Little did I know it would take me a full week to get around to part two... I have been off work this week which you would think would lend a lot of time to blogging. Apparently not. So here we go... Part two!
Since Wendy and I stayed at a hotel literally across the street from the bike transition, we didn't have to get up all that early which was nice. We basically got up, packed our bags and tried to figure out how to get our bikes and bags down to the 1st floor along with every other triathlete in the hotel. We ended up carrying our bikes and bags down four flights of stairs since the elevators were packed. Oddly enough, my right arm was the only muscle that was sore post-race and that was from carrying the bike down those stairs. (I really must find someone to donate a carbon fiber bike and maybe a sherpa to my cause...)
We get to transition and set up our area. My previous experience in triathlons has been a grand total of four races. They were all sprints and mostly were geared towards beginners or people who might do the race as a way of checking off something on their bucket list. This was not that kind of race. I *thought* I had seen fit people before. This race was like a fitness convention. It became a game for me and Wendy to try and spot "normal" people like us. Luckily I was racing against myself this day and tried to block out the superstars :)
Transition area set up is complete and we head to the buses that will drive us the mile up river to the swim start. The interesting thing about this race (and something that I loved) was that the swim start was seeded. When you register, you give your estimated swim time for 1500m along with your estimated race completion time. Race numbers are assigned based on your estimated swim time and then either race time or age group (we couldn't really figure out the complete break down). We were all congregated in this field for an hour or so then they started getting everyone in order by race number. I was seeded somewhat near the start so did not have to wait long. I wish I had a picture of me in line as I am sure it was quite the sight. The 6 or 8 people in front of me and also behind me in line were super fit somewhat tall guys. It was sort of a "is she in the right place" moment. Once we got in line, we inched toward the dock for the start. As you reach the dock, you sit down, ease into the water and then inch along the dock until they call your number to go. Everyone starts about 3 seconds apart so you don't have that churn and fighting for position that you do with a mass start. The best way to start the swim EVER.
I didn't feel much of a current taking me downstream but did seem to have one pushing me towards shore which I fought for about half of that leg. The second half, I found a guy who seemed to be sighting well, tucked in behind his feet and followed him in. Before I knew it, I reached the stairs to exit and was being helped up to the stairs by volunteers. I probably could have gone a bit faster on the swim but with this being my first Oly, I didn't want to burn out at the end. The swim time was actually about what I thought it should be. I had put 27 minutes as my estimate so felt like I did what was expected here.
The run from the swim was up some concrete stadium type stairs. It was a really cool area for spectators as they could sit there and watch for their people to come in from the swim. I am not overly thrilled with my transition time but wasn't really rushing either so expected it to be a bit high. Obviously, there is room for improvement.
...and we are biking... This is where starting up front on the swim can be a mental challenge when you aren't the best biker. I got passed A LOT. I passed a very small handful of people but mostly got passed in droves by speedier riders. It is a little deflating to get passed that much. I have only really been riding about 3 months and from what I have read there is no magic bullet to increase speed other than seat time. Based on that, eventually the speed will come, right? The course was an out and back on a 4-lane highway. Pretty hilly but nothing that I would call overly steep, just a lot of long slow uphills. Towards the end I was ready to get off the bike. Obviously I need to build some more butt endurance before Augusta or it will be a long painful 56 miles. :)
I was taking my sweet time in the 2nd transition and I knew it. I messed around with my Garmin for a minute (in retrospect that could have been done while I was running). I wasn't overly concerned with the transition times, mostly just wanted to finish and not be miserable. I didn't want to come off this race with a horrible experience knowing it was only half of the distance I will be doing in Augusta this September. If this race had been more of a challenge than I expected, I didn't want to risk derailing my frame of mind about the upcoming 70.3.
The run course could not have been better. The beginning was uphill for maybe a half mile. You climb some stairs and then it flat or downhill the rest of the way. The run was on a greenway along the river. I liked that it was up and back because I looked forward to different checkpoints as a way of determining where I was and how much farther I had to go. We were given icy towels at mile 1 and mile 5 (LOVED this). There were regular waterstops that also had people spraying hoses and cups of ices. At one point there were misters to run through. It was extremely HOT in Chattanooga that day with a high of 98 so it was all appreciated. My time isn't a PR by any means but the run felt good. I passed quite a few people and didn't get passed much at all so I didn't feel as "out of my league" as I did on the bike. I felt comfortable most of the way. I know I am capable of slightly faster but was satisfied with my time for this leg.
At the finish we were greeted with another icy towel and an assortment of BBQ, Pizza and beer. At that point, I really just wanted a bagel or something simple although they do get high marks for the great food even if I wasn't feeling it at that time. I was hoping for an overall time closer to three hours so the time is a little disappointing. I am not crushed by it as I really had nothing to estimate a time off of to get a good estimate. I know the bike is my weak spot so I just need to continue to put the time in on it and maybe just pedal faster next time :)
Overall, it was a great race. It was extremely well organized from beginning to end. I never thought about it as I was racing but the race never felt crowded to me. There were 1300+ racers but never felt like I was fighting for a spot. I would definitely do it again!