We arrive at packet picket at 4PM the day before the race. Walking down the beach to the water it was brutally hot. The air was still and the sun was harsh. I took my shoes off and stepped into the water. I only got ankle deep. The water was so hot that I did not want to get in any further! I preferred the mid 90 degree air temperature over the lake water. We had a good showing from Hattiesburg: Sam, Chris, John, Judy, Shawn and a couple of others. This being the Best of the US, same was shooting for top 3.
Tomorrow would be tough.
The next morning the temperature had broken. Sure, it was still hot but not like it had been the day before (and for damn sure not like the Heat Wave a couple of weeks ago). Clouds had moved in and block the scorching sun. I set up transition and walked down to the beach. Expecting the worst I waded out into the water. It was cool. Not cold by any means but it was cool. The swim takes place in the lower lake. They must have let some water out from the much larger Lake Sardis. The difference was dramatic.
While not wetsuit legal the 84 degree swim was much more comfortable than it could have been. I think the warm water during the Heat Wave a couple of weeks ago really took its toll. I would be swimming in the second wave for this race.
We waded out into the lake and the siren sounded. I remember be so nervous at the starts of these swims a few years ago. I still get excited for a race but the anxiety has subsided. Shawn is a bit faster than me in the swim and I had hoped to draft off of him in the swim. Per normal I lost any feet in the first 50 yards. I stuck to the left of the main line and swam my own race. I felt comfortable the entire swim. In fact, after rounding the last buoy I picked up the pace! I never actually do this in swims for fear of blowing up (panic). But I was water jogging. I emerged from the water only a few feet from Shawn. We ran all the way up the beach and across a field to transition. (1/2 mile SWIM: 14:10 – Age Group 3/4).
The transition could have been a little faster (0:54) but I was on the bike soon enough. The cloud cover was still in place and I started to make up time.
As soon as we left the park you could feel the wind. It was not quite a direct head wind. My HED-3 race wheels were being pushed dramatically. I never felt out of control but it was difficult to hug the white line all the way to the right. A gust would come by and I could feel the bars turn. You really had to brace yourself against the wind. I was not alone. Everyone was getting tossed about. I came up on Shawn within the first couple of miles. He was racing with a full disc and I could see him fighting the turbulence. I yelled at him about the wind as I passed. As soon as we turned North the wind situation improved vastly. I reeled in a couple of people but I also got passed by a couple. I also had to gear all the way down to my granny gear for the first of the two hills. I still have no power in the legs.
I have also thought that tail winds were a myth told by old roadies and triathletes. I have never experienced one. It always has seemed that you fight the wind coming and going. Well, let me tell you that I am now a believer. After I turned on the the home stretch I was being pushed. Although I do not had a speedometer on my race bike I could tell that I was making great speed. Looking back at the data I was pulling 26+ MPH with the help of the wind. (18 mile BIKE: 50:01 21.59 MPH – Age Group 4/34).
My second transition was actually longer than my first. That should not happen! I did, however, start to run the wrong direction leaving the transition area. That cost me a few seconds.
Off on the run I was feeling good. I quickly caught and passed a couple of guys. The first mile of the run is along an asphalt road. Then it heads off road on trail straight up into the trees. This is a challenging course. I was running hard but I was in no mans land. I was running by heart rate. I was keeping everything at a low boil – basically my LT running level. After rounding the lollipop turn around there are a series of hills. Some of them are quite steep. I made a decision to walk up one of the steeper hills. I regained my composure and kicked it back in. I got passed my someone in their 50’s. Once I was running down hill I was able to make up some ground. I ended up passing a couple of people in that last mile stretch. They were people from a previous wave. I also caught back up to the 50’s guy. But once I realized that he was not in my age group I backed off some. I need to get better about this. (4 mile RUN: 31:26 7:52 PACE – Age Group 6/34)
Overall I had a good race. However, I did not race it like a race. I raced it like a training run. But what am I training for to race it like a training run. Sure, it was a last minute race but I need to step up! Also, I am not sure what has happened to my run this year. The last two triathlons I have not run fast. Last year in this race I ran 7:20’s – this year 7:50’s, WTF. I just have not been running much this spring.
Overall I finished in a time of 1:37:32 (Age Group – SWIM 3/34 – BIKE 4/34 – RUN 6/34 – TOTAL 5/34). I placed the highest ever in the swim! For comparison, my rankings two years ago (in a race that I really raced, was SWIM 5/31 (wetsuit) / BIKE 1031 / RUN 8/31). I am definitely faster and I am on the cusp of a podium!
My run used to be my strong suit. This gives me push to get back on the pavement. Fortunately, I do know how to work the run. I will be faster next race – guaranteed.
Sam got second overall and qualified for the Best in the US!
Saturday, September 10
Alabama Coastal Triathlon
Gulf Shores, AL
Best of the U.S. brings together the top amateur triathletes from every state, creating America's ultimate elite amateur wave. Each state has just one Qualifier Race, from which the top three men and women–– regardless of their age ––qualify to represent their state at the National Championship.