I had not planned on doing another triathlon before Augusta. I was following my training pretty well, and well, sometimes races get in the way of training. But, nevertheless, I found myself driving down to Pine Mountain really early Sunday morning to do race day registration for my first ‘Olympic’ triathlon. (Callaway Garden Triathlon is actually in between a Sprint and an Olympic distance.)
I’ve never just shown up to do a race. It is definitely a different kind of experience. The nerves come differently. There is no week of obsessing. It’s really just go out there and do your best – or at least some version of your best.
After registering (and paying it forward to the girl who was ahead of me in line that was $7 short for registration fees), I got body marked. It was chilly Saturday morning (dipping into the upper 40s on my way to the race.) I made myself take off my sweatshirt to acclimate to the temps.
Back at my truck, I unloaded my bike, pumped the tires, loaded my water cages, my bento box, stretched some and worked on psyching myself up for the race. Eventually making my way over to transition, I got set up and then had a good bit of time to kill before the race.
Finally, it was race time. We listened to the pre-race meeting and instructions. Nothing unusual about the race, just making sure that everyone knew that the swim was different from the Sprint earlier this summer. The sprint is a shallow water swim; this race is deep water all the way.
Wave 1 went off at exactly 8:00. Wave 3 (my wave) was 6 minutes later.
For the swim, I positioned myself to the right of the pack. I gave them all a few seconds to get going and then headed out. Felt really comfortable. Made it to the turn at the 3rd buoy and noticed a group of about 5-6 swimmers from Wave 1 & Wave 2 swimming from the opposite shore AT me. “Oh boy, I thought. This is not going to be fun.”
I kept swimming, mentally telling myself the slow swim was fine. It was just important to stay calm – not to burn it out – and get out of the water. Stroke-Stroke-Stroke-Breathe. It felt good. On the back side of the horseshoe, I had my only real issue with the swim. One of those lost Wave 1’ers was really struggling. He kept bumping me. Fine, whatever. I’d move over a little and keep going. Well, I guess he thought, “I’ll just move her,” because in his right arm’s next stroke, he caught the top of my head with his hand and pulled me under/through the water. When my head cleared the surface, I had a moment of panic. To calm down, I fell into a modified breaststroke and plugged along for about 30 breaths. Once I was calm, I went back to my freestyle and finished out the swim. Total Swim: 21:41
I hurried into transition and to my bike. My goal was to NOT get the longest transition time (as I did at Indian Springs 2 years ago!) Transition in Callaway is long and skinny. My bike was at the far end (near bike exit, so I wouldn’t have to run so far in my cleats). I did get stuck behind the guy who tried to MOUNT on the timing mat, but finally got around him and was off on the bike. Total T1: 3:05
The bike route is a two loop course. I hadn’t ridden the course before (in my car nor on my bike) and hadn’t really looked at the map. My goal for the first loop was to keep it pretty steady and hit it a little harder the second loop. It is a beautiful, rolling course. There are a few technical turns that require close attention, especially if you’re behind a cyclist who is afraid of the turn/curve and will almost stop while rounding the turn while hugging the turn hard. The course is also open to cars, and while there wasn’t a lot of traffic, you still had to be aware. I was feeling good by the second loop and even managed to pass a few people on the second loop. Total Bike: 1:12:54
Coming back off the second loop and into transition was a slight issue. There was no dismount line. It was just three volunteers trying to grab cyclist from riding back into transition. I got over to the edge of the course and dismounted and walked the bike into transition. After getting my bike racked and shoes changed, I was worried about how the legs were going to feel. I headed out to the Run Course (which again was the opposite end of transition, but meant I didn’t have to run far in my cleats.). Total T2: 2:22
The run course was an out and back followed by a loop around Robin Lake. I had read that the course was flat, but the out-and-back portion was not so flat. I was determined to hold my pace back for at least the first 2 miles and then pick it up some. I fell in behind a girl who was running about the pace I wanted to run and let her pace for about a mile and a half. At that point, she stopped running and I had no choice but to leave her behind. She wasn’t very friendly anyway.
After turning around on the out and back, I made the conscious decision to make this a better race for someone. The volunteers weren’t cheering. The spectators weren’t overly enthusiastic. And, as a back-of-the packer, I know how tough those last few miles can be. From that point to the finish, I tried to say something positive to everyone I met on the out and back or passed. Some people gave you the death glare “Stop Talking To Me” look. Some people reciprocated the support. By mile 4, I was neck-in neck with a thirty year old girl from another club (my age group). She’d passed me, but I wasn’t going to let her beat me. I knew I still had enough in the tank to finish ahead of her. So, with a half mile to go, I came around her and picked up the pace. I cheered on the 55 year old guy between me and the finish line (who was almost crippled over with charlie horses, but said “I’m using Get Fit as my inspiration!”)
My final goal of the day: Finish strong! Total Run: 54:51 (beating the 30 year old girl by 6 seconds).
Total Chip Time: 2:34:59
I finished 13th in my age group (out of 18) and 374th overall (out of 440).
What I’m Taking From This Race:
- I need to work on my swimming – a lot. It may be too close to Augusta to make much difference there, but I now have something to focus on for next year.
- Get Fit Atlanta volunteers ROCK. I know, this sounds egotistical, since I was one of the Acworth volunteers that got so many accolades. But, it was very disheartening to not have volunteers screaming their heads off. I won’t even address the ones that I had to interrupt their conversation to get Gatorade on the race course.
- There are some rules that should be followed whether or not the race is USAT sanctioned or not. HEADPHONES are a huge one. It is so incredibly dangerous to have not one but both ear buds in on a course that is open to traffic. That goes for bikes and runners. Several cyclists could not even hear me announce myself because of their headphones. I could hear one girl’s from 4 bike lengths away. There’s no way she could hear cars coming!
- Be smart. Know that volunteers are volunteers. They are not necessarily trained in traffic control. Be aware of what is going on around you.
- If you are not involved in a race (participating/volunteering/directing), under no circumstances, should you take it upon yourself to interrupt the race to direct traffic because you don’t think the volunteers are doing it ‘correct.’ There were two ladies there to watch the balloon festival who disagreed with how traffic was flowing. They stepped in and took over traffic control. The cyclist who “benefitted” from this got a ride in the EMS.
- I'm pretty ready for Augusta. Who knows what that day will bring, but I feel more confident about being able to finish my first Half Ironman in (gulp) 19 days.
All in all, this is a fun race. It’s quite competitive, but fun. I would say it’s a good first race for new triathletes (even if it is longer than a sprint.) The course is challenging, but not too hard. I would definitely do this race again.