I’m a little late in posting my Columbia Tri race report because I’ve needed some time to digest what happened and to figure out how exactly I feel about it. The easiest way to sum it all up is to say the day didn’t go as planned. I shouldn’t have been surprised about that, I guess, since nothing about this race went smoothly this year.
As most people who read this blog will probably know, a few months ago there was a lot of chatter about whether or not this race was even going to happen this year, after it came to light that the organization that has historically put on this race (and many others) was facing financial difficulties. I was, of course, concerned when this story surfaced, since (a) this was supposed to be my practice race for IM 70.3 Syracuse, which is my A race for this year, and (b) I had already registered and didn’t want to lose my $160 registration fee. In any case, the race did, in fact, go on (with a new organization at the helm) and I must say that it was one of the best organized races – if not the best – I have ever done. The volunteers were great. The courses well marked. I have nothing but positive things to say about the race from an organization standpoint.
Unfortunately, due to the large amount of rain we received the week prior to the race, on the Friday before the Sunday race, the race organizers made the difficult decision to cancel the swim. It’s no secret that the swim is my weakest discipline and I am, actually, quite averse to open water swimming, so I cannot say that I was upset to open up my email and see the following:
On Saturday, I went to packet pick-up and racked my bike. I stayed in a hotel the night before the race to be close to the race start, even though it would have been doable to stay at home. I figured the extra hour of sleep and lower stress would be worth the $100 hotel fee. I think that was the right decision.
Laying out my MooMotion “Rosa” kit the night before the race. I am obsessed with this kit!
On race morning, it was quite cold and I was concerned about being too cold on the bike, even though I am generally someone who overheats easily. I put on a pair of arm warmers and hoped for the best because I hadn’t packed anything warmer. I set up my gear in transition and got ready to go.
Because the swim was canceled we actually ran from the swim exit two at a time, into T1. Some people chose to wear their bike helmets and bike shoes for this short run, but I’m clumsy and figured regular sneakers were in order. I did make a game time decision to wear my helmet though.
I made it to T1 without face planting and got on my bike. I had practiced riding the course a week or two before the race, so it looked familiar, which I think helped ease my nerves. I did warm up after a few miles and was glad I had worn the kit with arm warmers and not some kind of jacket, as many others had done. I would have been too hot.
The Columbia Tri course is a hilly course, but I have to say that the bike didn’t feel super hilly to me. I think because it pales in comparison to the Saturday morning rides I do with Tri360. I felt strong.
Just under 6 miles in, I was climbing up a hill and all of a sudden couldn’t turn my peddles. I had one split second of thinking “f&@k!” and then realized that I must have dropped my chain – “unclip, unclip, unclip!!!” Amazingly, I was able to unclip in time and not completely fall over. I got off the bike and was able to fix the chain, but during this time a few people did pass me. It’s also hard to get the momentum going again on an uphill, but I got back on track and tried not to let it bother me too much. Absent that one minor mechanical issue, the bike went great. Coming back in to T2 I thought Alyssa was going to be happy with my bike because I was averaging over 17 mph on a hilly course and (for me) that is a strong ride.
The run started okay. A couple of girls in my age group passed me within the first few minutes, but I know I am a slower starter on the run, even in training runs. I always get faster as I go and I thought “just stay calm and get into a rhythm.” Well, as much as the bike course was not as a hilly as I had expected, the run course was the total opposite.
The run course profile says it all.
It was hill after hill after hill. And, I learned, I am the world’s worst hill runner. I was getting passed by everyone and couldn’t get into that rhythm I was so hoping for. As girls in my age group passed me, I thought all of those terrible thoughts that come when your race is going down the tubes. I was in self-doubt city. I was not in my happy place.
My eyes are closed in every single photo from the run. I think I was trying to pretend I wasn’t actually there.
I also never saw a mile marker after mile 2 (probably because of the closed eyes!) and in retrospect, I think if I would have known I was closer to the finish, I could have pushed my speed more toward the end of the run. At one point, I yelled to a spectator “how much longer?” and she said “it’s right there!” It was right there. I sped up, but it was already too late to really make up any ground.
I finished in 2:29.
So, that was my first Columbia Tri. And probably last Columbia Tri.
As time has gone by, I feel somewhat less awful about the run because it was an extremely challenging course, although I’m certainly still not thrilled with it. I’ve been doing road races for years and nothing has compared to that. I also never walked, even on the really bad hills and even when I started being really negative with myself, which is (sadly) an improvement for me. I used to walk a lot when things went bad in races. For example, I walked approximately 13 miles of the Chicago Marathon in 2010 (not kidding). Alyssa always knows the right thing to say to me and she told me before the race not to walk on even the hardest hills. I remembered that and didn’t walk.
I ended up in 17th place in my age group (of 45). I was in 11th off the bike and that is a big positive I can take from the day. I was certainly hoping for a better race overall, but I will take one strong leg over none.
Next up for me is my first 70.3 in Syracuse on June 22.