Upon arriving at the Arnold Air Force base, where the event was being held, I realized quickly this was unlike any of the previous tris I had raced. Rather than being put on by a big promoter like Team Magic, this race was a put on by a local running club - Mach Tenn. This gave the race a bit more of a home-town feel, which was awesome. The race also leaned to the more experienced triathlete. I want to say the Ramblin' Rose was probably 90% beginner (participating in less than three tris), while the Mach Tenn was probably only 10%. That's strictly a guess, but judging by the bikes and athletic ability of most of the racers, I doubt I'm far off. These guys and gals just looked FAST.
Holland, Rae and me - all smiles before the race.
After checking in, setting up my transition area and hooking up with my friends and follow racers Holland and Rae, we headed down to the water to await the start of the race. My immediate thought was "WHAT am I DOING here?" I was quite intimidated by how far 1,000 meters looks in one stretch. Yes, I'd been swimming 1,000 meters, but that was in a 25 meter pool. When I first saw the buoys which marked the course, I was like "I have to swim ALL THE WAY DOWN THERE? And then SWIM BACK?" It was definitely the scariest part of the race for me. I'd never done an open water swim - heck - I'm hardly around open water even in a boat! I admit, I was so scared of the swim that, while driving to the race I had a 30-second vision of Dudley having to drive back to Nashville by himself because I drowned. Nice, huh?
Anyway, we headed down to the water and I had the chance to swim for about 5 minutes before the race stared. The water was almost 82 degrees - it was like swimming in a bath. Very weird. The swim of this tri was like the pool-races I'd done: a time-trial start, meaning that #1 gets into the water first and then 6-seconds later #2 jumps in. I was number 382 so I had about a 1/2 hour wait before getting into the water. I started chatting with a few other races near me - one of them being a 10-year-old racing his first tri. Great...I just KNEW I was going to get beat by the 10-year-old. I also stepped on a fish spine, which HURTS for those who have never had the misfortune of doing this. Fortunately, it didn't puncture the skin. One point for pool swims - you don't step on fish spines.
Slowly I made my way to the starting line. Pretty basic set-up. You get to the line and someone taps you on the back and says "Go." And so I went. It was VERY cool to hear a VERY loud "GO EAST NASTY" when I was entering the water. I have no idea who said it, but it was several people and very loud. I really appreciated the support because I was freaking out internally.
The Starting Line
Me giving the East Nasty sign when getting in the water. Note the tiny 10-year old in the background.
There I go! No rails or pool edges to hang on to! And definitely no black line to follow!
My swim went MUCH better than I thought. Well, considering survival was my main goal, I didn't have a high expectations with regards to time. Being that it was a time-trial start, I didn't have to go through the battle for position that takes place with many open water swims. I was thankful for that. I did run into some traffic on the course. I think, for the most part, it was me catching people. It was hard to tell because I really couldn't see anything other than brown water and the occasional swim cap. Every once in a while, I'd look up to see where the buoys were and make sure I was on course. The only time I had trouble was after the turn-around. My goggles had fogged a little, which was no big deal when the sun was behind me. But after I hit the turn-around, the sun was in my eyes and glared off the water. I could barely see 10 feet in front of me. I just tried to follow the swimmer in front of me the best I could and prayed they knew where they were going. Before too long though, I saw the dock where the finish line was. I made a bee-line for the dock, but kept getting kicked or swatted by an arm all the way up to the beach. Who was it? The freakin' 10-year-old!! The kid started almost a minute after me and BEAT me to the line! But at the time, I didn't care. I was happy to be done with the swim.
Me getting schooled by a 10-year-old
Coming out of the water
I was happy when the bike portion started, as that's generally my strongest event and where I can gain time. The course was great. Rolling hills, but nothing too hard. At this point, I was REALLY enjoying the race. It had gone from "What am I doing here?" at the beginning of the swim to "This is awesome!" The heat had kicked in, but between being wet from the swim and the breeze generated from the ride, I really didn't feel it. I passed the 10-year-old almost immediately. Eat my dust, kid!! (BTW - I'm kidding. I'm not taking joy in beating a 10-year-old! He was really cute when I passed him by saying "Great job, Lady!"). Though the ride was listed as 16-miles, I actually think it was more like 16.5 as I passed 16-mile marker somewhere on the road. False advertising if you ask me. I had one small mechanical issue - dropped chain - but I was able to fix it without getting off my bike so I didn't lose too much time.
Coming in from the ride
Of course, all good things must come to an end, as did my enjoyment of this race when the run started. By this time, it was around 95-degrees. My clothes had dried and I don't create a breeze when I run so I got HOT. Plus, the course was hilly. Those rolling hills I had enjoyed so much when I was riding felt like torture when running. And because it was an out-and-back course, I had to run them twice. As a result, I had to walk up a couple, mainly on the way back. While I'm not happy I had to walk, I'm OK with it. My calves cramped up so bad going up the hills that walking was really my only option. But I did run most of it. It was slow, but I did it. Again - thanks to those yelling "East Nasty" at the finish!
YAY! The finish!
Overall, I enjoyed the race a lot. Yes, the run sucked, but my runs always suck. I'm going to start training hills in Percy Warner so, hopefully, my run times will improve. The Mach Tenn people were very friendly and the race was very well-supported. I was a huge fan of the ice-cold towels we received upon finishing. There was also a great post-race party with all sorts of food not commonly found at smaller races, including hoe-cakes, pizza and beer. I didn't partake in the beer and hoe-cakes, but the pizza and Diet Coke really hit the spot. I'll definitely be back next year.
Mach Tenn Tri Results:
Swim: 21:22 (4th in age group)
Bike: 54:33 (6th in age group)
Run: 43:40 (9th in age group)
Total: 2:03:42 (8th in age group)