Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. Temps in the low 80s. Slightly cloudy skies kept things from getting too roasty at the beginning of the day. Perfect day for an Olympic triathlon.
Typically, the Hammerhead HOT Olympic race has been held in August, more than earning it's name "HOT." This year, it was pushed back to September, making for extremely pleasant race conditions.
I didn't race this race last year; rather, I spectated as E raced, and wished I had signed up. So this year, I did. I figured it would be a great way to test out my fitness as the 70.3 draws closer.
On Saturday, I started to get nervous. We went for a nice (though hot) 4 mile run, then back home to start hydrating and getting things ready for Sunday. I checked and rechecked my tri bag, portioned out nutrition, talked through my race plan with E. Went to bed and nerves kept me awake on and off from about 1 a.m. until our 4:30 a.m. wake up call.
We got to the race site, an hour and fifteen minute drive from home. The race takes place on a military base, but allows the use of a beautiful lake for the swim, and some surprisingly hilly roads for the run and ride.
The packet pickup situation was pretty impossible to do beforehand, so we had to pick up race morning. I am not crazy about packet pickup morning of the race, but this went pretty smoothly.
E had a tire issue, but we had plenty of time for him to swap out tubes, and still have a chance to get transition set up. My row was right up near the bike start, and we shared a rack for the first time. Kind of nice! With my 650 tires, my bike tends to always dangle from racks, which I always feel rather bad about. I was also demo'ing an ISM Saddle (in love, but more on that in another post).
I kept looking at the buoys for the swim and thinking how far away they looked, and tried not to psych myself out about how I haven't spent as much time as I should in the pool lately. I swam around a little before hand, and that helped. And then before I knew it, it was time to go. The swim felt like it took forever, but I finished in 32 minutes. Not the speediest time, but I wasn't pushing for speed here at all. I just wanted to finish feeling good, and with a calm heart rate, both of which I accomplished (and probably would have shaved off a minute or so if I hadn't veered off course towards the end).
I had a rather slow T1 - I just got in there and couldn't seem to remember what to first. Shoes? Helmet? What? Need to work on that. Got out though, and started the course. The course starts with some mild downhill, so you start out fast. It's a two loop course, with an awkward u-turn on a narrow road, but that was fine. Overall, the roads are pretty rough, so people were launching bottles everywhere. But it was fun, challenging, and still cool out so it felt really refreshing. I was booking too, keeping my speed between 18-21, and feeling great. I completed the first loop (there were some killer false flats) and started on the second loop. I was almost done with the second loop, just a couple miles from transition, when it happened.
I was downshifting, and it didn't change all the way, and my peddles locked up. Just stopped turning. I was putting a lot of pressure in, and I just pitched to the side of the road with the effort. I feel so, so grateful that I was on a stretch where the shoulder was grassy and soft. I didn't really clip out in time, so my pedal went into my calf (ow) and I went down pretty hard, tangled up with myself and the bike. I got up, fixed my gears, and took stock. I was ok, but my knee and my calf were hurting pretty badly. I made it back to transition, and got my sneakers on, but about 20 yards out, I knew I wasn't going to make it, not with my A race in a little over a month. So I stopped, I turned around, and walked back. It was a really, really hard decision to make.
I waited for E at the finish line, and he was immediately concerned when he saw me. He had a great race, placing 3rd in his age group, which is awesome. We packed up our stuff and found me some ice for my legs for the ride home.
I spent most of the rest of the day with ice on the couch, but I woke up this morning feeling a bit better. My left knee is pretty banged up and a bit swollen, and I've got a nice knot on my calf. At least enough to think that this won't put me out of commission for more than a few days, hopefully.