Need to catch up? Check out Part 1 here
Like probably most people, I don't sleep well the night before a race - especially a triathlon. There are so many little things to remember for the race that I spend most of the night running mental checklists of everything I need to do. The night before Goosepond was no exception. It was past midnight before I actually fell asleep. So you can imagine how annoyed and kind of horrified I was to wake up to the sounds of a screaming couple at around 3:30 am. SCEAMING. They were staying across the hall. Dudley went out into the hall to check things out and then called hotel security. I don't know exactly what happened after that, but I do know they weren't kicked out of the hotel and the police weren't called. The latter definitely should have happened because when we left for the race at 5:30, there was BLOOD on the outside of the door. Lovely.
So we headed down to the race site. Dudley unloaded my gear while I went to get body marked and pick up my timing chip. I was so tired, I kind of just going through the motions of checking in and setting up. I'm usually pretty obsessive about getting everything set just right before the race. Not this time. In fact, I actually put the front water bottle on my bike on backwards, which is pretty hard to do since it's kind of molded to fit exactly into water cage.
I'm barely standing at this point.
This race has pre-assigned transition racks by race number. And the race numbers were assigned by age and gender, so my rack consisted of all women. I'm sure isn't any scientific data about this, but I've personally noticed that women seem to 1) carry more stuff than needed into transition and 2) spread it everywhere. It's crazy. Stuff was all over the place. I was racked next to a guy at Chattanooga a few years back and he had a bike, his helmet, bike shoes and running shoes. That was IT! Some women pretty much carry a bike shop, a grocery store and a pharmacy into transition.
The race started at 7:30 and it was 7:15 and I still didn't have my wetsuit on. I HATE putting on my wetsuit. There's just no graceful way to do it. I mean, it's tight...it makes it hard to breathe, your arm fat sticks out... It's just bad. But after a few minutes of tugging and pulling, plus using almost my entire bottle of Suit Juice
, I got the dang thing on. (Side bar: Funny thing happened while I was putting on my wetsuit. A woman walked up with all of her gear looking very disheveled at 7:15 and started setting up. That's REALLY REALLY late considering the race started at 7:30. She announced to no one in particular, "I slept through my alarm. I'm SO hungover!" REALLY? You go drinking the night before a half-ironman? She was going to have a LONG DAY.)
There were four starting waves and, of course, I was in the last one. I hate that. Sure, it's easier to find your bike when 90% of the race starts before you, but it's still a little disheartening to be last before the race even starts. At about 7:45, my group was called to get in the water. There was this dock with temporary stairs that we used to get in the water. Let me tell you - the swim area volunteers ran a very tight ship. They wanted you in the water. So as soon as you got to the end of the dock - you were IN. They didn't exactly throw you in the water...but it was pretty close. Which was a little scary because I had no idea how deep the water was, how cold it was or what was lurking in it. Turns out - about 5 feet, not that cold and a TON of seaweed.
This is my "what the hell am I doing" look.
Once in the water, we had about 30 seconds before our wave started. I spent it trying to get untangled from the seaweed. It was wrapped around my arms, legs - it was pretty much everywhere. The RD said they had cut it back the day before. If so - I would have hate to have seen it before.
I'm the cap in the middle of this mess.
The swim was a two-lap course. It was, by far, the most well-marked swim course I've ever done. The buoys were HUGE. Sighting was so easy. Every race should use these.
Biggest. Buoys. Ever.
My swim felt really good. I didn't kill myself - just kept a nice, steady pace. My only complaint about the swim was that the volunteers started pulling in the giant buoys before everyone had completed the second lap. Picture eight buoys set up as a rectangle. Once the last swimmers passed a buoy for the 2nd time - they pulled it. I get it - the race organizers want to pack things up as soon as possible. Kicker is - we were told to keep the buoys to the left of us. So what did they do? They moved the buoys to the RIGHT of the finish line. I turned the last corner and started heading toward the finish and didn't know exactly where to go. I KNEW the yellow buoy on the left was the finish, but there were orange ones there too. Last thing I wanted to do was aim to the yellow and get disqualified because I cut the course. So I pulled up from the swim for a minute to figure out what the heck was going on. And yes, the yellow buoy WAS the finish. But it was a confusing situation that could have been easily avoided.
I also lost my ROAD ID during the swim. Felt it float right off my arm. That was a bummer. I've had that thing for years and have run all over the country with it. Who knows? Maybe someone will find it and call one of my contacts and it'll get returned to me. I'm mainly hoping that someone doesn't find it and think that I drowned out there.
Yes, that is seaweed wrapped around my right hand.
Getting out of the water wasn't any big deal. They had plenty of volunteers to help you back on to the deck. They also had wetsuit strippers, which was nice. You have to be careful when removing your wetsuit though. I've heard horror stories of tri suits being accidentally removed along with the wetsuit - especially with wetsuit strippers. Fortunately, mine suit stayed on and I made my way to my bike. It looked like I was one of the first ones from my rack to finish the swim. SWEET. I grabbed my bike and off I went.
I had heard the bike was flat. I was REALLY wishing I had race wheels because I know it would have made a big difference on a flat course like this. But oh well. Gotta do the best with what you have, right? My race plan was, like the swim, to ride semi-conservatively and not kill myself. Get a decent groove and stick with it. I haven't done enough 70.3 races to really figure out my pacing, but I knew I didn't want waste my legs for the run since that's my weakest event.
We had about three miles before we got onto the main road. I used this time to kind of calm down and regain my wits a little. Getting out of the water is kind of a confusing state. Your equilibrium is all thrown off. Once I'm on the bike, it's good for me to take the first couple of miles and figure out what the heck I'm doing, and get some nutrition in me. Unfortunately, I quickly got passed by four women - three of which were in my age group. And when I say "quickly got passed," I mean these women FLEW by me. Even if I had wanted to throw my race plan out the window, put the hammer down and chase them, I don't think I would have been able to hang for very long. Those women were FAST.
At least I look kind of fast.
I got out on the main road and hit some railroad tracks at about mile 10. I watched the riders in front of me hit the tracks, so I knew it was going to be a hard hit. And it was. Hard enough for me to lose BOTH of my back water bottles. Fantastic. Considering I had 46 more miles to go, I had no choice but to stop and pick them up. Plus, you can get a penalty for discarding items on the course. I don't think the possibility of a penalty bothered most people though. There were water bottles littering the entire side of the road. In fact, three men passed me while I was getting my bottles and all three lost one bottle while riding over the tracks. None of them stopped to pick them up.
Other than that- the ride was pretty uneventful. Once off the main road, we rode through a lot of farm country. Since it was a small race, there were several times when I was riding completely alone. It's a weird thing being in a race and not seeing anyone else. The route was well-marked, but you start wondering if you missed a turn. I actually thought about slowing down and seeing if someone caught me - just to make sure I was on the right road. And it was flat. VERY flat. And boring. More than once I looked down at my watch and realized I was going WAY slower than I should have been. Without any kind of terrain change, I just got kind of lulled into this complacency and totally zoned out about what I was supposed to be doing - i.e. RACING! This course would have been awesome if you could draft and have a pace line.
There was one sight of interest on the course - a rock zoo. I wish I had been able to take photos of this thing. It was about 20 oddly shaped boulders that had been painted into various animals. There was a giant chicken, a cow, a penguin...all sorts of unrelated creatures. There was even a sign that stated "Please Don't Feed the Animals." It was completely out of place in the middle of the Alabama countryside, and it made me laugh.
Almost done! Hi Dudley!
Pulling into transition, I thought I felt OK. It was getting hot, but I was OK. And then I actually got off the bike and tried to run. And nothing happened. Seriously. My legs wouldn't work. I could walk, but running just wasn't going to happen. Turns out - flat courses trash your legs more than hilly ones. It makes sense. I never stopped pedaling the entire 56 miles at Goosepond, so my legs didn't get any recovery. And the Goosepond run course was hilly! You immediately had a hill right out of transition. It was terrible!
I am so not happy at this moment.
As I passed Dudley less than a mile into the run, he asked me how I felt. I said, "I have no idea how I'm going to finish 13.1 miles." And I didn't. I've trained enough that I know how my legs are supposed to feel after a long ride. This wasn't it - it was way worse. And it was starting to get HOT. Add on the fact that I was about a month behind on my training, and I figured I was screwed. I'm generally not a quitter, but at this moment, I was pretty much trying to figure how to drop out and at what point.
And then about a mile in, a guardian angel ran by and saved my race. Her name was Sonja and we just kind of fell into pace with each other. And then we started chatting. And then, before I knew it, we hit the three mile mark. It was still hot and painful, but for the first time I thought I might actually be able to finish this thing. Slowly, we made our way around the course. We walked some - mainly up hills - and took our time at the rest stops. We agreed that this course kicked our butts and we just needed to make it to the finish. No need to kill ourselves at this point. Just get to the finish and live to fight another day.
The course didn't really have any highlights. It meandered through a campsite and through some of the vacation homes around Lake Guntersville. It was hilly, but nothing too terribly scenic. And, unfortunately, no spectator support from the locals. Well, there was ONE family who had set up chairs on the course. One. They were great, though.
The best part about the run course? The volunteers. They were very helpful and enthusiastic. My favorite was a man at an intersection we had to run through three times. He was clapping and yelling for everyone who passed. When you're in as much pain as I was, that's really helpful. Plus, all of the water stops were well-stocked with COLD water. It was wonderful.
Sonja and me with about a half-mile to go.
Fortunately, that hill we had to climb out of transition meant we got to run downhill to the finish. If we had an uphill finish, I probably would have cried. Six hours and twenty minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line.
With my new BRF (best race friend) Sonja.
This one was EARNED.
Looking back, I learned several things during this race. One being that flat rides are deceivingly hard. I had no clue. Another is that, for long races, I need hoopla. This race was really well-organized, the roads were well-marked (contrary to my fears from the day before) and they had great volunteers. But man, did I miss the atmosphere of Augusta during the ride and run. Maybe if I did this distance more, I'd be able to psych myself up better. But at this moment - I need the streets lined with cheering people holding funny signs for a race this long.
The only real negative with the race itself was that the race director was a bit too efficient with breaking down the race. I already mentioned the confusion with the swim and the buoys. Well, they also started breaking down the transition area by the time Sonja and I finished. Yes, we started in the last group, but we were BY FAR not the last people out there. I know this because the run course was an out and back and I could see who was still out there. They had also sent away the ambulance, which is just ridiculous. Dudley said they did this about 5:30 into the race, which is pretty early considering you get 8 hours to finish the thing. Why was it sent away? I have no idea. Maybe there was some emergency and they had to leave. I do know that they had to call for an ambulance a few minutes after I finished. I just hope it wasn't anything too serious.
Would I do this race again? Maybe. As I mentioned, I need a crowd for motivation - especially on the run, but that's not the fault of the race directors. I wasn't crazy about the course, but that's just my personal preference. If I had been better prepared physically, I might have liked the course more. However, every person I spoke to who did this race said that the course kicked their asses, so it must be pretty tough. But the race was well-organized and well-supported. Oh - and the race photos were free to download. Ironman charges something like $30 a photo. Overall, it's a very good, small-town race.
A HUGE thank you to my husband, Dudley, for always being so supportive. I promise we'll go back to Lake Guntersville to go boating sometime (it's actually very pretty and apparently a great spot for fishing). And thanks to Sonja for totally saving my race. I'm not sure I would have finished without you! Hope to race with you again soon!
Swim: 40:02 (2nd AG)
Bike: 3:06:14 (4th AG)
Run: 2:30:53(6th AG)
OVERALL: 6:21:37 (6th AG out of 14)
Photos courtesy of Dudley Lightsey, Greg Gelmis and WeRunHuntsville.
Next up: Healdsburg Half Marathon race report!