We left Friday afternoon to make the 4 hour drive to Asheville, picked up our race packet and then had a nice dinner at the Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company before hitting the sack pretty early.
We thought we were going to get to the site nice and early, arriving before 6am but most people seemed to beat us there! We had to park kind of far away and then it seemed like there was just not enough time to do everything I wanted to. There was a lot of confusion - okay, probably I was just confused - about the 1st transition which had to be moved to the swim exit. In years past, the swim start was a good 1/2 mile away from the transition area. The swim is in a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and the course ends taking you down the river, under a bridge and right to the entrance of T1. But this year that river was pretty much just a rock bed so the swim finish would be the same as the start. They decided to have an extra transition area there so everyone could put their shoes on to run to the next transition area. We would be running on a rocky dirt road for at least a 1/2 mile, and although I did see some people do this barefoot, that was out of the question for me. So my confusion mostly dealt with what shoes to wear, do I put on my socks in this new transition or the one with my bike? Do I take my wetsuit off and leave it there (are we allowed to do that?) or do I run with it in my hands? Or do I run with it still half on? AAUUGGHH! During all these questions I met Ashley Long who must've thought I was a weirdo because I don't think I was all there right then. Luckily, we were able to talk after the race, too. I feel like I've known her for a long time and that we've been friends for years - it was great to hang out with her even if it was just for a little while. I'm hoping to go and visit her in Greenville sometime in the not so distant future.
I got all my questions taken care of (wear racing shoes, no socks and leave wetsuit) but didn't have any chance to warmup. Oh well. I really didn't have ANY expectations for this race. I didn't know the competition except for my teammates and had no idea how I was going to hold up over this distance. BUT I was so looking forward to racing and competing and having fun.
My wave was the 4th to go off (women 34 & under, the first women's wave) and my goal was to try and stay on Alysia's feet for as long as possible. I felt good at the start and got behind her but lost her quickly as we started weaving through the male age groupers ahead of us. The small buoys were hard to spot and I think I went a bit wide going out to the first turn buoy, but that always seems to happen. By the time I got out the water my lats were very sore so I knew I had put in a good effort. This swim was definitely not short. Swim 22:48, 6th overall.
I saw Alysia still in transition and got my wetsuit off and shoes quicker so started the first run ahead of her. I tried to run this little portion fast because I knew it might be a good chance to save some time. I finally got to my bike and my heart rate was sky high! It slowed while I put my socks on and by the time I got to the mount line I was ready to go. T1 5:48, 2nd overall.
This bike is not super hard, but I also wouldn't call it easy - it has some rolling hills, and one hill that you go down at the beginning and then back up at the end that is worthy of you getting out of the saddle. I remember getting to the 5 mile marker and thinking, "5 miles?! That's it?!" But I soon got into a rhythm and felt good. There were about 5 or so guys that I kept going back and forth with, which probably helped me overall with my bike split. I passed a few girls out there and figured I must be near the front because I thought I had a pretty good swim. Towards the turn around which was a series of turns through a little town, it started to get crowded. There was one part where we did a hard left followed by a hard right and the guy in front of me must've taken the second turn a little too aggressively because he slid out. I panicked a bit and tried to get out of his way, but me getting out of his way actually put me directly on the path that he was sliding. Now I realize if I had just held my line and turned like normal I would've been in the clear, but instead I was heading right towards him. I slammed on my brakes and unclipped a foot to drag it. He was still attached to his bike on the ground. I felt like I was in a movie where someone is lying on the street and a big truck is heading right towards them - the truck brakes and your sitting there waiting to see if it will stop in time before it hits the person. I was the truck in this scenario. I managed to stop with just a minor bump into him with my front wheel. My back wheel had come off the ground because I had braked so hard but I stayed up. After a few quick breaths I asked if he was all right and he said yes. Then I turned around and saw the girl I had just passed a few minutes ago getting up off the ground. I don't know if she took the turn too hard or if she also panicked when the guy in front of me went down. I asked if she was all right and she looked pretty shaken up but also said yes. Luckily, there were a few volunteers at this corner. I went off and tried to get back into a good cadence and hoped I didn't lose too much time. The rest of the ride was uneventful after that :) I came off first for my wave, so I was the first women off the bike. Bike 1:06:16, 4th overall. This bike had to have been short of 40K.
T2 was quick, and I saw that one of the girls I had passed around halfway was not far behind at all. She had a huge cheering section out there. T2 :39, 2nd overall.
Here comes the run! This run is mostly shaded and the temps were very nice. It's net uphill to the turn around (and obviously net downhill coming back). I started off very conservatively. I think I've run 6 miles since starting back running several weeks ago, but I'm really not sure since I always go by time. And I've had plenty of meltdowns in an Olympic distance when I am in shape, so I really just wanted to enjoy this run.
I stayed relaxed and kept going after all the guys ahead of me. I hit the turn around and on my way back I saw the girl who was right behind me out of transition was still pretty much right behind me. I decided I felt decent so picked it up a bit. I cheered for Ashley and Alysia who also weren't too far behind. Right before I saw Alysia I saw this lady who was running at supersonic speed. My first thought was, geez I hope she's a relay! But Alysia yelled to me that she was from the other wave and I better get my butt moving! The other wave started 8 minutes behind us and this person was well within that time frame. Now I decided I would try and just cross the finish line first because she was certainly slaughtering the rest of us. I found out later that she is a super stud duathlete - and her swim isn't bad at all so she's a stud triathlete now, too. I tried to push the last few miles but the lack of much intensity so far definitely caught up with me. The last 1/2 mile was tough, but I did manage to cross the line first (2nd overall). 3rd place was just 20 seconds back and 4th was another 10 seconds behind her. It turned out to be quite a close race! Run 42:51, 7th overall.
I'm very pleased and a bit surprised I was able to finish so high. Mediocre is not the right word, but I wasn't GREAT at anything: 6th on the swim, 4th on the bike and 7th on the run somehow got me to 2nd overall, but I'll take it. I was very sore after the race, and still today but I'm feeling better. Marty and I did an easy ride this morning and I think that will help. I highly recommend this race to everyone next year - hopefully the water levels will be back to normal by then!
I thought Marty was taking a picture of me getting my award but he took a video instead, if you want to watch. Nothing very interesting or funny to be quite honest, just your run of the mill getting the award scene.