Monday, September 10, 2007

Race Report: Inaugural Annapolis Triathlon

SUMMARY: Extremely well-managed inaugural event in a fantastic venue which should become a popular destination Olympic-distance triathlon. Highly recommended. I'll be back next year!

Official results:
Swim 1500m/1690 yd: 36:51 291st/377
T1: 4:47 310th/377
Bike 37 km/23.0 miles (race site says 38 km): 1:30:26 15.7? or 15.2 mph 325th/377
T2: 2:52 258th/377
Run 10 km/6.2 miles: 1:17:00 12:24 min/mile 337th/377
Total: 3:31:54.00
Overall gender place: 337th/370 female finishers (would have been 12/15 W50-54 AG)
Overall place: 1151/1223 finishers


They couldn't have found a better small-town venue for a triathlon: Annapolis, Maryland, known as the sailing capital of the world: See local photos at the race website:


The logistics for this event were a bit daunting. T1 was at the City Docks in downtown Annapolis, adjacent to the US Naval Academy. As an old colonial town with narrow streets, a condition of the race permit was that participants would not park in town. Bike dropoff had to be done on Saturday via a ~1-mile bike ride into town. I heard there were return shuttles, but I walked back to the parking and T2 area at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial stadium.

Race morning came very early - I had a 3AM alarm at my house about an hour drive away from the stadium.I was glad to arrive early by 5AM since there was a traffic backup for entering and parking. (There was also a $5 daily fee for parking at the stadium, which slowed down entry, but unavoidable since the lots are operated by a commercial concern). I remembered to bring a flashlight, but my setup was delayed by the one management glitch of the day - organizers had not finished labeling the racks and I had to wait about 15 minutes for them to finish to set up my run gear. I boarded the shuttles on time before 6AM and we arrived just before dawn at the Town Dock.

I finished double-checking my bike and setting up my T1 gear. I got into my wetsuit - there was some question up until the last minute whether it would be wetsuit-legal, but water temperatures were finally reported at 77*F and all wetsuits were permitted. I also slathered exposed skin with Sea Safe anti-sea nettle lotion, just in case of running into nasty jellyfish tentacles in the water.

I was in the second-to-last swim wave and had a long time to hang out at the dock area, but it was so crowded with spectators that I had difficulty getting a good view of the course and the swim entrance and exit. Eventually it was our turn to start - the 40-45-year-old women and Athenas.


We walked over the timing mats and down onto a floating dock at water level and I jumped off into the water. There was zero wind and the water was completely calm. Surprisingly to me, no sea nettles were to be seen either. It felt warm but not overly warm - I was immediately comfortable and my pre-race anxiety melted away. The other women in the water were cheerful and excited and the race director joked that we were talking so much we wouldn't hear the start! But soon we set off. I had a few bumps with other swimmers but mostly stayed on the outside of the course. I felt very comfortable during the entire swim and used it as a relaxing warm up for the day. I enjoyed seeing all the yachts anchored nearby during the swim, and didn't have any difficulty with boat exhausts nor with jellyfish as I had feared. I swam smoothly and felt too warm a couple of times in my sleeveless wetsuit, but just stopped kicking and soon cooled off.

The sun was up high enough I didn't have difficulty sighting for most of the swim, except for the final leg where I had trouble seeing the swim exit against the clutter of buildings and masts in the background. Finally I realized I could see a mass of yellow volunteer tshirts and headed for that. There was a submerged stairway and expert volunteers helped us out of the water and I was on my way. Checked my watch - 36:xx was a couple of minutes slower than I had hoped but in the results it was actually my fastest leg of the day compared to the other competitors - now THAT is a brand new occurence for me, having a midpack swim finish, and my best leg! Plus despite some considerable pre-race anxiety it was probably my best swim ever in terms of confidence and control once I got in the water.


A fairly long jog through the entire transition area in my wetsuit, and I had many items on my "to do list". Finish removing wetsuit vest. Turn on Garmin. Sit down. Pull off wetsuit legs. Wipe off feet. Put on socks. Put on bike shoes. Stand up. Strap on Garmin. Put on bike jersey, bike gloves, sunglasses and helmet. Bag up wetsuit and all supplies and deposit labeled bag in box at end of rack for transport by volunteers to T2. Unrack bike, walk over timing mats, hit watch and Garmin buttons, mount up, and go! Surprisingly, all that only took 4:47, though it seemed much longer.


The first mile out of transition was a twisty route through the narrow streets of Annapolis. I felt great heading out and started out fairly fast for me. I had to yell out at a couple pedestrians wandering into the roadway (as did the volunteers). I had been concerned about the cobblestone streets, but actually they're flat interlocked brick which was no problem at all.

The course headed out of town on a broad highway for a couple of miles, past a big shopping mall, and then headed out on a rural highway for several miles to a loop and then back. (The bike course was not nearly as scenic as the swim and run.) Most of the way cyclists had a full lane coned off to ride in, or a wide shoulder, and the course was very well-staffed with volunteers, so despite the roads getting crowded with cars approaching 9AM they were kept well clear of the bikes on course.

The route seemed relentlessly hilly to me and I never seemed to get into a good rhythm. Most of the hills were short climbs and short descents so gaining speed on the downhill never seemed to help me much on the next uphill. My pace was up and down all over the place - my maximum speed was over 40 mph but that was balanced with many grueling turtle-like climbs. About halfway there was one particularly brutal incline with a short false flat followed quickly by another difficult uphill. My lack of hill training really showed and I burned up my quads on that sequence, plus I was having some unusual right knee pain (possibly from replacing my cleats recently).

I was happy to be heading back! It seemed strange to cycle into a different location for T2, and there was one nasty little uphill right at the end for a final send-off. I got my money's worth on that cycling workout!


Into a new transition area next to the stadium and a long long jog all the way through to the last rack on uneven grass was difficult! I was uncertain that I would be able to find my spot quickly since I had never seen it in daylight, but I scanned the ground for my hot pink towel and found it fast. There was plenty of space to rack my bike, and then I quickly swapped my bike shoes for running shoes, grabbed my visor and waistpack (containing my Clif Bloks and electrolyte capsules) and headed out.


They had changed the run course which fortunately eliminated two of the worst hill climbs, but it still was fairly demanding in full sun and high humidity with no evaporation to help cool us. The new course looped several times around the stadium and would have been great for spectators. At first heading out on the uneven grass I stumbled and nearly fell but caught myself and carried on. Tried to stay on top of my fluids and energy and electrolytes early on and just keep up a steady jogging pace. I hadn't properly re-started my Garmin, and unfortunately there were no mile markers on the course, so I wasn't able to check my pace very well other than keeping an eye on my heart rate. There were numerous opportunities to see other runners along the looping course, and it would have made it more fun if I had known more people doing the race this year! I just tried to keep moving steadily until I had to walk on a couple of the steep uphills on the bridge and the approach. Coming into the stadium, approaching the Blue Angel plane, I was nipped at about 500 yards to go by a woman with a "41" on her calf, but then I saw a racewalker approaching the chute with a "40" on her calf and so I sprinted past her to maintain my position with a strong finish on the Navy 50-yard-line inside the stadium.


They had great big shiny gold medals for finishers - very nice! has a picture as well as the satellite image plots of the bike and run courses.

Watch time ended up at 3:32:00, so I missed the sub-3:30 finish that I had aimed for, but it was still a big 12 1/2-minute PR for me on an Olympic course. (Later I figured out that the bike leg was about 4 km shorter than the Columbia course, so that accounts for something like 10 minutes of that PR).

My average heart rate on the bike course was 157, and on the run course it was 165. I probably shouldn't bike harder than that in an Olympic-distance, but I can probably run a little harder in cooler temperatures.

I found my T1 gear bag easily, especially since I had marked it with colored tape.

I had to leave quickly to go home to relieve my husband of child-care duties, so I wasn't able to stay for the awards. I also found out later that I was the ONLY Athena 40+ finisher out of 1223 people who finished the full triathlon, so I took FIRST PLACE and I have some hardware waiting for me! Yahoo! Of course, I would have come in about 13/15 in my 50-54 age group, or 12/13 in the under-40 Athenas... But in 5 more years I would have been SECOND in the next (55-59) age group!! I just have to stick with it! You have to enter, show up, and finish the course to win!!

Note to self: 7 Clif Bloks on the bike and 4 on the run isn't enough, even for an Olympic distance. Plan and follow a better schedule for intake!

Note 2 to self: Swimming in the jogbra is fine (no chafing!), but buy a new one piece trisuit next year!


triathlonmom said...

i love the details in your race reports! The logistics of 2 transition areas seem like a headache to me, but you handled it really well.

LBTEPA said...

Congratulations Nancy on a good race, a PR and of course the hardware :)

TriGirl 40 said...

Congrats on a great race and the PR. May be checking this one out in the future!

Noah Wood - A Maryland Runner said...

Congratulations Nancy, I'm sorry I have not read your entire entry just yet, but it looks like you did pretty well and I'm glad you got to do the first annual Annapolis Triathlon!!!!
To add to the news, the only MD county I have not run in this year is Calvert County, and I hope to finish it up this weekend at the North Beach 5K on Saturday. So exciting! Hope you're well!

joye said...

Hi, discovered this blog after a google on "Lanterne Rouge" which I enjoyed also. Reading your article was like deciphering a foreign-language article; all that's very strange to me! But compelling!

I'm a 50+ Athena-type myself, and I find your energy quite inspiring!!

So, sincere grats and keep up the excellent work.

Liz said...

That is very strange with multiple locations for the transition areas! Congrats on the strong finish! And the PR! Awesome!!

Andra Sue said...

Congrats! Sounds like you had a great race. Way to go!!!

Comm's said...

Good Job Nancy. And smart thinking with the tape on your bag. When I have bags like that, I put a long string of forestry tape, (those colored streamers they put on trees) on my bag so its very recognizable.