Thanks to 4sport for the picture
After not training for a week (apart from one day) because of a yucky cold and still having a cough on the morning of the race, I didn't have any high expectations of this race. All I really wanted to do was to have fun. This is one of my favorite races and I was just happy to be there.
The warm up:
After getting myself set up in the transition area and then, after leaving, realizing that I had no idea where I'd put my bike, I had to go back into the transition area to find it. It took me quite a while to locate it in a sea of over 600 bikes (Where did all these women come from???), but I eventually found it and made a mental note of the row number and then head out for a short warm up. I figured I'd run the first km or so of the course that I'd already done two times before. I knew it was an easy run and also probably shorter than the 5 km that it was supposed to be because I'd always done it quickly. Well, imagine my surprise when I got to where there was supposed to be a turn and discovered that I had to run straight, instead. They'd changed the course! Ok, I could handle this. I ran to the end of the street and asked one of the volunteers what the rest of the course looked like. He said it was all on the sidewalk and it was easy. Then I ran into one of the referees, a woman I know well. She had just ridden the course on her mountain bike and she told me how hard it had been for her to bike up the hill. The hill? What hill?! There's not supposed to be a hill!
Anyway, I finished running, did a very short swim and then listened to the briefing. I heard something about running on a dirt path. Dirt path? Didn't the volunteer say it was all sidewalk? Ok, I can do a hill. I can do a dirt path. No problem.
The swim was very uneventful. I got hit and kicked a lot less than last year. The only problems I had were the long run in and out of the water and the fact that I got stuck between a bunch of women swimming very fast breaststroke. I find it incredibly annoying when people swim breaststroke as fast as I swim freestyle. Oh, and I think I zigzagged a bit, too, but nothing too terrible. After running/skipping/stumbling out of the water, I took a look at my watch and saw that my time wasn't too terrible for 750 meters (especially considering how much running there was in the water). It was slower than last year, though. I suspect that the course was short last year, as I remember having a lot more trouble swimming.
Thanks to Shvoong for this and the following pictures
The run to the transition area is across sand (the kind you sink in up to your ankles) and then over a small bridge. I was prepared for this, as it's been the same all three times I've done this race. I hate running in that sand, but it went by quickly. I found my bike, got my stuff on and headed out. Lately, I've taken to running a bit past the mounting line because I hate it when people stop dead in front of me and I don't want to do that to anyone else. It's easier to run just a few more steps and then get on the bike on the side of the road. The referee (another woman I know) found this rather amusing, though, and she yelled at me to get on my bike. LOL.
I had some pedal problems at first (my feet kept slipping off the pedals and I couldn't get my left foot clipped in -- I had to pedal up the hill at the start of the course clipped in on only one side). Once I was properly seated on my bike, though, I soared. I passed so many women that I couldn't even start to count them. The bike course is five times around a 4 km route. With several hundred women on it, it was very crowded. And since half (or more) of those women had no idea how to ride on the right, it was also fairly dangerous. I did a lot of screaming on the course and even that didn't always help. I narrowly avoided several collisions with women who decided to drift left just as I was passing them (and after I had loudly announced that I was passing them). I also got stuck behind women riding abreast of one another several times. Overall, though, I had a very good ride. I got passed by a very few women, but I passed many many more and I felt strong and really good. I don't know my exact final time for the bike (the timing mats weren't all working today), but I can see by my 4 km splits that I was one of the faster women on the course today. All of my splits were under 8 minutes.
As fast and pleasurable as riding my bike was, I had certainly had enough after five times around the same boring course and I was more than happy to get off.
Getting back into the transition area was a bit problematic. There were women from one of the later heats (a shorter race distance) just coming out of the transition area and I couldn't get in until they'd passed me, so I actually had to stop. I don't remember that ever happening before, but this race has really grown in the past few years and I guess there are still a few things that need to be worked out now that it's become so big. Once I'd racked my bike, I changed shoes, probably a lot slower than I could have -- I was glad to be off the bike, but I wasn't particularly looking forward to the run (Did someone say hill? Did someone say dirt path?). Once I had running shoes on both feet, though, I didn't have any more excuses to be in the transition area, so off I went.
It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was tough in the beginning, but I stuck it out. At some point, I started coughing (stupid cold that won't go away), which made breathing a bit difficult, but I kept running. I got to the hill and ran up it (slowly). I got to the dirt path and slowly ran down the small hill with the soft, kind of sandy dirt. Then I ran harder on the path until the turnaround. 2.5 km already run. I was halfway there. I don't actually remember much about the way back. It was easier than the way out (the dirt hill was very short and I got to run down the longer hill). I had no idea what the route was to the finish line, so I just followed the women in front of me. The nice surprise was that unlike last year and the year before, there was no hill just before the finish line. I came around a corner and saw it about 100 meters ahead -- the rest of the run was flat as a pancake. Seeing the finish line always does something to me. I took off at sprint pace, hoping I could run that fast to the end. I did. It was over. Quite a few women had passed me on the run, but I'd managed to pass a few, too, so it hadn't been all that disastrous. If I could have held off the cough for another half hour or so, I would have been able to breathe more easily and maybe I would have run a little bit faster. But honestly, I didn't care all that much. It was over.
My final time was 1:31:24. This was about four minutes slower than last year, but I'm pretty sure the swim and run were short last year. They weren't this year and that was reflected in most of the times that I looked at -- almost everyone was slower. Assuming that the distances were correct this time, this was a very good sprint time for me. In fact, I think it's a PR.
In any case, my goal had been to have fun and I did. It was a great race. I'll be back next year.