 out of 96
gender place: 377 out of 564

Not nearly as good as my TriRock stats … but far from last!

This is a tough course, and has more experienced triathletes and fewer first-timers. The numbers seem about right — I know I have a lot of room for improvement!

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