Race Recap: Georgia Veterans Sprint
I know they tell you over and over again…. Never try something new the day of the race. A rebel at heart, I determined to break that rule relentlessly this past weekend at the Cordele Veterans Sprint triathlon.
Post race smiles
I first competed in the Georgia Veterans Sprint in 2013 and didn’t have the best time, literally and figuratively. I only knew one or two other athletes, found the pothole-ridden bike course infuriating (after one particular jolt two miles in, my bike seat came loose-not fun), the run course was blistering hot with not a shade tree in sight, and the gnats. Holy crap, the gnats. Georgia’s August humidity made the air thick enough without the gnats. Also discouraging was coming out of the water that year to an empty bike rack. These Mid GA Tri athletes were a force to reckon with, I quickly realized. I determined to join the group in 2014 and redeem myself.
This time around, I had actually met the “Mid GA Tri” racers who had dominated the course in 2013. The annual Cordele race was the group favorite, and judging by the energetic rivalries brewing on the club’s Facebook page, I knew everyone would be returning this year for what they lovingly consider “Sprint Nationals”. I wasn’t quite ready to fight off man-eating gnats and roads that reduced your brain to a milk shake, but Jason was bound and determined to do it with the club and see how we stacked up. I noncommittally chose to sign up last minute, weather permitting, mood permitting, and well, any other excuse permitting.
Saturday morning, I decided last minute to load up the tri bike at 3:45 am, still not quite sure if I was going to sign up. However, the sun rose to a beautiful morning, negating my excuse of possible bad weather. I was a bit timid to race with my new bike, but deep down I knew that I needed the experience prior to Augusta, and sooner or later, scratches or no, the bike would have to be broken in.
Along with the new Kestrel, I had decided to test out the following on race day:
1) Infinit nutrition custom run blend. It had come in the mail the day before, and while I would prefer to try it on a training day, I figured it was as good a time as any. I had a bottle of it finished thirty minutes before the swim, as recommend before the 70.3 and for sprints.
2) new Brooks Ghost running shoes with a single five mile run in them. My older Asics had been giving me calf problems, and I figured a few blisters were safer than suffering disabling cramps mid run. I had no time to put in speed laces, so I would be tying my shoes in T2 :/
3) I had just gotten my bike back from the shop on Friday from having the wheel trued, so I installed a new aero drink bracket the night before. I had no idea how it would hold up against the bumps and jolts on the sketchy back roads bike course.
As to my reasoning for trying all this out on a race day- I was viewing this sprint as just another training day. As you can tell, I was not hyped up AT ALL for the race. I did want to cheer on my new friends and fellow club members though, and I knew that I was not the person to do that on the sidelines. This would be a good training run before Augusta.
His and hers transition area before...
(and yes, that is my super sweet, vintage, good luck Lisa Frank towel circa 1999 you see there!)
Because we signed up the morning of, Jason and I got to rack next to each other. This was a fun, unexpected twist. We didn’t get to do this race together last year, we were both worried about our brand new bikes, and of course, it was a encouraging to have a friendly face nearby. It also appealed to my OCD that our bikes and transition areas coordinated. ;)
By the time our swim wave started, I was missing about a pound of flesh from the vicious gnats. I had an uneventful swim in the beautiful Lake Blackshear, not earth shatteringly fast, but free of the butterflies or anxiety that sneak up randomly during races this past year. I have finally gotten to the point in the swim where I am confident enough to wrestle anyone out of the way to get a lane. This combined with the face that I am not super fast, or super slow, so I quickly find my own clear space.
There was a bit of a run through the grass and up a slight hill to T1. I grabbed my bike, and bumped one of the bars, but didn’t think anything of it. First in my mind was a determination to beat last year’s average now that I had a real tri bike, which, despite an extremely loose saddle last year, had actually been my best average to date. The course is super fast, but it can also be a bit dangerous. It seems every hair pin turn is downhill, and covered with gravel or loose pavement in the bottom of the turn. Not wanting to get a severe case of road rash, I played it safe, and slowed way down in the turns. After seeing aerodrink bottles strewn about the road, shaken loose by the potholes, and no less than three flats in the short 13.5 mi course, I knew it was a good decision. Fortunately, there was good support this year from sportsmanlike fellow athletes, SAG vehicles, and police. Thankfully, I made it through the course without a hitch. Well, maybe one. Half way through, I wondered why my average wasn’t what I thought it should be. I looked down, and my chain was on the small chain ring. What the heck! I knew I had checked it and changed before racking it in transition. Then I remembered-in transition I had accidently hit one of the gears getting if off the rack.
Coming in to T2
Lesson learned: ALWAYS check your gears both before the race AND after you are on the bike. Even with this novice mistake, I was happy that I was only passed by four women on the bike leg, and I wound up catching two of them in the last two miles. I had also picked up my average well over 19, solidly beating last year’s time, and achieving my best average in a triathlon to date. I entered T2 and dismounted my bike without any problems (a big worry since I didn’t have time to practice while it was in the shop). However, I did hear some yelling over my shoulder, which just seemed like background noise in the chaos. I realized as I was racking my bike that I only had one shoe still attached to my pedal, and that yelling was at me. My shoe had come unclipped, bouncing against the pavement on the way into transition. Going back for it was out of the question.
I knew I had to have a solid bike leg, because it is no secret that I am not a runner. During the run last year, the heat and humidity leveled me, and I stopped multiple times to relieve both leg and stomach cramps, resulting in my worst triathlon 5k to date. This year, we have been training non-stop in the mid afternoon heat for Augusta, so I really had no excuse. I was also hoping that the Infinit run mix would help ward off cramps. Fortunately, everything paid off. I maintained a decent pace, with no cramps, and did not feel like I was losing a lot of ground. Also, crowd support was surprising for a small town, and the smiling faces were encouraging. My legs felt quite fresh, which I am giving credit to the new triathlon bike and fit. I felt so much more efficient and it seems to be translating to the run.
Starting out on the run
The last three-quarters of a mile, I decided to pick up my pace, which almost wound up being disastrous. I think I might have turned it on a bit too soon, but with a quarter mile to go, I found a little more. Then about a tenth of a mile to the finish, I saw a pink jersey in my peripheral, picking up speed, and trying to run me down. Not gonna happen! I found a completely different gear I didn’t realize I had. I finished strong with my best triathlon 5k time yet and I felt confident that I left everything out on the course that day, shaving five minutes off of last year’s time. When I finally went to go find my bike shoe, I was surprised to find the heel was covered in blood from a blister that I had tried to ignore on the bike leg. I have been biking in socks, but decided to forgo them (as usual) for the sprint. Not a good idea. Not sure how I’m going to fix that problem, but I may be the only person running in and out of transition with their socks on from here on out!
1st and 2nd Age groupers
By the time the awards ceremony rolled around, it had been quite apparent that Mid GA Tri had dominated in about every age group and category. Mid GA Tri members comprised 1st and 2nd male overall, and 3rd female overall. My friend Kim, who had completed the race as her first race back from a major injury, won 1st in our age group (which I believe was also 4th female overall) with me following up (a bit behind!) with second. Overall, Mid GA Tri took home 16 trophies.
In retrospect, I am so happy I went back and competed in this event this year. It was a fun, fast course, and it was a great feeling knowing everyone, instead of admiring their speed from the back. Being part of a club has really pushed me, given me a great support system, and allowed me to meet some wonderful, well-rounded people along the way, who also happen to be amazing athletes. I definitely suffered through some blood, sweat and tears the past two years, but there’s nothing like having your 25 new friends pushing through the course alongside you and cheering you to the finish J