I wasn’t going to do this. Frankly, I was afraid. I’ve noticed myself slowing down ever so slightly as I endure the Year of the Ridiculous, work stress, and a lack of sleep.
But, after promises of free massages, no late registration fees, and ice cream, I folded. Plus iDaph always has the best t-shirts. Hands down.
The race: 200 yard pool swim, 17.5 mile bike, 5K run
It was raining this morning and unusually cool for August. Like 58 degrees. But up I got at 5:45, fed the fur burgers, ate a Bonk Breaker, and got some coffee. The race site was surprisingly easy to get to, only about 5 minutes off I 26. So most unusually, I was one of the first people there. Usually I’m testing the registration table to see if they actually shut down when they say they will.
I racked my bike in the parking lot transition. Small race, easy set up. Warmed up, took care of business, and went to the pool area.
The Swim: Short, Salty & Satisfactory
As a pool swim, this was a time trial start, meaning we lined up and started in intervals. Nice for avoiding punches to the face in the pool, but tough for judging how fast you are compared to others throughout the race. And it’s the only way to get 100 people through the swim.
The air in the pool deck was stifling. I mean starting to feel like a fainting goat stifling. More motivation to swim fast and get out of there. And I guess better than cold. Nonetheless the water felt awesome when I jumped in. I also felt surprisingly swift in the water. Exciting because after 30 years swimming experience, I only just grasped the high elbow concept last week. No joke.
The weirdest thing here was I swear I tasted salt. It was like swimming in cool saline solution. This just may have been my first encounter with a saltwater pool that wasn’t surrounded by overpriced margaritas and kettle drum music. And could only have helped with the buoyancy. I think my time was 3:35.
We all weaved our way through the pool, then ran out to T1. My transition was one of my smoothest this year. Helmet on, shoes on, out I went in about 40 seconds.
The Bike: Wet, Undulating, and Most Entertaining
The course was fun for a beast like me, lots of hills but plenty of fast stuff too. Overall, road conditions were pretty good, considering this is western NC and our roads basically suck goat eggs. Nearly 18 miles through Henderson County with virtually no traffic, at least for me.
The ride started up a hill, on what was to be the roughest road of the day. Luckily we were only on this road for a mile or two. I passed three or four people immediately, and sailed on. The roads were completely wet already, and a steady light rain commenced. I’m more of a cautious descender anyway (just not worth hitting a patch of gravel and eating pavement) but in the rain I play it really safe on the corners and downs steep hills. Maybe I lose a few seconds here and there, and roadies may tell me to learn to ride a freakin bike, but I say better to lose ten seconds using your brakes judiciously than lose fifteen minutes picking rocks out of your elbows.
The course continued on, up and down, and with a false flat here and there. Strange thing was, this false flat kept getting falser. And falser. Until I realized I had been fully duped into a legitimate climb. When I saw “You are STRONG!” painted in the road, accompanied by a disemboweled possum, I knew this was no roller. Up and up I grinded, in my big chainring, partly because I knew I’d lose momentum shifting down and partly because that’s how I roll, yo, all the while encountering motivational spray paint messages “you got this!” and “keep pushing” albeit without the creative flair of dead wildlife. But there was a guy in a leotard near the top, who made me laugh (and if you haven’t tried it, laughing while hauling ass on a bike ain’t easy) and was appreciated more than he may know.
I was feeling pretty good, considering the messy roads, and after cresting “Fat Ass Gap” the ride returned to rolly fun. Each turn was well marked, though blue paint maybe wasn’t the best hue on shiny wet asphalt, and the intersections were fully policed. Thank you Daphne.
I rolled into transition as the first female, and saw only four other bikes. Sweet. Turns out I was only 6 seconds off fastest cyclist out there, male or female.*
The Run: A Little Bit of Everything
The 5k course can be best described as what you might get if a cyclocross course mated with a hill climb. We started running down a steep grassy knoll, then continued on a gravel road. This was rocky, splashy, and more or less flat. The course then turned onto the road, where we went up. And up. And up. Nothing too terribly steep, but enough to slow the pace a bit.
The first aid station, about a mile into the run, was staffed by some of the most enthusiastic volunteers ever. I swear one guy was audible from a good half mile in either direction. Not complaining, in fact it was nice to have fair warning that I was nearing the aid station.
The final mile was grassy, muddy, and fun. It translates to a slower final mile, as maintaining traction on off-cambre wet grass in racing flats is not easy, but to be honest I had been a little too comfy with my pace throughout the run. No, I wasn’t jogging, but I’ve definitely run a little harder (or at least felt a little more like puking) in a sprint tri run. But it was so much fun running cross country in the rain.
The finish line was 3/4 way around a paved track, which allowed me to pick up a little speed and look a lot faster than I really am just in time for the finish line. Race over. The biggest bummer was that there was no time clock at the finish. Boo. I know it has no effect on my results, but it’s always fun to see those big red numbers greet you at the end of the road.
The Finish Line: Pretzel Ice Cream, Friends, and a Much Welcome Shower
Ironically, I eschewed the free massage that lured me to the race for a warm shower. Turns out, standing around in 60 degree rain soaking wet gets chilly after a while.
After showering and changing into my swanky new t shirt (I swear, iDaph shirts are the best. Cotton tees, men’s and women’s cut, and totally wearable designs. And never once have I received a pumpkin colored shirt at an iDaph race) I headed back to the finish area to eat a bit and wait for my awards.
The nice thing about local races is there’s always people you know. So I chatted all things training with Kelli, Julie, and Josh before heading over to get some hammer bars and free frozen yogurt. There were ten or so choices, but I picked pretzel because it sounded crazy enough to try and the girls serving it said it was good. It was good, but in no way tasted like pretzels. Hmm.
The awards came around, and I scored a handmade coffee mug & keychain and free compression socks for the overall win! Add to that a $50 gift card to Sycamore Cycles, and that’s not a bad pull!
Overall, I’m so glad I raced today. Not just for the swag but for the awesome course and fun crowd. There were a lot of first timers today, whom I admire because when it’s your first tri and it is cold and rainy, it must be really extra stinky. So way to be badasses, ya’ll!
And finally, thanks to all the great volunteers and race staff. You all rock.