500 meter swim, 13 mile bike, 5k run
Swim: 9:32 (1:54/100)
Bike: 38:03 (20.5mph)
Run: 21:42 (6:58/mi)
Placement: 3rd overall female
I signed up for this race since I had heard nothing but great things about it last year. It's not everyday that you can race along side a NASCAR legend. Plus, who doesn't want to have some racing fun on a Tuesday night! Let's just start by talking about racing a triathlon on a Tuesday night. Anyone had experience with that before? Logistics such as what and when to eat throw off the usual morning race routine. I left work at 4pm, with just barely enough time to race home, change clothes, load my bike, and venture 30 miles south through rush-hour traffic to Waxhaw. Dark clouds and gusty winds were in the skies above just as I arrived to the race site. No sooner did I arrive in transition then they announced for everyone to take cover in preparation for heavy rains. There was a torrential downpour for about 10 minutes complete with thunder and lightening, but then just as quickly the clouds broke and the sun came out. Perfect recipe for some hot and steamy racing! After a brief weather delay, I swam a few hundred yards to warm up before lining up at the start of the national anthem followed by the start of our elite wave.
The course was a simple triangle that was laid out in sheltered calm water. Despite warm summer temperatures, the water was surprisingly comfortable. I felt as though I sighted a straight path and had a clean swim with what felt like an aggressive effort for me, yet my time doesn't reflect that at all. Part of the run into transition was included in the swim time. However, the fastest female swim time by a powerhouse swimmer was 8:20 (1:40 pace), which obviously shows that the course is long. For once, I'd love to have a race swim that is the advertised distance so I can see if my pool swim times actually translate to open water. Regardless, I had the 3rd fastest female swim time and was in and out of transition relatively quickly.
Leaving Cane Creek Park, there are three or four speed bumps that are painted white. Following a rainstorm, that meant they'd be extra slippery, so I took them cautiously and waited until making a right-hand turn onto the main road to settle into a race effort. I initially thought I'd have to be a bit conservative because of the rain, but with the exception of a few turns, the road conditions were such that I was able to not worry about the rain. The terrain is rolling and I stayed in my large chain ring exclusively for the 13 miles. I was passed by one guy in the last mile, but otherwise never saw a single other racer throughout. Normalized power was 215 with an average heart rate of 170 and good for 3rd overall female bike split.
As I mentioned in my previous post, a hip injury has placed a major damper on my running over the past two months. After 6 weeks without any running, I had run a total of 14 miles in the previous two weeks before this race. Short runs at 9 minute pace have been my conservative approach to recovering from a stress fracture. With Ironman Louisville a short 8 weeks away, I'd rather be undertrained on the run then risk reinjury. So, all that being said, I was nervous about this run. I've done the Tomahawk Tri at this venue before, and knew we'd be running trails. Add heavy rain to the normal perils of trail running, and it had the potential to be very slick. I took off out of transition unsure how my hip would feel, but fortunately there wasn't any pain. As expected, there were some very slick, muddy, and root-filled sections of trail that left me nervously watching each and every one of my steps. Around mile two we exited the trails and entered an out and back final section on the road. At this point, the struggle was real and my lack of running was very apparent. However, with a friend and fellow competitor close behind and another within a minute in front of me, there was no time for slowing. Plus, I had to maintain my lead over Jimmy Johnson! (He actually finished 3.5 minutes faster than me, but had started in a later swim wave). I crossed the finish with a run split of 21:42 (6:59/mi), average heart rate of 181, and 2nd overall female run split. Running that hard and fast probably wasn't the smartest thing for my hip, but you just simply can't take the competitor out of me!
I finished 3rd overall elite female, and at the end of the night joined two friends and training partners on the podium. And look who I even managed to snap a picture with . . . #48 Jimmy Johnson. Dad would be so proud! As much as I would have loved to spend hours longer with some great friends, it was a Tuesday night after all, which meant we all were ready for showers and bed before it was back to work early the next morning. As much as I wanted a podium finish, I honestly wasn't sure what to expect racing for the first time after an injury. So, all things considered, I was very happy with my race.