Sunday, August 17, 2014

Iron Girl Columbia: Race Recap

Iron Girl Columbia 2014 is complete! I definitely was planning on going hard for this race, and I learned a few things: I can't control everything, and I shouldn't plan on going hard for my first triathlon of the season.

Saturday: Packet Pickup/Expo/Bike Racking
After doing a first layout Saturday morning, we headed out to the expo in Columbia and arrived around noon, just in time for the course talk. Even though I felt decently familiar with the course, since it's pretty similar to the Half Full course, I wanted to go just in case there was something new. I breezed through to pick up my packet and t shirt, then we walked around the expo area. It was pretty small, and also pretty crowded. Parking was kind of a mess, so I'm glad we opted to park in the park and walk across the street to where the expo was; it made bike drop off easier.

Bike racking was pretty easy, but there was a little bit of a line to get bikes inspected. Everyone needed a sticker from the local bike shop to rack, but they had people there at the park inspecting. They were also really nice about helping apply the race stickers, and even trimmed down them down so you could put just the numbers on the side, rather than have a flappy number underneath. "Bike valets" were also on hand to walk you to your assigned slot on the racks. I really appreciated how they had the numbers on the racks, so you knew exactly where your stuff belonged.
The night before, I woke up several times during the night with a lot of pain in my hip flexors, so I was pretty nervous walking around during the day. By the time we got to the expo, despite foam rolling in the morning, my hip flexors hurt all the way around to my lower back, with some pretty gnarly knots back there. I popped some naproxen, foam rolled pretty much every hour, and applied some herbal cream throughout the day. While I usually have pretty tight hip flexors (don't we all?!) I thought I'd done a good job all summer stretching them out, not sitting at my desk too much, and haven't had any big problems like this all year. Ugh.
Afterwards, we ran a few errands, got some pizza for lunch, and then headed home for some more foam rolling.

Sunday: Race Day!
Sunday started bright and early, as every race day does. I was up at 5 and was itching to go, but I had also signed up K to volunteer as flat tire patrol on the bike course. This means I had to drag him out of bed, wait for him to find his socks while I made him a sandwich for breakfast, then pack his helmet and bike on the car, then wait in park halfway down the block while he ran back upstairs to get his map.
We finally got to the park area around 6, and I ran down to transition while K found a parking spot and went to join the other volunteers. I dropped my transition bag, and ran my bike over to the bike volunteers to get my tires checked. I'm always a little paranoid that I'm going to underinflate, or overinflate, or somehow ruin my tires, and I always do a full check on my bike in transition. This time, however, I should've just trusted myself....the bike mechanic volunteer over inflated my front tube and popped it right there. Thankfully they were nice enough to completely replace it and put everything back together right there, so I knew my bike was as fresh as it ever would be for a race. By this point, though, I had about ten minutes left until transition closed, and was about ready to throw up. While my hip flexors weren't painful, my lower back still had two huge knots and running was probably going to be incredibly painful. Also, the water was just over 76 degrees, but I didn't bring my wetsuit. Oh well....
I grabbed my buddy, who was doing her first triathlon, and we headed to the swim start to wait for our wave. There were about 15 waves for 1800ish athletes, and we were in wave 9. The swim start in Centennial Park is pretty nice, since it's always time trial start, going two by two about every five seconds. It went pretty fast, and before I knew it we were in the water. I had two goals: don't freak out, and finish under 30 minutes. At least I got one goal. I definitely felt a lot stronger and calmer than I did in the past year, but not very fast. I think I finished at about 33 minutes.
After getting out of the water, I ran to transition and hit the bike. For some reason, I seemed to forget two things: one, there are a lot of hills, and two, there are 1800 other people on the bike course. I was hoping to finish under 50 minutes, but with the sheer number of people (/newbies) on the course, there was no way I could pass people enough to keep a good pace. Maybe the course brief should be mandatory for everyone; no matter how many times I yelled "STAY TO YOUR RIGHT!!!" there was always someone riding the double yellow line. Very frustrating. Also, no flats. None. Not even a little.
I felt like I breezed through the bike, so I was determined to at least race the 5k portion. I've been running an easy 8:30 in training for the past few weeks, so I was hoping for an easy sub-30:00 for the 5K (actually, 3.4 miles). The first half mile or so of the course is pretty flat, so I was feeling pretty good, until I hit the first downhill portion. Pain shot through my lower back, and almost took my breath away. Thankfully, this seemed to be mostly just on the downhill portions, and there is a HUGE uphill before that became a big problem. I hit mile one around 8:35, right on pace, but slowed down significantly on "Gatorade hill," one of the longest multi-hills in the park. I hit mile 2 at about 20:00, so I knew I had slowed down. Heading back down gatorade hill was THE WORST. I tried everything, from tiny little steps to even side stepping to stop the pain, but eventually fell into a fast walk-run pace for most of the downhill. As if that weren't enough, right at mile 3, my right quad cramped up something awful, and I HAD to stop and try to stretch it out a little bit. I hobbled across the finish line with about a 37:20, which was very disappointing, but exciting at the same time!
BTW, probably my new favorite race shirt!
I kind of hate finishing a race feeling like I could have done better, but with all the people out there, plus the pain, the only thing I could've done better on was the swim. I've already been swimming about three days a week, so I guess it's time to add more sprints!
I met up with my buddy, who finished just a minute before I did despite having a knee injury herself, and we chugged down some chocolate milk before wandering back to transition to get some of my pain medicine. We were actually looking for the food tent, but it's on the OTHER hill. We finally ended up there, and I finished half a bagel with PB and some more water. I considered waiting in line for the wellness tent, with physical therapists and massage therapists, but then K called to say the last rider was in. We grabbed our stuff out of transition, and headed to the car. Which didn't start. That's always a great sound at the end of a race. Thankfully we got someone to jump the battery, and it was all ok. Until K decided to stop and get the oil changed and recharge the battery before I could take a shower.

Recovery
We didn't get home until after 1, but did get some Chipotle on the way home. I ran in and picked it up while K was in the car, so the guy behind me in line got a full race recap. Sorry.
Even though I know I should stretch, or foam roll, or anything, I launched straight into my post-race tradition of shower, then wear my new race shirt while I sit on the couch and eat chipotle until I fall asleep. What a great Sunday afternoon.
Now, though, I'm definitely chugging water (weather was great, but a little humid!), stretching, putting heat cream on my bag, and foam rolling everything. I'll give my back a few more days to loosen up before I freak out and call in the acupuncturists! Hopefully this calms down on its own.

Overall, I'd have to say that this a really great race for beginners, is a lot of fun, but not great for getting a great time. If this had been my first race of the season (which it pretty much was), I probably wouldn't have been so disappointed at the end about my time. If you plan on doing this race, plan for the hills!

Now I just can't wait for Nation's Tri in three weeks! (and for school to start!)

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