I’ve absolutely never had so much fun getting my butt whooped before. I got it handed to me this morning at the Patriots Sprint Triathlon in Williamsburg. It was my first time finishing out of the top 3 in a local race since I can remember much less out of the top 10. I got 11th overall and 9th collegiate. But I’m am absolutely stoked. It was Eastern Virginia Medical School Triathlon Club’s first race in the MACTC and I’d say we had a not bad showing for being a new program.
But I want to back up a bit before I start telling of the race today. A little over two months ago I tore my calf trying to hike/run the Appalachian Trail faster than anyone ever had. I spent nearly two weeks mostly unable to even walk. I spent entire days on the couch watching Netflix until after a week or so I was able to go on a short walk with parents. In my sedentary time a friend from Richmond sent me a Facebook message encouraging me to come back to triathlon. Her message couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed something to look forward to, something to build up to and give me a reason to want to heal. And more than that, I wanted a sustainable hobby for the upcoming school year that I could manage on top of my classes.
Fast forward to August 1 and I was back to training again. A month after my injury I was mostly recovered and building up to the miles I used to put down three years ago when I was training super hard for tris.
Fast forward 6 weeks to this morning and there I was about to race my first triathlon in 3 years and represent my school for the first time on the Collegiate scene. When I woke up at 5am I started to remember one of the reasons I had stopped racing. But it is kind of beautiful that early in the morning and this time around I actually enjoyed it. I had stayed in Richmond the last two nights so I drove the hour to the race site alone. My mom would be coming later to cheer for me.
I got to the race site and was remembering some of the trademarks of triathlon. Groggy-eyed supporters and excited racers, porta-potties everywhere, dropping my pants to have some high school girl with a sharpie write numbers all over me. All part of the vibe. I saw the other Collegiate teams unloading, Navy with their full dedicated trailer, some of my old Virginia Tech teammates spilling out of the oh so familiar church vans. I knew despite the similar appearance, this wasn’t the same conference that I raced in a few years ago. With triathlon slowly working its way toward being a varsity sport, the athletes have gotten seriously fast.
I did my warm ups, vaguely remembering my former routine, and quadruple checked everything in transition before heading down to the swim start. I got in a few minutes of warm up before the free for all start of the swim. I was doing an alright job holding my own until the first turn buoy and then had a tough time hanging on after that. My swim is definitely the leg that I am most lagging on after being away for so long and wasn’t my strong suit to begin with. I did everything I could to stay in the mix but popped out of the water 13th. I was seriously hyperventilating beginning the long run to the transition and felt like I was standing still watching two guys who came out of the swim after me fly by me.
Out on the bike I knew I’d reel some dudes in but my goal was to not pick up any baggage. By a couple miles in I turned around and two guys were hanging on behind me. Toward the halfway point they started pulling up ahead of me and I encouraged them as they rode by. It’s hard to sit that 7 meters behind someone on the bike leg of a tri. It feels easy and you just imagine that you can ride faster. But when these guys popped back out in the wind they slowed up and weren’t able to hold the pace anymore. I wanted to use the turn around to my advantage so I pulled ahead of them and peeled out of the turn to drop them.
I could see one of my Tech teammates up the road and wanted to catch him. So I set that as my goal and worked my way up. By the end of the bike I had pulled myself up to 7th and I knew the guys in front of me would only increase that lead on the run.
At the start of the run, I suffered from my naive lack of pacing on the swim and was dragging trying to get out of T2. A Navy athlete passed me within the first quarter mile. And by the turnaround my old Virginia Tech teammate had reeled me in and was pulling away.
I know it’s not the story of a win, but it’s the start of what I hope will be something pretty spectacular. It was an absolute blast being out there duking it out in the Collegiate division again. I’ve always loved the ruthless lay-everything-out-there racing of college triathletes representing their school. But more than anything, it was great to see everybody. I made some amazing friends racing tris growing up and since I stopped racing I haven’t seen most of them.
I have a lot to improve on before I race Giant Acorn International in two weeks but hopefully after working the rust out of my joints I’ll see a little bit more improvement.