First of all, Columbus is a great city! If you ever have a chance to do this race, I'd highly recommend it. It's only the 2nd year of the race (and from what I hear both the run and bike courses were changed this year) but it was an awesome point to point course and very, very well run. The swim is in a lake about 20 miles out of town. After some looping around, you ride straight into downtown Columbus (right past Ohio State - yuck! ;), and then run on a trail that snakes along the river downtown, traversing several beautiful bridges along the way. Having 5i50 points certainly helped I'm sure, but the race attracted some big name pros and the organizers had some nice touches to the weekend (pro meet and greet, etc...) ALSO, there were several race options to choose from including the Olympic, a sprint, a women's only tri, a duathlon and even a 5K/10K (wow, a race director's nightmare!). Fun for all! And the best part of all? There is a Tim Horton's directly across from the finish line. You might guess where Oscar and I could be found while waiting for the awards ceremony!!
Okay, now onto the race!
Swim: 23:36 (this includes a run up the beach to transition but trust me, even without the run the time was pathetic)
Oh swimming. You and I just don't seem to mesh on race day. Sigh. I can't say I'm awfully surprised of the results though. The women's pro field was extremely small and I knew on the start line that every other pro woman in the field (all short course stars like Becky Lavelle, Amanda Felder, etc...) was a much faster swimmer than me. This was not self doubt, nor was it a negative or defeatist attitude. It was merely the real truth. If I know these women all usually swim under 20 minutes (and indeed, they all swam under 20 minutes yesterday), and I've never swam close to that even with a wetsuit AND a helpful current AND lots of drafting...well then... Nevertheless, I told myself that this is the reality of racing pro and not being a great swimmer and that the only thing I can do is to SWIM HARD the whole way.
|Small women's pro field. Will some other women please turn pro so I have someone to swim with? :)|
|Although running into the water and dolphin diving isn't my speciality I did manage to NOT trip and get a good start. :)|
I was dropped by the first buoy. From there I did site relatively well. Whether I swam hard the whole way is in question. It's tougher than it sounds when swimming all by one's lonesome. Although many people tell me they relish the thought of swimming by themselves and not getting beat on, I would give anything to be in a pack getting thrashed repeatedly! HA! Regardless, I can only keep working hard on my swim and be patient (and stick to long races where swimming isn't quite as important :).
|It was a beautiful day for a swim! :)|
As I exited the water (in last place), Oscar told me the entire rest of the pack had exited the water together and were about 3 minutes up the road. I wasn't overly confident that I would be able to catch anyone given the fact that these women are all excellent cyclists so instead of worrying about that, I entertained myself with other thoughts. First, I focused my swim rage onto the bike. This worked quite well. Then, I pretended like the reason I was out there all by my lonesome was because I was winning! This didn't work quite as well, I think mostly because my mind knew I wasn't winning but rather that I was in last place. ;) Next I focused on my effort. Dirk had told me before the race that the bike is where long course athletes (such as myself) often don't work hard enough in short course races because they aren't accustomed to (and are perhaps afraid of) the pain of riding a hard, hard 1 hour TT. I focused on my breathing and my quads, making sure the effort was so high that my breathing was very labored and my quads had that very deep burn. This tactic worked excellently. I might have to use it again. I also started to have some "targets" once the elite open men started to pass me (although they were much stronger cyclists, I would try to see how long I could keep them in my sights). And finally, I turned to the power meter and focused solely on maintaining a higher and higher average watt value (and then at the end, not losing any watts!).
Imagine my delight, when around mile 20 I noticed I was starting to catch someone. I strained to see who it was and was quite thrilled when I realized it was another pro woman! This could move me into 5th and a spot with a paycheck! YES! I tried to ride hard and with authority past her and then rode scared the whole way into T2.
I was thrilled to ride under an hour - a significant PR for me. Now having said that, while the course was a legitimate 40K (distance wise), it was also definitely a fast course. The first 10 miles were rolling (but Ohio rolling, not PA rolling - let's just say I didn't need my small chain ring at all!) but the last 15 miles were flat or down - not big down hills where you would recognize that you were going down but still, gradually down. Nevertheless, my bike time was within 30 seconds of the fastest bike split amongst the pro women and with that, I'm pleased. The B-/C+ that I earned for my swimming effort, turned into an A+ for biking effort, and taught me that this racing thing is so much more mental than even I give it credit for.
Run: 41:16 (I will say here that my Garmin said 6.2 miles and low 40:xx when I still had a block and a half to run and we KNOW Garmin never lies ;)
Coming out of T2, Oscar confirmed I was in 5th and that the top 4 all had come into T2 together and were still about 3 minutes up. He told me 6th was about 45 seconds behind. Knowing I wasn't going to be running 3+ minutes faster than the ladies ahead of me, my sole goal on the run became to protect 5th place and my paycheck. Of course this meant that I was going to be running very hard also!
I wasn't sure how my legs would feel coming off that (really) hard bike but surprisingly they didn't feel too bad. NOT surprisingly, it's really hard for me to conjole my body into anything much faster than 6:20-6:30 pace. This is not surprising simply because I don't TRAIN to run much faster. This is where the differences in racing short vs long rear becomes quite apparent. :)
|Just keep running...|
I hung on though. I saw Oscar at several different spots on the course including about a quarter of a mile from the finish where I groaned "how much farther???" (my Garmin told me I was done darn it!!!) and he directed that I just had a few more turns to make and I'd see the finish line.
Final time 2:06:08 - my first time under 2:10 thanks to a fast bike course. :)
Overall, a great weekend and a great experience. I learn a little bit more about myself and about how to race at this level with each outing. And of course we had a blast!! It's always so fun when Oscar and I can take a road trip and we had several friends from Pittsburgh racing as well! And of course we had the best homestay family of all - the Kennedys! They took SUCH great care of us and for that, Oscar and I are so very thankful.
|THANK YOU Kennedys! We'll see you again in October! Michelle did her very first Olympic yesterday. IM is up next! :)|
|My training partner Ben also raced but this time he beat me by 5 minutes! I'm going to start needing a handicap... ;)|
|Women's podium. Becky Lavelle won in just under 2 hours.|