This weekend I competed in the 3rd annual Atlantic City Triathlon – International Distance. This was my second time doing the AC tri (I did it in its inaugural year) and I have to say, Delmo Sports puts on an awesome race. Before I get to my race report, let me just share a few of the perks from the AC event:
- Bike drop off the night before the race – I really appreciated the extra sleep I got on race morning because I didn’t have to be at transition the moment it opens at the crack of dawn on race morning! (I’m one of those triathletes!)
- Personalized Race bibs – I love hearing random people cheer me on while I’m racing!
- Long-sleeve, gender specific tech tees – I don’t get to use them often in Florida, but I love a good long sleeve tech tee! This one fit perfectly!
- A thorough pre-race meeting. Steven did a great job of talking us through the event and the course specifics on Saturday afternoon. If you missed a turn, you weren’t paying attention!
- Results available electronically minutes after you finish – I’ve never been to a race that had this, so I was excited to try it out. Just type in your number on the touch screen and up pops your individual results! It took a few minutes for it to register my run split, but I’d say it was up within 20 minutes of my finish!
- Sweet race medals – Can you call a race medal sexy? I think the black and white finish on this one makes it quite sexy!
- A HOT breakfast spread – This was probably one of the BEST post-race meals I’ve had. It had way more than your typical doughnuts and bagels; there was eggs, bacon and sausage! The only thing missing was some Wawa coffee!
- Free Race Photos – Yes, I said FREE Race photos. I’m anxiously awaiting the email that says they’re posted!
- Age group awards that go 5 deep. Yes, 1st through 5th place get an age group award!
- Tom Knoll, one of the ORIGINAL Ironman finishers gave a talk and handed out the awards for Overall Winners. So. cool.
I’m sure I’m missing something, but I’ll stop gushing right now and get on to my race!
The race was International distance, so the distances were: 1 mile swim, 20 mile bike, 6.2 mile (10K) run. As I mentioned above, I racked my bike the afternoon before, so I arrived at the race site at 5:45am, about 45 minutes after transition opened. There was a little bit of traffic to get in to Bader Field, the old, small airport where the tri was held. I was thankful I arrived when I did- they actually ended up pushing back transition close time because of the volume of cars.
By the way, I have to give A HUGE shout out to the Tuckahoe Bike Shop, where I rented a really nice carbon road bike, to which they added on some aero bars for me! They spent a good hour with me, putting on the pedals, the bars, making sure the bike was fit just right, and giving it a quick once over in the maintenance department. If you’re in the area and need a bike to race with, they’re the place to go!
Anyhow, the morning was a cool and crisp 52 degrees, quite chilly for this Florida gal! I bundled up in my sweats and hoodie, and was thankful that I had checked the weather before I left for my trip north.
I set up my things in transition fairly quickly, and then went for a short jog to warm up my legs. I waited around for a little while longer before putting my wetsuit on and heading out of transition. It seemed like there was a bit more of a delay (I think they were waiting for the all clear on the roads before they could start) before we finally heard the National Anthem and the Para-triathletes could begin. There were 9 paras who were racing, and holy smokes were they INSPIRING! There were a few who didn’t have use of their legs, some who had one leg, and even a few who had no legs. AND THEY WERE ABOUT TO DO A SPRINT TRIATHLON! As I watched them pull themselves out of the water I could only stand in awe. Talk about amazing.
After the paras, the sprint triathlon went off. After the approximately 600 sprint triathletes were in the water, it was finally time for the International. There were no waves for the tri – it was time trial starts, aka seed yourself. They let approximately 10 people on to the dock at a time and off they went, shortly followed by the next 10. I wanted to position myself close to the front, so I pushed my way through the crowd and went in with the 4th or 5th group of 10 ( I think). One slight change I would have made to the time trial start would be to organize the athletes by approximate finish times or paces to help everyone seed themselves. I think people generally seeded themselves appropriately, but I would have preferred some kind of gauge to know where I fit in. Looking at the overall results, I probably could have gone in a little earlier.
(Not me, just a photo my mom took- and shout out to my mom for getting up at the crack of dawn to cheer me on and be my personal photographer!)
The water was a perfect 74 degrees. I was glad I wore my wetsuit, mostly to keep me warm while on land, but I definitely enjoyed the added buoyancy. Swimming in the bay is like swimming in a salt water pool, so I just put my head down and went. I fell into a groove, and found myself passing a few swimmers. When I got to the last turn, I noticed a speedy female approaching on my left. I was able to figure out that it was Susan Reich, last year’s female overall winner. I added a little kick and tried to stay in her draft for a little, but after a few strokes I decided to back off and swim my own race. I didn’t want to burn out before I got to the bike!
I pulled myself onto the dock and ran towards transition.
Swim: 22:42.8 (15th OA, 3rd F)
My T1 was pretty slow. Because it was chilly, I opted to put on my arm warmers. I was thankful I did while riding, but man it is tough (and SLOW) putting those things on with wet arms!
Getting out of Bader Field with the bike was probably the sketchiest part of the day. About 100 yards or so after you’ve mounted the bike, there was a REALLY gravelly area (only about 10-15 feet long) that you had to get across to make your way out onto the street. The RD gave us PLENTY of warnings at the pre-race meeting and it was very well marked with signs and volunteers, but it was still a little dicey. I went VERY slow through this section (maybe my mountain biking adventure helped!) and thankfully made it across without falling off my bike.
The bike course for this tri is pretty fun- you get to ride on the Atlantic City Expressway for a portion of it, which is basically the main highway that takes you into AC. It’s pretty amazing that the city agreed to shut down part of it for the race. There are a few “hills” – a few overpasses and a bridge to get into the city- but nothing too crazy.
On the way out of the city, it felt like there was a slight head wind. I also couldn’t feel my legs for the first few miles because they were so cold! As usual, my goal was to try not to let any women pass me. I knew Susan was ahead of me (I was right behind her in transition, but once we hit the road she took off) but I wasn’t sure who else was out there because of the time trial start. As I was still trying to settle into my rhythm once we made it onto the Expressway, I was passed by a woman. She was MOVING! (I think she ended up winning) I finally warmed up when I was almost to the AC Connector turn around, and it was at that point that I saw another female. We played cat and mouse for a little while before she finally took me over after we’d made our turn. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful- I didn’t have my watch on, so I was clueless as to my speed, so I just kept moving at a pace that felt hard but comfortable until I made it back to Bader Field.
Bike: 58:10.3 (158 OA, no clue where I was in gender)
T2 wasn’t much to write home about. I grabbed my shoes, race belt, and watch, and headed out for the leg I was most excited about. (Wait, did I just say I was excited about the run? That NEVER happens!)
I was pumped about the run for a few reasons: 1) I have been working really hard on gaining speed on my runs through tempo runs and track practice. I was really hoping to see the fruits of my labor at Courage to Tri, but the heat and course weren’t working in my favor. I decided that today was going to be my day. 2) I know the run course like the back of my hand. The majority of the run was on the Atlantic City boardwalk where I have run countless numbers of miles in my lifetime. 3) The weather! Though it wasn’t ideal (for me) for jumping in the water or going for a bike ride while soaking wet, it was PERFECT weather for a run.
I hightailed it out of transition, out of Bader Field, and down Albany Avenue towards the boardwalk. Once you leave Bader Field, you immediately go over a short bridge, and then you’ve got about 3 blocks to get to the boardwalk. It was Sunday morning in Atlantic City so there was Sunday morning traffic. Thankfully, the ACPD was out directing traffic for the racers and they did a great job of keeping us safe as we crossed the streets.
When I made it to the boardwalk, I glanced down at my watch. 4:44/k. Um, WHAT? My legs were feeling strong- but it didn’t feel like I was pushing them to the point I would be crawling to the finish line. I told myself to hold on to that pace for as long as I could. Every time I glanced at my watch, my pace per kilometer was under 5:00- and after the first few hundred meters, it was under 4:50! The first mile beeped: 7:59. Then mile 2: 7:42. Mile 3: 7:36. Oh my gosh, who am I? I was still feeling pretty strong, but I was starting to get worried I’d burn myself out. I also noticed at the turnaround that there was another female not too far behind me. I kept running strong, but some time between mile 4 and 5, she passed me. I don’t know who she was, but she gave me a little cheer as she passed. She was moving! There was no way I was going to hang with her. I kept running my own race: Mile 4: 7:43. After I passed mile 4, my legs started to tell me they were getting tired. I pushed those thoughts aside and told myself that I can do anything for two miles. Mile 5: 7:45. My legs were getting heavy. I was getting tired. I. Can. Do. This. Mile 6: 7:57. I turned off of Albany Avenue and back into Bader Field, onto the old runway and towards the finish line. There was a lot of crowd support lining the chute to the finish, so I dug deep and pushed hard to the end. PHEW.
Run: 47:39.9 <– New 10K PR!!
Overall Time: 2:12:58.8
I pulled up my results on the computers and I was stoked to see that I was the 8th overall female and I had gotten 2nd in my age group!
I waited around for the awards and was pleasantly surprised to hear “First place, Women 30-34, Stephanie Gibson”! The girl that had outright won my age group actually was 3rd overall- and since they don’t double up overall and age group awards, that meant that I was the age group winner! SCORE!
This was a great way to wrap up my weekend back in Jersey. Thanks Delmo Sports for an absolutely FANTASTIC event. I hope to return next year!!
Now, if only the Eagles had won too.