Monday, May 21, 2007

Columbia Triathlon

My alarm goes off at 5:00 AM Sunday morning... race day. I drink about a half gallon of water and eat my peanut butter & jelly sandwich and head over to Centennial Park. Body marking and transition set up goes smoothly (after all, how can you mess *that* up?!), and I meet up with Deb and Sarah around 6:30 with about an hour and a half to kill before my start time. They get me zipped up in my wetsuit (which normally is no big deal, but this zipper was being stubborn), visit the TriCats tent, and watch the earlier waves go.. by this time it's raining.. great, nothing better than a slick bike course, not to mention the torture of the hills that is the Columbia bike course!

Finally, 8:00 rolls around and before I know it, it's time to jump in the water. People say the water temp was cold, but I really didn't notice.. the countdown begins, and I'm off... the first orange buoy looks about 2 miles away, so I stop looking up, and just make sure I've got people on my right and my left, so I'm not going off course. I actually felt really good with the swim.. that orange buoy came up much faster than I thought... in fact, my swim time of 32:58 was about 7 minutes faster than I'd expected. I was quite pleased with the swim.

It took me just under 6 minutes in the transition, and then was off on the dreaded bike. I've been having such trouble with my chain in the past few weeks, that I didn't know what to expect. I'd done the course twice already, so I knew exactly where the big hills were (well, that's easy- they were every half mile or so!). About 6 miles in, my chain fell off.. I just knew this was a sign of trouble, and did not want to spend the entire 25 miles stopping and adjusting my bike. I stopped, and spent about 5 minutes trying to get the chain unstuck and back on... then, I spent the next 5 minutes trying to get it jammed in there even more so that the race officials would tell me that it was un-ridable, and I'd have to drop out. 10 minutes later, the bike people finally drove by, and THEY WOULDN'T LET ME QUIT!!! Seriously- I tried.. hard.. to convince them my bike just couldn't handle the course, but they refused to let me stop. He fixed the chain, and off I was again... ugh.

About 2 miles up the road, the chain fell off again, as I expected it would. This time, there was a volunteer nearby, and I tried to convince him that I was done... he refused to listen, however he did tell me that my brake was rubbing against my front tire. So, basically, I'd done the first 3 tough hills with my brakes partially on... of course, he fixed that too and made me keep going......

By this point, I thought I was dead last, since during my time trying to talk my way out of continuing, I had watched so many people go by (besides, there were only 2 swim waves after me, so how could anyone be left?). I got on my bike and continued on though, quite mad at these race officials who wouldn't drive me back to the transition area. Actually though, that was the last time my chain came off, though I faked it once just to have an excuse to stop for a brief rest... did I mention this course is killer?? :-) Turns out, I wasn't the last person... I caught up with 2 others and managed to keep pace with them. I planned 2:15:00 for the bike and finished in 2:12:28... and if you consider all the time I spent off the bike with the volunteers, I probably could've done it in under 2 hours..

I had a fairly quick 2:47 transition and was off on the run. There were a few other stragglers around me, however the course was not marked, and without the huge masses of people in front of us, we just could not figure out which way to go. At one split in the path, we started going one way until another runner coming towards us told us it was the wrong way (she'd already gone about half mile out of her way). At another turn, I was by myself and tokd a 50/50 guess about which way to go.. for awhile, I didn't see anybody and thought that maybe I'd made the wrong decision.. I decided I didn't care and would just make my way over to the finish any way I could, thus cutting off about 3 miles. No such luck though.. I had indeed chosen the correct path as I came up to the mile 2 marker... then the hills began. Who'd have known the Columbia, MD area was so mountainous! The run course was just as hard as the bike course, but I finally started catching up to some other stragglers and walkers. I saw a girl in front of me with a 31 on her calf and figured if I could just get in front of her, I wouldn't be the last in my age group... so I over took her around mile 4.. I walked the uphills, ran the downhills and just could not wait to be done.

At the last quarter mile, I saw Deb and Sarah.. Deb joined my run and pushed me through the finish, with a total time of 4:31:43... phew. My dad, Jeremy, Kristen and Jayce also met me at the finish, as well as a couple from my triathlon club who waited it out for me. They even had strawberries for me! It was definitely the hardest triathlon I'd ever done, and I am determined to master that bike course by next year! although... I'm still mad about those #*&% race officials who wouldn't let me quit!!