Now that the dust has settled on my final triathlon of the 2007 season, its time to recap the Annapolis Triathlon. This was the inaugural race, so I expected communication and logistical issues. Although pre-race communication with several emails were great, details and logistical information was lacking from each email. With the changing courses in the months and weeks before the race, it was difficult to train specifically for the course. However, I knew one thing about the bike and run, having practiced several times on the different proposed routes: lots of relentless rolling hills. I was prepared as ever on the bike, as my focus this season has been improving the bike. The run, I usually just deal with whatever is left in the tank. But the swim is where I was truly under prepared.
Came into town the day before to check in and drop off the bike at T1, which was required. Paid $5 to park and $5 more to park for Sunday...not cool. Once I got through the somewhat complicated registration process, which included signing a waiver to be on the video coverage (cool), picking up my race packet, activating my timing chip, marking my T1 trash bag with my id sticker and race number, picking up my water bottle, and picking up my t-shirt (cool). Some of these steps could have been avoided in my opinion to lessen the complexity, but it is what it is. After that, walked the bike a mile down to T1 at the dock to drop it off only to find out that I was supposed to have my bike inspected at registration. Myself, along with many others, were forced to ride a mile or so back up hill to the registration area to get the stupid little inspection sticker. Nowhere during the registration process before did anyone mention bike inspections, nor were there any signs as to where it was. Lastly, nowhere in any of the five emails they sent out did it say we had to have our bikes inspected. It was pointed out to me later that it said it on the website. WTF! What is the point of sending out emails about logistics and race information if you don't include details like, "Hey, before you take your bike a mile down into town, make sure you get you bike checked". Or here is another idea - Have bike inspections AT T1, so people don't have to ride all the way back. So that is my pre-race rant.
Race morning, woke up at 3:30 am, toasted some cinnamon raisin bread with peanut butter and tried to take in lots of water, and out the door by 4:15 am. Made it to Annapolis by 5 am and got a good parking spot close to T2. Walked over to set up my run gear, got on the shuttle bus to head down to the dock for the race start, finalized by bike setup with 2 Accelerade bottles and 1 water bottle. Watched the first wave go off and then went back to put on the wetsuit. My wave with the 6th wave, so we had to wait a little bit, but not too bad. They spaced us out 5 minutes apart, so the waves weren't running over each other, like some other races that only space by 2 or 3 minutes.
Once they had us corralled up in our swim wave (14-29 yr old Males), we started making our way down to the makeshift water entry and into the water. I jumped to make my way out to the in water start area, when it hit me...this is salt water....ugh. Fortunately, it was watered down salt water, so nothing too bad. Last time I swam in the ocean, I could barely swim, due to the high salt content that just nauseated me. This time, it was a bit better.
I positioned myself in the middle off to the right to try and avoid the masses when the gun went off. I race was smooth as could be for the first half of the race. Barely any contact and feeling strong. I thought to myself as I made the turn around the buoy at the half way point, "this is by far your best swim ever". Why I let that thought creep into my mind, I don't know. Because it was at that point, when the jackass swimming in front of my decided he didn't want to swim anymore and instead of breast stroking, he went completely vertical. What happened next was something that I never imagined happening in a swim race. It was the first, and not the last time this would happen too. While I was continuing to swim, I went full steam into his head! Clearly not my fault, since nobody and I mean NOBODY should ever go from swimming horizontal to treading water vertically without looking to see if others are coming. What happened to floating on your back, breast stroking, side stroking or doggie paddling? Oh yea...and this happened to me 2 more times! Each time, this caused me to stop and pull out my dictionary of 4 lettered words that are typically kept for special occasions. This was one of those. At least one guy had the guts to apologize to me. The others acted as if they did nothing wrong! This also caused my body to react in shock, causing my muscles to seize up with a hamstring cramp. One hamstring cramp turned into two, which turned into no kicking and only pulling with my arms. My string of good luck (sarcasm) continued half way down the last straightaway of the swim. Some of the lead swimmers from the previous wave were catching me, and seeing as I was signing effectively, I was right in their path. You can guess what happened at that point. A few minor bumps and excuse me's, but the one that got me was a swift kick to the face that knocked my goggles off. So, I float on my back for a minute to reset my goggles and hold on for dear life that the swim is almost over. I'm guessing the 2nd half of the swim took twice as long as the first half. It was that bad. I couldn't wait to get out of the water any faster!
Time: 36:50 (nearly a 5 minute personal worst)
As I said earlier, the one thing I knew I'd have going for me was a solid bike. I pre-rode the course, trained lots of hills, and was on a mission to avenge my catastrophic swim. Although I had to deal with already cramping hamstrings, I settled into a fast pace early, passing people in sets of 5 in the first few miles out. I felt like everyone was riding in slow motion as I zipped along, which made me feel good. Strangely enough, I usually pass people on uphills and get passed by people on the downhills. This time it was the opposite! The one BIG downhill on the course got me up to 45 MPH and passing at least 20 people in that section alone. Once on the way back, I continued to push my cadence. To try to offset the existing cramps in my legs, I took in Endurolytes every 30 minutes. This really helped my legs recover some on the bike, from the swim. Unfortunately, I didn't plan on needing more than a few on the bike and a few on the run. I took them all on the bike due to earlier cramping and was left with whatever fate threw me on the run. The bike ended with some surprise short steep climbs that left your legs burning just enough to make the dismount and run into transition a struggle.
Time: 1:11:06 (personal record by a long shot - 19.9MPH)
Off the bike, the legs had a bit of a struggle ahead of them. Thrown for a loop during the swim, my muscles felt like they could blow at any point. I had to shorten my stride and keep the cadence up. I felt alright for the first mile and half as we looped around the stadium twice. Being near cheering spectators helped keep my pushing and mentally strong. The next 2 miles were when my legs finally felt loose and I started to cautiously pick up the pace. However, it was also during those 2 miles that there was no shade and longer periods between water stops. At each water stop, I took 2 and sometimes 3 waters to try to drink and cool myself down. I was barely able to take in my 1st gel at mile 3 and knew my body wouldn't take another if I tried, so I had to stick with water and not the Gatorade they had on the course. It also would have been nice to have some ice to throw in my race top to keep cool. I'd dump water on my head and feel good for 30 seconds before overheating again. Ice would have lasted a bit longer. Anyways, the rest of the course had 1 big climb up to the top arch of a steep bridge, which cause my quads to lock and forced me to walk that and any remaining hills. After turning around at the top, there was 1.2 miles to go and I tried to run as much as I could, but had to walk a few more times. Once I saw the stadium close, I kept running until I dropped down into the tunnel leading to the Navy football field. Once I broke through the opening, it was a 50 yard dash through a large crowd to cheer on the finishing triathletes, at which point I heard my name announced as I looked up at myself on the Jumbotron! I saw a few spectators I knew as I passed by, along with Rebecca and my parents who came out to watch.
Time: 57:34 (Not great, but ok considering the conditions)
Overall: 2:49:50 (PR of 3 minutes)
I started the season off with a bang in being dedicated to practicing and improving my swim. But most recently in the past month or so, my swim practice had slowed to once a week, more as maintenance than anything else. It showed in the overall time. I am ecstatic to end the season on a high note with a PR. I just wish it was an all around good race and not a struggle. For me, its time for some R&R while doing a few running races for fun, followed by a nice break, before jumping into the offseason program for next year.