Woohoo! Nation’s Triathlon is in the bag…well, really Nation’s duathlon is in the bag. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
FianceKef’s dear friend H.A.M.Kef suggested we add this race to the season’s roster, and since my first attempt at an Olympic triathlon was only about a month before Nation’s, I figured I’d be mostly trained up for a sprint. Timing was pretty awesome- I rested for a couple days after NYC, then went back to 10 days of peak training, backed off, and tapered. Before I knew it it, it was race weekend!
The expo was exactly the kind I like–not too big, not too small, and full of local vendors with blow out sales. H.A.M.Kef and I hit up the Potomac River Runners’ stand like it was our job– I got some much needed new running gear for half-off PLUS a pair of Newton Distance shoes… for $50! I am so excited to finally give Newtons a try. (What’s the hype? Check it out here.)
After the expo, we scidaddled over to West Potomac Park to rack up, which was easy as pie. Turns out the pre-race day procedures have WAY less rigamarole when you remember to bring your bike number to bike rack-in! A quick stop off at the grocery store for pre-race meals (me: Van’s juice-sweetened GF waffles, H.A.M.Kef: black bean spaghetti with butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and a little grilled chicken. She wins.) and we were home by 3 pm.
Just a few (14, to be exact) short hours later, we were up and ready to race! The heavy rain on Saturday had cooled DC down immensely (almost 20 degrees!)… but it has also led to sewage overflow into the river, and so the swim at Nation’s was cancelled for the second time in 4 years. I was not all that bummed- I know I can swim and luckily this wasn’t my target race for the (almost-ending) season, but I know there were people who traveled and trained for this specific race, and I felt for them.
Despite the change of plan, spirits were high in transition. We got set up, I discovered and fixed a flat (thank you Jesus and racer #4827!) and then it was time for waiting. Lots of waiting. The Olympic group started on time at 7:15 am, and after they all got out, the sprinters started around 9. I must have started around 9:20.
When the swim is cancelled, pretty much everything remains the same except you don’t swim. So you still run from swim out to transition along the same course, and you’re still not allowed to have your helmet or shoes on. Some people clearly did not get this concept and I saw some people starting with their transition gear bag… but no one seemed to really care.
We started in groups of 9 separated by age group and gender. Most of the women in my heat were awesome-lots encouragement and laughs, but of course there’s always that one. This woman bent over and spread out her arms like some kind of track start plus the thing every mom does with her arm when she stops short in a car (you know what I mean). When I politely removed her arm from my body, would you believe she glared at me and put it back? Luckily for everyone, the whistle blew and I did not have time to put this wench in her place.
The path from swim out to our bike area was about 250-300 meters or so–some people sprinted it, I decided jogging would do it. My legs were not feeling light or strong at ALL, which surprised and worried me. I shoved a Picky Bar in my mouth as I got my cycling self together, hoped the caffeine would fix the heavy legs, and got the hell out of there. (T1: 3:03)
The bike ride was pretty fun, but I can’t say much more than that–I was focused on laying down the hammer once that caffeinated-goodness kicked in. It’s almost 100% flat (just one big hill) and a lot of it runs on ramps on and off the highways, which is to say there were often 3-4 lanes of wide open road and lots of people for me to pick off. If you don’t mind my saying so, I was a lean, mean passing machine on the bike course–but that came at the expense of my actually enjoying the course, as I don’t think I could recreate it without a map if my life depended on it. Some hazards of note: 1) the tunnels/overpasses can get pretty dark and it made me wish I had tinted sunglasses 2) there are quite a few tight turns on the course–give yourself and your fellow racers lot and lots of room and SLOW DOWN 3) there are two no passing zones– one on the way out to VA and on the way back (I think we were on 395 at that point). You will lose some time here, but they’re not longer than 400-800 meters or so. Do not be that jackass who passes in the no passing zone. Basically, it is the equivalent of being the person who waits until the last minute to merge into the right lane when the left lane is closed and drives up to the front of the line of cars– annoying and not safe. (Bike: 54:31)
Anyway, the ride was a good one, and I tried not to dawdle too long in T2. In the NYC Tri, I was trying frantically to dry off my soaking feet and amp myself up for the hilly run to come (total T2 in NYC: 5:16!). For this race, I just wanted to get in and rock that run– 3 miles is just so much more reasonable. I scampered out of there in 2:40–I’ll take it.
As I mentioned int he NYC recap, the whole bike-to-run thing ain’t my strong suit, but I focused on making it from transition to mile 1 and figured I’d take it from there. Luckily, I found KMBGKef on the sidelines, who ran with me for about a quarter of that first mile, which helped it fly by. There’s a bit of a hill coming up along the Holocaust museum, and I definitely lost some time there. Mile 2 came up faster than I thought it would near the entrance of East Potomac Park (which is bizarre considering I was probably going slower than I thought I was), and before I knew it, the finish line came into view. The problem with this is that the finish line is in view for at least one-third of a mile, which really makes that last-ditch, give-it-all-you’ve-got sprint to the finish a long one. I was disappointed to let up my only age-group pass about 10 seconds before the finish line, but I’m proud of the way I held my own out there this time! (Run: 27:13)
Bike-Run Finish: 1:27:25. That brought me to a 14th-place finish in my age group (out of 70-something), which I was SO SO SO proud of. I trained hard through the ups and down and the injuries this summer, and it was really nice to finish the season with a good race. Overall impressions of Nations: well-organized, easy to navigate, and very fun. Bike course could have been more scenic (I think), but the run course is a very nice one. Swag is generous (a tech tee, large mesh backpack, and a glittery medal)–but it’s tough to say it’s worth the price when the swim is cancelled so often. Food afterward was fine–but I’d prefer nicer swag over fancy post-race food any day.
As per usual, my race day pictures were terrible so I won’t even bother to screenshot them — at the RnR USA half, I was looking like William Wallace… at Nations, I was channeling Josie Grossie. No, thank you–I will not pay $40 for that image, but thank you all the same, MarathonFoto.com.
I did, however, get to try my hand at photo bombing– what do you think? Haha. Maybe I shouldn’t quit triathloning.
HUGE congrats to H.A.M.Kef for killing her first triathlon and looking good while doing it!