I already droned on about prerace, so let's jump right into the lake...
The swim was in a very flat, very calm lake. Some hairy vegetation that wrapped around my goggles once or twice was really the only major obstacle. The water is usually too warm for wetsuits, but race day was a little cooler than normal, so some of the athletes suited up for the swim. Not I. Actually, I did Naylor's Beach 06 and Sandman 05 and 06 wetsuitless. I've raced in my lovely new TRIgirl logo-ed suit only twice, for Smith Mountain Lake Sprint and Eagleman. And here in Walnut Creek State Park, I felt as though the water still verged on too warm, so I was fine without.
Another interesting aspect of the swim portion is that it was a double loop. This is the first race course I've done that was not poin-to-point or a single loop (other than the local sprint pool swims, of course!) Apparently, many swimmers, particularly in the men's waves, skipped the last buoy on the loop, leading to spectacular, yet inaccurate, swim times.
As for me, my major accomplishment here was SWIMMING THE ENTIRE SECOND LOOP FREESTYLE!!! I was so freaking proud of myself that I got choked up just thinking about it. Which is a great example of how trivial some of our personal tri accomplishments may seem to others, but how big they are in our own little worlds... As Grandison predicted, Som simply said, "Why didn't you swim all freestyle?!"
The bike course started with a long "false flat" out of the parking lot. Susie had told me she racked her bike in the small chain ring--"Didn't you notice the hill as we came in?" Um, no. It also didn't look like a hill to me as I rode out on it, although it sure did feel like one! This ride was very challenging for me, as I usually struggle with my uphills. I was grateful more than once for our training rides with the Maramarc group on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I passed and got re-passed by a couple of other riders, but the only two I passed that didn't pass me back were a woman on a mountain bike and a seventy-four-year-old man. As I was enjoying the passing scenery, I also noted that I rode past a beautiful turtle. Then I started thinking about describing my experiences post-race, and I thought how it would sound if I said or wrote, "I passed a turtle." Then I laughed out loud. Laughed so hard I fell off my bike and lost about fifteen minutes... No, just passed a turtle. basically, that's the kind of stuff I think about while I'm swimming, bikeing, or running for any amount of time by myself. And people wonder why I've never used an iPod. With entertainment like this, who needs one? The other thing I do to pass the time on the bike is to wait for Anna and Susie to pass me. Anna flew by, complaining that her chain was stuck in the small ring. She now insists that we were going uphill at the time, but I'm not so sure. Susie caught me going right into transition, and as we headed out for
Cyndi was just starting her second of the two loops on the trail. Always great to see the girls in pink! I do love a trail run, but I was pretty beat for this one. Of course, the challenging course makes it so much rewarding at the finish. I must admit I did fall on my face once, but I'm fairly springy. Bounced back up and just got an extra cup of water at the next aid station to rinse off some of the dirt. Wasn't so effective at keeping my feet dry, but I wasn't thinking so clearly! I walked more than I would like to admit on the second loop--definitely not a negative split!
Sometimes I wonder whose silly idea it was to run all these races on roads when we can be back on the trails, anyway. I guess when I participate in a race of ginormous proportions such as Monument Ave 10K or the VA Beach Rock'N'Roll Half Marathon, I don't even notice that we're on a venue primarily used by automobiles. But when I did my first couple of sprint tris, it seemed somewhat odd to be running on the sidewalk through a neighborhood as "normal" people drove by doing what they do. And even though this trail was tricky, I'll take it over the cornfields and blazing pavement of Naylor's Beach any day!
Cheerleaders Derek, Melissa, and Dave joined the TRIgirls who had already finished to see me across the line. Susie won second place in her age group, Ed came in third Clydesdale, and Anna came in second Athena. I was waiting with her to get her award, and before they got to her name, they called mine! I brought home a pair of socks for my third place finish in the Athena division, which was pretty cool. I never thought I'd win an award, but sometimes it's about sticking it out past retirement or signing up Athena in a small race.
I've been planning my 2008 tri season recently--looking forward to doing all my favorite races without "worrying" about Ironman. As of now, Charlottesville is on the list!