Festival of Flowers race report
My first International distance: 1500 meter Swim, 40k Bike, 10k Run
3 hours 37 minutes 20 seconds
Last, but not embarrassingly so and I still got a trophy for being third in my age group (women 50-54)
I've been steady in my training, 45 hours total in April, 47 1/2 in May, but I've done a lot of traveling and didn't focus on specific preparation for this race, except one morning where I did all three parts in one morning, though not at race pace or with quick transitions, plus one swim in our local lake. The last few days I've felt nervous about the race and also been under a lot of pressure with a book manuscript to get in the mail plus plans to leave on a two week family trip on Monday. I started at 7 am and had the manuscript ready to mail Saturday at noon and then we packed up for the race. It was about an hour and a half away and I had decided to go down the night before, with my daughter, not just to pick up my packet but also to drive the bike course. The bad news was that the state park where the lake was held was 1/2 hour's drive out of Greenwood, which is listed as the location for the race (the state park is actually on the other side of the town of Ninety Six from Greenwood). The good news was that the bike course was really flat compared to what I ride on at home.
After packet pickup and driving the bike course we checked into our Econo-Lodge, which was clean, and went looking for dinner. Greenwood is pretty sad--we were happy to find a Ryans (better than average steak house/buffet) compared to our other choices. The clerk at the hotel said there was an IHOP open early for breakfast but we drove a long way in the direction away from the race site and didn't see it, and our hotel room had a microwave and refrigerator, so we went to the supermarket and bought food for breakfast. When we went back to the motel the TV in the room next door was on loud, but as we went to bed before 10 it seemed too early to complain. Somehow I slept well, going right back to sleep whenever I woke up until our alarm at 5:30, even though the TV played all night. I had bought a mini-quiche for breakfast, so I ate that when I got up and we headed out before 6:30 for the race start. No traffic problems, and nice shaded parking, though a bit of a hike to transition. I had plenty of time to get set up and even did a swim warm up. I drank half a juice drink, took a Succeed electrolyte capsule, and ate a banana before the start.
The start was in four waves with a total of 246 people registered, so it wasn't crowded. They did announce that the temperature was the hottest it has ever been for this race and asked people to be careful about hydration. It was an in-the-water start--we walked down some steps into the water and treaded water until the start. I had some trouble sighting buoys the first leg into the sun, but the water was reasonably clean-looking and no wind, so it was a nice swim. Instead of getting out of breath as I did at the sprint race in May I got into a steady rhythm right from the start, but I was cautious about the longer distance and concentrated on pulling hard and long rather than trying to swim fast. Swim time, 48 minutes. My daughter says there was someone out of the water after me but I took the time to use the portapotty so my transition time was slow.
I took one electrolyte capsule in transition and another fairly early on the bike. I had a peanut butter sandwich to eat on the bike, which tasted good. I had someone in sight ahead of me the whole bike course, but I didn't gain on her. That kept it from being too lonely, though I didn't pass anyone and no one passed me. I was also psyched by the higher bike speed I can keep up on a flat course. There was one water bottle handoff and I was prepared, I had one proper water bottle and then a bottled water to drink and discard at the handoff. But I wasn't wearing gloves and those wet bottles are slippery--I dropped the first one. A very kind teenager standing a little further along ran alongside me and handed me another one, which I grabbed successfully. The last two miles of the bike was a road that was closed to traffic but was also the out and back run course. I was a bit worried at times as the runners were all over the road, and at the run aid stations they were handing out 8 oz water bottles so there were bottle tops and occasionally bottles in the road. I succeeded in not hitting anything but I didn't think to take another electrolyte capsule, which I had intended to do towards the end of the bike. I forgot to hit my watch when I left transition, but T1 plus bike was 1 hour 32 minutes.
T2 was fast, under 2 minutes by my watch. A kind person who had already finished said to drink plenty and offered me a cold bottle of Gatorade (I said no thank you). It was hard heading out on the run knowing most people were finishing, but I took my GPS off my bike and put it on my wrist this time and I was please with the run paces I saw when I was not under the trees and it was working. I walked the aid stations every mile (except the last one) to drink more water, sometimes a whole cup or sometimes I poured some of it down my back. I found on some uphill stretches I would get somewhat franticly out of breath--I wasn't wearing a heart rate monitor but my guess is what was happening was in the heat my heart rate was going high--so I started walking a little while when that happened. Given the number of times I walked I am very pleased with a run pace of about 12 minutes a mile. At the aide station at 2 miles I took a gel which turned out to be espresso flavor (Hammer gel). That caffeine plus some people who gave me a big cheer at the next turn helped perk me up, though it seemed very long to the turn-around. I did see there were several people not very far ahead of me and no one behind me. I ate a second gel at the turn around. On the second half of the run I gained on the person closest ahead of me and thought I might be able to pass her if I skipped the last aid station, but she looked back at the aid station and saw me and speeded up. It was shady the last mile, but I couldn't speed up much. I had a few slight chill feelings and thought may that was because I hadn't had enough salt, but my hands were only a little puffy. We hadn't been able to figure out the exact finish before the start and it turned out there was a tenth of a mile out towards a parking lot and then back along the water that came as a shock, plus the finish was up the steepest hill of the day. I was very glad to have my daughter to cheer me on and tell me where to go as there weren't any volunteers at those last turns. But I was happy at the finish when I saw the clock said 3:45, as they had said they expected to start the award ceremony when the last person finished, about 11:45. So I wasn't embarrassingly last, and I was happy with my time. Actually, the fun thing about being last is that you get a big cheer. With the wave start my actual time was 3:37; I had told myself that my dream goal was 3:30 and I would be happy with anything under 4 hours.
My first priority at the finish was water, but quickly I wanted a hamburger and chips. There was a big tent to sit under in the shade and another small tent with spray hoses strung up along the top to provide a sprinkler area to cool off in. I was very happy to place third in my age group, as I had looked before the race and seen four women registered in my age group. One I think just didn't show up for the race, as she is in most races I do and I didn't hear her name.