I’ve been sort of reluctant to write up this race, but it’s important to try and learn something from every training day and every race, regardless of how well you were able to perform.
Pre-race: The park is a decent drive from my house, almost two hours, so I hit up Richard for a place to stay the night before. Evans is much closer to Appling than East Lake is. I got to Ali’s apartment (see what I did there?) fairly late so I had already eaten dinner and packed everything. Richard and Ali chilled in the living room watching something I can’t remember on television while I was foam rolling a little bit. It was pretty low key and I turned in around 10pm?
I set my alarm for 5:30 AM so I could hopefully be at the park by 6:30 AM. I had my typical bagel with peanut butter and banana breakfast and quietly left the apartment while somehow not waking either of my gracious hosts. Driving to the race and setting up transition were pretty uneventful and I remember saying hello to quite a few people I recognized. A guy a few spots down was trying to safety pin his bib number for the swim so we had to talk him out of it. Then he started using his shoelaces to build a race belt so I gave him my extra one and he seemed pretty grateful.
Warm-up: It was a pretty typical warm-up for me. Your basic 8-10 minutes of stretching followed by arm swings and swimming. I had walked back and forth to the car and bathroom many times so I didn’t feel the need to do any real jogging. I’m always behind setting up transition so I never get as much swim time pre-race as I’d like, so I work with what I can get. It feels like about 5 minutes worth before the talking, singing, and praying takes over and you feel awkward for continuing to get warm.
Swim: The water felt like a bath. It was pretty warm. Not uncomfortably warm, but enough that you felt a little hotter than normal pretty quickly. It was pretty much an out and back swim with just one 180° turn. Not much either by way of jockeying for position or swallowing water. It honestly one of the most boring swims I’ve ever had. Save for the first few seconds, I was alone the entire time. I couldn’t tell how fast I was swimming (I never can and I’m always much slower in open water than in the pool) and I felt like I was swimming well, but I came out of the water almost 3 minutes slower than I expected. I think everyone’s times were slower than normal too.
Swim Time: 0:13:37
T1: Coming out of the water I looked at my watch and was pretty disappointed. But whatever. Get the legs moving and get on the bike. Except the legs weren’t moving. This was the first race I’ve ever done that I had to walk during T1. I know I haven’t been doing triathlons for very long, only twelve across three seasons, and I’m not trying to say I’m amazing either, but this was a low point for me. But whatever again. Just catch your breath and get to your bike. I put some socks on and got on my way, it just took a long time to get there.
T1 Time: 0:00:57
Bike: I felt gassed from the go. I never really felt like I could get going. I was basically training through this race, so I had quite a bit of extra fatigue in my legs that I don’t normally have. The course is a big Y. Why? I don’t know. I don’t like bike turnarounds and much prefer a loop. I don’t recall too many people passing me, but I was catching some people. I didn’t feel like I was going very fast at all though. The bike went by fairly quick too. I was looking for Rogue during the bike coming up behind me, which was fairly easy because of all the turnarounds. The course profile made me believe that there would be more climbing than there was and the scenery was pretty decent. I caught up with White Zinn after a while and just kept driving my legs trying to generate some speed.
Bike Time: 0:33:22
T2: This time through transition was pretty quick. I leave my shoes on the bike so T2 has always been pretty quick this year with 95% of the time being the run to and from my rack. It takes almost no time to put my running shoes on and I’m putting on hat, sunglasses, and race belt while I run out.
T2 Time: 0:00:29
Run: The course profile for the run suggested some pretty substantial climbing, so I didn’t bust out of T2 on a mission. My legs were fatigued anyway so I set a moderate pace to make sure the climb didn’t take too much out of me. And climb we did. I ended up walking up the hill. But only after checking to see if anyone else was around! I was jogging up, but I was able to move my legs faster by walking quickly. I reach the top of the hill and wound my way out to the road for the turnaround. It was about the time I reach the turnaround that I started to really feel more fatigue set in. I desperately needed an aid station to get some water. I made it to the first aid station, walked it, got some water, and started running again.
It wasn’t too long before I had to stop again, but this time was to puke. I was totally gassed and it was a huge let down. I haven’t bonked in a race since my second triathlon ever. I couldn’t help but think that maybe I didn’t hydrate enough in the days leading up or eat enough breakfast to have enough energy. Regardless, my rivals were catching up and I tried to get going again to salvage something. I could hear Patrick catching up and I jokingly yelled at him to hurry up and pass me to get it over with. Make it quick and painless. Maybe it will spark something as well and I’ll be able to keep up! Nope. Nothing left. I was running like 9:00/mi pace or slower and that was all I could muster at the time.
We went back into the woods and came out again for the final mile or so to the finish. At this point I was hearing my other rival come up behind me. I’ve talked about Taylor before and our crazy sprint finish last year but today I was fading and it wasn’t looking good. He knew I was hurting and encouraged me to keep going. I think he slowed down just a little and it was just enough for me to speed up and match. We started running together and I just sat on his left shoulder for the rest of the race. As we got closer and closer to the finish I kept waiting for him to drop me but he never did. We turned the second to last bend in the road and I looked over and said, “here we go again.” He picked it up first and I followed. There’s a big right turn off the road and through some trees to hit the finish line. He made a wide turn which left some space on his right for me to sprint past and take my finish line foot race record to 3-0.
Run Time: 0:26:02
Post Race: I was running so hard at the end that I couldn’t really slow down very easily. I ran straight through the finisher chute and right out the back. I found the first picnic table and just collapsed on top. I don’t think I moved for almost 15 minutes. People brought me water and a banana and it helped. When I could finally muster enough energy to get up, I realized I still had my chip on. Taylor’s wife offered to take it back for me but I needed walk around and get some more food anyway.
What would you do differently: I’m honestly not sure how to answer this question. I trained through this race and had pretty much no taper. What I would do differently is not try to train through a race like this one again. It was hot and hilly and I wasn’t fresh. I bonked hard but was able to salvage something at the end and surprisingly got some hardware as well. While it’s nice to get a podium and it takes some of the sting out of what I thought was a poor performance, it doesn’t erase all of it.
Rate your overall experience with this race: I’m trying to be a fair judge of this race and forget about how I performed. I don’t like this race. I don’t like the course. It’s just far enough that I wouldn’t want to drive it in the morning. The closest hotels are 20-30 minutes away, which isn’t too bad. But they’re not close enough for me to justify a hot, hilly course with a double-turnaround bike, a one-aid-station run, and a tree-minefield finish line.. I give it like a 2 or 3 and I hate to do that because I love Tri the Parks.