It’s Tuesday and that means two things: 1) in one (!) day I will be thirty and 2) it’s time for some TriTalk, and I’m linking up with Cynthia, Courtney, and Phaedra to give you the scoop on this year’s Nation’s Tri.
Last year the swim was cancelled due to heavy rain in the days leading up to the race. The weather this year threatened to make the race a duathlon yet again, but thankfully Mother Nature kept it together and we had a beautiful race day morning. Pre-race expo was easy as pie–in and out in less than 10 minutes–and bike racking was uneventful (I seem to have FINALLY learned my lesson from the drama of racking my bike for the 2014 NYC Tri!) . I was looking forward to getting home, stuffing my face with a gluten-free pizza, and going to bed.
…but first, I had to run 17,249 post-wedding errands. After a trip to Costco, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, the Post Office, Anthropologie and Athleta (which really were all wedding-related, even though I know that’s a strange list of wedding stores), I was finally home. All that running around made falling asleep around 9:30 easy, and I was grateful to be so sleepy that even pre-race jitters couldn’t keep me up!
There are pretty much two ways to approach transition prep: get there insanely early and organize your stuff so that it would pass military room inspection standards, or get there with only as much time as you need and hope for the best. Any guesses as to which your Type B+ triathlete friend here picks? Exactly. I do not like to get caught up in other people’s mess on race day, so I try to get to transition 20-30 minutes before it closes, set up my stuff, and go claim a shady spot to sit by the swim start. I don’t bring a ton of extras with me (except for goggles–always gotta have a spare set of those!), I do not try to get fancy with balloons or other bike markers, and I do not try to fashion a bench out of a cardboard box or a cooler or what have you.
Sounds like I have it all together, right? Well, I do… once I get to transition. To have met me in this life is to have waited for me–so even though I plan to get to transition with 30 minutes to spare so as to avoid other people’s madness, I inevitably get there with about 10-15 minutes to spare and get caught up in my own shenanigans. This year, I had totally forgotten that Rock Creek Parkway was closing at 630, and I got stopped by a grumpy cop and had to go pretty much all the way back home and take the long way around. C’est la vie.
Like last year, there was lots of waiting around for the Olympic racers to all get off before the Sprint race started. Luckily, it was a stunning morning and then this rainbow appeared–truly a sign of a good race to come!
I was Heat 30, and we got moving sometime around 845. Here’s where things get interesting. In general, I do not race triathlons–I just really like doing them. However, sometimes even a Type B+ woman can be driven to Tracy Fleck dimensions. While chatting with this very nice woman, I mentioned that I often sign up for the Athena category (which is a triathlon class for women over 165 lbs… which is to say everyone over 5’6″ or so whose name is not Heidi, Cindy, or Iman). She looks me up and down and says, “Oh, wow. That’s crazy–you look like a normal person, I’m surprised you qualify for racing with those people.”
Now, I know she thought she was being complimentary, and I know that it is practically compulsory in this culture to meet even the slightest comment about fatness with an EMPHATIC “but you’re not fat! You’re just athletic/big boned/curvy/whatever!” but for whatever reason I was just not in the mood for this bologna, and so I decided right then and there that, even if I wasn’t racing the other 1,000 people on the course, I was going to race her. “Those people.” Hpmh.
I usually kind of lollygag my way thought a swim, but since I was suddenly competing, I put my head down and got that thing done… sort of. Twice I got so caught up trying to pass big bunches of people that I veered way off course and probably swam an extra 75 meters or so… whoops. Probably serves me right. The course is a little bit of a cluster because it’s a 9-at-a-time timetrial start and you’re swimming INTO the current for the first 200 meters, so that means there are just throngs of people struggling and bottlenecking for the first third of the course–not my favorite way to swim, but I got through it. I was pretty sure I was one of the first in my heat out, so I just took off for transition and hoped that lady enjoyed the view of my ENTIRE over-165lbs-since-middle-school butt as she watched me from behind. (Swim: 17:05)
Apparently, this is THE #nationstri photo to take–I, sadly, did not strike such a pose, but thought these people did it the best out of everyone who did! Photo credit: Susie Goggs.
I tried to zoom out of T1 as quickly as I could, with mixed results (4:10). I had used PAM Cooking Spray on my arms and legs to help get the wet suit off, and I think that was helpful. I was most slowed down by some mud on the 0.25 mile run from swim to transition, which had me running slowly to avoid falling and took some extra time to clean off
Pretty much as soon as I got on the course, I had the wildly pleasant surprise of finding that my legs felt AWESOME. Head winds were strong going up Rock Creek Parkway past the Kennedy Center, so I moved down to the drops–which I almost never do because I think riding on the drops is a bit unsafe, but since it was the last weekend of my twenties, I felt like reckless impulse was the way to go. Like last year, I just focused on picking people off, so I still couldn’t tell you much about the course… but it was flat, and it was fast. And I was not playing.
On the way past transition on Independence Ave (mile 11?), some woman zoomed by me and was weaving in and out of people (rather than pass on the left, where there was an ENTIRE PASSING LANE at her disposal). While she was breaking all the rules, she was rudely yelling at people who didn’t anticipate what she was doing BEHIND them in order to move out of her way… so uncalled for. Luckily for me, my selfrighteousness burns like the fires of Mordor, and I decided that I was, once again, in a race. She was speedy on the bike and stayed just out of reach, but–as tri luck would have it– her bike was racked near mine and I saw her head out of T2 just before me. Game on. (Bike: 55:28)
Everyone else in the world got better pictures than I did and I think them for sharing! Photo credit: Jessica Margarit.
Rude Passing Woman aside, I really enjoyed my time on the bike, and felt strong and speedy for once as I headed into T2. I made a quick shoe change, guzzled some Nuun, and headed out to enjoy my favorite part: the Run! (T2: 2:15)
The Nation’s run route really is spectacular. Down Independence Ave, along the Tidal Basin, a quick uphill toward the Holocaust Museum, then down around the front end of Haines Point before a long chute on Ohio Drive. In the first quarter mile, I saw a patient of mine from a couple years ago cheering from the sidewalk, so of course I had to double back and see her and her supercute toddler–what a happy surprise to see them again! Last year the short-but-steep hill heading into the first water station killed me; this year I owned that little beast (but was bested by the GU I was struggling to open the whole way up… you win some, you lose some).
I thought I was running somewhere in the neighborhood of a 9:30 mile, and could not believe when my Garmin dinged off that I had completed the first mile in 8:20-something. This was insane! I had never felt this good this far into a race (even a sprint) before, and I was on track to match my 5k time from the beginning of the season.
As I rounded the 2 mile mark in Haines Point, who comes into my view? You guessed it: Rude Passing Woman. I’ve been working on my finishes, so I decided to hold steady for another quarter mile or so before turning it on and trying to catch her. As we headed up the Tidal Basin bridge onto Ohio Drive, I tried to conjure the sweetest aura I could so that as I went by she would just FEEL that I was doing it nicely and feel so badly that she had yelled at all those on the bike course. In fact, I bet if you go to RudePassingWoman.com, you’ll find a blog post about how this really nice, supportive, thick woman passed her in the final mile of the run and did it so nicely that she is turning over a new leaf and will be transitioning to NicePassingLady.com for the 2016 tri season. Okay, so actually she paid me NO mind as I went by, and–fine–it isn’t really nice if you’re only being nice to prove a point, but … delusions are key to selfpreservation so we’ll just leave alllll of that right there and move right along.
Before I knew it, I was in the chute! I let loose and CHARGED for the finish line… I was not going to be passed in final seconds like last year. I got the run done in 25:48, almost a 2-minute improvement from last year.
Once I crossed, I realized I was pretty much surrounded by men and figured I must have finished pretty high up in the women’s rankings. I headed over to the timing tent, and was SHOCKED to see a number “1” in the Division Place column… I had WON my age group!
Use your imagination. Looks like the photo credit’s been taken care of for me on this one!
I waited around for awhile before calling MrKef and my family to see if maybe people who had started after me would have finished faster, but it turns out that this time I had really won. This still feels so insane to me, mostly because lots of triathletes would argue you’re not even in contention for the podium without a fancy tri bike, and without having done a BRICK workout a week, and without an aero-helmet blah blah blah. I didn’t meet any of that criteria and here I was, my agegroup winner. How crazy! Total race time: 1:44:31
I thought I would have a lot to say about this, but I am still kind of shocked. I know, I know– it isn’t THAT special to have won an age group award, but in this world that equates thinness with fitness, it just feels like a HUGE win for me. Whenever I show up to bike groups or races, people are constantly assuming I’m a newbie, or that I won’t be able to keep up with the pace group, or that I need them to demonstrate complicated parts of the workout for me… and this is just confirmation that hard work and good training pays off–period.
It also confirms something that makes me really proud of myself: I cannot be bothered to let other people’s hangups get in my way. If I had waited for the right time, or the right weight, or to look the right way before I tried a triathlon, I would still be waiting, and I never would have found this sport that has brought me lots of joy and contributed immensely to my mental and physical health. This is a lovely thing to realize about yourself as you leave your twenties behind. To all my people out there who feel smothered by the totally effed collective that is American body image (however it affects you) I’ll say this: Bump the haters, don’t believe the hype.
And to “Those People” Swimmer and Rude Passing Woman: I’m coming for you again next year.