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DC Tri race report June 23, 2010

Posted by bettyjoan in Races.
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When you are a beginner triathlete, every race has some sort of “first,” I suppose.  Iron Girl Atlanta 2009 was my first triathlon, and the Chattanooga Waterfront Tri 2009 was my first Olympic-distance race and my first river swim.  Well, this past weekend’s DC Triathlon was my first race where things didn’t go quite as planned…

Everything started out great – my bike arrived right on schedule and was assembled by the experts at The Bike Rack.  Packet pickup was smooth, and I was able to get a nice practice swim in the Potomac right after I racked my bike on Saturday (verdict: the water was not as grody as I expected, but it was pretty choppy and the currents were nothing to sneeze at).  After going over my transition checklist and packing all of my gear, I went to bed feeling nervous (just the usual jitters) but prepared.

I woke up around 3:30 AM on Sunday and walked to the shuttle that would take me to transition.  It was already hot – not a good sign.  I set up my transition mat, lathered myself with sunscreen, and pumped up the ol’ tires.  Transition closed at 5:15 AM (thus the need for such an early arrival – the Sprint race started at 5:30, so transition was an active part of the course as of that moment), so I headed down to the waterfront to watch the first few waves of swimmers.  The water temp was 81.1 degrees, but there were still a surprisingly large number of people wearing wetsuits – not sure if they were worried about bouyancy or weird Potomac River diseases.

At 6:45, my wave got started.  I really don’t like wave starts, but my age group was pretty small, so it wasn’t so bad.  The water in the Potomac is VERY murky, so my main focus (in addition to the whole breathing thing) was to pay attention to my surroundings and avoid any unfortunate run-ins with someone else’s feet.  I managed to keep from being kicked, but some folks drafting behind me were not so lucky.  The currents were strong, so it was a tough swim, but I felt pretty strong and emerged with a split of 39:06.  Not too shabby!

The run to transition was LONG, but I was off on my bike in 3:44.  The course was pretty flat and fast, and I was a little hesitant about taking some of the sharper turns, but I was feeling pretty good as I rolled into Rock Creek Park.  Then…insert ominous music here…I GOT A FLAT.  Yep, about 8 miles into the first bike loop, my rear tire went flat and I had to pull over.  Detaching the wheel from the bike was simple enough, but then things started to go downhill.  I will note that I have changed tires before, but never in a race situation – and it makes a difference.  I mean, you’re tired, you’re sitting out there in the 90+ degree heat, watching all of the other competitors zoom by you…it’s pretty hard to focus.  I finally got the old tube out and got the new tube in, but then I ran into trouble with my CO2 cartridge.  Finally, I inflated the tire enough to safely ride it, but I had a very hard time putting the wheel back on the bike (since the rear wheel involves coordination with the derailleur and whatnot).  Between all of these mechanical difficulties and the fact that I was performing bike maintenance between bouts of tears (yes, I was crying – I was PISSED!), it probably took close to 45 minutes to fully fix the flat.  But, once I did it, I got back in the saddle and cranked out the remainder of the first loop.

When I made the turn for the second loop, I was assured that I had plenty of time to finish.  I cranked out some of the fastest cycling I’ve ever done – I was determined not to give up.  I started hearing noises behind me, and I wondered if the roads had somehow opened back up to traffic.  No, it was my police escort!  Since I was the last person actively on the course, I was accompanied by a bunch of motorcycle cops and an ambulance.  One of the officers got on his megaphone-thingy and said, “You’re doing great!”  In response, I screamed, “YOU’RE MAKING ME NERVOUS!”  They got the hint and backed up, and I was able to finish the bike leg of the course, flat tire and all, in 2:23:13.

I spent a long time in transition (4:35), mostly because I forgot my race number as I was leaving and had to go back, but also because I was asking every race official if I had time to attempt the run course.  After all, people were coming back to transition with medals, picking up their bikes and heading home.  They told me to keep going, so I grabbed a water bottle and a hat and headed out to finish the journey.  No sooner did I step out of transition that I saw my law enforcement buddies – one of them smiled and said, “Aw, you thought you’d lost us!”  Embarassing, but since I was the absolute final participant, I didn’t have a choice but to have company.

About a mile into the run, the day started to take its physical and emotional toll.  I was still tearing up, I was hotter than Hades, and I just couldn’t get any real momentum going.  At about 10:30 AM, when I was almost 2 miles into the run, the police lieutenant told my little motorcade to pull me off the 10K course and make me finish the 5K instead.  I was REALLY upset (especially since they told me I had till 11:30 to finish), and the news sapped up the last bit of energy and motivation I had.  I did what I was told, but I didn’t do it with a smile – and I ended up completing the Sprint run in 50:45, which brought my entire race time to 4:01:21.  Crossing the finish line and picking up my medal was bittersweet, since I knew that I didn’t finish the entire Olympic-distance course.

After a meal, a killer nap, and some reflection with my hubby (who was nice enough to come out and cheer me on, even though he didn’t really see much of me due to my glitches), I realized that I had a lot to be proud of.  I flew to the race, which was a first and which required some serious planning and organization.  I raced without any teammates or friends to pump me up.  I swam in the Potomac.  I changed a flat in the middle of a race.  I fought all the way to the finish, and I didn’t give up when things got tough.  I may not have had a perfect (or near-perfect, even) race, but I finished more than most people even dream to start.

In short, I guess I’ll just have to do the DC Tri again next year, so I can really show it who’s boss.  Till then, Iron Girl and Chattanooga await!  Redemption will be mine…



1. Amy - June 23, 2010

Great race, especially given the flat tire! You have a LOT to be proud of, don’t forget that! Good luck with your other races this season.

bettyjoan - June 23, 2010

Thanks! I appreciate the “atta girl.” 🙂

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