A hard day, with a good result -- 3/18 in my AG!
In the four seasons I've been doing triathlons, the Charlottesville International is one of only two that I've done more than once. It's more a point of pride than anything else, really. The course is tough, and late July weather doesn't make it any easier. Last year I fell apart during the run -- 6 miles of hilly single-track -- and I was determined to do better this year.
I got up at 5:00 on Sunday, and after a quick breakfast, threw my gear onto the truck and headed for the course. It's only a half-hour from my house, but there are no assigned racks in the transition area, so the early bird catches the worm as far as primo racking spots. Sure enough, I pulled into the parking lot at 6 AM, and got one of the best spots in the transition area. Hey -- I'll take any advantage I can get. The usual fiddling around ensued, as I placed my gear, then a trip to the men's room, some meet-and-greet with friends at the race, and it was time to head to the beach.
Into the Bathwater:
Water temps were in the low 80s, no wetsuits today. Surprisingly I hadn't raced without a wetsuit since my very first tri, back in 2005, and I was a little nervous about it -- you kind of get used to knowing you'll have the wetsuit on, I guess. The swim was advertised as 1500 meters, a two loop course, but it looked a little too long to most of us on the beach. Finally it was our turn, and the old guys waded out into the water. The horn caught me a bit by surprise, and I was treading water further back in the pack than I had planned on, but after about 50 yards of bumper boat I got some space.
I quickly got into a good rhythm. The course was a very long rectangle, so after a quick turn, it was down the backstretch. It was a dead-flat calm morning, and the lake is small, so there was no chop in the water. Normally I'll sight every 3-4 strokes, but with the calm water I went for 10 strokes or so before sighting. That kept me in a good rhythm, but I quickly discovered that I drift to the left when I swim. Couldn't blame the current today. By the time we started the second loop I began to be passed by some of the faster women swimmers in previous waves. That cured the drift -- when they passed I jumped onto their feet for as long as I could, trusting to their superior navigation.
Finally around the last turn, and we started towards shore. I powered through some lake grass and vines, then stumbled through the mud and jumped up onto the grassy run to the transition area. I crossed the mat and hit my watch -- 30 minutes and change -- that had to be too long a swim. Running up to my bike I saw a friend's bike still on the racks. He's a good swimmer, so I must not have done too bad.
Swim - 30:41 - 9/18 AG (45-49)
T1 - 1:02 - 2/18 AG
Onto the Hills:
A quick trip through T1, and I was on the road. The bike course at Charlottesville is a litle short, at 23.5 miles, but it makes up for it in difficulty. Lots of hills, mainly short steep pitches. While there are a few good areas for getting down in the bars, for the most part you need to be patient. Last year I blasted through the bike like a steroid-enhanced pit bull and left nothing in the tank for the run. I was determined to ride smarter this year.
During the long climb out of Walnut Creek Park I thanked my lucky starts that I was riding a road bike with a triple, after passing several people tacking back and forth across the road on their tri-bikes. Spin away and keep going, I said to myself. I was determined to ride within myself, keeping my gearing down and cadence up on the climbs. After leaving the park, I settled in as I zipped down the two-lane country roads of the course. It was surprisingly quiet -- maybe it was the way the waves had been set up, or maybe I had a good position, but always had plenty of room around me. After about 6-7 miles I was passed by a few riders, none of them in my age group., and I was starting to pick off riders from earlier waves.
The middle section of the course had some good spots for going fast, and I took advantage, but I played it safe on the many climbs. As we turned back the last few miles to the park I continued to keep my RPMs up, and avoided the temptation to attack the last few hills. Turning back into the park, I spun in an easy gear on the long descent back to transition and collected myself. Where was everbody in my AG? Usually there'll be some cat and mouse games on the bike, but I hadn't seen anybody I was competing directly against.
Off the bike and into T2 -- time to go minimalist -- don't need sunglasses and a hat in the woods. Rack the bike, shoes on, grab my stuff and go.
Bike -- 1:15:40, 4/18 AG
T2 -- :40, 2/18 AG
Into the Woods:
The run at C-ville is a beast. Six miles of hilly, tough, honest-to-gosh singletrack. A two-lap course that only briefly peaks out of the woods. Last year I'd suffered major cramps, and had barely got it done in less than an hour. I was hoping for much better. By now it was hot, and the woods held in the humidity like a steam bath.
Even before you get your legs under you there's a steep rocky downhill. My quads are starting to scream already. Then an uphill -- ouch -- was that a cramp? I grabbed a water at the first stop and slugged it down, walking a few steps and collecting myself. Back into the woods, the trail started winding up, but it was gradual and I started to get my feet under me. Better, I started to track down slower runners -- a nice moral boost. Suddenly I was passed by a sprightly 19 year old. She yelled out a "good run" as she skipped by, leaping through the forest like a deer (turns out she finished 3rd overall for the day). She had the right idea -- I relaxed and started flowing through the run, keeping my feet light.
I couldn't keep the feeling going though. Every downhill wound up my quads into a knot, and the following steep uphills made them feel like wooden posts. Finally I was out of the woods, past the finish line, and back for a second lap. More struggles through the ups and downs, until finally I hit the 4 mile mark. There's something about the four mile mark that always encourages me -- only two more to go! I collected myself and got my feet turning over in a good rhythm. Back out of the woods, and there's the finish -- zip up my jersey and try to look good for the photographer.
I'm done. Cooked is more like it -- my clothes are wringing wet, there's dirt and mud on my legs and my shoes are soaking wet, even though it wasn't wet on the trail.
Surprisingly, my run was good for second in my AG, even though I thought I was giving time away to the field. I checked the results when posted, and sure enough, I placed 3rd in my AG -- first time ever placing.
I got a hat...
Run -- 53:44, 2/18 AG
Overall -- 2:41:37, 3/18 AG, 36/101 overall men.