I’ve had a lot of hits to my site coming from people looking for information about Iron Girl Columbia. The race is in less than a month (August 16th) and you can sign up until Friday, so if you’re on the fence, now is the time!
I am racing again this year and it will be my third year. I’ve learned a lot since my first Iron Girl Columbia (which was only my second triathlon and significantly longer than my first tri). I, of course, blogged about both years:
2013 Iron Girl Columbia
2014 Iron Girl Columbia
I really like this race. Obviously, since I’m coming back for a third year. I have a soft spot in my heart for it since it was my first big race (my first tri was a beginner race) and because it supports the Ulman Cancer Fund.
Now, I won’t lie. It’s not a super easy race. The course is challenging, but you can definitely do it.
At Iron Girl Columbia, you have to rack your bike the day before. Don’t worry, there are people out there with your bike all night so it won’t get lonely. You don’t put out the rest of your gear until race morning, so don’t think you have to leave your running shoes out all night. Those can stay with you til race morning.
If you have any questions in transition, just ask. There are plenty of experienced racers at this race who are happy to help, and the volunteers are phenomenal as well.
There are a lot of people in this race. Last year, there were over 1000 racers. So transition can seem big. Just remember where your bike is. Take a look at transition. Where do you come in from the swim (hint, it’s the side near the lake)? When you run in from the water, which way will you go to your bike? How will you get your bike out (hint, it’s up the hill)? And so on and so forth. Some people will say to tie a balloon where your bike is racked – that isn’t allowed at this race, or at most races. So you have to figure out another way to remember. Brightly colored transition towels help. One year, I was racked near a tree, so that was my landmark. Another year, I was five rows in. Worst case, the bikes are racked by race number, so take a look at the number written on your arm and find your spot that way.
The day before the race, when you rack your bike, I recommend walking transition, getting an idea of what you will be doing on race morning. Coming in here from the swim, out there for the bike, back in from the bike, and then out this way to the run. The visualization always helps me.
Last year, UCF instituted a new type of start known as a Time Trial start. What this means is that you go into the water two-by-two instead of each wave starting in a mass start. This helps spread out the people and for a lot of racers, takes away some of the stress of the mass start. Unfortunately, this means you can’t get in the water to warm up before the race.
What I did last year, that I think helped, was that I dumped a bunch of cold water on my head and down my kit before the race. It may have looked ridiculous, but then getting into the water wasn’t a shock to my system.
Some people will tell you that Centennial Lake is gross. It’s not the clearest of lakes, that’s for sure, but it’s also not the grossest water I’ve been in for a triathlon. Besides, you’re just going to go get sweaty on the bike and the run. Who cares!
This swim is probably the best supported swim I’ve seen. There are so many kayakers out in the water ready to help anyone who needs it. If you need to stop for any reason, just grab onto a kayak. Maybe you need to adjust your goggles, or you’re coughing on some water or maybe you just need a moment to get out of your head. It’s all okay. And don’t worry – the more races you do, the less you’ll need it.
Columbia is hilly. If you can, go ride the bike course before the race. Princeton Sports does course previews every Sunday morning. Right now, they’re actually riding the old Iron Girl course, which is similar and gives you a good taste of Columbia hills, but I believe as the race gets closer, they will start doing the current course. You can also go out without a big group, but don’t go alone. And be careful on Route 40. Race day will be fine, but every other day, it’s all open to traffic, as most roads are.
If nothing else, drive the course before the race. Get an idea of the course. The hills aren’t too bad. Worst case, you get off your bike and walk. My first year, I saw a girl running her bike up a hill. More power to her. And besides, what goes up must come down. Enjoy the speed on those downhills!
Remember those hills? Yeah, they didn’t go away. There’s one glorious hill known as Gatorade Hill, and you get to go up it twice. But you can do it. And the best part is the spectators at this race. There are so many people out there cheering you on. Enjoy the run! You’ve made it, and you’re going to have an awesome finish!