A Few Extra Miles: Rock Hall Race Report

27 06 2011

Hey friends! I hope you had a rockin’ weekend! As many of you know, Chloe and I were racing this weekend at the Rock Hall Triathlon (International Distance). It was a really fun day, especially hanging out with these ladies:

But let me start from the beginning…

The day started off bright and early! And by bright and early I mean I woke up at 4:05am, and left my house at 4:30 to pick up Chloe by 5. On our drive out of DC, we spotted some folks who probably were still out from the night before. Their night was just ending; our day was just beginning.

Chloe and I arrived at the race site with plenty of time to get checked in, set up our gear, chat with the girls, and walk over to the swim. With only about 200 athletes, it was a tiny race. There were only 3 waves: the men, the women, and then the relays.

At the swim start, I was really thankful that the race director had a little pre-race meeting, because the swim map on the website was different from the swim map they sent us in the race packet…which ended up being different than the course we ACTUALLY swam. He explained that the swim was going to be two laps around the inside of the harbor, and then into the dock. To keep us safe, the course didn’t allow us to go beyond the jetty, into the channel. OK, not a big deal, but that was definitely the first time I’ve ever done a swim that required you to make two loops.

Chloe and I started right next to each other and were pretty much stroke for stroke for the entire first lap. At the beginning of the second lap, as we approached the second buoy, she started to pull away some. She stayed about 10-15 yards in front of me for the remainder of the swim. Chloe and I both agreed that the swim wasn’t bad, except for the strong smell of gasoline coming from the few boats in the cove, and the dock at the exit of the swim.

The dock was a little difficult to climb out of the water onto; there was about a two foot distance between the water and the top of the dock. Race organizers had tied an upside down milk crate on the side of the dock to serve as a step, but I found it a little difficult to find a place to grab and pull myself out. Eventually I figured it out and slowly climbed out of the water, but that was definitely not the best swim exit I’ve seen at a race. Then there was this long wooden dock- maybe about 25 yards long-that we had to run on to get to transition. They had carpeted it a tiny bit, but I was afraid I was going to get a splinter in my feet. As I started running on the dock, I could see Chloe a little bit ahead of me, and someone told me that I was the 4th female out of the water.

T1 was uneventful, and I was off on the bike. I had glanced at the map the night before, and the course didn’t look too complicated.

Now, they tell you that “athletes are responsible for knowing the course.” I figured I knew it well enough, and there would be volunteers at all the turns to guide me, so I didn’t spend too much time studying it. Well…

I was off and riding, and my legs were feeling kind of tired. I could see a few people up ahead right after the start, but that was really it. At about mile 4 maybe, two guys passed me. At mile 5, my friend Erin passed me; she had been the 5th female out of the water, and I knew she was a stellar cyclist. She said “Hi” and I responded “Hi! It’s sure quiet out here!” I was mostly referring to the open space all around us, and the lack of cars. There weren’t many cyclists around me, but I figured it was a small race, so it wasn’t uncommon for everyone to be spread out. Little did I know how ironic that statement would be…

Eventually, on the other side of the road I saw the 20 mile marker. Hmm, that’s a little weird…Is the course mismarked? Am I really that close to a turnaround? I kept pedaling, and soon I saw a cop car up ahead. Erin was a bit ahead of me, but she was still in my sight and I could see her come to an almost stop and turn around and talk to the police officer briefly. I kept approaching the cop, and as she passed me on the other side of the road she told me that we were off course. Confused, I turned around after a few more yards, and figured we couldn’t have been too far off course.

Erin was riding in a group of three a little ahead of me, and I did my best to keep them in my line of vision. I looked down at my odometer, and as the numbers kept climbing, 10, 11, 12…I realized that we must have been REALLY off course. About this time, I realized my chances for having a great race were probably over, and figured I might as well just get in a good training ride. It’s not everyday that I get to go on a long ride with very little traffic!

Finally, when my odometer read 16 miles or so, I arrived at an intersection. There was a man from Setup events there, and a volunteer flagging us to turn left. I think I said something to the volunteer as I turned because I was confused as to where I was supposed to go, since I was just getting back on the course. I saw Erin waiting at the corner, and she said that this was the turn we missed. We could either just ride back into transition and DQ ourselves, or ride the remainder of the 24.5 miles together.

If you look at the map below, we basically missed the first big turn. See the 15 mile marker at Chestertown Road? That’s where the cop was, and told us we were off course. We had been riding the back half of the course the whole time.

I didn’t register for the race for nothing, so Erin and I set out on the basically empty bike course. We rode together most of the way, laughing about the situation. Yes, we were frustrated, but there really wasn’t anything we could do about it now. We’d both treat it as a training ride, and that was that. I’m so thankful that Erin was there, because we motivated each other to keep going and finish the race. I’m not sure I would have ridden the course alone, and if I had, I would have been really worried. What if I got a flat? I didn’t see a single SAG vehicle the entire time.

Finally, 40 miles later, I arrived in transition. I saw Chloe outside of transition, clearly finished her race. She was like “Where were you? We were about to come look for your bike!” I told her that we missed a turn, and rode 15 extra miles on the course. I joked that I just didn’t think 25 miles was long enough for me 🙂

Throughout the ride, Erin and I had chatted about what to do for the run. Do we run it at all? Do we do the whole thing?

The run was 2 loops of a 5K course, so we decided just to run one loop. After all, we came to do a TRIathon, right?

So, we set off together, laughing at our ridiculous situation. I saw my friend Jenny right at the start of the run- she had come up to cheer on her boyfriend and Chloe and I, and had been worried about me when I didn’t show up in transition when she expected me. I quickly told her what happened, and kept running.

The first mile or so of the run hurt. It was hot, my legs were tired, and I was mentally drained. But, I pushed on, and finally started feeling a little better after running through some of the neighborhood sprinklers and throwing some cold water on my head. I was just there to try to have fun, and enjoy the great workout I was getting.

At mile 3, I considered running the whole 10K, because I HATE quitting. I hate hate hate it. But, I decided that I was exhausted, probably a little dehydrated, and we had reservations for a crab fest that I didn’t want to miss. So, Erin and I stopped and walked over  to the timing booth and disqualified ourselves, since we didn’t run the whole 10K.

The whole situation was definitely frustrating, but I was really happy to see Chloe, Lauren, Amy, and Liz smiling at the finish line. It was so great to hear that they all had awesome races- Amy completed her first tri, Lauren PRed, Liz met her goals, and Chloe got 2nd in our age group, and her knee held up! She said it was a little achy throughout, but she’s going to keep stretching and icing between now and her HIM.

After the race, the race director asked that the people who had gone off the course come see him after the awards. I did, and he profusely apologized for the poorly marked intersection. He said that a lot of volunteers didn’t show up, and the police were late in arriving to their spots. So, he comped me an entry in a future SetUp events tri for later this season. I’ll take that! I think that was definitely a classy way to make up for the situation. 🙂 Now, which race should I do?

To celebrate our victories, Chloe, Amy, Jenny and her bf, Liz and her hubby, Lauren and her bf, and I all went over to Waterman’s for CRABS! This was definitely one of the reasons I kept going on the bike. More miles = more crabs.

And crabs we ate! We had a few folks get the all-you can eat crab deal, others just ordered a dozen, and Jenny and I got the crabs with Garlic and Butter.

AH- MA- ZING. This HIT THE SPOT after a long day of racing. And, the company was just incredible! Race day was the first time I had met Lauren and Amy, and they’re so great! It was also nice to hang out with Liz again, who I had recently met at a Nat’s Game. I’m so glad I’ve found this new group of blogging friends! I can’t wait until we do our next race together!

Lesson of the day: Study course maps, especially the bike course!