I often wonder what it is that drives me to sign up for races. They require you to wake up early–and by early, I mean anything pre-5 am! But I’m not the only one; races across the country have taken off over the years and more and more people are getting past the “I’m not a morning person” excuse in order to be a part of the growing race trend. Road closures aside, I’m secretly convinced that races start at the crack of dawn to weed out the early morning risers from the non-early risers and that if race officials started offering more afternoon/evening races, the numbers would skyrocket and be unmanageable. That being said, what do 1,100+ women have in common at 4:30 am on a beautiful Sunday morning in August?! If you said sleeping, think again–we were getting ready for the Columbia IronGirl sprint triathlon in Columbia, MD.
I have been a bit slow to recap my race but luckily I jotted some notes down the week following and have had time since to digest it a bit more. As my readers may recall the June sprint triathlon that I did at the Jersey shore was a battle of the mind. While the distances were nothing to write home about, swimming in the ocean was a bit terrifying. And it’s really difficult to simulate race conditions (ocean waves, wetsuit) in the pool. Excuses aside I finished that race in my own way, but I wasn’t satisfied with my performance. And the only way to move forward from your own mind game is to get back out there and try again.
I decided that signing up for another IronGirl race was just the confidence booster I needed. I arrived in Columbia the day before to get my race packet, attend a pre-race talk by the director, and rack my bike. Racking the bike the night before already took a good deal of stress off my shoulders because it was one less thing I would have to worry about the following morning. I also had the opportunity to walk around the lake and visualize race morning. Although the course looked a wee bit far, it was still not as scary as the ocean! I dipped a toe in the water and the temperature felt good. I was not going to need a wet suit. It was going to be a good race.
Another thing I did to take the pressure off and eliminate the distractions of home was to book a hotel about 10 minutes from the race site. I used the evening at the hotel to relax pool-side for a bit, read a magazine (what a luxury) and made friends with a little fourth-grade girl who was swimming. Later I found a Thai restaurant for dinner–half wondering if Pad Thai was going to agree with me for a pre-race dinner (it was fine) and talked to my brother on the phone. Then early to bed at 9:30; I had an amazing slumber. So when my alarm went off at 4:30 the morning of August 17, I popped out of bed ready to go–it was time for my redemption race!
Race morning had the perfect amount of pre-race chill in the air. I got a good parking spot and made my way down to the transition area to set up all my gear. After a little bit of time there and with body marking complete I took one last pit stop and made my way over to the swim start area.
In a sea of strangers it’s pretty amazing that I spotted a former co-worker. We chatted for a bit (she was out to cheer on her neighbor) and then I found my friend Nicole who told me she was planning to come cheer me on!
After a bit of waiting around it was finally time for my age group to head into the water. The unique thing about this race was that they sent us into the water as pairs to help with the spacing.
The water was probably in the low 70’s and felt good. Once I was a little ways past the first buoy I got into a little bit of a stride, but there were so many women out there swimming that my hand every now and then would graze someone’s foot or vice versa.
Every time this happened I had to get out of the crawl stroke and begin breaststroke or side stroke for a bit. But it was progress–the head games of swimming were not in play and I knew I could finish this race with confidence. [SWIM TIME: 32:46; 3:17/100 m; 0.62 mile]
[TRANSITION 1: 2 MINUTES]
Next up–the bike. Overall it was a good, but tough course. Unlike the 12-mile flat beach course, this one was 16 miles filled with a lot of hills. I would estimate that over half the course was on an uphill trajectory. One time my gears were not shifting properly and I had to get off the bike and walk it up a hill. But the rest I made. It was the portion of the entire race where people talk to one another–women are chatty! One gal was singing (when we made it to a downhill shady street) and we kept playing a game of pass and be passed. She yelled out to me at once point that I was probably tired of hearing her singing! I had to chuckle–it made the race more fun in my opinion! Upon reaching the top of one hill I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was–wish I had my camera–the overlook of a huge farm field was stunning and gave me an opportunity to enjoy the moment and relish in God’s handiwork of our beautiful country.
I worked hard for those 16 miles and finally was inching closer to the transition area. The run was next and this was my strength–after coming off the Lost Dog 5K series where I did really well I was ready to test my speed in the last leg of the tri. [BIKE TIME: 1:12:32; 13.24 mph; 16 miles]
[TRANSITION 2: 2 MINUTES]
It’s run time! After making my way out of transition (this time remembering to take off my helmet!) I was off for the run. The race course was along a wooded trail that looped its way up and around the lake. At the very beginning of the race there was a group of middle-aged shirtless men running. I’m thinking “don’t they know a race was going on right now?” But it was a bit of a spectacle as one of the volunteers was yelling out “oh, hey guys!” I blew by them which made me laugh even more that I was still faster than them and all they were doing that morning was running. At about the 1.5 mile mark the trail went uphill for a bit and they called it Gatorade Hill–yep you guessed it Gatorade was waiting for us at the top! At least I knew we’d have to come back down–the ladies coming down looked much happier than those of us who were going up! I was enjoying the run and getting into my stride and as the trail curved around the lake I knew that the finish was in sight. I felt strong and knew that my time would reflect that work. [RUN TIME: 29:27; 8:37/mile; 3.42 miles]
This race was a great one–I recommend it for any ladies who are interested in doing a race in an encouraging environment to do this one. It was just what I needed to boost my self-confidence again and prove that we can accomplish anything with the right attitude and perseverance. I’m already brainstorming ideas for what I want to accomplish next year–at least an Olympic triathlon; maybe a half Ironman race.
Since then I’m continuing to swim at the local high school pool–it has really been a great form of exercise for me and I want to continue getting better and better so that hopefully one day I’ll be able to tackle that crazy ocean swim.