Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Race Report: Columbia Triathlon

Columbia Olympic Distance Triathlon, Columbia, Maryland, May 21, 2006
SWIM 1500m: 37:23 (340th)
BIKE 41 km: 1:44:28 (14.6 mph) (314th)
RUN 10 km: 1:14:11 (37:33,36:38 splits) (351st)
FINISH 3:44:23
338th/390 women, 4th/4 Athenas over 40

This is my 2nd year for the Columbia Triathlon. In 2005 I finished in 4:06:58.

The swim:

I got in the water about 30 minutes early and got comfortable in the wetsuit and with the 68*F water temperature, which I think helped me a great deal. I was feeling a LOT of pre-race anxiety and I didn't want that to result in another hyperventilation episode like I've had in the past. I wanted to get that adrenalin surge over with before the start, and I think my approach worked. I didn't really swim far enough to get my muscles really heated up, I just swam back and forth a little bit and got my face in the water until I felt comfortable.

I got out of the water, drank a last-minute Ensure for a little nutritional boost, walked over the timing mats, and it was time to go. The other women in my wave and I jumped off the dock, treaded water during our countdown, and BOOM! It was time to race!

I was able to do a freestyle stroke the whole way from the start, which pleased me. On the first third of the swim on the way out I had completely clear water since I took the more direct route closer to the shore (on a good tip from my swim clinic last March), and everyone else seemed to hug the buoys in the center and take the long route on the outside line of the curve. That suited me just fine!

I was breathing hard enough the whole way that I had to take a breath every 2 arm-strokes. I had been hoping to do every 3 like I do in the pool, but that just wasn't enough air. Then all my breathing was on the side AWAY from the buoys, because one-sided breathing on my left was too uncomfortable, so that gave me some sighting problems. Note to self: Practice left-side breathing enough to be able to play that card in race situations when I need it.

No big wetsuit or goggle issues, fortunately. The wetsuit tends to make my arms and legs feel stiff so I don't think I was swimming with a very relaxed stroke or very proper form, but it was getting the job done. One stupid problem that I experienced was that my swim cap kept trying to work itself off. Maybe that means it's time to cut off my long bulky hair.

The swim seemed VERY LONG. I was thinking about my Australian swim-coach Yurtie swimming ten times as far. I was thinking HOW IN THE WORLD AM I EVER GOING TO DO A 2.4-MILE IRONMAN SWIM? Then I mentally scolded myself - this is NOT the time to be thinking about that! Get those thoughts out of your mind! So I went back to the mantra that Linae had suggested - Smooth. Strong. Smooth. Strong. Smooth. Strong.

The two things that slowed me down the most were sighting the buoys and getting discombobulated by contact with other swimmers - the two things I haven't been able to practice very well in the pool. In both cases I tended to disrupt my freestyle stroke and go into 2 or 3 breaststrokes, which slowed me down a lot. Occasionally I could swim through it and maintain my stroke, but not often. Most of the way I stayed out of the direct buoy-to-buoy route, but some people still swam up into me.

I knew that my wave and the wave behind me was all women, and I knew that I'm probably bigger and stronger-bodied than most of them, so it didn't scare me, and I didn't want to give anyone a nasty kick. Usually I just stroked my arms a little faster if someone hit my legs. But at one point someone laid their hand on my calf and held on and pushed down, and I'm afraid I may have reacted unconsciously like it was a sea serpent grabbing me, and kicked extra hard to get loose of her!

I don't think I swum up into anyone - I was probably much TOO careful about avoiding collisions and that lost me some time. At one point I was slowing down to avoid running into the feet of someone in front of me and then I remembered - Hey! You're supposed to be swimming behind them and catching a draft!! But I couldn't manage to hang with them, mainly because I couldn't see where they were unless I sighted out of the water repeatedly.

I think I could do a lot better in group swims if the water was clear enough to see the other swimmers underwater, but the water was so murky I couldn't even see my own arms.

The only other major problem that I had was a huge cramp in one calf about 2/3 of the way into the swim - after maybe 15-20 minutes of swimming. In a place that I never get calf cramps. I remember thinking "What is THAT all about!?" I'm not sure why it happened (toes pointed too long?) but it was painful and slowed me down until I worked it out. It was sore the next day - it seems there was a bit of muscle damage there.

No big problems exiting the water - I jogged off into transition pretty well with a big smile. I felt great to have the swim done! I noticed that a few people exiting the swim with me had my same cap color - which was a nice change, instead of being left behind by my entire wave of swimmers. I glanced at my watch, and quick mental math told me I was 11 minutes faster than last year! Yay! Much of the credit for that goes to Yurtie, who has been coaching me via email on my swim for the last year.

Swim to bike transition:

I thought this went smoothly and quickly, and I thought that I saved some time, but it was exactly the same time as last year! I jogged the whole length of the transition area, and my wetsuit came off fine (even though I did have to sit down on the grass to get the legs off and to get my cycling shoes on). The only time I took a few extra moments was to pee and to spray on sunblock (just as I had promised my friend Holly) - both valuable uses of my time! I also pulled on a sleeveless bike jersey over the jogbra that I did the swim in. Oh, and someone had tied a balloon to my bike. WTF!? That took me a few moments to untie!


I started out on the bike well, and used the relatively flat first two miles to rehydrate and refuel (from a gel flask). Oops! I realized that I had left my bike computer off - I had stored it overnight in my emergency bag under the seat. I decided not to stop to re-mount it, because it wouldn't help me be any faster, and my speedometer readings might get me discouraged on all the slow uphills I knew were in store for me. I was also familiar with the course and the distances so I didn't need my odometer to keep track of my location, and I had taped a split chart on my aerobars, so I could just use my watch to monitor my pace.

The big change from last year was that I had lots of FUN on the bike course! I joked with fellow riders, enjoyed the scenery, mooed loudly at the cows, and thanked the volunteers. I knew I wouldn't be terribly strong on the hills because I simply hadn't trained for them - it's extremely flat where I usually cycle, and my power/weight ratio still has a lot of adjustment to do in the denominator. That was okay and just what I expected from the course. No significant discomfort or problems anywhere, though a few of the climbs were slow and tedious. I tried to keep steady on the uphills, maintain a strong effort on the downhills, and keep an eye on the proper gear. Every landmark seemed to come earlier than I expected - time passes quickly when you're having fun!

I used the last two miles on the way back to finish hydrating and fueling, and ended up consuming over a liter of water and 4 fluid ounces of gel on the bike, along with 3 or 4 electrolyte capsules, so that kept me feeling pretty good.

I pulled into transition with a big smile on my face, about 5.5 minutes faster than last year. (I was even more pleased with that result later when I picked up my gear and was horrified to realize my left bike shoe cleat was barely hanging on by two loose screws!)

Bike to run transition:

The same thing happened - I thought this went smoothly and quickly, and I thought I saved time by jogging the whole way, but when I looked at my time it was exactly the same time as last year!


I stopped quickly to pee again after crossing the chip mats. Yes, I was well-hydrated! Then jogged off, and I remember thinking that my legs felt remarkably good for coming off the bike! The first mile includes a huge switchback uphill and I came to the first mile marker on pace for about a 1:10 10K. I took water and a gel and more electrolytes and kept up my pace around the lake.

At mile 2 or 3 things started to fall apart. I developed an incredibly severe side stitch, which was painful enough that I was forced to walk. By mile 4 I had mostly worked it out and was able to resume jogging, but it probably cost me 3 or 4 minutes. Nothing really to be done about it, though. Keep going strong for the finish line!

Just before mile 5 I saw my friend *Jeanne* again cheering me in. What a great boost! She took some great photos of my last mile and it was a wonderful surprise to see her out on the course again. No, she was NOT pacing me nor giving me aid on the course! She was running circles around me like a crazy woman, though!

Finally through the last few little twists and turns on the path and over the finish line. Hurrah! I was tired but smiling, and despite the side stitch I had finished the run at about a minute per mile faster than last year. Once again, it was a really great event and as soon as I started, I had FUN nearly the entire way!

I ended up taking 22:35 off my overall time from last year on the course, which is 9.1% faster. It puts me at somewhere around 4th Most Improved out of about 107 women who did both 2005 and 2006 races (by my count, those results haven't been posted), so I'm very happy with that result.




Steven said...

Awesome job, Nancy. And a great race report too.

You should be thrilled with your improved time from last and deservedly so.

You are WELL on your way to a great Ironman in Florida.


Susan said...

Great job Nancy!!! You are well on your way to Iron.

*jeanne* said...

You had FUN! FUN!!
The whole way!
(Hmmm, on 2nd thought now - DID you say the swim was fun?)

Even so, you did GREAT! I'm not sure what pacing consists of, so I tried to make sure not to do ANYTHING that could ever remotely be considered pacing you (no problem there, your pace was killing me. No joke. I was dying running around that lake.)

And this year I knew enough not to wave orange slices and water bottles in your face. (Last year I didn't know that was considered outside aid. Hey, I'm an old penguin marathon-gal, not a TRIATHLETE diva!)

It was amazing to see how EASY the run looked for you. I had NO idea you were having stitches or any problems whatever!

WAY TO GO, Nance!!! :-)

bunnygirl said...

Great job! But of course the most important thing is that you had a good time!

Bolder said...

Great race, great report!

Way to improve on the swim.

Another big deposit in the Bank of Ironman, to be withdrawn November 4.

LouBob said...

Great report! Glad you had such a good time.

jeanne said...

Great job Nancy! Wow, what an improvement! and fun, too?!! The whole thing intrigues me, and totally boggles my mind!

LeahC said...

Nice job nancy! It sounds like you had a great time too!!! come on iron man now!

Granny said...


Lynne said...

Just GREAT!!! You have worked so hard! BE PROUD!!!

Shelley said...

I was hoping you would post a pic of your medal...very cool and great job Nancy!!

A said...

SWEET! Congratulations, Nancy! Wonderful race. Thanks for writing up such a good race report, too, I loved being able to "virtually" accompany you through the whole thing!

You made huge improvements on your time, but even more importantly, you had fun while doing it!

So excited for you! Can't wait for the next one!

Phil said...

Great improvement! Especially on the swim. I still remember your report from last year. I wonder if perhaps you over-hydrated (causing the stitch and all the potty-breaks). The balloon on the bike is just weird. I would probably panic and not know what to do. But, the thing about the cleats is good learning - I will have to incorporate a cleat-check into my pre-race prep.

Chris said...

Great job, Nancy! I loved the race report!

Those side stitches suck, don't they? Of all the pains that are hard for me to run through, for some reason those are the hardest for me.

Great race! :)

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

Awesome job - way to go Nancy!