Race Report: General Smallwood International Tri

So, perfect race weather, it was not.  But I survived the very wet General Smallwood International race.

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The turtle is appropriate, and not just because of my pace.

I knew going in that this race was going to be tough, but I didn’t realize just how tough it was going to be.  I had raced in the rain before at last summer’s Colonial Beach Sprint.  But the big difference there was that Colonial Beach was warm.  Also, it was only a sprint.  But most notably, it was so much warmer.

Saturday morning, race morning dawned with rain.  So very much rain.  Water was flowing steadily down the sidewalk that was part of the run from the water to transition.  So I knew this was going to be an adventure.  I just decided I was going to be wet, and there was nothing I could do about it.  So I didn’t bother trying to cover up my bike or my transition spot.  (I never understand why people cover their bike saddles in the rain. Your wet butt is just going to sit on it.)  I did put my arm sleeves and socks into a plastic bag, figuring that if nothing else, it would suck to try to put them on when they were drenched.  I also flipped my running shoes upside down so I didn’t have a repeat of Colonial Beach, where I literally poured water out of my shoes before putting them on.

A week before, my biggest worry about this race was the water temperature.  Columbia had been 61 degrees, and I wasn’t sure how I would fare in that.  I lucked out.  The water was 67 degrees.  The air was in the mid-50s, so this was glorious.

Because of the rain, when we arrived at the race start, Liz commented that the course looked short. That’s because it was.  Instead of one 1500m loop, we now had two 750 loops.  While I don’t mind this in theory, I would have like to have known beforehand.  Once I got in the water, I realized why.  But we’ll get there.

Before the race, people were standing under overhangs, trying to stay dry.  I’m not sure why – we were all going to get in the water.  Why not just be wet?  As soon as I could, I headed for the water to get in.  I had a feeling it was going to feel nice.  I sat down on the dock and stuck my very cold feet in and said “Oh, it’s so warm!”  I got some looks as if I was lying. I jumped in and a few people followed, realizing that no, I wasn’t lying.  The water felt fabulous.

Once it was our time to start, the realities of the situation set in.  It was absolutely pouring.  And that meant the water was rough and visibility was awful.  I can’t imagine if they had the buoys farther apart for the 1500 swim.  I had enough trouble finding them as it was.  Normally, I sight by sort of lifting my head so my eyes are just out of the water.  That didn’t work, and I had to stop and pop up to try to find a buoy, and even then, it took longer than it should have.  There was also a surprising current thanks to the wind and the two elements combined to make it tough to stay on course.  There was plenty of support out on the water, so a big thanks to all those volunteers, especially those on the paddleboards in the cold rain.  I had a few small freakout moments, but nothing that rose to a major level.  Mostly I just felt frustrated and knew this was going to be an incredibly slow swim, and it was.

Swim: 1500m in 42:01.

The run to transition was long and went through a lovely mud pit.  Such is life.  Thankfully, transition itself was in a paved parking lot, or I don’t know how we would have gotten the bikes in and out.  I felt like transition took me forever, mostly because I was so cold and wet from the rain.

T1: 6:34

I set out on the bike with the plan to push, but not too hard.  I wanted to stay upright.  I was racing on my tri bike, even with the rain.  I quickly realized there was something crazy going on with this course.  I have never seen so many people pulled over with flat tires.  Some people ended up with multiple flats.  Liz stopped to give her spare tube to another racer, which is both noble and crazy.  What if she got a flat.  I’m certainly not that nice.  Plus I was riding my 650s, so my tube wouldn’t have fit most of the bikes out there.  Joys of being a shorty.

All I can figure is that it was the debris on the shoulder, and for whatever reason, for much of the race, I opted to ride on the road, cars be damned.  The road was better paved so it just felt safer.  Plus not knowing the course, the last thing I wanted was for the shoulder to suddenly end and me not have room to course correct.

Amusingly, I saw a turtle crossing the road mid-course and considered stopping to help him move.  I probably should have – hope you’re still alive, Mr. Turtle!

Apparently, some woman went out on her bike still wearing her wetsuit.  It was cold and wet, but that just seems insane.

I finished the bike a little frustrated with my time.  I swear, that course just goes uphill a lot.  But it was good there were no screaming downhills.  In the rain, that would have been dangerous.  On most of the hills, I rode my brakes very gently, just to be safe.

And it was on to the run.  Coming in off the bike, I realized that as I was coasting downhill, there were runners on the opposite side going up.  I had paid zero attention to the elevation profile of the run course. It billed itself as having gently rolling hills.  We’ll see about that.

Bike: 24 miles in 1:46:49

T2 took significantly less time.  Much less to do, though it was tough since my fingers and feet were numb.

T2: 2:16

Starting the run with numb feet was rough.  I’m not sure if it was the cold or my pedals or a combination of both, but eventually, the feeling came back to them.  Just in time for the hills!  Hooray!

Actually, they weren’t as awful as I had thought, and even though the course was looped, it was a neat course.  Lots of wilderness, some campgrounds, a bridge, and one fun mudpit.  Thanks, rain.  I wanted to finish this race in under 4 hours, and when I hit the run, I thought it might be possible, but it was a longshot.  I tried to push, but just didn’t have it in me to really nail that time and I opted to just run safe and not risk injury on the rougher patches.

At one point, a biker with a runner caught up to me and I feared I was now the last runner, but it turned out she was on her last loop.  Not that I mind being last, but I just didn’t want to be last, since I wasn’t the last wave to go into the water.

Run: 10k in 1:24:08.

Total race time: 4:01:46.

I’ll admit, I felt pretty bad about this.  I’m honestly still not proud of it, but I do think that I did the best I could under rough conditions.  After the race,  a lot of people were saying how tough the course was, especially the swim, and that made me feel better.  It wasn’t that I had done poorly, it was more that the course had taken its toll on me and everyone else.

Still, I’m proud that I finished and I’m hoping this is my terrible race for the year.  Definitely some lessons learned, and I managed to refill my aerobottle on the ride without falling, so that’s an accomplishment.

Now, I’ve got a solid month of training before my next race.  Lots of work to do!

Oh, and the best way to handle wet gear?  Blue IKEA bags!  Those things are great!  Also good for cat storage.

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What is perfect race weather anyway?

terrible weather forecast

The weather team at our Fox affiliate has a good sense of humor.

After volunteering/spectating last weekend at the Columbia tri, my thoughts were on the race weather for my upcoming triathlon.  My biggest fear was the water.  It’s been cold and wet.  Centennial Lake was 61 degrees, and I hope that the water is at least that warm (hopefully much warmer) for my race this weekend.  Something around 65 would make me very happy.

But Mother Nature laughed at my concerns.  “Water?  You’re worried about water?  I’ll show you water!”

Saturday’s forecast?  Rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Steady rain.  “[T]he consensus has been for the heavier activity to be between 8 am and 2 pm. Rainfall rates suggested by models are .10 to .25″ per hour.” (Source)  Thankfully no storms on the horizon, which makes for a cancelled race.  Instead we get to spend the whole race wet.  I hope I don’t drown on the bike.

Racing in the rain is always an adventure.  It definitely makes the bike a challenge.  The plan is to reduce the pressure in my tires, slow down, and stay off the painted lines on the road (which can be very slippery).  I have clear lenses for my sunglasses, so those are getting popped in as well.

Not sure what I’ll wear.  Definitely some sort of arm covering – I learned my lesson racing in the rain last year.  That stuff hurts!  I have a windbreaker that I may wear.  But really, I’m just going to be cold and wet.  Warm, dry gear in the car is going to be key.

So think safe, dry thoughts for me.  This is not the way to prep for a super hot 70.3 for later in the season. But it’s still good training nonetheless.

Wednesday Workout Recap

Last week was another slightly light week, which has been awesome since work has been so incredibly busy.

Monday – Rest day

Tuesday – Structured hour long trainer ride.  I really love these, but don’t know how people get through them without some sort of distraction.

Wednesday – Easy 3 mile run followed by a strength workout.

Thursday – Team Fight swim.  This one just felt good, like I figured out something with my form. I definitely felt stronger than I have in a while.  Could just be that I’m not so worn out.

Friday – Rest day

Saturday – 100 minute structured trainer ride.  I always think “Oh, this won’t be too bad” and then it nearly kills me.  I need to remember to fuel properly on trainer rides as well as on outdoor rides.  It could also be that I don’t think of 100 minutes as an hour and 40 minutes.  That makes it seem a bit longer.

Sunday – Volunteering all day, then a nice easy 4 mile run.  I consider the dancing I did at the finish line to stay warm part of my workout as well.

Volunteering at the Columbia Triathlon

Columbia_tri_du_logo-1200x351Yesterday, I volunteered most of the day at the Columbia Triathlon and Duathlon.  I have to give major credit to everyone who raced.  It was a cold day for a triathlon!  The air temps were in the 50’s and low 60’s, and the water was only 61 degrees!  And some people (very few, admittedly) swam without wetsuits!  That’s crazy!

I started my volunteer shift at the swim finish, and was so impressed with all of the swimmers.  The general reaction was “That was cold!”  A few came out with blue lips and more than one person was showing some signs of hypothermia, which was a little scary, but everyone made it through safely.  There were a number of people pulled from the water, and in temperatures like that, it’s not a surprise, especially for the first triathlon of the season for most of the racers.

To add insult to injury, it was incredibly windy.  The bike course was apparently pretty ridiculous.  I don’t know how anyone rode with disc wheels.  I watched a few bikes with disc wheels nearly blow off the racks in transition.  Definitely wouldn’t want to be hit by giant wind gusts from the side while riding that.  Not that I’m fast enough for disc wheels to make an appreciable difference anyway.

I finished my volunteering working at the finish line til the last person came through.  I was so impressed with all of the racers.  Everyone looked so strong and awesome.  And one thing I love about this race is that if you make the time cutoff off of the run course, you’re allowed to finish.  Doesn’t matter how long it takes you – there will still be people waiting, and the finish line will still be there.  Not every race has this option for many reasons, but I love that about this particular race organization.

I will say, watching this race made me a bit nervous for my race on Saturday.  Come on, Mr. Sun!  Warm up that water!  I think it’s supposed to rain Saturday too, which will make for some extra fun.  I’ve got to figure out what gear I want to wear.  Possibly a windbreaker.  Who knows at this point.

Too Fat to Race?

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk of people cheating in races, be it cheating to get into Boston (a BIG DEAL) or cheating at the Tinker Bell Half (a less big deal).  But one thing that I’ve noticed throughout a lot of the conversations is a lot of body snarking.

“There’s no way that fat girl qualified for Boston.”

“Yeah, he totally didn’t run that fast.”

Now, let’s be honest, elite runners do have a body type.  I don’t know if that body type is what makes them good at running or if they get that body type from all the training they have.  So if someone built like me is beating elite runners, you can be pretty confident that some funny business is going on.

But for the average runner or triathlete, your size doesn’t matter.

20130609-145706.jpgThis is a photo of me at my first triathlon.  I had no idea what I was doing.  (I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m more experienced at it now.)  I was probably somewhere at my heaviest, and I post this because it’s not a particularly flattering or unflattering picture.  It’s just an action shot where you can see the shape of my body.  Do I look like a triathlete?

The answer is yes.  Because I am doing a triathlon.  That’s what triathletes look like.  People who do triathlons.

What’s awful is seeing how people cut each other down because of their size.  In a fairly popular women’s triathlon group on Facebook, a woman recently posted a pic of an Athleta ad with two women on stand up paddleboards.  One of the women was a bit bigger and wearing a bikini.  She had a belly and some thighs, but was probably a size 10 or 12, judging only by comparing to how I would look in a similar outfit.  And the comment, from someone who says she is a health professional, was how Athleta was promoting the wrong thing – specifically Type 2 Diabetes.

Yes, because all chubby people have diabetes.

Now, I’ve said before that I don’t love the way that the Health at Every Size movement has gone, because HAES proponents believe that you can eat what you want and do as much or as little physical activity as you want and whatever your body does is fine.  I disagree – you should try to eat well as much as you can (but not all the time, because where’s the fun in that) and you should get some physical exercise, though that can be anything from walking your dog to dancing in your living room to participating in organized activities.

But I do think there’s too much focus on weight when it comes to endurance sports.  Is it harder to do a race the bigger you are?  Probably, just because you’re moving more weight around.  Doesn’t make a bigger athlete a lesser athlete.  I’ve passed thin girls while going uphill on my bike – and then this weight makes me fly while going downhill.

It’s unfortunate when I see it from groups that are designed to support the sport.  “We support everyone, but not you, because you don’t fit our model.”  No, that’s not how it’s supposed to work.  Sadly, it wasn’t just this one person commenting about the Athleta ad.  Others chimed in agreeing with her, talking about obesity-related diseases.  Yes, those do exist, and I’m doing my best to avoid them.  By doing things like eating well and participating in triathlon.  If you want to help someone avoid obesity-related diseases, shouldn’t you be encouraging them in their active and healthy lifestyle?

I don’t understand why anyone has a problem with the size of another racer.  If there are runners or triathletes bigger or smaller than me in a race, why should I care?  Is it because I don’t want to get passed by a “fat girl?”  Personally, I don’t care, but I sometimes wonder if that’s it.  Or maybe they don’t want people to think less of them because “Hey, fat people can do that too.”

Either way, it’s high time we stop judging people based on appearances, and it’s definitely time to stop putting others down.  If you don’t want to be welcoming of others, then just ignore them and stay in your own bubble.  But if you venture out, you might just meet someone awesome.