Such a Tease

19 09 2011

Guess what? The Queen of Ice Cream herself is FINALLY back! You’ll have to wait til tomorrow for Chloe’s post, but in the mean time, I’ll recap my final second to last race of the season! (more on that later)

This weekend, I went home to Jersey to participate in the inaugural Atlantic City International Triathlon. Friends, I think I have a new favorite race!

Maybe I’m a little biased because it’s my hometown race, but I thought it was awesome! Here’s one of the reasons:

Transition area inside Boardwalk Hall! I’ve never done a tri with an indoor transition area, but this was SO neat! There’s something special about setting up on the floor of the arena where so many amazing events have happened. I certainly felt like a star (even though all the seats were empty).

We also got some pretty nice swag:

Sunday morning came fast! My alarm went off at 4:20am so I would have time to eat my usual breakfast of oatmeal, banana, and peanut butter, pack up my stuff and be at transition right after it opened at 5am. It was a bit chilly, in the low sixties, with a cool breeze blowing. I was definitely thankful I had purchased arm warmers. I chuckled to myself as I drove down Pacific Avenue to park in one of the casino lots as I spotted a number of people clearly just coming home from the club. Their night was just ending, my day was just beginning.

I got to Boardwalk Hall bright and early to set up my gear, as usual. I was greeted by plenty of volunteers, which I wasn’t really expecting at 5am. One of them held my bike, and another marked me up. I walked through the doors and into the arena.

I was in awe. How cool is this? Because I was so early, there was plenty of space on the racks. The bike racks were organized by wave, not number, so I was able to grab some prime real estate. I was in the first row, right by the swim in and the run out.

I was setting up my gear, and I noticed some volunteers who I immediately recognized. It was my high school English teacher and her daughter! I’d seen them at a few other races in Jersey, but they were competing at those. It was nice to see they were supporting this new local race!

I also spotted my friend Dave, who I used to guard with, all ready to compete:

As I was setting up, they announced that the direction of the swim had been changed. The “breeze” I felt as  I left my house was a little more powerful by the ocean. It was blowing pretty hard from the north east, so the swim would now go from north to south instead of vice versa. I was glad they had done this, since it would not be fun to swim into that wind.

About 20 minutes before the pre-race meeting was supposed to start, I walked the 10 blocks or so to get to the start line. On my way, I saw some more guards I used to work with.

When I saw the ocean, I was really excited. There were definitely some decent waves rolling in, which would make the swim lots of fun, but there was some chop. I love the challenge of navigating rough surf, so this was definitely my kind of ocean. The current was rippin south, and the waves were breaking at 45 degrees to the beach. Not ideal for timid swimmers, but I’ve had experience in hurricane surf, so I wasn’t too worried.

The RD started the pre race meeting, and there was certainly excitement and nerves in the air. No one could really believe that a triathlon was about to take place in Atlantic City!

We waited until we got the go ahead from the police that the roads were completely closed off, and the first wave went off shortly after 7:30am. Because we were already on a delay, the RD wanted to start the waves 3 minutes apart instead of 5. But, when he looked out to sea and saw how much trouble the men in the first wave were having getting out to the first buoy, he said that we’d go 4 minutes apart. As the second wave prepared to go, I could see a lot of the men in the first wave not even out to the first buoy, and they’d already drifted south of it. The current was moving FAST! This would be one quick swim.

He sent of the next wave, and these guys started further north on the beach. Smart. Off they went, but they also struggled to get out to the first buoy. Guys from the first and second waves were washing in to shore, or being taken by the current southwards. The problem was that if you weren’t outside the first buoy, there was a danger of being washed into a jetty.

I kept watching as lifeguards on jet skis, in lifeguard boats, on rescue boards were grabbing triathletes left and right. Lifeguards on the beach ran in with the rescue cans to grab people before they hit the rock pile.

Meanwhile, my wave was all lined up and ready to go.

Then, the RD announced that they were stopping the swim. Nooooo! I want to swim!!

He announced that it was too dangerous to hold the swim; apparently they’d pulled 50 people already. I know it was the right decision, but I was definitely a little bummed.

We walked along the beach back towards transition, and by the time we got there, there were some people from the first and second waves who had made it out and had done the whole swim. There was a little bit of confusion as to what they should do, but I guess someone told them to stop, and everyone would be starting the bike.

I got my bike gear on, lined up, and shortly after the first two waves started, I was off.

When we started, we were immediately hit with a strong headwind. It was only for about a half a block, before we turned and headed towards the Expressway. This bike course was awesome. It would be blazing hot and miserable on a sunny day, but with overcast skys, it was perfect. It was mostly flat, except for the bridge to get in and out of the city, and the expressway on-ramps. We did two loops: out of the city, back in, do a little turn around and then do it all again.

On our way out of the city on the expressway, there was a slight tail wind, which was certainly nice. However, on the way in, there was, of course, a head wind. The wind was coming at us at like 10 o’clock, so it wasn’t directly in my face, but it definitely slowed me down. There were a few gusts that knocked my wheel to the side, and I had to hold on tight to gain control. My race goal was to just have fun, and that’s what I did. I pushed hard, and enjoyed the ride. I forgot to start my watch at the beginning of the race because I was too worried about the bike start, but honestly, I didn’t really care to know my time. I felt surprisingly strong, and just kept pumping.

I came in to T2, knowing that I had pushed my legs pretty hard on the bike, but I was ready to run. I grabbed my gear and ran out onto the boardwalk. One of my absolute favorite things to do when I’m home in Jersey is to go for a run on the boardwalk. I love how flat it is, and the boards are definitely easier on the knees than cement. And of course, breathing in the salt air and watching the waves crash off to my side as I run? You can’t beat that! I knew I’d enjoy this run!

The run took us out of the arena, south on the boardwalk for a little over a mile, turning and coming back north on the boardwalk, past the transition area, past the finish line for about a mile before turning around and heading back south for a mile to the finish.

Remember that north east wind from the swim? Well it hadn’t let up, and so the first part of the run felt really fast (duh, the wind was at my back). But the longest part of the run was into the wind. I was feeling pretty good until I had about two miles left. I was getting tired. But then I remembered Emily’s Ironman post from last week. I know my races is NOTHING like hers, but one thing she said in her post was that when she got to three miles left she thought to herself that she could  do anything for three miles. And that’s exactly what I said to myself. “Steph, you can do anything for two miles.” So, I pushed onwards. About a quarter mile before the last turn, the boardwalk curves, and we were DIRECTLY into the wind. I put my head down and pushed hard. That wind would have blown a small child away. After the turnaround, we had a slight tail wind to push us to the finish. I dug deep and turned it up a notch. I had enough juice left to sprint the last 0.2miles.

PHEW! I did it!

Final time: 1:58:52.34, 2nd in my Age Group.

Split times aren’t up yet, and since I forgot to start my watch on the bike, and the run, I have no idea how fast I was going. Honestly, I think not knowing was good for me! It let me just relax and have fun, and that’s exactly what I did!

All in all, I had a great race! My parents came out to cheer me on, I saw a bunch of people I knew, I felt strong and I had fun! I really hope this race goes off again next year, becuase I’m definitely doing it again!

Oh, and that whole second to last race thing…I’m going to do Waterman’s Half Iron Man as part of a relay. I’ll be swimming with Sarah and her hubby. Hopefully that swim won’t get cancelled!

Question of the day: What’s your favorite race?