Saturday, June 27, 2015

Race Report: Hartwell YMCA Sprint Triathlon

There are days when everything falls into place and you have a practically perfect race. Today was one of those days for me! I wasn't exceptionally prepared for this race - that happens when you register 10 days before race day! But I prepared as well as I had time for (except for transitions, but more on that later) so my main goal was to have the most fun I could have!

I left the house this morning at 4:45 to make the 90 minute drive to Lake Hartwell. Setting an alarm for 4 AM is always the time where I question my sanity. The drive was actually pretty nice, despite trying to read directions in the dark. I probably should have just used my phone's GPS app!

I arrived right on time and found a close place to park. I knew there weren't too many folks signed up for these races. Right between 65-70 were showing up as pre-registered on the website as of last night, pretty much evenly divided between the Sprint and the Oly. I picked up my race numbers and chip, hit the restroom which was a real park restroom (yay!), and then took my gear over to set up transition.

There were no numbers on the racks so I assumed it was free for all. I chose a spot next to the outer wall so I could easily find my bike and have a place to put my tri bag. I set up transition fairly quickly and then went to check out the area.

Mike was happy to be back on a rack for a race! It's been such a long time for him!

Swim start -  in the water. The sprint used the orange buoys and the olympic did the yellow buoys. 

Swim finish - looks worse that it is, really. 

The Finish Line! Apparently the race company just got it - it's very nice!

The sprint swim course with all 3 buoys in place. 
What I like to do after I set up transition is find the swim start and finish and walk through the route I will take for the race. I go out from the water and up to transition to my bike. Then I walk from my bike to the Bike Out. Then I come in Bike In and walk back to my bike. Then I walk to the Run Out. This rehearsal allows me to visualize the race and look for anything on the ground that I will need to be aware of.

It was a long wait between setting up and our race starting. The Olympic started at 8 and we started at 8:30. Actually, because they started the men first, my wave started at 8:33. I was able to use the bathroom an unnatural number of times which is always a good thing! Never had to wait, either, which is one of the benefits of a smaller race!

SWIM - 500 meters (Garmin time 12:36/Official 12:34)
There weren't that many of us ladies doing the sprint so I just lined up with everyone else, not in the back and didn't wait for everyone else to take off. This is the first time I've done that. I know that I'm a slower swimmer so if there were more people then I would have lined up more towards the back, but I figured with this small number I could definitely hold my own until everyone left me!

There is a good chance that I'm going crazy because when I saw all 3 buoys in place my first reaction was, "Wow, that's not too bad!" And, sure enough, the buoys kept coming up quickly! I swam well and I felt strong. I didn't have any issues with sighting or going off course. My strategy to go out with everyone else also paid off because I didn't have to dodge many people at all. And I passed someone from the previous wave. Yes. Me. I almost shouted for joy. But there was all that water. So I didn't!

Made it to the boat ramp/swim exit and carefully walked up the ramp. The concrete was bumpy and hard (as I noticed during my walk through) and I didn't want to stub my toe. Once I got onto the pavement, I started to jog. I realized about halfway through my bike ride that I hadn't even paid attention to my swim time when I hit my lap button on my watch!

T1 (Garmin time 1:48/Official 1:49)
Transitions were the only thing that concerned me going into this race. I had not practiced. At all. And transitions are always my weak spot anyway because I spend too much time thinking. I need to learn to just grab the stuff and go. Today my mantra was, "Grab it and go!" It's a sprint, not a Disney trip (I tend to over pack for Disney trips! LOL). Aside from my shoes and helmet there really wasn't anything that I couldn't live without for 14 miles. I was pleasantly surprised to see my best transition times ever!

BIKE- 14 miles (Garmin time 54:38/Official 54:51)
The bike is my weakest. We all know that. And this course was advertised as rolling hills, which usually means "Crazy hilly". But this race director was actually correct. The hills were rollers and I think there was only one on the way out and one on the way back that required me to go into the granny gears. The rest of them were nice and easy and I was able to pedal through them even on the downhills. My average cadence was 89! This was an out and back and there was a 180 turn-around on a two lane road. I was not looking forward to this at all. I am not good with tight turns. Thankfully I was by myself for it and I unclipped in case I started to fall, but I didn't need to put my foot down! On the way back, since I knew the route now, I focused balancing between pushing myself and leaving enough in my legs for the run. I came in to the dismount line feeling good!

T2 (Garmin time 1:08/Official 1:09)
Seriously? A one minute T2?? I should go to Kona now with that sort of transition time! ;) Or maybe not. But hey, it's my fastest T2 by half! I wonder what I could do if I actually practiced next time?

RUN - 5K (Garmin time 30:34/Official 30:35)
I was a little unsure about my run because my legs felt pretty tired. I wondered for a moment if I had pushed too hard on the bike. But I knew the run was "mostly flat" so I decided to just handle whatever pace I needed to maintain. But in the end, it must have been the brick effect because my pace ended up being really good. The hardest part came in mile 2 when we got off the highway and ran up a pretty significant hill to the dam. I knew that I would be able to make up the time on the flat dam, so I shifted to a 1/1 interval for the duration of the hill. I got up to the dam and realized that the wind tunnel principle was in full effect on this dam and I was running right into the wind. I managed to do a 9:24 pace for the 3rd mile even with the wind, so I am pleased with that. The best part of all was that I managed to quiet the negative voice that tends to take over my triathlon run!

Once I could see the finish line, I tried to reach down and speed up a little bit but I realized I didn't really have more to give. That made me feel fantastic! I had truly "left it all on the course"! Not in a bad way like I was going to pass out, but in a healthy and strong way. I knew that this effort I had given today was the best I had in me for today - and that's always a good thing!

Total time - 1:40:44 Garmin/1:40:57 Official

As I was putting up my gear, they made an announcement that preliminary results for the sprint were posted at the table near the finish line. So I locked up my bike and put my gear in the car and headed to the finish to check it out!

Not sure if you can see it but there is my name - at the very bottom!
 Dead Last?!?! But I felt so good about my performance! This was the best I had ever done on a sprint tri by a long shot! I've never even broken 1:45 before! In fact, my previous best time was 1:47 and that was on a much shorter swim and bike! I felt sort of weird for a few minutes. But then I put it all into perspective: if this was my best effort for today and I came in last, that doesn't matter! I think I'm going to do a whole blog post about this because I think it's very, very important and deserves more than just a brief mention. Anyway, I texted my family and posted a few pictures while I waited for the awards. (The overall female winner was in my age group, so I thought maybe I had a chance to win an AG award even though I was last. That's another benefit to a small race! LOL)

When the awards started, they were announcing the finish times for the winners and I realized that I wasn't last at all because I started hearing times that were after mine! I know there were at least 3 who came in after me. Not that it really matters, but I guess they posted those results before everyone had finished. The awards started after the last finisher came in which was nice. Also, the announcer would encourage us to cheer for Oly distance athletes as they were coming across the finish during the sprint awards. I love that and they earned brownie points for me for doing so!

I was thrilled that I was announced as 2nd place finisher in my age group (and there was a 3rd place, too - one of the few age groups that had a full podium of finishers). I was SO excited to stand on a real podium for the first time! I saw an employee of the race company taking pictures so I hope they will post them soon! Here is my award:

A glass beer glass! 
My official placement:
     Overall 36 out of 41 (plus 2 who DNF)
     Age Group 2 out of 3
     Swim 33rd overall/2nd AG
     T1 37th overall/2nd AG
     Bike 38th overall/3rd AG (by 1:25, not too bad!)
     T2 35th overall/1st AG (WOOHOO)
     Run 31st overall/2nd AG

And then I got cleaned up and drove home. Yeah, that part isn't too exciting, is it? LOL

But the race was AMAZING! I am very impressed with Go Race Productions - everything was well organized and well marked. I emailed the race director with 3 questions yesterday and heard back quickly. Both races started right on time!The course had plenty of volunteers and aid stations were frequent and stocked. They handed out ice towels, too, which is always a great thing in GA in the summer! The awards ceremony started on time. When I got ready to leave, I walked by the food table and there was still tons of food and lots of cold water, cokes, and powerade. And this was after the sprint was done and there was still another 45 minutes or so before the Oly course closed. That is rare, indeed. I wish I could have stayed around to see if they kept the finish line intact for the last finisher, but I suspected that they did. There were still plenty of volunteers out on the run course when I was leaving and the 2 girls that gave me a water and medal at the finish and took off my chip were still there. Those are just a few of the things I look for when I am evaluating a race company. I won't hesitate to sign up for another Go Race Productions event - and I'm putting the Hartwell YMCA Oly on my short list for next year!

Thanks for reading this rather long race report filled with excessive exclamation points! :) Please check back tomorrow for a recap of Week 3 in my Marathon Training!

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