Marineland Sprint Triathlon
|June 19, 2012||Posted by Katy under Race Photographs, Race recap|
I apologize that it took me two days to get this recap up. Yesterday I spent the entire day traveling and spending time with family at the service for my uncle.
Where do I even begin with this race? I’m always told that every race is a learning experience and this definitely is a race where that rings true.
I learned that this is how a race should not be run. Simply put, it was an organizational nightmare. I always try to find the good in a race experience and try not to focus on the negatives, because I can only imagine how difficult/ stressful it is to be a race director. However, I want to be blunt about my experience because, looking back on it, there was a serious safety risk during the swim.
Race morning started like they always do…except this was a local race and I did not have to wake up in an unfamiliar hotel room. Most of the time I travel out of town for races, but this race was in St. Augustine, a short drive from my apartment. I got up at 5:00, ate breakfast, loaded my gear in my car, and headed down south with my dad for the race.
Packet pickup went smoothly and I then proceeded to body marking and transition set-up. It was open racking (first come, first served) and the best spots were already taken, but I did the best I could. I took my time setting up and making sure I had every thing I needed set out.
What I failed to realize was that this race was not chip timed, rather volunteers took our race number and wrote down our splits for the different legs and transitions on a piece of paper. Not the end of the world, but a little bit of an old school method. I guess it is never safe to assume that all races are chip timed.
After I was set up, my dad and I headed out to the beach to look at the water before the swim. This is a “do as I say, not as I do moment” but this race was the first time I have ever done an open water swim in the ocean. The water looked a little choppy, so I got in before the start just to get comfortable. Like my first triathlon, I never felt scared or intimidated about getting in the water, but I was a little nervous about how rough the water looked. However, I put on my game face and headed to the start.
This is where the race organization starts to get dicey. All of us competitors are on the shore with the waves crashing on the sand and the race director is up on the rocks far away from us, giving directions through a microphone. The microphone was sub-par at best and no one could hear the description of the swim course.
Apparently we were supposed to go out to the center buoy, turn left and swim parallel to the shore to the lifeguard, turn around, and then go to the other lifeguard before coming in. Also, there were rocks out in the water (remember this) and we had to be careful not to get caught in them as we swam around them.
The problem was that none of us heard these directions and on “go” 3/4 of the swimmers went one way and the other 1/4 (myself included) went another way. When I saw the two groups go in opposite directions, I literally stood in the water for 15 seconds, trying to figure out which way to go. I ended up picking the correct direction, but at that point, the swim portion of the race was a loss. The waves were too choppy and I could barely get in two strokes before being taken under and tossed by the waves. Finally I decided that I needed to just run in the water like everyone else.
Just as I made it to the first lifeguard, the Olympic distance athletes were off and (now understanding the course) were coming straight at me. I did the best I could to avoid the bloodbath and continued to “swim” my way through the water. When I was about 30 or so meters from the second lifeguard I heard a panicked “HELP! HELP! HELP!” coming from way out in the water. (He ended up being ok). Myself and the other athletes around me started looking for the person when a huge wave came and knocked me into the rocks below the water surface.
Both knees immediately hit the rough rocks, which I believe were coquina (a rock common in this area made of sharp shell fragments), full force. I tried to brace and pull myself up, but I kept getting hit by the waves. A lifeguard threw out her buoy to help me pull myself out (which technically disqualifies me, but whatever) and told me just to go to shore and not worry about finishing the swim.
It’s weird because during no time during this was I really afraid for myself, but rather, I was scared for the person who clearly needed help, but no one was getting to him. As I ran to shore, I saw my dad with a panicked look on his face, but I gave him a thumbs up to let him know I was fine and made my way to transition.
Transition was a blur because all I could think about was the mess of the swim. I was a bit angry for how it turned out, but I reminded myself that I was not doing this race for me, but in memory of my uncle. I remember thinking to myself “If anything, do your best in the bike and run. Forget about the swim. Everyone is angry about how that turned out.”
After a quick change, I was out for the bike.
The bike was a simple out and back along A1A, which is right off the beach. Going out, I immediately set into a steady 17-18 mph pace and did not feel like I was pushing at all, thanks to a nice tailwind. I took the first few miles to figure out how bad my knees were skinned up. There was a fair amount of blood, but nothing that I could not deal with after the race. My left knee was throbbing a little (since it was the knee that took most of the force on the rocks), but I was able to push through it with little difficulty.
I was very happy with my pace going into the turnaround since my average pace during training rides has been in the upper 15- lower 16′s, but the second half of the bike was brutal. That nice tailwind was now a strong wind coming almost head on (slightly from the right off the coast). As expected, my pace dipped tremendously. I was struggling to stay in the 15′s!
Needless to say, I was happy when it was finally time to head into transition two, for the run.
I don’t remember much of T2, other than I almost left my Garmin on my bike before heading out.
The run was….tough. By this point the temperature was increasing and there was very little shade on the course. The run course was 1.5 mile out and back on the sidewalk beside the main road. If you know anything about different running surfaces, concrete is said to be the hardest surface and should be avoided at all costs. I did the best I could (by running on grass when I could) but there was only so much I could do.
I had pretty much trashed my legs on the bike and could not get them to work during the run. Honestly, I was not surprised because I never had a good solid brick workout in the weeks leading up to the race. Definitely something I need to work on for the remainder of the summer.
Mile 2 is where I started to really struggle and mentally I was going into a bad state. I had a picture of my Uncle Gary tucked into the back of my top, so I pulled it out and held it until I crossed the finish line. I truly believe with all my heart that my uncle was looking down and yelling at me to “get my butt into gear and finish the SOB!”
As I approached the finish line, I smiled and looked up at the sky to my uncle. While the race had pretty much been a nightmare, it is a race I will always remember and will hold a special place in my heart.
My final time was 1:24:48…not spectacular but I’ll take it all things considered. I wish I could tell you my different leg/transition times but they have not been posted. It would be nice to have these results so I can use them for future reference.
So, to be honest, I would probably never do a race with this company as the event coordinators again. I do not know if this race was a fluke, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. They have been doing this event multiple times a year from at least 2008 so that is a little concerning. I’m not trying to be mean, but honest. Unfortunately many of the athletes I spoke with after the race shared many of the same frustrations and concerns as I did.
I will say that the volunteers were incredible and the crowd support along the run finish was fantastic. I also appreciated the super cold bottles of water at the finish.
Despite it all, I am proud of this race and know that my uncle would have been very honored that I did this race in memory of him. At the end of the day, that is all that matters to me.
Thank you all for your support this past week with his passing and with everything that I do. Onward and upward…
ETA 8/5/12: Splits from the race-
- Swim- 6:23
- T1- 1:50
- Bike- 44:29
- T2- 2:02
- Run- 30:04