Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Columbia 2008: Always a surprise

My fourth journey through the Columbia Triathlon course - I went in (after 6 weeks of pneumonia and coughing) expecting it to be a horrible day and end with an ignominous DNF, and instead I had a fantastic fun time!

I may not go into a lot of detail here about the race - if you're a prospective entrant for another year looking for information, you may want to look at my three previous years' reports.

It started in the usual way with the 90-minute drive to Columbia, checking in at the Expo, and racking the newly lean and mean (note no behind-the-seat bottle rack), with compact cranks and red accents for speed, Buttercup:

The terrain of the transition area is as challenging as the rest of the course, with steep entrances and exits. My rack this year was right by the swim entrance near those white tents, which meant a long slow run out with the bike up the hill in the background. This is only a fraction of the ~2200 bikes that would be there on race day.

Then dinner was a lovely gathering at the Tomato Palace again with my training buddies Jim and Dave and many of the crowd from Mid-Maryland Triathlon. Great folks!

On race day I kept telling everyone I was likely to pull out after the swim or bike and just go hang around the finish line and see my buddies cross it. That plan was firmly in my mind.

Then I unexpectedly had a great swim (I think I'm finally learning how to draft!) and saw a 33:xx time when I came out of the water. I laughed and grinned broadly and woo-hooed to the spectators all the way up the chute from the water to the bike rack. Hey, this was FUN!! 2:02 per 100 yard pace the whole way. PR swim, where the heck did THAT come from!??

OK, do the transition in a leisurely fashion, turn on the Garmin, spray on some SPF 50 sunblock in Holly's honor, and give Buttercup a pat. "Here we go, girl!"

The satellite map makes the bike course look deceptively simple.

As the new course record-holder Chris Lieto said: "The bike course is nothing but ups and downs and rights and lefts. There was not even a stretch of road that was straight or flat. You are either climbing a hill, descending, or winding your way through a wooded countryside. Beautiful but challenging."

I watched my heart rate fairly closely on the bike course and tried to keep from spiking it into the Red Zone, and stay under 170, and was largely successful. I stayed seated and spun up every hill, which was made much easier with the new range of lower gears on my compact cranks.

I also ate 5 Clif Bloks, 2 salt caps, and one gel, which seemed about right finishing up with a good amount of energy.

You'll see my speed and heart rates are inversely correlated - work hard on the slow uphills, and recover on the screaming downhills. Other than those fast downhills, my heart rate stayed mostly above 150, so I was working relatively hard, though certainly not pushing it to my maximum. My top recorded speed was 36.8 mph, which is quite fast enough for me, thanks, I get too nervous at the squirrely tri-bike behavior at those speeds.

Strangely enough, I rolled into T2 and saw something like 1:45 on my watch, and was still feeling happy and elated! Hey, this is a fun day! I'm liking this! So I went through the transition again, took the time to reset my Garmin, and came out the other side at a jog feeling pretty good about life.

Between 1-2 miles of the run Jim and Dave passed me, in succession, and I yelled and joked with them. I told Dave, "I'm having a great day!" and he waved and shouted as he ran out of sight ahead. I kept jogging along and just walked the steep uphills (of which there are several on the course) and paid attention to try to keep my heart rate below 175 for the first 4 miles. I doused myself frequently with water to try to keep myself from gaining heat, but only had a couple small cups of Gatorade and lots of water since I had forgotten my salt caps and gels back at transition. Still, that worked fine, and I retained enough energy to pick up the pace on the downhills again approaching the finish when I felt safe to start to ignore my heart rate.

I did start coughing now and then, so there are still a few reminders that I'm not completely recovered from my lung ailments, but I could still jog relatively okay.

Came over the line in my 2nd fastest Columbia time (3:45) by only a minute - all of which I spent taking my sweet time in transition. 17/25 in my age group.

And it was sweet. One of the most unexpectedly fun days I've had doing a triathlon!

I did pay the price with some increased coughing for a day or so after the event, but now it's subsided again and I'm fully back on the road to Optimum Health. Though I am still carrying around a few pounds of reminders of not being able to do my workouts for the last six weeks, but let's not stress about it. I feel good.

Why, I think I may just do this triathlon thing again some time! Like, perhaps, in 3 weeks at Eaglemen half Ironman! See you there!


Wendy said...

Good for you, Nancy!

Lesser is More said...

Great job! Maybe its just a ton of rest that we all need before races. Who needs training, as long as you've got a good base. I'll see you at Eagleman!

Formulaic said...

Great review.

Good luck to you at Eagleman.

Looking forward to hearing about the new wheels.

I want pictures!

MamaMaven said...

Congrats on feeling so good. I was watching people wipe out at the bike dismount and it made me discover a whole new thing to practice!

Rainmaker said...

Congrats! Nice job - and even coming in with your 2nd fastest time - well done!

jeanne said...

nice work and great race report! some of my pals were there watching and cheering. I would have been too, but i was busy watching and cheering at something else!

we all want pictures!

Brent Buckner said...

Good fun!