I think that the one most amazing thing about race is that I even had a race day. Somehow, I’d forgotten to set my primary alarm, which I am guaranteed to hear, especially on an important morning. I’d set my secondary alarm which, since it’s ~20 years old, has about a 10% chance of it crowing (it’s a rooster alarm!) + me hearing it (poor rooster is really old).
So, I got up on time, hooray! Even if I’d gotten up an hour later (when my real alarm rang), it’s still feasible I could have gotten to the race on time. And that’s the beauty of a hometown race- it’s so close! No worries about getting there, getting back, paying for a hotel, or forgetting to pack something essential before the trip. And I loved getting to the race on my own- no bumming a ride from a friend, no taxi, no dependency on anyone else. Sure, running (which I am currently unable to do) provides me with that giddy feeling, that incredible high, but total self-sufficiency also does that. While it might have been much easier to just hop in a car and have someone else drive me to the race, it was fun to grab a CaBi bike and have a funky, bumpy ride down to West Potomac Park. Just so you know, it’s really, really dark at 5am; the bike light didn’t help much when I was passing by Arlington Cemetery. Pitch-black, pothole-filled road, and going downhill on a really heavy bike. Yeah, that’s got disaster written all over it. Somehow, maybe by slowing down to a crawl, I made it out of that stretch and was soon crossing the border into DC.
Ok, and then I’m finally at the actual race! It was hilarious to be pedaling on by the transition area and lots of athletes on my way to the closest CaBi docking station- less than a quarter-mile from transition! Sweet!
It had rained, LOTS the evening before, so everything was a bit soggy. But it was nothing like last year, when there had been downpours the entire week prior and the transition area had looked ripe for mud-wrestling. In 2011, the swim had been cancelled and we instead began by slip-slopping into transition to get our bikes and slip-slopping out. It was gross. Not the case this year! It was still really dark, and of course it never takes very long to set up one’s own transition area, but there’s the requisite fussing about and making sure the bike isn’t all wacky.
I then met up with fellow PTO Tri Clubbers Charles, Kang, and Justin. A guy from MarathonFoto came by and we got a cuhh-raazy shot (but I’m not posting it here because it’s copyrighted, and I don’t like breaking rules), and then eventually it was time for the race to begin!
Or so I thought. The race was scheduled to begin at 7am (I think it actually began at 7:07) but, being such a popular race, there were a million and a half waves. Or maybe ~33. Still, being in wave 28 meant waiting a loooong time, like an hour and ten minutes after the official race start to jump in the water. Kind of takes away the excitement when you know that, by the time your own race starts, some of your friends are halfway done with their’s. Oh well.. that’s what I get for being a woman. Pssst, Race Director- next year put men exclusively in the later waves, and women first!!
The swim: in the past, we’ve always had an in-water start. But in the past, the swim hasn’t been in time-trial format; rather, the entire wave has started at once. This time, we lined up on the dock six at a time, and jumped in. It was only a few inches, but still. I never jump in the water, like when I’m at the pool. I always slide in like a granny, because I still don’t know how to make my goggles behave properly. That’s one of my biggest problem- the goggles don’t keep their seal, water starts seeping in and, by the time I get out, my contact lenses are foggy, which makes me stumble around like a drunken fool. As for the swim itself, I think I did reasonably well (for myself). Still a slow time, but my fastest yet, and that’s without a wetsuit. Yay for small victories! It definitely helps to have gigantic buoys every 100 meters so I don’t stray off course; although in past years, I’ve let the current carry me waaaay out on the return leg. Not this time! I swam consistently, stayed right by the buoys, and was able to draft someone for a couple of seconds. Those couple of seconds were amazing! Going fast so effortlessly- I need to do that more often! Well, I swam so close to the buoys that I almost overshot the 1200m one. Imagine looking up and seeing a huge orange floaty thing RIGHT in front of you. Hehe…
It was fun swimming around a whole bunch of people and hitting/getting hit by them. Like organized chaos 🙂 It was neat to, every so often, see a woman glide by me. But… it was super-cool on those rare instances when I passed someone! The water felt great but I swallowed too much, precisely because there were so many people around me splashing everywhere. Oh well, I’m sure it’s got some vitamins in it… at the very least, can’t make me worse than I already am.
T1: making my way up the dock and through the chutes. Somehow, I was able to manage an old-lady jog to my bike. Because I was sans wetsuit, it didn’t take very long to get all my bike gear in place, and I also didn’t contend with putting my gloves on. I’d had this brilliant idea, just the night before, that I’d put them on while I was riding my bike. Now, I’d never done this before, not even in training, and one big no-no is doing something new on race day. Well, I raced out of transition with my gloves in the front bag, so I guess I was going to give it a go.
I was surprised to see that my T1 time was under a minute. As it was for most people. Huh. I guess the whole jog up from the river wasn’t timed.
The bike: Like every bike leg of every triathlon I do (unless the swim is cancelled), I started out with cloudy vision and weird-feeling eyes. Contact lenses + water != fun. I had decided it wasn’t be challenging enough to steer myself with fuzzy vision around lots of other cyclists, so I also attempted to put my gloves on, hahaha. I won’t say there wasn’t any swerving on my part, but I will say that I didn’t hit anyone or anything. If I’m going to do this glove-thing again, I should practice on my rides, no? The bike course was nothing new, since this year was my fourth time doing Nation’s, but first time not running 🙁 Since I wouldn’t be running, in hindsight, I should have pushed a lot harder on the bike. Especially since it was a primarily flat course. But I was a little too conservative- I’m not even sure why.
About a quarter-mile before Mile 4, there was a guy, a volunteer, waving his arms in the air, and cyclists appearing to aggregate just ahead of me. Huh? What’s going on? Oh, someone had crashed; not pretty. I think it had just happened, but the other dude and ridden away. At least that’s what I think I overheard as I passed by that small crowd. The crash victim didn’t look too good- blood all over his face. Ick. Compared to that, there’s no reason to fuss at having to slow down to nearly a complete stop, and then going on. Any time that was lost was for a legitimate reason, and not because someone missed a turn like at Luray (oops!). As I continued on, I could see emergency vehicles coming down from (I presume) Sibley Hospital to aid and transport the guy who’d crashed. The crash happened right in front of Georgetown, so it made me wonder why the emergency vehicles were coming from the west.
Riding on Clara Barton Parkway wasn’t SO frightening, mainly because a significant chunk of people were already gone (remember I the race 70 minutes after the official start). People were still going really fast, some passing by VERY close to me. One obvious sign that I wasn’t putting enough power to the pedal was that some women on bikes that at least looked like hybrids, and wearing sneakers, were keeping up with and/or passing me. Oh, shamefulness- no way should I be letting that happen!! You have no idea how frustrating it is to have a fancy bike + accessories + put in all this training, and then not be faring much better someone who looks like she’s doing her first triathlon and not even in the greatest shape. makes me re-evaluate that maybe I am the one not in the greatest shape. The leg. Oh, right, I’m not in great shape- I’m still injured. Although I still need to work on my speed, my success from the bike portion is that I wasn’t grinding the gears, and kept up a good cadence (my highest so far from any race or training ride). Back when I was completely ignorant of the significance of cadence, I would just go the highest gear possible that would still keep my legs turning. And then I wondered why my legs would always feel like jelly!!
T2: by this point, I’d put enough stress on my injured leg that jogging to my transition area wasn’t happening. So I walked. It’s funny that before the race began, I’d said to myself that I would see how I felt after the bike portion and then decide if I’d walk the 10K or just DNF. But when I went to go rack my bike, I was on autopilot and putting on my running shoes when I realized that, oh, I guess I already decided I’m walking. I ripped a part of my race number so that it was dangling by one corner only. It looked goofy, but oh well. I grabbed my DC Tri Club visor and my water bottle and headed out for a looooong 10K.
“Run”: the run is always my favorite part and I would have so loved to just blast through all those people, but it wasn’t happening. Not that day, maybe not even at my next triathlon. But one day 🙂 As I walked, I saw a couple other people walking and tried to strike up a conversation with one guy. He looked like he was having a worse time than me, stomach cramps or something, so conversation did not happen and I scooted on my merry way. One bright spot was that Clif Bar was giving out gels- yay! One of the flavors being handed out was Chocolate. Of course I didn’t need any gel to continue my “intense” walk, but it helped to break up the monotony, and chocolate, even in gel form, tastes good 🙂
There isn’t much to say about this part of the race, except that everyone was passing me. It’s hard to swallow your pride and just try to put on a smile and enjoy the day. I fake it a lot. Part of me was thinking, “why do I even bother?” I don’t know what the other part of me was thinking; probably something along the lines of, “don’t be a quitter!”
In the second half of the 10K, I started talking to a woman who had a DC Tri Club suit on; she’d been in the NTP (New Triathlete Program) and Nation’s was her first tri. We walked together and talked for a little bit, and then she went ahead to run. I certainly wasn’t going to hold her back. And then, at what’s usually the best, most exciting part of the race- sighting the finish line. Crowds lining the road, yelling at the athletes to make that last push, and I just smile at them like I’m deaf to their encouragement. I’d wished I had a sign that said, “I probably have a stress fracture so no, I can’t run, but I would if I could.” So I continue walking at my normal speed, and then cross the finish line- yay! It’s an incredibly weird sensation to participate in a race, but not compete. To just do the race because it’s better than the alternative of just bagging it altogether and sitting at home with a mopey face.
I’m sure everyone else was long gone, so I went back to transition, gathered my stuff (thank goodness there was no wetsuit), hopped on my bike, and rode back home! Pretty anti-climactic. I rode slowly and easily, and it took me less than half an hour to get home. I’m sure it would have taken muuuch longer to get to, and use Metro.
Well, another race, another medal to add to the bin! Here’s hoping my next race, Waterman’s Half, will have me blasting through the 13.1-mile run!