This weekend was my second and last triathlon of the year, the Giant Acorn Olympic Tri. Giant Acorn was my very first olympic distance triathlon back in 2014, and I love the races put on by Kinetic Multisports, so I was looking forward to the race.
I was also relatively unsure of how it was going to go. My left leg has been bothering me lately, thanks to my pesky labral tear (though after a week of some solid foam rolling, things were feeling better), and I’m well aware that I’m still not back to full strength.
I haven’t done this particular race since 2015, though I did a different race on the same course in 2016. I had glanced at my previous race results, but really hadn’t focused on how I had done specifically on each leg. I just wanted to get an idea of how I felt about the course. I was also aware that depending on how I felt, there was a slight chance I wouldn’t be able to finish the race. So going in, my only real goal was to try to finish. Of course, I also wanted to finish and feel like I had crushed it, regardless of finish times.
Rather than stay close to the race site, I opted to drive down race morning. At that hour, it’s about a 1:45 drive from my house, so it’s not insignificant, but much better than trying to sit on I-95 after work. I got to the race site in plenty of time to check in, setup transition, drag stuff back to my car, and not stress. I wasn’t too nervous about the race, and my leg was feeling pretty good, so I was ready to go.
The swim for this race is a giant rectangle in Lake Anna. It looks deceptively short from the shoreline. Typically, this race is wetsuit legal, but thanks to our recent weather, not only was the water very high, it was also very warm. Just over 80 degrees. Clearly no wetsuits.
While I was expecting some chop from the boats, I swear there was more of a current than I was anticipating. I felt like the last bit of the swim out to the turn buoy took much longer than it should have, and I swear I was being pushed towards the shore on the swim back. Maybe I’m just crazy. Ether way, it was nice to feel like I was being pushed in the right direction.
I was expecting a swim somewhere around 40 minutes based on past swims at this course. I was pretty spot on.
There is a lovely long run up to transition for this race. It’s mostly on a sidewalk, which is nice, but you have to watch for rocks. I jogged up, got to my bike, hosed off my feet and got ready to ride. I felt like I was really wasting time here, but based on previous results, I did pretty well.
I started the ride by shoveling a cookie in my mouth, something I reminded myself to do in my last race report. Thanks for the heads up, past self.
One thing I did not do before this race is look at the bike elevation chart. Because I had completely blocked out some of the hills on this course. While I have been training like crazy on the bike, I haven’t been doing a lot of outdoor riding, just a lot of indoor riding with power. Not that I haven’t TRIED to ride outside, but weather kept thwarting my plans. That said, a power based workout is no joke, so I was certainly feeling strong.
I felt pretty good climbing the hills and even made the drastic and often terrible decision to pass people on the uphills. Later on the run, a woman commented to me that she was impressed by my hill climbing – apparently she was chasing me and I kept dropping her on the uphills. That was a huge compliment.
One big thing I’ve been working on is not just coasting down the hills, but actually pushing through them so that I’m getting as much speed as possible. This certainly worked in my favor during the rolling sections of the course.
I didn’t glance at my watch to see my final bike time, but I thought it was probably somewhere around 1:40, which was my goal. Turns out, I was actually way faster than I thought. I definitely crushed this bike course and cut off 7 minutes from my previous time.
The bike mount is on an uphill, which means that the dismount is on a downhill. Both are equally cruel, and I wonder how many people completely wipe out at the dismount line.
On to the run. In training, I had run a max of about 5.5 miles. I had run 10k once before this year – at Rev 3 Williamsburg. So this whole run was a big question mark. It’s a two loop run course, with a giant uphill at the beginning. My plan was to walk that hill, because hills are what gives my leg the most frustration, plus I can probably walk the hill faster than I can run it. For the first loop, I was going to stick to the two minute walk, one minute run pattern that I’ve been training at (my goal is to build up distance, then work on speed and cutting down that walk). Then, if I was feeling good, I would drop to a 1:1 pattern for the second loop.
The run starts with an uphill, but it’s basically all a slight incline for the first 1.5 miles, then a decline for the second half. I really enjoy the run course. It loops and doubles back on itself so you get to see a lot of people, and this means a lot of cheering for strangers. I got tons of compliments on my Coeur Sports kit, and let’s be honest – I did look fabulous. I’m pretty sure that I had a smile on my face for most of this run. There was even a guy at one of the turns giving power-up fist bumps to everyone. That volunteer was awesome. As were most of the volunteers.
I did have a not so great moment with a volunteer though. There was a teenager out volunteering and she was doing her best to pump people up, but probably doing it in the worst way. She was getting up in people’s faces and telling them to run, not to walk, and that if she could do it, they could do it too. I watched a couple of people brush her off, and when she tried it on me, I told her that I was following my plan, and that not everyone was going to be running. She kept pestering, and I tried to kindly tell her that she should just tell people to keep going, not try to make them run, because she couldn’t know what they were going through. It didn’t help, and honestly, it was kind of a dark spot on an otherwise great race. I know she meant well, but I think people don’t realize how crushing it can be to hear things like “Come on, keep running, don’t walk!” when they’re just following their plan and really having a great race.
Somewhere around mile 2, I looked at my total race time on my watch and started doing race math. I was pretty sure my fastest running of this race was just under 3:50, and I realized that if I could keep to a sub-15 minute mile, I had that in the bag.
Loop two, I was feeling good, so I dropped to a 1:1 pace without any trouble. My left leg started to stiffen up, but I realized during Williamsburg that this was a familiar issue, and probably an indication that I had been dealing with this labral tear for much longer than I realized. It didn’t hurt though, mostly just an annoyance. And my pace was great – I wanted a sub-15 for this race (since that’s what I’ll need for Army Ten Miler in two weeks) and averaged sub-14. No, I’m not breaking any speed records, but given that just a few months ago, I couldn’t run one step without pain, I’m so excited to be out there and making progress.
Keely caught me just as I was heading to the finish.
My run was faster than Williamsburg, even with the hills (though Wburg was super hot), so I’d say that’s progress!
When I finally saw my watch, I knew this was a HUGE course PR for me. My previous PR on this course was 3:49. It was basically all progress on the bike, which is a great feeling.
I went to check out the results, not expecting much and it turns out that I had also won the Athena category! Completely unexpected, but ending the season on the podium always feels incredible.
This definitely wasn’t the season I planned for next year, but I can’t complain one bit. I had two phenomenal races. I’m clearly showing progress in rehabbing my injury, but I’m also showing improvements on the bike (and somewhat on the swim too). It makes me very hopeful for the 2019 season. Now what races should I choose?