The Columbia Tri was wonderful.  I hope to race this one every year, so mark your calendars.  You are not a triathlete (yet)?  Well, go get to work so you can do this awesome race with me!  We had a little group, but I’d love to get a larger group of my friends to come out for this next time.  The organization of the event, impressive field of athletes,  competent and welcoming volunteers, park-like setting for transition, good pavement and beautiful course with stunning hills all made it worth the 3 hour drive.

I did this race on tired legs with no tapering because it was only a C race for my training plan.  I also went in with an exhausted mind because, well, this hobby is not my whole life… and there were other responsibilities and excitements leading into the race depriving me of my recovery sleep.  Nick drove my friend J, his amazingly insightful and calming 13 year old daughter, A and of course me and our beautiful bikes up to Maryland.   I was a bit cranky having exhausted myself physically and mentally with only 4 hours of sleep the previous night so I’m grateful the group was very kind to me and patient on the ride up.  Their positivity was just what I needed to get my head straight for the race. 

We hit the expo and already my spirits were lifted with excitement.  The swag was sweet… gym bag, visor, cute t-shirt & nice logo water bottle!  We went on to rack our bikes and reality of the high caliber production set in upon seeing expansive rows upon rows of alphabetized racks set in the bottom of a hill in the grassy tree lined park.  After bike racking and dinner, we pro-drove the course in our car to preview what was in store for us the next day.   The hills seemed quite daunting, yet the pavement was mostly all smooth.  As we drove along the up and down roller coaster route, with J and I exclaiming at every twisty descent or gnarly looking climb, we also had a few animal sightings.   We saw deer running through the fields and the animal safari tour included me getting out of the car and being chased by a peacock.  Yeah… you can’t make this stuff up!  I was nearly mauled by an angry peacock in the rolling hills of Columbia MD.  Luckily, I am fast enough to get away from crazy birds.  Lesson learned, don’t exit the car in a safari tour to get closer to the animals!

Come race day, the good nights hotel sleep had done wonders for me.  My legs were still sore, but my mind had settled.  The goal for the day was to practice technique in each sport and have fun.  The weather was gorgeous- highs in the 70’s but started off much cooler than that which helped the fun part!   The wave starts had 8 minutes between and I was one of the last waves, so there was a lot of waiting.  I do not enjoy waiting around and need to be certain to warm  up before my next races.  It prepares my body and keeps me from feeling like I’m doing absolutely nothing productive… which I do not enjoy.  Too much anxiety builds when you just stand around.   Finally, our wave grouped up and I met a few cool athletes in the under 35 women’s wave as we bonded over talking about our feet… some girls had beautiful pedicures… a few for events and two admitted to painting their toes for this race.  My feet are not cute since I do not wear socks in the summer.  I have to toughen up those toes for fast (sockless) transitions. 

Once in the water, that pre-race jittery feeling or urge to chat with my fellow wave-mates was gone and it was game on!  I swam steady and strong fighting my way through the chaos at the start with confidence.  The lake was calm but it was hard to sight the buoys in the first half with the sun creating glare.  I drafted off a few athletes, then passed them and did a long stretch on my own on the way back until we neared the swim finish around 26 minutes.  My QR Superfull’s breakaway zipper worked well, but I did trip while pulling my foot out anyway and so yet again my wetsuit removal was a comedy show rather than the gracefully fast exit I had envisioned.  One day, we’ll get there.  Or, it will be hot enough not to have to wear it. 

The bike was brutally hilly and incredibly beautiful  in rolling hills with some grand mansions and expansive properties dotting the course.   I did great passing other cyclists on both climbs and descents though so that tells me the wintergreen riding certainly paid off.  When I became very tired and was getting discouraged at the midpoint of the race, I helped another cyclist – an amazing Team in Training athlete learn to put more power on the descents… giving back a little to the sport, like a woman had done for me at Giant Acorn last year.   I wasn’t hammering hard at that point anyway and it helped distract my mind from the fatigue in my legs.  The race was full of encouraging, friendly and FAST competitors which I enjoyed.   For this race, so many people cheered me on when I passed them or acknowledged me when they sailed on by me.  I love that part of tri.  I never realized how much joy I get from that part of tri culture until recently.  Oh, I just love it.  You get to meet and race with other people from all over and all different backgrounds and your toughest competition is often your biggest supporter as well.   Triathletes often elevate each other both in training and also even on race day.  Some take it to extremes.  For example, with only 15 miles to go, I encountered a man riding a Cervelo on the wrong side of the road.  He was not in the race, just riding along and encouraging others.  I tried to convince him not to be all dangerous and illegal on the wrong side of the road, but he just continued trying to cheer us on shouting, “make them pay for what they did to you!”…bizarre but it was nice in that he was distracting from the fatigue.  

Regarding my bike performance, I do believe I was a bit too conservative on the bike with my tired legs, but technique-wise I did great.  My leg muscles were just burning up and I was concerned about the hills on the run so I didn’t push as hard as I might have on fresh legs or if I’d pre-cycled the bike and run courses.

I was able to run the entire 6.2 and it was the toughest 10K I have ever done because of the killer hills.  This was not a run PR, but an incredible experience.  The best part is cresting the fierce and steep “Gatorade Hill” near the very end and after that you are rewarded with well…Gatorade and even better.. a nice flat stretch to the finish from that point on.  It was tough and fun and I would love to do it again, year after year. 

2:44:ish was my finish time.  This was not an oly PR, but I did not expect it given that I did not rest leading into it and the course was very challenging.  I did however come in 9th in my age group and in a large, competitive field, on ridiculously tired legs…. I was so happy with this result.  I qualified for the Hyvee Age Group 5150 Series US Championships which would be so much fun to race, but its a week away from IMWI, so I can’t do it.  If I qualify this year though, I will hope to qualify next year too!  : )

J also had a great race with a huge oly PR and we all had a wonderful time sharing race day adventure stories over a decadent lunch and a long drive back to town.

Lets do this race next year!  : )