The Ashland Sprint Triathlon was a last minute addition to my 2010 race schedule. I planned to use it as a tune up for Saturday’s Patriot Half Ironman. I had missed the US Coast Guard Duathlon on May 29 because of a sprained foot and really wanted to get in another race before Patriot. So I decided to do Ashland, but vowed that I wouldn’t go all out and toast myself six days before Patriot.
On Saturday evening, Weather.com showed an ominous forecast for Sunday morning—cold and rainy. I had gotten hypothermia at the Ashland Olympic distance race a few years ago under similar weather conditions and I voiced my concerns about the weather to my family. Well, my eight year old and three year old pointed out that the weather wasn’t going to be nearly as bad as it was their kids’ triathlon in May. Properly chastened, I quit my whining and started packing my tri bag.
The next morning, it was cold with heavy rain as I set up my gear in the transition area. However, a short time before the race began, the rain stopped. Phew! No more worrying about what to wear on the bike.
The swim start for the Ashland Sprint is located about a ¼ mile from the transition area, down a rocky trail. I misjudged the amount of time to get to the swim start and arrived as my swim wave was lining up. With no time to get nervous, I hugged two friends, put on my goggles, and dove in when the announcer said, “Go”.
The swim at Ashland is my absolute favorite. It’s in a clear reservoir surrounded by woods--nature at its best. The swim wasn’t very crowded, but about one third into it some woman chose to repeatedly bang my left side on each stroke. I tried moving further right, but she just moved over with me. Frustrated, I finally did what I would like to think was a graceful dolphin dive over her body so that I was no longer to her right. It worked. She continued her quest to swim off course and I was no longer getting whacked.
My swim was relaxed, but slow. No surprises there since I had backed off on my swim training and intensity for a few months to deal with feeling burned out with swimming. But it was a good swim. I stayed on course and I swam with confidence. I’ll take that any day.
The run up the rocky trail to the transition area is a blast. This year I remembered to bring my running shoes to the swim start so I sprinted up the muddy trail like I was in a cross country race. It was fun and a bit insane.
My transition was remarkably slow as I tried to dry off the visor on my helmet so that it wouldn’t fog during the ride. Total waste of time, it was fogging up before I even got on the bike. Fog combined with my lousy vision is not a great combination.
I hopped on my Kestrel and took off down the road. The Ashland bike course starts with a false flat that makes you think that you are going to have a lousy ride since you are trying really hard, yet you go slow. The entire course is hilly; you are either going uphill or downhill. There are even uphills on parts of the downhills that puts a damper in a strategy of recovering on the downhills. But what a great course. I held somewhat to my race plan which was to keep it about 10 beats from my threshold. But I must admit I redlined on some of the uphills. On some of the gradual downhills, I was turning over the 56 x 11 with a strong cadence and wanted to bellow, “I love my Kestrel” as I flew past slower riders. The bike course ends with a one mile climb to the transition area. I popped it into my new oval small chain ring for the initial steep part of the climb. That oval ring is perfect for my stomping approach to pedaling, and I stomped past quite a few riders who were gracefully spinning up the hill. Then I switched back into the 56 and time trialed up the remainder of the hill to transition.
After completing my transition, I headed out on the run course feeling good and in control. I gradually brought my heart rate up to where I wanted it and planned to do a nice steady run. About ½ mile into the run, a woman ran past me going just a little faster than my pace. She wasn’t in my age group so I reminded myself to stick with my race plan and not toast myself. I continued the run and felt even stronger at the turnaround point. As I was heading back on the run with that woman just a little ways in front of me, I was surprised at the number of athletes calling words of encouragement to me as they were running towards the turn around. “She’s right ahead of you”. “You look great”. “Go get her”. My racing brain is obviously rusty. I just thought that people were really nice and supportive in this race. Kind of like one of those all female triathlons.
After I had finished about 20 seconds down on the woman that had past me I found out that I was one of the lead women in the race. I was the third woman in and first in my age group. My strong bike ride had put me on the run course as the second woman overall. (Actually, I had posted the 12th fastest bike split out of men and women at the race—finally feeling worthy of my Kestrel).
Would I have thrown out my race plan and tried to chase down that woman if I had known that was second place? Would I have done it if she were in my age group risking toasting myself for Patriot and hurting my sprained foot? Absolutely!
Patriot Half Ironman is in just a few days and I’m feeling ready. And once I recover from Patriot I do need to get my act together about swimming. After the Ashland race, my husband pointed out that I had lost 3 minutes in the ½ mile swim to both women who beat me. I have got to do something about that.