The weather forecast for Sunday was possible thunderstorms at 7 AM, at race start and again at 11 AM. I was mentally prepared for rain but not for the announcement of no wetsuits. The rules state that wetsuits are not allowed if the water temperature is above 78°. The Choptank River was 80° Sunday morning. No discussion!
I've done this race when it was so cold we put on our wetsuits just to keep warm before the race start. I've done it when it was pouring down rain in the morning and I didn't want to get out of the car. I did it last year when the heat index was 108°. But this was the first year the water was so warm that wetsuits were not allowed. I didn't hear a single complaint although wetsuits are a boon to the weaker swimmers and one can expect their swim times to be faster in a wetsuit.
The Choptank River feeds into Chesapeake Bay and is unpredictable. Sunday morning the tide was going out creating a strong current. The race starting time was postponed for 15 minutes.
My age group started 5 min after the Pros. Fifteen minutes wasn't enough time for the tide to finish going out so the current was still strong and it took me forever to get to the first orange buoys that marked the first turn of a triangular course. I don't usually feel the current so was unaware that I was going slow. When I exited the water over an hour later, I thought the clocks were off because of the race delay. I didn't realize that the time on the time clock really was my accurate time! It was rumored that during the night the wind had blown some of the buoys 200-300 yds off course. It was a long swim!
I ran to my bike for T1, quickly putting on my helmet, sunglasses, cycling socks and shoes. My feet had sand and grass on them but I was so upset that it was taking me so long, I didn't take the time to brush the dirt off my feet. Fortunately that is not a big problem when on the bike.
The 56 mile bike ride was windy and it was heating up. It seemed like the wind just followed me around. When ever I changed directions, the wind did too. I saw speeds of 17,18,19 and 20 mph. I also saw speeds of 13, 14 and 15 mph. Living on the Texas Gulf coast, I train in windy conditions all the time. But when I train I'm not racing and usually at least part of my ride is with a tail wind. No tail wind today! I felt like I was riding into a headwind all the time.
I finished the bike ride in over three hours. Going into T2 I was tired and couldn't bring myself to run to my bike rack like I usually do. I was upset with myself for not running but my legs simply would not go. When I got to my racking spot I just stood there and tried to figure out how I was going to get my bike back on the rack. My arms were tired and the bike felt heavy. I think I must have been a little mentally confused. (Probably a little dehydration there and I was aware of it). I have done this over 100 times but my brain just would not click.
Transitions are supposed to be automatic but I was trying to remember what to do. Take off my helmet, put on my running cap, take off my cycling shoes put on my running shoes. I had two small bottles of Red Bull in my shoes and I put them in the pockets of my running jersey. The plan was to consume one at about one mile and the other at the turn around.
Finally I got moving to the run exit. My legs were killing me and I was pretty tired. I saw Coach Troy greeting his little girl and I yelled at him. He had just finished and I still had 13.1 miles to go.
Starting the run is always hard and that is why we practice bike to run transitions. It wasn't working today. I've been practicing race walking so I started with a fast walk. It was already afternoon and the temperature was heating up. It wasn't long before I started feeling the sand and grit in my shoes. I felt like the princess and the pea. The tinyest grain of sand or piece of dead grass can wear a hole in your foot. I eventually had to stop, take off my shoe and clean off my foot. I felt so much better after that. I walked the entire 13.1 miles using my race walk. I'm actually getting better at the race walk than I am at the run. But it was a long, hot 13 miles. I have the sunburn to prove it.
At 8 miles I saw my main competitor. She was behind me by 2.5-3 miles but that wasn't much of a confidence builder. Last year she passed me at three miles from the finish. So I knew she was back there and coming after me. I couldn't let up a bit.
Tired and sore I finally crossed the finish line. I won! I was offered the only slot to Hawaii in my Age Group and I took it.
Now I have a little time to recover from sore muscles and then some hard training this summer to improve my climbing skills and running.
I'm pumped up and ready to train hard. I love Hawaii and it is such a privilege to compete with the best in the world.