This was sure was a long time coming! After two tumultuous years of zero triathlons, two orthopedic surgeries, 60+ physical therapy sessions and a handful of aquabike races, I was so excited and so ready to actually race a triathlon again. And yes – I said race, I really wanted to focus on doing my best vs. just getting across the finish line.
Eugene and I drove down to Williamsburg on Friday morning (I was racing Saturday, he was racing the half distance on Sunday) to avoid traffic and it went super smoothly – only took us about 2 hours and 20 minutes to get there from Alexandria! We found a coffee shop and camped out for a few hours, then grabbed lunch at Zoe’s (which is quickly turning into our race weekend favorite) and found a new coffee shop in which we finished out the work day. It was definitely a stress reducer to do things this way, and it allowed us to head down to the expo and pick up our packets on Friday night rather than me doing race-morning pickup. Also managed to scope out the swim course a bit and drive both the bike and run course.
We stayed at the Historic Powhatan Resort (same place we stayed two years ago when Eugene did Challenge Williamsburg), and it was once again a great choice – we didn’t get to enjoy the pool or other onsite amenities, but having full kitchen, living room, etc. is such a treat on a race weekend!
Now, on to race day: I slept terribly. I was so wired and full of nervous and excited energy that I had trouble falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep. I was up and at ’em before my 3:45am alarm and had my standard pre-long ride breakfast: a bit of oatmeal, a smushed up banana, almond milk, egg whites, protein powder and cinnamon cooked in the microwave and made delicious with a bit of peanut butter. This was my first time eating this before a race – it sat nicely in my stomach and I definitely plan to stick with this approach!
My other prep went off fine – I tried french braiding my hair but it looked terrible so I just did two long Pippy Longstocking-esque braids, loaded up with sunscreen and laid in bed for a while since I was ready before we needed to leave.
We got to the race site right at 5am when transition opened — there were a ZILLION bugs around the lights in the transition area, but besides that it was a pretty seamless setup process.
This was an in-water start in 84.1 degree water – no wetsuits for anyone! All women started at 6:30 on the dot – when they blew the horn, I was ready to rock. It was my first open water swim in a while and only my third swim with my new Roka R1 goggles, so I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, but I just started out strong and consistent and aimed to hold onto it as long as I could. I started in the middle of the pack and probably should have started closer to the front as I ended up passing a lot of people in the first portion of the swim. Lesson learned!
Before I knew it I was turning left at the first turn buoy, then making another quick left at the second turn buoy. From there things got challenging because the second half of the course was shaded and it was difficult to see the yellow sighting buoys. I started sighting every other breathe to make sure I didn’t get of course…and I only ended up heading a little of course once. Probably the best I have done in a race!
Once we got about three quarters of the way done things got shallow and seaweed-y. Sometimes I was picking up seaweed in my stroke – yikes! I just took it in stride and did not freak out, even when my fingertips started touching the bottom. When things got super shallow about 50y the swim exit, I tried to just stand up to walk out of the water, but the MUD! It was definitely some kind of mutant quicksand mud, because it sucked your feet right in and definitely did not let you get a solid footing on it. I ended up doing a kind of awkward dolphin dive shimmy to get out of the water!
The swim course was supposed to be .6 miles (about 1050 yards) and I felt great for the whole swim, but when I looked down at my watch it said 26 minutes — I was NOT happy! However, when I checked my watch after the race it said the course was about 1490 yards, and after touching base with other racers every said their watches said the same (between 1400-15oo yards), so I am sticking with that for the distance — especially given that I was in the top third of women out of the water.
Time: 27:00, official pace of 2:34/yard, but since I call BS on the distance, I’m going with my watch pace of 1:49/yard.
29/101 women out of the water, 3/7 in my age group
The bike was the epitome of flat and fast! Just two hills – the bridge over the Chickahominy River right at the beginning, and right at the end. The first half of the 15 mile course was on the road — while it was not closed to traffic, there were very few cars and they call kept a respectful distance. I was surprised to find that the course was not crowded at all – I think (for the first time ever) I came out of the water with a group of people who ride around the same pace as me, which is different from my usual slow swim / fast bike / meh run sort of race. So, I had a lot less people to pass than usual – not a bad thing, just a bit more uneventful than usual!
Halfway through the ride, we had a right turn followed by another quick right turn (essentially a u-turn) onto the Virginia Capital Trail, a lovely paved multiuse path that runs between Richmond and Williamsburg. The rest of the ride was on the Trail — great as the lack of turns meant you could build up some good speed.
I made one majorly stupid mistake for this race – for some reason I didn’t think I’d want to use my bike computer and planned to just rely on my Garmin watch instead. Note to self: don’t do that again. I rode nice and strong throughout, but I know that I could have pushed the pace a little more and it would have helped to have everything right in front of me the whole time.
One complaint about the bike is that I saw multiple men drafting and spotted exactly zero USAT Officials while on the course. I understand that it was a small race, but would have liked to see a bit more enforcement to make this a fair fight!
Nutrition: almost 1 full bottle of Raspberry Buzz Tailwind (two scoops)
Time: 00:49:45, 18.5 mph
Bike split was 31/101 women, 3/7 in my age group
Oof, the run. Definitely my weakest link at the moment, especially as most of my runs have been zone 2 runs with Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City in mind — not a lot of 5k-type training going on over here! The temperature got up to 95 that day, and with crazy humidity and ample sunshine the realfeel was well into the 100s. Granted the race started at 6:30am, but even still, things were HOT when I got going on the run.
I downed a gel coming out of T2 and felt fine when I set out, a testament to the amount of brick runs I have been doing in training (at least one per week). While my legs felt okay, my heart rate was soaring and I breathed very heavily for the entire run. It was once again a flat course, but the heat and lack of shade made things brutal. I definitely wasn’t the only one hurting out there and I saw lots of people walking. Luckily I was able to run for 99% of the 5k — just walked to take in some liquid at the aid station and one other time to bring my heart rate down a bit.
Despite being a struggle, I did manage to have a pretty good run based on where things are with my hip recovery running! That makes the struggle a bit more rewarding 🙂
Nutrition: One mocha Huma gel, water at the aid station
Time: 37:02, 11:55 pace
74/101, 7/7 in my age group (wahoo!)
Well, I ended up on the podium! Despite my slower run I did pull out 3rd in my age group, earning my first ever podium spot in a triathlon. Going into the race I thought there was MAYBE a chance to podium, but then when the run was such a struggle I released that hope and just focused on doing my best. So imagine my surprise when I printed out my results! I even won a $15 Trisports gift certificate and a trophy – woohoo.
I am really proud of how things went in this race – I executed everything well, from a perfect bike cadence and solid run cadence to nutrition intake and a positive attitude. Placing in the top third of all women in the swim/bike is awesome, and there’s plenty of room for improvement on my running speed, but as I focus on preventing injuries and staying healthy, I am happy just to get across the finish line.
Eugene managed to spot me several times throughout the race, which was really fun and encouraging. And I am pretty sure I earned him his first podium spot for one of his coached athletes 🙂 He went on to have a great half the day after — so proud of him!
Overall I really enjoyed this race and loved experiencing the Rev3 hospitality and fun. They really do put on a great race! I do wish there was more USAT visibility on the bike course, but understand that it’s impossible to police an entire course.
Overall Time: 1:56:54
3/7 age group, 42/101 women, 123/202 overall
Next up – Culpeper International on Sunday, August 6!