Monday, July 30, 2007

Uphill Both Ways

I had always been told that the Columbia Triathlon was the toughest International Distance Race in the area. That is until I tacked the Charlottesville International Tri. My intent for this race was not so much to race it, but to use it as a long training day and get a gauge of where I stand for Chicago. The bike course was listed as moderately hilly. For a flat lander in the DC area I felt like I was climbing the Pyrenees. I also don’t do much trail running. The run course at Walnut Creek Park is a single track mountain bike course that is used for the XTERRA run course. This course is good for the body—but not for the clock!!

Prerace – Donna and I arrived a little after 0600 and I was able to get a nice spot for my bike at the end of a rack. I found the body marking area which what right next to transition. However, I could not find the chip pickup—only a long line for race day packet pickup. I finally realized that there were actually two lines, one for packet pickup and one for chip pickup. I got my chip and headed to the bathroom. ONE STALL was working (Need I say more).

Back in transition a little more talking with the DC Tri-Clubbers. It was good to see Hugh, Tamera, Stuart, and at right before transition closed my buddy Jeff showed up. I was glad he made it.

SWIM – The swim was an in water start at the left side of the beach, a lap and three-quarters and exiting at the right side of the beach. It was very nice to be in such a small group. This was not full contact swimming as I have experience in the past. I got into a decent rhythm and made the turn at the first buoy. About 100m past the first buoy I was viciously attacked by some sort of aquatic plant. Luckily I was not the only one. After I freed myself, I swam on to the next buoy. I sited ahead and thought to myself—“Wow, you swimming pretty fast. That’s the turn buoy.” Guess what? It wasn’t. However there were people on both their first and second loops that did turn at this point. Looking at the final times I can assume which one did that. I did the second lap with out running into the ferocious aquatic plant. I came out of the water, looked at my watch was very disappointed. I was hoping for a 28min swim and my watch had me at over 32min.

Prior to the race I debated to wear my wetsuit. But I opted not to wear it and see how my time differed from Columbia. I think a three minute saving on the swim is worth a wetsuit. I could tell on the swim I was working harder than I had in Columbia. So if the race is wet suit legal—it will be used.

BIKE – T1 was a short run up a hill to my bike. I dried my feet, put on some socks, biking shoes and I was off. The ride out of the park is UPHILL. I still had not regulated my breathing from the swim and here I was peddling up a very good hill. I peddled and peddled and peddled. So I shifted down to my granny gear and guess what?—the chain came off. The few seconds it took put my chain back on was exactly what I needed to get my breathing and heart rate back under control. Out of the park and turning left I was on the main part of the course. I was happy to hit my first down hill and take some of the pressure off my legs. As I stated above, the course was hilly. I was going up and down hill all morning. I had hoped for about 1:20 ride, but with these hill finishing was a laudable goal for me.

At about the 12.5 mile mark I saw a box turtle in the road. Its head was stretched out and he was taking his sweet time to cross the road. My comment to myself as I passed his the turtle was, “At least there is something out here slower than I am today”. Another couple of miles on the bike and I was climbing a fairly steep hill, I shifted to my granny gear and guess what?—it happened again. After fixing that problem I was off again and I finally made it back to the park.

RUN -- T2 was a short sweet affair and I waddled out on to the run course. The first thing you hit when you get to the single track is a steep and rocky downhill section. Since my legs were not yet working, I walked down the little incline and run up to the aid station at the dam, poured water on my head and drank a little Gatorade. Then it was into the woods. Running in the woods was nice since there was enough shade to keep the heat down. I still could not get my legs to work. They were just heavy and sluggish. I finally hit the 1 mile mark on the trail and thought that was longest *#$%& mile of my life. My first 3 miles took me over 40 minutes to complete. Somewhere after mile three, I really found my legs. The second lap (the final 3 miles) I ran about 4-5 minutes faster. As I was finishing up the first lap, Donna was yelling encouragement and she shouted “You still have another lap to go”. My comment to her, which the cheering section found absolutely hilarious, was “I am well aware of that”.

I finally did finish the run—much slower than I expected.

Overall—Charlottesville International is a small challenging course. Other than lack of bathrooms and a not so well marked swim course, the race is a good small local race. If you are looking to push your body at the Oly distance or what something an Oly/Xterra hybrid I would race it. If you want a PR—don’t even think about it.

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