Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Culpeper Sprint Tri Race Report

My brother and I drove down to Culpeper on Saturday afternoon and got to the packet pickup around 4.  There weren't a lot of people there, so we were able to get our stuff quickly.  I was slightly annoyed because they only had large women's shirts left.  I understand that these things are never perfect, but I was surprised that they were already out of small and medium women's shirts.  Yes, the international race had been that morning (and had the same shirt), but that race had only about 200 people in it compared to the almost 500 in the sprint.  We arrived about halfway through the afternoon packet pickup and there were huge lines at the race day pickup on Sunday morning.  So it seems like they ran out of the smaller sizes pretty early on.  Fortunately it's pretty small for a large so it's still wearable, though not my preferred fit.

Race shirt logo. Notice anything wrong?*

The pickup was held at a local bike shop so we both took advantage of this to purchase bigger, insulated water bottles.  Given the temperature predictions for Sunday, we decided it couldn't hurt to carry more water with us on the bike leg.

Pretty new bottle!

We left packet pickup and made the short drive to Mountain Lake State Park to check out the lake, transition area and course.  On the drive in it quickly became apparent how hilly the area was.  We got there, put our feet in the lake to see exactly what 85 degrees feels like (answer - hot) and located our rack in the transition area.  Numbers appeared to have been assigned alphabetically so we were on the same rack.  We were much closer to the bike exit and entrance than we were to the swim entrance and run exit, which we decided was a good thing.  The less running we had to do with our bikes, the better.  Since the transition was in a grassy area near the lake, it required a pretty long run up a grassy hill to the mount/dismount line on the road.

We then got back in the car and drove the 16 mile bike course.  The farther along we got, the more nervous I became.  It was all hills with hardly a flat stretch to be found.  To be honest, I was more nervous about the downhills and tight turns than I was about the uphills.  I'm still not confident enough on my bike at higher speeds and when I crashed it was on a curve that I didn't handle properly.  I was most nervous about one very steep downhill around mile 8 and then the finish.  To get back into the park, there was a tight right-hand turn at the bottom of a fairly steep hill.  On the way back to our hotel we also drove the majority of the run course which was not quite as hilly, but still had its fair share.

We had dinner at a local Italian restaurant that had been taken over by triathletes (we decided it had to be one of their best weekends of the year) and were back at our hotel and in bed relatively early.  The hotel was less than 10 minutes away from the park so we avoided a super early alarm.  We got up at 5:45, ate breakfast and were out the door by about 6:20.  We had a little over an hour to get set up before the transition area closed.  We added air to our tires and I discovered that my chain had somehow been pushed off the big front ring and onto the small one during transport, and I was fortunately able to fix that ahead of time (and get myself covered in grease in the process).  We were set up in plenty of time and had a chance to warm up in the lake.  This swim only confirmed what we had learned the day before, it was hot.

Since it was a relatively small race, there were only 5 swim waves.  My brother was in wave 1 with the 39 & under men and I was in wave 3 with the 39 & under women.  His wave started right at 8:00 and then I was off six minutes later (wave 2 was the 40 & over men).  The course was a triangle that we swam in a counterclockwise direction.  It took me a little while to figure out the best ratio of breathing to sighting, but I  feel like I managed to avoid too much weaving.  I could see a number of women in my wave ahead of me, but I felt like I was moving pretty well. By the time I finished the first side of the triangle and got to the turn buoy I had caught up to the back end of the white caps (wave 2).  It was along the second side of the triangle that I started noticing how hot it was in the water, but I tried to keep a good pace and pass white caps and a few red ones (my wave).  It was never so crowded that I couldn't get around people and I never got kicked or punched in the face.  When I came in towards the finish I tried to swim as long as possible since I had noticed on the way in that the bottom was somewhat rocky and I wanted to avoid hurting my feet.  Then I was out and running towards transition hoping that my lack of practice wouldn't hurt me too much!
Swim time - 13:52
Women - 30/152
Age group - 10/38
Not quite my goal but I'll take it given the heat and my total lack of open water practice.

T1 time - 2:03
Women - 76/152
Age group - 15/38
Given that I did absolutely no transition practice, I'll take the top 50%.

The timing pad was right at the transition exit so the long run up the grassy hill was included in the bike time. Immediately after the line was a short, steep downhill and I managed to get feet clipped in as I rolled down, before turning out onto the main road and heading uphill.  The course was hill after hill and I feel like I did a pretty good job of shifting gears so that I could maintain a good cadence and avoid standing up.  Not surprisingly people started passing me almost immediately and kept it up the whole time.  I forced myself to drink on any stretch that was even close to flat and just worked on keeping a steady pace.  I made it through the tight turns early on though I realized that I have no idea what I'm doing.  I'm sure a lot of it is practice, but I also need to read up on how to approach turns and what type of line to take.  The steep downhill I was nervous about in the middle turned out to be not nearly as bad as I was expecting and was actually kind of fun!  By around mile 10 or so I found myself consistently around the same people.  I would catch up to them on the uphill portions and they would go flying out ahead on the downhills.  So I clearly have the strength to get myself up, but totally lack the technique to get down quickly.  More to practice!  At the top of one of the last big hills I even joked with the woman I kept trading places with that we really should combine into one person.  I'm not sure how much she agreed with me.  And perhaps the fact that I could talk at the top of the hill means I wasn't working hard enough?  About 2/3 of the way through I thought I might be able to finish in under an hour, but I think my math was slightly off and I wasn't quite accounting for how much the later hills would slow me down.  I was surprised that I remembered most of the course from our preview drive and I was happy when I made the last turn onto the road that would take me back to the park entrance.  As I approached the downhill to the last turn I was a little nervous about slowing down enough to handle it (or turning at a higher speed).  They had even spray painted "SLOW DOWN" on the road.  I tried feathering the brakes on the way down because I didn't want to ride them too much, but didn't slow down as much as I wanted.  At the last minute I felt like I couldn't make the turn and went past it instead.  Could I have actually made it? I'm not sure, but I didn't want to crash into the gate or guardrail so I didn't attempt it.  I had a flashback to my bad fall and couldn't do it.  So I had to stop, turn my bike around and head back in.  As I came back by the volunteer directing traffic she said that there had been a  earlier crash and she was glad I had avoided a wipeout.  The unfortunate part to this (besides the embarrassment) was that I had no momentum heading into the short steep uphill before the dismount line.  Then I was flustered about that and trying not to cross the dismount line on my bike and almost wiped out.  I got my foot out in time to not actually fall over, but I ended up in a squat with my bike more or less on the ground.  It was noticeable enough that multiple people asked if I was okay.  A glorious way to end the ride.

Time - 1:05:49
Women - 102/152
Age group - 23/38
I didn't quite hit my desired goal of faster than 15mph in my overall time, but I think that I did actually do that when I was riding.  If I could take out the cross country run with my bike and the minute or so it took me to get back on course, I think my riding time was definitely less than 1:04.  Clearly, though, this is by far my weakest leg and I have a lot of work to do if I want to be competitive

T2 Time - 1:25
Women - 46/152
Age group - 10/38

The first portion of the run was on grass so I just tried to settle into a decent rhythm.  Since I knew I probably wouldn't be able hydrate well enough on the bike, I decided to run with my handheld even though it was only a 5k.  I think it was the right call and I started drinking immediately.  My legs felt pretty trashed from the bike so I did my best to keep my pace sub-9.  I was able to pass a few people, but I definitely wasn't making a huge surge like I would have hoped.  The course was an out and back so I kept trying to keep an eye out for my brother who I knew was somewhere on the course ahead of me.  He was not quite as far ahead as I had thought he would be, which made me wonder if I had missed him (there was a short out and back on a side street early in the course so I thought I could have been on that tangent when he was heading back on the main road).  Fortunately I had not and it gave me a bit of boost to see a familiar face.  Soon the race was almost over and I was back on the grass.  I didn't want to try to kick it in until the very end since I was pretty sure I didn't have many reserves.  Another women tried to pass me about 200 yards before the finish.  I decided to go for it at that point and fortunately managed to stay head of her to the end!

Run time - 27:10
Women - 68/152
Age group - 17/38
I was hoping to place a little bit better here, but I knew that based on my recent runs I probably wouldn't be able to go as fast as I had in my first race.  I am glad that I managed to finish with an average pace under 9:00.

Final time - 1:50:17

Other than my issues at the end of the bike course, I'm pleased with how this race went.  It was a lot of fun to do a race with my brother and it was a beautiful (though challenging) course.  The race was well run and small enough to never feel overly crowded.  I'm not sure how I would manage in a tri with 1000s of people!  I think I did well considering that I did very little hill training.  I certainly have a long way to go on the bike, but I know I did improve this summer (even if this race doesn't necessary reflect that time wise).  I also need to figure out how to keep up my running speed while adding in biking and swimming workouts.

*This race was in Virginia! Oops!
I guess they used the same template for the Maryland Tri Series races and
someone forgot to make all of the necessary changes?


B.o.B. said...

great job! i would have done the EXACT same thing on the bike. seriously. i was like "is she me?" lol nothing to be embarrassed about, it's better you did what you did then whipe out. and speedy run after all that! WTG!

amy said...

Congrats! This sounds like a great race, even with the hot temps and scary downhills. I have the exact same problem - maybe we should start going to the hill rides but focus on the downs? I tend to ride my breaks the whole time and am really timid, especially if there are turns. I'm pretty sure my race this weekend has the same bike in configuration, complete with slow down signs. I'll be thinking of you!

J said...

Great job on the Tri! I would have been so nervous on the turns and downhills! I am sure as you practice more you will get better!

Elizabeth said...

Woohoo! Fantastic job! Your placements are very impressive. Congrats!

Morgan said...

Well done chica and congrats! You learned some valuable lessons out there and still managed to kick major booty!

Anonymous said...

Nice work!

I think descending absolutely is a skill that takes confidence and that you have to practice, just like climbing. Lots of butt-in-saddle time should do it :)

ultrarunnergirl said...

Funny how so many of these races seem to have little glitches ...
Nice race. Every one you do gives you increased confidence for the next!

Beth said...

Congrats!!! That sounds like a tough course.

LAPT said...

Great job!!! That area of VA is reallypretty, too. Ummm and I carry a small hanhrld for 5ks because I get so thirsty!!! And that's not withswimming and biking first... :-)

Stephanie said...

I think you did an awesome job. Congrats! You totally rocked this and placed really well. You should be proud. I think once you read up more on the bike stuff and decide if you really want to go for it, you will be all set.

Katie said...

yikes, sounds like a rough course. nice job and congrats!

Sarah said...

That sounded like a hard course! Great job on all the hills though!

I need to get one of those hand held water bottles. They looks nice.

Jon said...

Congrats! Any more this season?

Lauren said...

congrats! i also would have done the same by missing the turn instead of making a sharp turn on the bike.

i love the shirt screw up :)

Page said...

DANG! Nice job on your tri and you played it smart and safe. That shirt is CLASSIC! HA!

Anonymous said...

Um, that shirt is hysterically funny.

Good job with a race that tested you- sometimes, the races that test us most, teach us most. Oh, so obvious that I work in schools!

Anonymous said...

GREAT Job! I love the pictures, the water bottle and your gritty determination! Oops is right!