Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Race Report: HITS Half Iron Distance Triathlon - Part 3!

Before we started swimming, a light drizzle had begun, and it had not stopped by the time I exited the water. I always like when there are volunteers who militantly order me onto my butt so that they can rip off my wetsuit...that sentence reads differently now that I can read it back to myself. Anyway, these guys make wetsuit removal easy, but I didn't see them when I got out of the water. Jessica said they were there, so I must have missed them. Getting a wetsuit off by yourself is difficult.

I succeeded eventually and I pulled on my bike shorts and running shirt over my wetsuit. Typically, I would wear triathlon clothes during a race, since you can swim, bike, and run in the same outfit, but the ones I have that fit are getting pretty worn. I think the shorts might be see-through at this point, so I was hesitant to use them as swim bottoms and then for another 6 hours after that.

I was finally all geared up when I wheeled my bike out past the timing mat and just at the start point. After ditching a bottle of water that was woefully small for my water bottle holder (sorry, kind volunteer who picked it up!), I was on my way.

I was one of the last ones out of the water for my distance, which is not unusual but was more pronounced on this day. Typically, the people who exit the water around the same time are either overall race stragglers, and therefore easy to pick off on the bike, or cycling dynamos who haven't learned to swim well yet who zoom past me from the start. That's pretty much how it broke down. The other people on the course at that time were racing the Olympic. It's sometimes obvious to see the difference between Olympic racers and sometimes not. Regardless, I was happy for the additional company while I had it.

The hilliest part of the course was the beginning (and end)! It seemed a little cruel to me, since that was the part shared by all distances. I don't know. I don't get paid to design race courses.

At the very end of that first 6 or so miles (the shared part), we climbed a steep hill. At the top of the hill, a woman told me something like "good for you". From what I could tell, it was completely genuine, but I was trying to figure out what she meant because we were both successfully climbing the hill. I like to think I did it with some style, even though I do almost nothing with style.

The ride was pleasant and not especially hilly except for the beginning and end. The only little thing that posed a tiny problem was that it poured torrentially for two thirds of the race. There were places where I went slower than I would have otherwise because I didn't want to fall. I was also wearing my sunglasses. It was a little bit like driving without windshield wipers.

The rain wasn't awful, though it certainly impacted my performance. I think worse than the rain itself was the fact that there were NO mile markers in the whole race. None. I was wearing my watch, so I had a good sense of how far I'd gone, but if it hadn't been for that I would have been extremely frustrated by this situation.

Additionally, there came a part of the race that felt like it was 5-10 miles long in which there were no signs and no volunteers, so I continually thought I was lost. There was no one visibly ahead of me and only one person occasionally behind. There would be stretches when I wouldn't see her for a long time and worry that I'd taken a wrong turn, so I would slow until she came into sight and then continue. At one point, I started to worry that both of us had taken a wrong turn and nearly came to a full stop to wait for her, when I finally saw a race vehicle waiting at an intersection ahead. None of this helped, either.

But finally I did return to the turnaround point, which was my signal that I was only 6-7 miles from the end. Unfortunately for me, this was also the hilly part and I appreciated it even less at the end of the 56 mile ride than I had at the beginning.

All that aside though, I was just happy to have made it to the run. The run is and will probably always be the most reliable part of any triathlon for me. I can always grind out a run.