I signed up for Trirock Annapolis on a whim over the winter. Despite a somewhat high price tag it seemed like a good idea at the time, and a few friends agreed with me and signed up too. But, as the race started looming a few weeks ago, I found I wasn’t looking forward to it. First, it was getting in the way of my 50K training. (Mind you, so was the hip…) Second, I felt very unprepared for a sprint tri as I hadn’t practiced transitions and hadn’t done a brick at all. And third, I was questioning whether I really want to continue with multisport racing. I’ve been doing a lot of trail running lately which I love, and that brought me back to my continual debate ever whether I really can be a triathlete and runner, and compete and place in both events, or whether I really should try to focus on one sport.
On the way to Annapolis with teammate Meggan I was texting our coach about our statuses (Meggan’s pneumonia, my hip) and I joked that I felt great since being shot up with cortisone and was planning to “tear it up.” It really was a joke. I was finally looking forward to, rather than dreading, the race, but I was far from in race mode.
Race day arrived and we got up, breakfasted, put on our temporary tattoos (gotta love Tri Tats, no more poorly-written numbers!), checked our gear and nutrition, and headed to the transition area, just a short walk from our hotel, at 6am. Well, we were planning to head to transition but then saw a line snaking from transition all the way to the circle at the bottom of main street. It didn’t make sense, since transition opened at 5:15, that there were so many people waiting. Someone said it was because they were letting people in in groups. Still didn’t make sense, and with mine and teammate Monique’s 7am start time (1st wave) looming, I started getting very nervous that we wouldn’t have time to set up. I went to the front of the line to find out the reason for the delay, and discovered that every bike was being inspected before athletes were allowed in. This was ludicrous. If the organizers planned to inspect bikes they should have let us know and given us the option to have our bikes inspected the day before, as many other races do. I told one of the race crew that the line was heading up Main Street and people were getting anxious about having time to set up, put on wetsuits, etc. He assured me it would be fine, I told him I wasn’t convinced and marched off, convinced my race was screwed and pissed off for signing up for the race in the first place.
As I was about to spontaneously combust from the stress of waiting, the floodgates opened (they stopped checking bikes) and we were allowed in to transition. Once in, we had no idea where to go. Transition was marked by wave but not by number, so while we were looking at a sign on a bike rack showing “Wave 1,” I could see no bikes with numbers anywhere near mine – a scarily low 25. (Triathlon numbers are usually seeded, and my race packet indicated “Advanced.” I don’t even remember entering a finish time when I signed up for the race, but it’s very possible I low-balled it, knowing TriRock is a popular beginner event.)
Monique and I finally found our bike racks after a few frantic minutes of searching. The nice thing about TriRock is that you are assigned a specific spot, indicated by a sticker on the rack, which means you don’t have to arrive early to “claim” a good spot. Once we had our bikes in place and had laid out all the stuff we needed, we hastily donned our wetsuits. Thankfully I had bought some TriSlide, which I recommend for easier wetsuit application!
With no time to fart around, Monique and I headed over to the swim start. The announcer had already called waves 1 – 6, and since we were in wave 1, we had to squeeze by 5 other waves to get to the front. Looking around our wave, we were surrounded by men. We knew there were other women in our wave, but couldn’t see any of them. The thought of swimming with a bunch of guys who were all much bigger than us was intimidating. My plan was to stay at the back anyway, as I had no interested in getting pummeled like I did at Austin…and that was in an all-female wave. I’ve heard men are worse…
When we jumped in the water off a small temporary docked I swallowed a ton of water. I quickly realized it was because the water was cold (I think about 62 degrees) and I involuntarily inhaled. I tried a few strokes and felt ok, not entirely comfortable, but ok. Monique, on the other hand, didn’t look so good. She told me she couldn’t put her face in the water, it was too cold. The announcer had already started the countdown so I said to her, “you’re a good swimmer, you’ll be fine” which was all I could think to say to try to help her.
Then the horn sounded and I realized I needed to start swimming. The first few strokes felt weird, really weird, as if I’d never swum open water. I was sighting fine but I wasn’t breathing properly and my arms hurt (possibly the cold water). I decided to put my head down and just swim for a bit to get going. That made me feel much better, but unfortunately when I looked up I was right next to a kayak and the bouy I needed to head towards was way over to my left. Shit! It’s not surprising that I swam off course as I know I pull to the right when I swim. I corrected and started sighting more, but wondered how much time I had lost. I was glad it was only a 500m swim. The good thing was I didn’t get hit at all…of course no-one was swimming near me since I was so off course. I rounded the first bouy and the second came up quickly.I caught up with a couple of guys and swam in between them until we got to the dock at the end of the swim. I climbed up one of the four ladders (harder than it seems) and started running, peeling off my wetsuit as I went.
As I got to my spot in transition I heard Monique yelling at me from behind. Weird, I thought. Monique is a much better swimmer than me and should have already been out of the water. Turns out she got pummeled at the beginning of the swim by the guys, probably while I was swimming way off course.
I threw on my sunglasses and helmet, grabbed my bike, and bolted out of transition. Monique’s encouragement had lit a fuse under me and suddenly I was in race mode. I flew past a couple of dawdling guys and jumped on my bike. Fiddled a bit getting my shoes on but overall it was a good start to the bike. I felt good as I headed out for the first of two legs. The course turned out to be hillier than it seemed when we had driven it the day before (go figure, it’s easier in a car!) and I was punching through the gears as I went up and down. But I was also passing lots of guys, and that felt good.
I saw Monique going the other way on the first turnaround, and she yelled, “you’re kicking butt!” That lit another fuse and I pushed harder. In loop 2 of the bike the big hill over the Severn River hurt like hell, my hamstrings protesting loudly, but I was still passing guys so I kept on pushing. I think working the hills with teammate Tanya the last couple of weeks gave me the edge I needed….plus passing guys always feels good…
There was a short stretch where passing wasn’t allowed and I found myself cursing at the guys in front of me whom I’d caught after a downhill but couldn’t pass. I ditched them on the final turnaround by taking them on the inside, and headed home. I had my shoes off and ready but there was a blockade at the dismount so I dismounted early while riding kinda fast and heard a couple of gasps from the crowd as I took off running. I got my back wheel in the bike rack (TriRock has ground racks, not hanging racks, which I really like as they are just easier for me. With 650 wheels my bike sometimes swings around on the hanging rack.), shoved my feet in my shoes, grabbed my bib, and headed off for the run.
The run was hard. With my hip issue I haven’t been doing any speedwork, plus we started off going uphill. In my non-racing mood I hadn’t programmed my Garmin to show pace, and my brain wasn’t functioning well enough to remember which buttons to push to get pace on the display. I resolved to run as hard as I could. Mile 1 was in the 7s, but by mile 2 I had a better pace going and the Garmin read off 6:51. With 1 mile to go I started to feel like puking, but reminded myself that it was all flat with the downhill at the end, and pressed on. I had already passed about 3 ladies so felt good. Near the end I was gaining on another woman and wondered if I had enough time to pass her. I pushed as hard as I could but just didn’t have enough to get by her…she was in the 55-59 age group.
I ended up 2nd in the 40-44 age group (first time in this category!)
500m swim – 11:04
12 mile bike – 37:02
5K run: 21:40
After gathering the rest of my teammates, we headed over to the beer tent for complimentary beer, followed by the awards ceremony – 3 of us placed in our age groups and won giant beer mugs, so a great day for Team TPR!
Many thanks to Meggan for driving and finding fabulous hotel (Governor Calvert) within walking distance of start, Monique for cheering me on like a wild woman, and Dottie and Lester (not pictured) for being fantastic teammates.
Will I do this race again? Yes. Aside from the transition entry snafu, it was well organized and orchestrated, a lot of fun, and reminded me why I love to race. Oh, they give out a nice medal to all finishers, too. But you know I’m not about the bling.