Challenge Williamsburg Olympic was my “big” race for the year. It’s probably the biggest, organization wise that I was looking at – everything else is local. So I had some definite goals going into this race. It was only my second Olympic distance race, and considering that I had gotten a flat tire during the bike portion of that race, I figured I had a good chance of doing better at this race.
I was freaking out about the time limits though. One hour for the swim. That didn’t worry me. Add two hours onto that for the bike. My last Oly took me 2:01. That was with changing a tire and screwing up my gears, but it was definitely too close for comfort. Of course, that didn’t mean I had two hours for the bike, it meant that I had three hours for the swim and the bike. But that two hour thing stuck in my head.
Running is my weakest leg of the race, and if I took the max time on the first two legs, I wasn’t going to be able to finish the race in the allotted 4:15. I knew I was worrying over nothing, but I still worried. I found out that I just had to get myself to the run and I would be allowed to finish even if I was over the 4:15 time. So I decided to not get worried and just got excited.
Then the forecasts came out. I started calling this race “Swim, Bike, Death March.” It was gonna be HOT. The race organizers were great, but there was a lot of talk about ice and hydration and fluids and so I think we all knew it would be a slower race.
Saturday, we went to the race site and racked our bikes. I’m a dork, and I loved that we all had personalized place cards for our bikes.
My tri club had enough members participating that we all got to rack together. It was awesome to be among friends for the race. I got my bike racked, said goodnight, and told her to behave at her campout.
Race morning dawned bright and early. I had packed and repacked all of my bags and was way more worried than I should have been.
This race was unique (to me) in that there were two transition spots. T1 was (obviously) near the water and T2 was a couple of miles away near the finish line. So on race morning, we drove to the finish line area and set up all of our run gear at T2. Then we got on a shuttle to T1 where we setup our bike stuff and headed to the water. The race gave us plastic bags to put all of our swim stuff for after the swim. We just had to bag up everything we weren’t taking with us on the bike and they picked up the bags and transported them to T2 for us. It was a pretty awesome feature.
So, on to the race. I was hydrated. Really hydrated. I had also used a bunch of Osmo Nutrition Pre-Load. I even put a little bit into my hydration bottles to just add sodium. I also had Clif Bloks in the Margarita flavor, which is triple the sodium. I have issues with sodium and headaches, so I wanted to do everything possible to stay on my feet during the race.
The water was too warm for wetsuits in the normal waves, so that made that decision easy. I’m faster in my wetsuit, but I’m comfortable either way. From the practice swim, I knew the current was going to be interesting, but I was ready.
Nothing too exciting about the swim except that after I made the second turn, I was suddenly all alone. I paused and asked a kayaker if I was off course. He said I was fine, the rest of the pack around me had just gone really wide thanks to the current. So that was a good feeling. I wasn’t swimming perfectly, but I was doing okay. It wasn’t my fastest time, but it was solid.
Swim – 40:56
In T1, I passed Liz, who had beat me out of the water, much to her glee. She and I are pretty evenly matched on the swim, but she’ll be beating me soon. So I hoped I would see her out on the bike.
T1 took me 5:49. I couldn’t get my cooling wings on (something I bought to protect me from the sun more than anything. I need to stretch them out a bit. Or figure out how to put them on while I’m wet. Or dry off my arms first. Any of these things would be a good option.
Now, for the bike. While I knew I wanted to be under 2 hours, I hadn’t thought much beyond that. I decided to aim for 15 minute miles, because that seemed reasonable. I made this decision while on the bike, so perhaps next time I should plan ahead. I also realized that if I kept the 15 minute miles, I had a shot at a sub-4 race, which was my goal.
A few miles in, I finally caught up to Liz. I greeted her by singing “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” I think people think we’re weird. I also perhaps shouldn’t be able to sing while biking, but it was on a downhill in a terribly paved area, so I was going slow, and that’s my excuse.
She passed me later, singing. Paybacks are hell.
Bike – 1:40:58. Not bad. Definitely room for improvement though.
T2 – All my stuff was still here, so that’s a good sign. Took me 2:09. Not bad.
I set out on the run planning to just try for slow intervals. I realized quickly that wasn’t going to happen. The course wasn’t what I would call super hilly, but it wasn’t flat. It was in the woods and shaded, but the downside was that there was no air moving at all. It was super hot and my heart rate just kept jumping. My left calf was also really tight and I wasn’t sure if that was cramping from electrolytes or just stiffness from the bike.
It was a two looped course and after doing some easy mental math, I knew that if I could keep my miles under 15 minutes, I had a shot at a sub-4. This was still much slower than I wanted to run, but the heat was getting to me. At one point, I definitely saw dark spots in the edges of my vision, so I slowed down. I basically did the first loop running the downhills and hydrating and icing the rest of the time. I let all thoughts of a sub-4 disappear. And that was okay.
Saw another Team Coeur member out there and she looked amazing! I only seemed to see her while I was on my slog. But it was a great reminder. Heart and Courage!
The volunteers were amazing. There was so much water and ice and everything you could want. They were so wonderful.
Once the loop got out of the woods and back into the sun, I thought things would be worse, but I actually preferred this part because I could feel the air moving.
And then the loop went back into the woods. But I got my second wind for the second 5k. I started to feel a bit better and picked up the speed. Not too much, but I was moving much better and felt good. I still kept dumping ice down my tri top and pouring water over myself, but I no longer felt like the heat was beating me.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but the final turn into the finish surprised me. It was like “Hey! My race is done and I made it!”
Run – 1:30:44
I looked at my watch and it read 4:00. So I was seconds over my goal. AMAZING considering the heat. I was so happy. I got my medal and a gloriously cold and wet towel and made my way out. I ran into the significant others of some of our runners and we went back to cheer them into the finish. All of our Oly runners came in looking great! I was so proud of everyone.
As we were about to head out, I noticed that they had a tent displaying the unofficial results. I went to get my printout, wondering just how off I was from that 4:00 mark.
Final time? 4:00:36. SO CLOSE! I was so excited.
But then I saw something else. My division place was listed as 2.
Wait, did that mean I had just placed in the Athena division? Why yes it did.
I know that some people give Athenas (and Clydesdales) a tough time, but I weigh well over the 165 pound limit, so I have decided to rock the category. Yes, given my height, I should probably lose weight and get myself out of the category, but for now, I’ll take it. I hadn’t even paid attention at the awards because I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance in hell of placing, given how my race went, but the heat affected everyone.
I went back and looked at where I was positioned throughout the race. I came out of the water 4 people back, picked off one person on the bike, and then apparently leapfrogged another Athena throughout the run and came in just a few minutes before her. (The winner was well ahead of me – I have some work to do.)
All in all, an awesome race weekend and an awesome race. I loved the Challenge Family spirit. I loved that families were encouraged to run the finishers chute together. I will definitely be back next year.