Monday, June 16, 2008

A Belated Report: Tri Roanoke Valley

Back in 2004 I decided to attempt a triathlon – and failed miserably. My training was mediocre and I panicked during the swim and dropped out. I still had a good time watching the race and was inspired to try another, but each season came and went and I just never did. A few months ago I was in Fleet Feet and saw a brochure for the Tri Roanoke Valley Sprint Triathlon – held in the town where my parents grew up and grandmother still lives. I decided there was no way I’d be ready by April 12th…and over the course of the next few days somehow talked myself into doing it anyway.

However, this year I really wanted to focus on running and base building, so I told myself I was only doing the tri if I didn’t let training for that interfere with my running. I did ok with that for a while, but eventually I had to cut my mileage back because it was just too tiring. Training for all 3 events is clearly not something I enjoy, and I wound up not spending nearly as much time in the pool and on the bike as I really should have. I’m a good swimmer naturally, but with what happened at the last race I was still worried about it. As far as the bike was concerned, I knew I could cover the distance and that was fine with me.

My main goal for this race was to finish – I didn’t care about my time or my place, I just wanted to get through it and get a little revenge after last time. I had estimated that the 300yd swim would take about 5:20, 14.8 bike would be about an hour, and 5k run would be about 30 minutes, figuring my legs would be tired by then. So, with transitions included that had me coming in around 1:40 or so.

Saturday morning I got up and had a peanut butter bagel and cup of coffee, and then got dressed, put air in my bike tires, and headed off to the race site. It was already 68* out when I left the house at 6:45. I arrived at the site right around 7 AM and went off to the body marking table. After getting all marked up I headed back to my car to retrieve my bike and transition stuff…and couldn’t get my bike off the roof rack! The ratchety-thingy, whatever that’s called, wouldn’t let go and I couldn’t free my back wheel. Fortunately, a very nice man in the parking lot helped me and we managed to get it off. Whew! Then I headed over and got my transition area all set up. Once that was ready I wandered into the aquatic center and checked that out, then went back outside for the pre-race meeting. Up to this point I had been wearing my tri shorts and sports bra, with a long sleeved shirt on top. They informed us that the transition area was being closed at 7:30, so once we left it for the meeting we couldn’t go back in. I felt so naked standing around for 30 minutes without my long sleeved shirt! At this point I was really starting to get nervous, and a guy standing near me, who turned out to be #13 (I was #12) was very nice and distracted me for a while. Our race numbers were assigned in the order of our swim starts, which meant I had submitted the 12th fastest time, and obviously #13 was right behind me. Chatting while waiting in line to start the swim, we discovered we had registered with the same time, and I really wanted to just ask if he could start in front of me because knowing we were so close made me nervous. Also, thanks to having our ages written on our legs, I noticed #11 was only 14! Nothing like knowing for sure a 14 year old is going to kick your ass.

For the swim, we started in order, every 15 seconds. When it was my turn I hopped in the pool and pushed off, and the first lap went fine. Changing under the lane line went fine. Then halfway through the second lap, my chest tightened up and I couldn’t breathe, just like last time. I foolishly tried to stick to my every 4th stroke breathing pattern, and kept getting water up my nose. I tried a couple strokes of breast stroke, which didn’t work, and #13 caught me – and he wouldn’t pass! I had to practically stop in the lane to get him to pass me. Once he finally did, though, I was able to calm myself down and made it through by breathing more frequently. I think just knowing he was right behind me was too much pressure – once he passed, I had a huge amount of space between myself and the next person in line. I finally made it to the end, hopped out of the pool, and started running to the transition area. Lately I’ve been getting dizzy when I get out of the pool, but fortunately that didn’t happen and I was able to run that distance without a problem. The transition went rather smoothly…although apparently slowly.

Swim time: 5:55 (predicted was 5:20 – oh well) (rank 15)
T1: 2:13

The bike course was pretty challenging, as advertised. The first few miles went through the “city” complete with a railroad crossing and the possibility of encountering a train – turns out the train people don’t really care about little local tris, go figure. Then the course turns onto a country road through farms and wide open space, up and down and up and down, over Lake Roanoke Rapids (or RR Lake, I can’t remember), up to a turn around and back over the same course. This part went a lot better than I expected – I passed 4 people or so, and was passed by more than I could count – but, they all had fancy bikes and looked like they had done this before so I didn’t let it bother me. I was only passed by one woman, and took note that she wasn’t in my age group. After about 11 miles I hit a big hill and was feeling sorry for myself, and then thought about my friend Terry doing Ironman AZ and told myself to stop whining and get on with it. I wound up averaging 15.8 mph on the bike which I was thrilled with, not having trained much at all, especially since all of my training rides were ~14 mph. The bike -> run transition went relatively smoothly. I hadn’t pinned my race # to my shirt before the race because I thought it might be annoying on the bike, so I had to do that before the run. Without that, I think it probably would have been a rather speedy transition (comparatively, anyway).

Bike time: 56:22 (rank 29)
T2: 1:48

The feeling in my legs when I took off for the run was too weird. I had done a few bricks so I thought I knew what to expect, but I guess since the bike was faster than usual it was different. I felt like I was going slow, but my legs were tired, and my breathing was pretty heavy so I had no idea how fast I was going. This was a really hilly course, most of which I had run before on previous visits, so I was somewhat familiar with it. The whole run course went through a residential area, so even though the roads were open I think I only saw 2 cars. After some decent hills, the first of which I walked, we ran down a super steep hill to the first aid station, and then did a loop on River Rd, which is, go figure, right along the river. Unfortunately, it’s so developed it’s hard to actually see the river. Right about this time my legs started to feel somewhat normal again. Almost at the halfway point, I saw #13 again and yelled some encouragement to him. Somewhere along here I also saw the 14 year-old girl and another woman (a quick head swivel told me she was 32 – sweet). At the cul-de-sac at the end of the road we had to turn around and run to the opposite end, then turn around again and head back up the super steep hill. Just before the hill I caught and passed #13 and felt pretty good about it, because of the swim thing. I walked up that hill, and then managed to run the rest of the way back to the finish. When I could see the rec center I checked my watch and saw I was about 5 minutes ahead of my 30 minute goal, so I just tried to hold the pace I was running through the finish. I was so happy to be finished I forgot to look at the clock! I had timed the bike and run, but really had no idea at that point how long the swim had taken.

Run time: 28:50 (9:18 pace, rank 22)
Total time: 1:35:12

So, I got my little finishers medal and had my picture taken in front of the finisher board, and then walked over to where my aunt was standing and she said she was pretty sure I had gotten first in my age group. I thought so too, but wasn’t convinced because of the staggered swim start – turns out, I did! It’s nuts – two weeks ago I was hoping and praying to break 30 min in my 5k, this weekend I did that after two other events! Coupled with completing the bike so much faster than I expected, it made the disappointing swim feel a little less awful.


1st in age group
5th woman
22nd overall

Obviously I’m super excited by my results, but really all I wanted to do was finish. I did that, a little faster than I hoped, and got hardware as icing on the cake 

Thanks for reading!

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