In four years of triathlon, I’ve never had a race that went according to plan. Sure I’ve podiumed a few times in small age groups, and I’ve finished most of the races I’ve started. But I’ve never had a race where my training (and not the lack thereof) led me to set goals that stretched me, and I would have to put together a good day in order to reach them, and then I reached them. That is until this past Sunday at Giant Eagle Olympic
Race Setup: This is a point to point race that stretches from a Northeastern Columbus suburb and ends just across from Nationwide Arena. A 2 loop counter-clockwise swim totalling 1500 meters. You exit the water to a semi-clean transition (they provide bags but let you set up like normal so long as everything winds up in the bag when you’re done) to the bike. The bike begins with 5 miles of mostly flat followed by 5 miles of slow climbing, which deposits you near the top of Columbus proper for a ~14 mile descent into the heart of downtown. A slightly less clean transition (especially if you’re one of the later folks to arrive) leads you to a slightly hilly run (lots of little ups and downs, but nothing as drastic as say Timberman’s course), which winds around the riverfront area of downtown before finishing under the old penitentiary arch.
The swim: The water was just barely wetsuit legal, but I had days before decided I was going without. I started at an easy pace to make sure I didn’t go out to hard, and I found I was able to sustain pretty easily. In fact for anything above a sprint, this is the first race I was able to swim without rest stops every 200 or so yards. I only had a couple hiccups; I paused briefly a couple times to sight more clearly; I took a mouthful of nasty lake water that almost made me puke, and I took the worlds longest midrace pee right after starting lap 2. I shit you not, that pee cost being under my goal time because none of my other stops were more than a couple seconds. That pee was at least 45 seconds to a minute. And I had already gone twice before the start.
Swim Goal: 45 minutes
Actual Swim: 45: 46
Things to improve: Get wider goggles for open water swim sighting, practice swimming laps counter clockwise, keep pushing distance
T1: No wetsuit meant an easier recovery than normal from the swim, and once I found my bike, I was ready pretty quickly, but then I had to get all the swim stuff and morning clothes in the bag and tidy up my transition before leaving. I’m guessing that cost me about a minute.
T1 Goal: 3 minutes
Actual T1: 4:00 (this is a close estimation as T1 timing failed so it lumped into bike official time)
Things to improve: practice transition, getting shoes on without sitting, jogging with bike
Bike: We drove the bike course the night before the race, so I knew what to expect and once we got past the first 8 miles or so, I knew the roads pretty well from the years spent living in Columbus. Cycling is where living in North Carolina has really paid off; what used to feel like big climbs in the past, I now just gear down and spin my way slowly uphill. The first few miles were pretty easy, then the climbing came, and with one exception that felt pretty easy as well. There’s a .5 mile long climb at mile 7 that I geared down pretty far in order to make it up without taking too much out of my legs. It was during that hill that I passed maybe the first person I’ve ever passed (aside from Rachelle) going uphill.
A couple miles later, I started the downhill run to downtown. I felt like Chrissie Wellington, grinning like a crazy person. I put some good efforts in as the course wasn’t completely downhill, but I also was trying to conserve energy for the run. I had the cardio to thank a lot of the police and course volunteers (there were TONS! A felt safe throughout the entire bike even on main traffic arteries). Riding by OSU and many other places I’d visited so many times, before cornering right by the arena, was a pretty cool feeling. Even better was feeling fast and strong. Great bike course, fast but with enough bumps to make you work a little.
Bike Goal: 1:33
Actual Bike: 1:28:01 - Easily a PR for 24.3 miles, and a 16.6 MPH average! An exceeded goal, and by several minutes!
Things to improve: I still coast too much on flats, I need to keep building for consistent cardio to keep pedaling
T2: This felt a lot faster than it actually was. I had to find my bike rack, get all my run gear out of the bag, switch shoes, fight with laces, get out of bike gear and head out. I was walking in transition, and there was a long chute to get out of T2 to point runners the right direction. I went with short socks instead of CEP compression to save time.
T2 Goal: 3 minutes
T2 Actual: 5:10
Things to improve: the clean transition still flummoxes me. Dump the stuff, put it on and leave. Run, don’t walk, even if you’re tired. No excuse to waist time in transition.
Run: Things had to come back to reality after a strong 2/3rds of the race, which they did, but again my training showed itself. When I blew up at Belews Lake, I wound up with a 1:41 on a day that wasn’t that hot (though the course was hillier). I started the run pretty strong, alternating 1/4 mile run/walk intervals. I managed that through the first 2 1/2 miles when running started to feel really awful, so I just tried to stay close to a 15 min/mi pace as I walked up and down the little climbs of the course.
There was a point where I thought maybe I’d gone of course (you’d think I’d be used to being the only one out there after all these races). It wasn’t just me; a woman who had passed me came walking back towards me asking if we were still going the right way. We were but I certainly understood her concern. The heat and humidity were pretty intense by this point, and I was glad to have run in the Carolina heat this summer. As I crossed the finish line some of my Eleonore Rocks teammates were waiting for me with high fives at the ready and I actually jumped up and stomped on the timing mats as I went through.
Run Goal: 1:31
Run Actual: 1:36:21
Overall: I know it’s a slow time for a lot of people, but for me beating my goal of 4 hours feels like a huge success. I trained this summer with this and Cedar Point in mind, and the first half of that goal is now complete. I worked hard, but I know I can work HARDER. I didn’t focus much at all on my run, I didn’t do enough bricks, and I certainly have room for improvement in even the areas I did well. I will say that I thought I handled the bike quite well, and I beat 20 peoples bike splits, which is more than usual. But I know I should be able to do it all faster and I’m going to. A big thank you to my friend Chuck who was kind enough to host Rachelle and I for the weekend, put up with our early bed times, demanding food requests, and getting up early to be our own personal shuttle driver to and from the race. (More on Chuck tomorrow)
Overall Goal: 4 hours
Overall Actual: 3:59:20 ! (skin of my teeth!)
I missed the big group shot because I was still racing, but was lucky enough to get a picture with a few of my teammates who were waiting around for race results.