All in all, I was very impressed with the race. This was my first with TriColumbia, and they put on a great event. The race director was fantastic when I emailed her back in April about being unsure if I'd be cleared to run in time to train for this, and was willing to let me choose to either Aquabike or do a tri distance the week of the event (which I finally decided on for sure, oh, last Tuesday.... ) Everything was very well organized, the volunteers were outstanding, the expo was easy, the on course support was great, wonderful post race food... and they even had showers at the finish! Score -- got to go home clean!
The ONLY complaint I have was that the course was long. It was advertised as a 64 mile bike, and at the pre-race meeting some guy pipes up and says "Is the bike course the same as it has been the past two years?" The race director says "Yes it is." Some Guy: "So it's really 66 miles." RD: "What?" Some Guy: "66 miles. As verified on my GPS the past two years." I didn't really believe him, until my GPS registered over 66 miles. So... yeah.
THE SWIM was in the brackish water where the Choptank River feeds into the Chesapeake. AND that means... jellyfish. Little sea nettles. Apparently this was a light year. If this was a light year, I'd hate to see a bad year. I had on a full wet suit, and was wearing Sea Safe Jellyfish lotion all over my face, neck, hands, and feet, but I think it had mostly worn off about 30 minutes into the swim because I then got stung on my nose, lips, neck, and wrist. The first half of the swim went pretty well, but the second half we turned towards the sun and I had lots of trouble spotting so my form got all screwy. My final time was 43:23 which was ten seconds slower than last year. As I was getting out of the water, I remember thinking that I was so glad I didn't do the Aquavelo, because that would have involved another loop in the water, and there was no freaking way I was doing that.
T1: Went in the changing tent and ripped off my wet suit, put on my helmet, socks and shoes, and biked out. Somehow it was three minutes, which seriously, again, why I am so slow?
THE BIKE was mostly pancake flat with an out and back on a highway and then a loop that went through some nice marsh land. I felt fairly comfortable holding a 19-21 mph pace until we got slammed with headwinds. I couldn't get much above 17-18 mph at that point, but I felt pretty good overall. Parts of the ride were beautiful, in a wildlife refuge with lovely marsh views. The last 15 miles or so were completely out of the wind, and I was able to make up some time with a solid 22-23mph pace. My GPS hit 64 miles and T2 was no where in site. Guess the guy was right. It hit 66 and we STILL weren't there. I GMapped the coursemap and this is what it says:
Yes, that would be 66.2 miles. So although the race results claim I biked an 18.4 mile per hour pace, it was in fact 19, like my trusty Garmin reported. (They also had the wrong distance on The Bugeye Classic -- the 25 mile bike, according to GMAP, was 22.5 miles. So I guess if you take away our two and a half miles and add them to the Bugeye, you'd have the correct distance for both?)
T2: 1:40. That is definitely a record for me. Go me. And go my awesome volunteer who handed me the run bag in 2 seconds flat.
THE RUN... oh the run. I took off too fast, and realized a half a mile in that I was running a 7:40 pace... okay, I probably am not going to be able to hold close to my PR 10 mile pace after swimming 1.2 and biking 66. I slowed it down and the first mile came in at 8:15. The second and third mile went pretty well, but then it all started to fall apart. My legs just weren't having it. My pace slowed to about 8:40 for miles 4 and 5, and then I got passed by a girl in my age group. I was pretty sure I had been winning my age group up until that point, since I hadn't seen anyone else pass me the other way on the out and back course, and I think once she flew on by at an 8 minute pace that I had no hope of holding, I just mentally gave up. Well, I tried to catch her for awhile during mile 6, but gave up halfway through (that clocked in at 8:35), and then I was really hating life from basically mile 7-9.8. 7 was 8:57, then I stopped and walked for a minute, poured about three cups of water on my head (it was 80 degrees with no shade, which isn't terrible, but I still felt pretty hot), and started counting to 100 over and over. Mentally I just couldn't think of anything else to do. Each tenth of a mile felt like eternity. I couldn't see anyone ahead of me or behind me. Finally Mile 8 clicked off at 9:15, and I then I got a side stitch. "YOU LOVE RUNNING!" I told mysezlf. "YOU DIDN'T RUN FOR ALMOST 5 MONTHS AND YOU HATED EVERYTHING BECAUSE YOU COULDN'T RUN. YOU ARE RUNNING NOW, AND YOUR BODY FEELS AWESOME (sides stitch excluded)! " Then my dark side said "This is ridiculous. Why do you do these races? They feel awful. This is torture. You are an idiot." Mile 9 clicked off at 8:55 and some lady heading out on mile 1 told me I was almost done as we passed each other. Yeah, I guess I was. So I tried to convince myself I was just doing mile repeats, and this was my last one.... tried to get some kick. Finally I saw the finish. I turned in and made my way to the track. I thought I just had to go over the timing mat, but oh no! The volunteer told me I had to run around that track. I happen to know that they are 400 meters and I really didn't want to run 400 more meters. I was the only person on the track. As I made my way to the straight away, I heard "GO GRETCHEN!" What? Oh, it was Brittany (who, by the way, did the Bugeye won her age group in her first ever triathlon!) And Stephanie! People actually were cheering me on! Mile 10 was 8:35. So overall, the run wasn't too bad, even though it felt awful. Overall pace was about 8:40, which is probably about right for where my run fitness is right now. Last summer, when I could hold a 7:40 pace for a standalone 10 miles, my Half Iron run pace was 8:27. I have no idea how fast I could run ten miles (without the whole swim/ bike thing) right now, but I am sure it wouldn't be anywhere near 7:40s.
Great weekend and race, gorgeous weather, and now... I think my triathlon season has come to a close. As much as I love the it, the double workout thing just doesn't work for me during the school year. And so, Dora the Explorer will go back on the basement bike rack (but may emerge for some fall group rides) and the goggles and swim cap will probably not get much use until late spring.