Last time I did this race it had 3 loops of an 4 mile bike course. Those second and third laps were pretty crowded, so they changed things up since then and now it’s a triathlon with a swim-bike-run-bike-run. Each bike leg is 4 miles. The first run is 2 miles on the beach and the second is a paved 1 miler. It’s a neat format for spectators and pretty entertaining to do, although doesn’t play to my strengths being chopped up into little pieces like that. It is, however, a great interval-like training tool and transition practice, which is what I had in mind that day. Some people decked their bikes out with platform pedals or toe clips so that they could transition super quick, but since my purpose was to practice up transitions for some bigger races later in the season, I stuck with my usual shoe arrangement.
We strolled down to the swim start and watched the big breakers crash in to shore. Hmmm. Not a super windy day, but not necessarily calm. Those breakers look pretty big. I go out to warm up and promptly eat it when tossed by a big wave. Yum-tasty. Ocean water. Then the elite wave lines up for the start and I look around me. Wow–super swimmers Marty and Paul. Super swimmer guy from UNCW who won the race last year. Dan Young and Brian Smith who can smoke me in any swim any day. Shannon Summerlin who took 30 seconds out of me on the Kinetic Sprint swim last month. Oh, gosh. Is that butt-kickin-fast swimmer Jenny Leiser? Dear Lord, please let me not be the last one out of the water out of the elite wave!
So we start and get tossed around a bit (see the video here). I’m so focused on getting past the breakers that I suddenly realize that I’m not swimming nearly hard enough for such a short race. Get a move on Alicia! I move up a few spots and follow a couple of caps until I can find the first buoy. We then fly along parallel to the shore with the current at our backs. With the swells, I catch sight of the next buoy about 50% of the time I make a sight. I think I swim pretty straight. Rounding the second buoy and heading to shore, I get crashed by a breaker. What? Am I that close to the shore already? I sight. No, I’m not. What the heck?! I make my way in and the timing of the waves doesn’t really let me get much surf action. I see a swimmer ahead of me stand up (Shannon) and I do the same, but we’re still in knee deep water that is sucking us backwards and the going is slow. We emerge finally, run up the steps over the dunes and down the slippery ramp. Swim split: 9:33. I’m in 3rd place out of 3, but right on Shannon’s heels. I see Jenny leaving transition as we arrive at our racks. Go go go!
I transition pretty fast and get out on the road ahead of Shannon. I look ahead and think I see a speck that might be the womens’ leader, but I’m not sure, so I hammer. There’s some cross-head winds so I try and keep a low profile and hold a decent line. I see an EMT parked on the other side of the road where the returning cyclist will be riding and wonder why the don’t park off the road where it’s safer. Then I see her ahead and I’m gaining. I take the lead a little before the turnaround half point and feel confident I should be able to keep it. Mentally, I go from chase mode to “this is an interval workout” mode. I get back to where the EMT is parked in the road and one guy walks out practically in front of me. I hit my brakes and yell because I’m not sure he sees me barreling his direction. In hindsight, he was probably coming out to move the vehicle out of the way. Soon, I see the transition are coming up and remove my feet from my shoes to prepare for the fancy dismount I practiced before. Uh oh. My feet flip the shoes around and I can’t seem to get them settled on top of the shoes. Spin spin flip flop go the shoes as I look down on them trying to regain control. Oh no!!! That’s the dismount line I see below me. I slam on the brakes…here, see for yourself. Wait? What’s that sound you hear? That’s everyone laughing at me, including me (in between gasps for air).
The first run is lots of fun, run almost completely on the beach with a high and rising tide. I don’t push the sand-running too hard because it has a way of absorbing any extra effort if you really go for it. This leg is out and back, so I get to see how the men’s race is shaping up and double check my position in the womens’ race. One of the volunteers guides us past the stairs where we’re supposed to go back up to the road so instead we run all the way down the beach to where we exit the swim. They fix that after 20 or so people pass, so some of us lucky ones got an extra 1/4 mile of sand running.
The second bike is the same course as the first except it felt like we had cross-head winds both directions, the legs were a little cooked from running 2 miles in sand and there were some cyclists from the novice division on the course doing their first bike loop. I warned them I was coming and everything seemed to go really smooth. No traffic congestion at all! After my snafu with the first bike-run transition, I lost my nerve and still didn’t do my fancy dismount. Boo! I know I can do this. Stupid mental block— must get past this. I can do this gosh darnit!
The final run was all pavement and just one mile. I pretended I was on the track and focused on keeping my turnover up. As I came into the finishing area, I promised myself I would keep up the effort until the final turn into the finishing chute. I forget to notice my finishing time, but I checked later and I did a 52:07. Whatever that means.
I actually had a fun time, as crazy as all that transitioning was, and it was a solid workout. Good times. The volunteers at this race are always super awesome too.