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