Memphis in May (MIM) is a big race compared to those in North Carolina. There were over 1700 athletes and over 100 just in my 35-39 women age group. Plus, the top of the field had some depth. I was looking forward to checking out a different race and pitting my skills against a bigger group of athletes.
We arrived in town Friday and heard the forecast was for two hot days. Thankfully, we start early and I should be done by 10:30am or so, before the 90 degree temps settled in. In fact, the time trial start is something that MIM does differently than most triathlons. The pro field starts the day w/ 10 second gaps between athletes. Then the relays went in a mass start, then the age groupers 3 seconds apart. Age groups were grouped together, so those you’re competing with are in the same general start range, but you just had to go your hardest without knowing exactly where you stood against all the others. The nice outcome was a less bunched-up swim and bike course.
The water was 76 degrees, cold enough so that wetsuits were legal for age groupers but not for the professionals. I don’t know if a wetsuit saves me much time, but I do think it saves energy. For Olympic distance, I chose to use the wetsuit. I had a good start and started swimming by several other women. I swam a little wide to start to get some clean water then aimed for the first corner, where there was some congestion. The rest of the swim had a rope laid out on the inside of the course, so I followed as close as I could to the rope. Eventually, I reach the exit and run out, check my watch and see just over 20 minutes. Hmmm…short swim, surely.
I transition well onto the bike and turn up the throttle as we exit the Edmund Orgill Park. The first part of the course has some gentle rollers, but it’s primarily flat with moderate winds. There are 20 turns on the course, so that’s a bit of a factor, but not too bad. The two younger age groups of women started ahead of the 35-39 ladies, so I had an almost endless stream of people to pass. At one point, I rode legally behind a guy going about the same speed. We had mostly headwinds at the time, so even at the legal 3-4 bike lengths back, I’m sure I received some benefit. Unfortunately, he began to tire and would surge to pass then soft pedal when he got by. I prefer to ride more steadily, so I made my move around him and went on my way. I continued riding at an effort just under threshold—breathing heavily, but backing off on the gearing if my legs began to burn. I knew this approach to the bike would make the run difficult, but I seem to gain more in an aggressive bike than I lose on the run. There was one part of the course on a wide highway where we were on a slight downhill grade with the wind at our backs. I cranked my gear into my 11 and flew. It was big fun. Finally, near the end, I catch up to a group that I’d seen in the distance and reeled in gradually. Things get a little bunched up at the turn as I catch up so I surge by to prevent a drafting penalty with the official nearby on a motorcycle. As I pass by, I recognize the female in the group—Briana Boehmer the awesome pro duathlete that won overall at PMNC. Holy cow! I must be riding well! She and James Rudd from Savannah drop in legal distance behind me and the three of us roll into T2 together.
I don’t transition quite so quickly this time, running right by my rack, but it wasn’t too costly. The racks around me and several further up are still empty. I find my spot, put on my shoes, grab my hat and number and jog out. James & Briana are just ahead, having transitioned better than I did. I know that Briana will run away at this point and that I will probably reel James back in. I feel tired, but OK, and hope that the worst of the heat holds off. The run course is fairly rolling and I think a little long. Over the first mile Briana slowly pulls away and I think that she’s not gaining by as much as she should. I hope that it’s because I’m running well, but I’m pretty sure it’s because she was having gastro stress from nutritional problems on the bike. A little after a mile in, she pulls over to the side and empties her gut. Shoot! I never like to see my fellow competitors having a rough day like that! Later, James asks if I surged on the run to put Briana in trouble. Ha ha ha ha!!! The idea that I could run fast enough to put Briana in trouble on the run is hilarious. And impossible. No, nutritional troubles aside, she should be able to take at least 3 minutes out of me on a 10k, possibly more. I keep rolling, thinking about driving my knees and keeping my turnover up so that my breathing is still heavy and rhythmic. Surely I’m working hard enough if I’m breathing heavy. I try and pick up the pace a little on a hill on the return trip of the out and back run, but it’s not a good thing. I recover on the downhill. In the final two miles, I’m suffering pretty badly and just look forward to reaching the finish so I can stop. Finally, I turn onto the levy right before the finish, but look up and realize it’s a long levy. I go back to looking at the ground focusing on keeping going and glance up every now and then. Eventually I reach the finish, and gratefully stop and check my watch. 2:07+. Good. Solid effort I think. Not sure where I could have gone harder or better, so a successful race.
The results were being posted as athletes finished and I ended up 2nd female amateur to Christine Wolfe by about 45 seconds or so. She gained the time on the swim and transitions. Like I said, I did all I could, so I’m very pleased with second. Christine’s a great athlete and she’ll do really well at the Triple T, which is her next race. I did win my age group, which is what I hoped to do. Memphis was a fun trip, although I don’t know if the race is compelling enough to return. Maybe some day…