Monday, August 3, 2009

River Cities Sprint Triathlon

August 2nd was the 29th anniversary of the River Cities Triathlon in Shreveport, LA. I am so grateful that I got to be a part of this very cool race. My friend R and her sister M came into town to race with me. R and I did our first triathlon together 10 years ago, so I was very glad to have her with me for this race.

On Saturday we picked up our packets (bag, beach towel, tech shirt, T-shirt, socks, sunglasses, gel) and drove out to Cypress Black Bayou park to check out the race course. We were pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the venue was. The lake looked very clean, the roads were in great condition, and the run course was through the forested park. We drove the bike course and kept saying how gentle the hills were (we didn't realized that they are not so gentle from a bike). We were driving in a huge rainstorm and were a little worried about the condition of the roads for the race, R and M had relatively new bikes and weren't sure how they would handle on very slick roads.

We needn't have worried because Sunday was a perfect day. We woke up at 4:00 to get loaded up and drive to the park by 6:30. Our families followed at a more sane hour. There were about 1200 participants in this triathlon and we were surprised at how efficiently we were parked. The transition area was ready when we got there and we found our bike slots and got our transition areas ready. A quick trip to the bathroom and we got body marked, then hit the beach to test the lake temperature. I was very happy to be able to see my hands go into the water as I was swimming, that meant that I would be able to see bubbles and feet as I approached another swimmer. We found our families right before the elite wave went off at 8:00. (don't worry, we weren't in THAT wave)

M's wave was in pink swim caps and they went off 4 minutes before our wave of yellow caps. There were 130 ladies in my wave, by far the largest swim start that I have ever been in. Actually, this was only my second open water swim triathlon and for the first 200 yards or so I wasted a lot of time trying to get clear of other swimmers. I found out that the swimmers in front of me were not a problem, what bothered me was having people so close to either side of me. They were harder to see and I had a brief thought of "Why did I want to do this again?" before I decided to just get to the first buoy. After that mental slap in the face, I put my head down and just swam. "Oh yeah, I know how to do this", I thought. I had forgotten to start my watch when our cannon went off, so I started it at the middle buoy. I knew I would negative split the swim since I wasted about 2-3 minutes getting my head right at the start. Before I passed the next buoy, I passed up some pink caps from the wave before me, so I knew that I was back on track. The rest of the swim went well and I ran up the beach and into T1.

Our families were there and I spent a little time waving and chatting with them while I was getting my bike stuff on. It was about 400 yards from my bike rack to the bike mount line and I walked as quickly as I could in my cleats, but I was getting passed by people running in theirs. I have got to practice running in my bike shoes, they are so slippery! I mounted my bike and took off. The bike route was on great roads and wound through a very pretty landscape. It had lots of rolling hills that were not big, but constant. On the flats I could get up to 21.5 mph, but on the hills had to drop down to about 10. I am usually by myself for most of the bike because my bike is heavy and I am not the best cyclist, but this race was so big that I had company the whole way. At times I could not go any faster because there was a line of people and I didn't know how to pass when everyone was spaced out like that without getting a drafting penalty. (Other times I couldn't go any faster because I just don't have great bike skills yet!)

I finished the bike and again had to walk my bike through the transition area. No family this time so I quickly switched shoes, put on my race belt, swapped my helmet for my visor and I was off. I usually have a stitch in my side for the first half mile or so after getting off the bike, so I just breathe and take it easy because I know it will pass. I started feeling good soon enough and it wasn't too hot. I have never been to any run with more water stops and volunteers handing out cool towels. There were even two sprinkler stations to run past and get wet. This race has tremendous volunteer support! I made a point to thank them for being there. People were calling out my number, "Go 297!" It was very encouraging. The run was loopy enough that I got to see M finishing up and cheer for her. I looked for R, but missed her, even though I knew she was in front of me by about 15 minutes. By my watch I ran the first mile in 10 minutes and the second in 9 minutes. By then I knew that I would not get a 5K PR. The bike course took too much out of my legs. About a quarter mile of the course was on a trail and that was my favorite part of the whole race. I was feeling good on the run, but something changed when I entered that trail. I felt even better, I'd go as far as to say I felt joyous on that dirt (mud) trail. I will have to look into trail running in the near future. I went into the finish feeling strong, despite the blisters that were forming on my right foot (so much for my no sock idea). I ran through an archway and stepped onto a mat. The announcer said my name and that was beyond cool! I thought I was done so I slowed down and even stared to walk until people yelled to GO, GO! Then I realized that the actual finish was about 5 yards ahead of me. Apparently that first mat was to scan you chip for your name and the final mat was your finish time. I was still too excited to hear my name called out to care that I started walking before I actually finished the race!

Here are my official results:

800 meter swim - 20:28
18.2 mile bike - 1:07 (16.5 mph average)
5K run - 30:15 (9:44 pace)
Total time - 2:03

*I decided that since it took me longer, I had more fun!

I highly recommend this race. It is beautiful, very well organized, has a goody bag like you wouldn't believe, and is full of friendly people.

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