I'm all checked in and ready to go! There is mandatory day-before bike inspection and racking at the Columbia (international distance) Triathlon in Maryland, so that's what I spent today doing.
Yesterday I picked up my rental long-sleeve wetsuit - I'm still not positive that it fits, but I've got a short sleeve wetsuit of my own as a backup. I was just afraid the water would be too cold to tolerate in short sleeves! I'll try it on later tonight so I don't have any nasty surprises in the morning.
Today I first drove over to the host hotel and picked up my race packet. Nice goodies, including a sort of backpack/mesh transition bag, full color t-shirt, water bottle, etc. There was a lot of stuff on sale in the expo section and I couldn't resist buying a couple of cute "Columbia Triathlon"embroidered denim outfits for my twin daughters, too.
Then I went over to the transition area - my bike and helmet went through inspection well (as I had expected, since they're both new!), and fortunately I got there before there were long lines. Set Buttercup on the designated rack in Wave 9 of12, put a bag over the seat and the computer mounting, and left her there. There seemed to be good security in the area and a small army of volunteers - I was fairly impressed by the level of organization!
Then over to Centennial Lake to check out the swim. The swim start is quite a long way from the bike rack area, so I made a mental note to bring a pairof throwaway shoes for the walk in the morning (fortunately, I have some old running shoes already carefully stored in the garbage can in my bedroom).
Centennial Park where the race is set is GORGEOUS - a well-manicured facility with modern buildings and paved paths looping around the lake. It's stocked with largemouth bass and rainbow trout - hmm, I'm not sure I wanted to know that. ;-) The swim looked LOOONNNNG to my novice eye, of course - a row of a dozen buoys down the center of a long long lake. The course loops around the sides of the lake, though, and you're never more than 50 yards from shore, so that looked fairly reassuring. I wondered idly (I am NOT going to do this tomorrow) if it's legal to go through the starting line and then just run around the outside of the lake, and then just swim across it the short way to the finish? You'd still go the correct way around all the buoys.... Hmm. The swim exit is just down the hill from the bike rack area, but it looks like a fairly long distance between the timing mats, so I'm sure my transitions will be long tomorrow. (Yes, checking women's transitions from last year, median times were 3 to 6 min for T1, 2 to 4 min for T2).
I practiced the course route back through transition, stopping at my bike,and then out the bike exit. Then I got in my minivan and did a tour of the course. It's beautiful - winding through rolling countryside in a very affluent area midway between Washington, DC and Baltimore that is the transition between mini-mansions and small gentleman's farms. Lots of pretty four-rail fence on both the estates and the farms. The whole course rolls up and down, but I saw only perhaps two hills that were steep enough that they should be quite strenuous to get up tomorrow, and none that made me think I'd have to get off and walk, fortunately. Several cyclists were previewing the course, but if I did that I'm sure my legs would be toast tomorrow. It looked like beautiful roads for a bike ride - although I won't have much time to soak up the scenery tomorrow!
On the return trip (after getting lost once) I stopped at a convenience store to pick up a soda and found a triathlete there with a broken-down bike and gave him a ride about 8 miles back to transition. David O'Leary from Potomac, MD, in the 35-39 AG - I'll have to look up his results afterwards. I'll deposit that in the "good karma" triathlon account.
I stopped back at the Expo for a few minutes and ran into Bob Mina checking in. He made me laugh, warning me about a turn at the bottom of a steep hill where he had run into the grass in a previous edition, with full description of the volunteers scattering. He was kind and reassuring about the swim, and said I'd be out of the water in 35 minutes. If so, that would make my day! (BTW, here's his description of the Columbia course including his story of overshooting that turn).
I had planned to go to the race meeting, but found myself getting a headache (nervous tension?) and thought better of it, and headed home instead to complete my packing and preparations. I'll try to get in bed very early, because it's going to be an obscenely early wakeup with 45 miles to drive back to the race start!
The weather today was perfect, though a little gusty, and for tomorrow looks excellent as well: "Partly cloudy. Highs in the lower 70s. Northwest winds around 10 mph."
Thanks again for your positive comments and support, everyone! I'll be thinking of you along the way as I complete that 1500m swim, 41km bike, and 10km run tomorrow!