Primarily: I need a lesson in Virginia geography. For some reason I just assumed that I knew where the race was being held.... but turns out I confused two race sites and instead of heading down I-95 for a short jaunt to Bumpass, VA, took I-66 in the complete opposite direction. [dumb blonde alert!!] However, it was a good thing I was being particularly OCD in my planning and left a whopping 2-3 hours of pre-start cushion time.
Ater realizing my mistake, I careened off at the nearest exit, turned around and then cut through middle Virginia to intersect with 95 and was able to make it to the start with about twenty minutes to spare.
With that, my "warm-up" then consisted of sprinting to the registration table, grabbing my packet, sprinting back to my car to grab my gear and then trucking back to set up transition. Then it was a 300m barefoot walk down a SUPER ROCKY road to the swim start. Imagine a bunch of wetsuitted-up racers looking ike they're walking on hot coals: that's how bad it was.
Somewhere in the commotion I chucked my timing chip in the car and completely forgot about it. Nearly forgot my race cap too—so many moving parts on race morning that you can easily forget about during your first race of the season... but I made it, eeked into my brand spankin' new and 100% sexy BLUESEVENTY HELIX, chatted with the RD about the missing chip and then hopped into the water for a little bit of a warm-up.
I have to pause here and say that my favorite part of the entire race was warming up in the Helix for the first time. Since I got it earlier in the week, I hadn't had the chance to really test it out in the open water yet. Thankfully, I had a good ten minutes to warm-up so I took it nice, slow and steady and then broke into a series of pick-ups. I have to admit, I have never worn anything that felt as speedy, comfortable, functional and well-fitting as the Helix. Sheesh, I felt dangerously fast just wearing it.
I have so many details about this suit that I love but the end result is that it just feels like a second skin. No chafing. No restricted stroke. Sighting felt like buttah'. Literally cut right through the water like it was nothing... and this is coming from someone who started swimming at age two. I used to dislike wetsuit swims because I felt like it restricted my movement/form but the Helix was a whole new story.
Two waves went before us and then the 39-and-under women were sent out as one large group. I managed to line up right on the inside and had an awesome starting position: I could not have asked for a better line and stayed very much on course. Drafted here and there with a few of the girls in the group until we ran up against the guy's wave ahead of us, only about 2/3 into our race. This was a huge bummer having to navigate the [no offense!] slowpokes. Got kicked in the head once and in the ribs another time by an errant breaststroker. Really pushed the last 200m or so and finally found a happy pace... and then came into the finish.
I had a super speedy transition and then came out right on the heels on some girl. I flew onto my bike with the shoes already attached and started to pedal, but as I tried to strap my left foot in, the loop came out entirely. I spent way way waaaayyy too much time futzing around with the strap before I finally gave up and kept on riding with one shoe partially undone. I still don't know whether that was the right call or whether I should have stopped entirely to strap in. I think the right answer is to just practice doing this some in training to make sure I can do it come race day.
Thanks to the announcer, I knew I was one of the top-ten girls coming out of the water but one girl passed me almost immediately on the bike while I was fooling around with my shoes. I probably should have just given up and chased after her because once I started really going on the bike, she was long gone. Overall, I just wasn't feeling it on the bike and struggled to find the right pace/effort/cadence. Seriously, all out of whack. Really found myself on the downhills but struggggled on the uphills.
Bottom line: it wasn't pretty. About halfway through I started passing a few guys and a girl or two and started to feel like i was getting to a good pace. Again, just like the swim, the leg stopped short and didn't have the time to find my momentum. Guess I should have expected that for a sprint, but still...
Finally, the run—all bets were off. Even though just last week, after of a tough(ish) 50-mile bike, I easily ran a few miles at 7:15 pace off the bike without trashing my HR, the run just was not happening. I was expecting to knock out low 7s/high 6s for this race and instead... was much slower. Again, the uphills really killed me. And the rocks. I kept losing my balance and could not get up a good stride for fear of rolling my ankle. I tried running on the edge of the path, in some of the more worn places, but still no luck. Passed a good number of people but overall was underwhelmed by my run performance. Not a fan of the run course but should have done a better job of just sucking it up.
Finished and couldn't be happier (not with my performance... but with the fact that it was D-O-N-E). Even having aged up to the 25-29 ranks, I placed second in my age group and 10th lady overall. Clearly not the performance I was hoping for but a good practice session and opportunity to reawaken the race mentality.
Best thing about this race though was the swag, even if it might have been a little bit of overkill for a sprint "goody bag":
And, finally, my 2nd place plaque to commemorate the first pangs of a quarter-life crisis as I aged up to 25-29:
My biggest lesson here was that rookie mistakes can mess up any potential for race day magic. Hopefully I made all of the big oopsies on Sunday and knocked them out before the more important races (like REV3 KNOXVILLE on May 6th!!!!).
Rookie mistakes made:
- poor travel planning
- no race day checklist (yes, this means checking off an itemized "what to bring" list)
- little-to-no warm-up
- forgotten chip (so no splits)
- forgot to lap watch so i could see splits, averages for each "lap", etc.
- getting to race site extra early to allow for any forgotten items
take-away #1: i think this race was a great lesson in the importance of warming up. it wasn't until eight or nine miles into the bike where I finally felt decent and like I had any sort of bike mojo going.
take-away #2: don't let the uncontrollables get to you: bad terrain, hills, distance, etc.
Overall BLAH but looking forward to my first real race of the season... REV 3 Knoxville!!