When my alarm went off at 3:45 on Sunday morning, I was already sort of awake. It’s hard to sleep well the night before a race! After brewing a cup of coffee, I checked my e-mail and Facebook. The first thing that popped up on my newsfeed threw me for a loop:
Unfortunately, at 10:41 pm on Saturday night, the Department of Environment informed race officials of a significant sewage spill into the Potomac River just north of the race venue after the heavy rain fall. Due to the advised high risk posed to individuals we have made the decision in conjunction with local officials to cancel the swim portion of the event.
Our race will go on, and with the exception of the swim, the event schedule remains nearly the same. We will start the event at 7:15 am via a time trial start from Ohio Drive directly into the transition area for athletes to get their bikes and start the bike course. The rest of the event will remain unchanged.
No swim! I was pretty bummed about that. After my first couple of freak outs in the open water, I decided that some serious practice was needed. I put in tons of time trying to get more comfortable in the open water, and I was really looking forward to seeing my hard work pay off. That being said, given the choice between swimming in raw sewage and not swimming in raw sewage, I’d choose the latter every time!
As my roommate and I got ready for the event, she decided to unpack all of her swim stuff and leave it at the hotel. I didn’t have faith in my early-morning cognitive skills, so I left everything (including my wetsuit) in my transition bag. It made for an extra heavy bag, but I didn’t want to risk leaving something essential behind.
After grabbing our stuff, we headed down to the lobby to meet the rest of our team and hop on the shuttles to the event site.
Transition is dark at 5:00 a.m.! It looked so much different with all of the other athletes’ bikes on the racks.
I had plenty of time to get my transition area set up and visit the portapotties about a zillion times.
The race director made the announcement about the swim cancellation about every ten minutes to be sure that everyone heard it. I’m really not sure why they didn’t transform the race into a duathlon (run-bike-run), but all they did was cancel the swim. We were told that we would all line up in our swim corrals, just as if we had finished the swim, and then run to the transition area to head out on the bike. The “just as if we had finished the swim” caused a lot of confusion. Luckily, there were USA triathlon officials in the transition area to answer any questions. Basically, we had to be barefoot, and we couldn’t have our helmets and sunglasses on. We were, however, allowed to wear regular glasses. At 6:55 transition closed, and we had to go wait by the swim corrals until it was our turn to start.
For the start, we were all divided into waves based on gender and age. There were so many 35-39 year old women, that we were further divided into two waves. Because I was in wave 27 (and each wave had around 50 people in it), I had a LONG wait. While I was waiting, I took a look at the Potomac. After seeing the water bottles, sizable logs, and other stuff floating down the river, I was really happy that the swim had been cancelled.
It was lovely seeing the sun rise over the Potomac, until you looked more closely at the water.
Luckily, this race had a gear check right by the swim corrals. I was able to take my flip flops, some snacks, water, and other items with me while I waited. Then, about 20 minutes before I was going to start, I checked my bag.
All of the women in my wave huddled together in our corral and made our way to the start line. We left in groups of 9, ran a ways to get to the transition area, and then ran around finding our bikes. Because the transition area was huge, I had quite a ways to run. I got my bike stuff on with no problems though, and I ran my bike out of transition and onto the course.
The 25-mile bike course led us on a couple of freeways and over a major bridge. When I looked over the elevation profile of the bike course before the race, I remembered it being quite flat. Nope! There was over 1000 feet of climbing on the course – that’s not exactly hilly, but it’s not flat either! The wind on the bridge was pretty intense, especially the crosswinds as I made my way back over the bridge.
There were tons of spectators out on the course cheering us on! That was awesome! My favorite sign was one that said, “Smile if you peed in the river.” I smiled, but I can honestly say that I did not pee in the Potomac!
I didn’t have any significant problems on the bike, but I saw lots of people with flats, and one person had had a pretty significant crash. I hope he’s okay!
Bike time: 1:25:10 (17.5 mph)
When I saw that time on my bike computer, I was a little concerned that I had gone out too fast and that I wouldn’t have anything left for the run.
Man, that transition felt even bigger the second time – especially since I had to run through wet grass with bike shoes on! I got through there pretty quickly, changing head gear and shoes and picking up some gels and water.
The run course evidently took us by some monuments at the beginning of the race. I honestly only remember seeing one: I looked up at one point and saw the Washington Monument. That was pretty cool! For the first two miles, there were spectators everywhere. Lots of great energy and support.
Then, we headed out to Hains Point, a desolate peninsula where there is absolutely nothing. No supporters, no scenery, nothing! I had settled into what I thought was a great pace and didn’t really mind the quiet. Eventually, I passed by a lone spectator and commented to a runner near me about how awesome it was. We had a nice conversation about it, until both of us realized that if we could have a full blown conversation in the middle of a race, we probably weren’t pushing it hard enough. She took off at full speed (she was only 24, so she had youth on her side) and I picked up the pace a bit.
Once I passed the aid station at mile 4, I had my second gel and stuck with my plan to give it my all for the last two miles. When I crossed the finish line, I can honestly say that I didn’t have anything left in the tank. What an awesome feeling!
Run time: 1:00:27 (what! my previous PR for a 10K was 1:07:14, and that was a standalone 10K, not a 10K at the end of a triathlon)
After the race, there was a great selection of food including sandwiches, chips, cookies, and bananas. I refueled and hung out at the Team in Training tent with some of my teammates. After retrieving our gear, we walked back to the hotel, stopping by the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument on the way. All in all, this was a fabulous experience, and I’m so glad that I had the chance to participate in it!
Kathy, me, and Alison at the Lincoln Memorial. Notice our rice finisher’s medals!
The three of us with our coach!