Columbus, GA Tri

After getting my swim shortened at Nashville, and qualifying for Nationals but deciding not to go – I wanted to race another Olympic. Columbus, GA triathlon was close, scheduled well and…why not? Right? Right.

Mary, my coach, said this was a race for which I wouldn’t taper, and had two goals: 1 – focus on transitions and 2 – have fun.

I drove down the evening before, and basically did nothing that evening – I chatted with Cameron on the phone, emailed a couple of people from my phone, ate dinner, and then got everything that I could ready for the next day.

It took me forever to fall asleep, and then I slept solid…until 3:30. Sigh…I didn’t feel nervous – this was not a primary race for me. I was training through it. But, as usual in these cases, I started asking why I was doing this, and wanting it to be over. But, I know the drill – once I am there – seeing the people and chatting it up with strangers (or friends) and begin racing, I have an amazing time. It is just getting to the start line!

First thing I notice when I woke up: lightening! Uh oh. I look at the app on my phone – there is a nice line of storms coming through. It looked like it would clear out by 7 or 8 a.m. but I was set to wondering if they would delay the race an skip the swim. Tri Columbus GA (who was putting on the event) did a good job of sending out emails telling people to please be flexible (at about 4:30) and then later stating things were delayed 30 minutes.

I decided, since my hotel was literally across the street from transition, to hang in my room until 5:45, and then head over. I was texting with Chris Hartley – talking about the weather, and he was also checking on-line. The thunder, lightning and heavy stuff would soon be gone.  Hooray!

At 5:45 it was pretty much just a drizzle so I headed out. The rain stopped before I was at transition. I got there and was a bit confused. I looked around to figure things out. First thing: where to pick up my timing chip. Second: rack my bike. There were no assigned positions – first come first served. All the spots adjacent to the rows were full, so I went second in, row three.  I am horribly slow at transition, and am trying some different things, so was fiddling around: did I want to put a plastic bag over my shoes? The rain was pretty much gone. No – use it to put beneath my transition bag – which I set way out of the way.

I went for my warm up run (it’s still before 6, and the race now starts at 7:30). I feel OK and keep it slow. The whole point is to just get out the jitters for a good swim start. It works for me.

Then I met Mary. She was scoping the venue and organizers for IronTeam so it worked out she could join me. Friendly faces help a lot! We chatted strategy, weaknesses, and various items to pass the time.  I checked to be sure my gears were set and then we headed over to swim start. There was a sign for the duathlon start, but nothing for the tri start, and not a lot of people. However, we went to the river and there were some triathletes there. I think we found the start! And I think Mary started to realize how neurotic I can be about being early so I don’t get anxious or feel rushed!

We watched people paddle in the water – when they went upstream it was like watching people in an endless pool! Quite the current going on. I kept thinking the swim is 1000 meters downstream, and 500 up. Ugh….

One last bathroom call, and then I headed down to the water. I got in – very comfortable temperature. I paddled against the current – it didn’t feel bad and I made progress. Getting back to the side was tricky with the current, though. Wow! Really strong current.

People started arriving to the swim start and soon most of the athletes were present (it seemed).

I milled around, and started chatting with a group of guys – two were doing their first Olympic. They chatted about training, family, where we were from, past and future plans.  All in all – it kept me calm. You always meet interesting people who work very hard to overcome challenges, and work hard to keep family in balance with work and training.

The swim start was a time trial start – first come first served. I managed to position myself such that I was in the first third of people getting in. They looked at you, said “Go” and then you ran to the edge of the dock and jumped in (“No Diving”).  I hit the water and started swimming. I never really let up for the entire swim (yea!). I looked left and saw Mary along the river walk – following along. I kept swimming: orange buoys to my left – out towards the middle. It was shallow in parts – I could have easily reached down and touched rock (almost). I kept going- passing people. Heading down was easy (and I still pushed). I turned the buoy and it quickly became one the of the harder swims I have done. But I kept up – not letting up and made steady progress – passing more people. There was a lot of space. And still pretty shallow. I was grateful they made it such that you were swimming near shore when going against the current.

I saw the ramp up and out and headed that way. Once I saw the grid I got up and tried to walk – but it was still uneven, so I quickly returned to swimming until I hit the concrete of the ramp.  Pshew! I was done with that! Against the stream was hard, but I was proud I swam well all the way, not depending on the current on the way down, and not letting it get me down when swimming against.

My focus on this even was transitions. I hit the ground running and actually passed a few people. We ran up the ramp and up a steep hill. Overall it was over a 0.2 mile run for transition. I reached my bike, threw down my goggles and swim cap, grabbed my helmet and shades (helmet was goofy but after a few seconds I decided to deal with it on the bike if I had to), and shoes. I was one of the first out of transition.

As I went out to the path a duathlon person ran by. There were a few awkward crossings of paths along this race, and this was one. He had gotten off his route though. Whoops! Most of the time there were people there to direct traffic.

The ground was still wet, and we started off downhill – cautiously. A lot of the bike was on a multi-use path which was open to public use. The way out and in wasn’t bad. But out on the loop portion there were many S turns and areas that were tricky – especially when wet. A number of big puddles as well. I thought that someone was going to slide out – and it easily could be me.  The rest of the ride was on a business highway open to traffic with cones separating riders from cars. They had a lot of police at intersections and where major businesses had their drives, but they couldn’t be everywhere and I had a big black suburban cut in front of me hurrying to their destination. I braked (only slowing down) yelled at him, and went on. I was following someone and slowly closing in. About 2-3 riders passed me on the first loop.

On the second lap I finally caught the guy I had been following. I told him I had been chasing him all day and he said “Tag. You’re it!” I kept going and never saw him again.

Heading back in to the private road that leads to the multi-use path again on the second loop it started raining. And I saw a rainbow! Hooray. The rain made the paths slick. Not great on the winding parts. But I kept it going – keeping it steady and solid. A few more riders (all men) passed me on the second loop – one was a group of about 5 guys. No course enforcement for drafting on this part of the course! 

I remember feeling strong and good. I did slow down on some of the curvier parts, but pretty much kept a steady, strong rhythm and watched my cadence.

The ride was short by about 2.5 miles for an Olympic distance.  Soon I was coming in to transition. I managed to get one foot out of my shoe, and the other, not quite. But I quickly wiggled out with both shoes still on my bike (looking a bit clumsy) and ran in to transition. I ran to my spot and was relieved to see it hadn’t rained there and my socks and shoes were dry!  I put them, my race belt and visor and was quickly (for me) out. At that point people were telling me I was the first female. Since it was a swim time trial start I didn’t read too much in to it, but it was fun to hear!

I started off on the run and, although a bit fatigued, ran strong. I think the encouragement of knowing I was the first female helped! I reached the turn around and this is where something fantastic happened. As I passed women coming the other way we smiled and encouraged each other. Nothing from the men (except when I passed a few – they were always encouraging), but the women…yes! It was amazing and kept me going. That and seeing the women behind me and knowing full well they could catch me!

As I went along I passed a few men. One I passed, he later passed me. And, near the end I passed him and he told me to go for it. Which I did. I thought the race would end at 6.2, but quickly realized the run course was long. That was when you just keep going…wondering when it will end. I noted to one guy that the course was long and he asked if we could stop now. I said we could…but pride wouldn’t let us. And he said I was right! The run ended up being about 6.9 miles! Just a little over. But that makes me feel all the better for what I was able to maintain in my run. That is the longest I have maintained a pace of about 8:10/mile average. Holy Cow! I won’t say it was the most comfortable thing I have done. I was pretty much on the edge of my comfort zone. But, I was able to finish strong!

I finished, and felt good. I raced the hardest I have raced thus far. I am very proud of this race. And I realized I may have raced my hardest, but I am capable of more (with training!)….still lots to learn and gauge. But, for now I will let this sit and remind me that I can! I finally hit a race goal….when I wasn’t supposed to.

Afterwards Mary and I waited around to see others come in and then check the results. Imagine my (our) surprise to see I was the first female! Well – there was one person marked female ahead of me whose name was Bob, about 10 years older and was over 10 minutes ahead. We figured it was probably safe to say Bob was male!

Of course I wanted to stay for the awards ceremony.  I didn’t realize it would take so long to get to it or else I would have gotten my bike out of transition and started packing up my hotel room. Instead I started getting nervous as my late checkout time started approaching and there were no signs of starting the ceremony. Finally I heard they wanted everyone to clear out transition so I ran down to pick up my stuff and headed back to transition. I could have stopped at the hotel, packed things in my car, and gotten moving (even though I did want to shower before heading home – I was a bit dirty after riding through puddles and in the rain).

Finally they started the awards. Duathlon first. And then they did the triathlon awards. We waited for me to receive my brick/plaque and then headed out. I even had time to shower quickly before I left!

As I drove home it started to hit me what I had just done. I had raced well for me, and had placed first overall female! Holy cow! Some days things just click – and I did. Mary and I joked that she just has to avoid the taper and just tell me to have fun – no time goals! No pressure then! Regardless, it felt wonderful to hit a time goal for a race, even if it was the goal for my previous race!

I looked at my transitions when results were posted and…believe it or not they were the fastest in my age group, and among women. There were many competitive men who were faster, but it’s a start! Woo hoo! I can!

My plaque
The awards for the Columbus Tri were bricks with a plaque on it. A bit different! I like it



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