This was a late season add on to squeeze one more result out of my fitness and socialize. Mostly socialize. Pinehurst is that place in North Carolina you’ve heard of that has a bunch of golf courses. There might even be a big golf tournament at some point, but I don’t know anything about that. The area is called the sandhills region because the soil is sandy (even though nowhere near the ocean) and, suprise, it’s hilly. It’s a beautiful course, which a friend of mine noticed once he was done suffering through the race.
So about that. The race. The suffering. Here’s the scoop.
A few changes were made to the olympic distance course, mainly the 40k bike became a 30 mile bike, for 5+ bonus cycling miles. I like that change. Also, the run was routed the opposite direction around the lake, which I also liked. The swim course was long too, but that hadn’t been intentional. I’m ambivalent about that one.
The run seemed harder. Really. I asked around and everyone agrees. Was it the weather (humid, temperate yet windy)? Was it the extra distance on the bike? Is the run course indeed more difficult in reverse? The jury’s still out on the reason why, but it was a suffer fest of slow run splits all around.
As for my race, it was a smallish open elite field and I was favored to win the women’s race. I did win, so that worked out fine.
The part I’m most proud of was the successful execution of my swim tactics putting me out of the water much further up the field than has been the case earlier this year. The whole wetsuit legal thing also tends to benefit me, but experience and courage helped the most. Those in the know realize that by starting to the far right, the lake stays shallower longer thus enabling a better running and dolphining start. Apparently, only myself and a few guys were in the know this time around.
Works like a charm and I look to my left at the mass of people starting from a less optimal position and ahead of me trying to decide which pair of feet would offer me a free ride. Matt Wisthoff was blazing away (as usual), but I surged up to a pair of swiftly kicking legs that I later figure to have belonged to Eric Bean. The courageous part was tacking onto someone who appeared faster than I and who would drop me soon. So, it wasn’t long before he skillfully shed me while executing a pass of another swimmer. Luckily for me, that other swimmer also has feet for me to draft off of. Long story not exactly short, I came out of the water in 5th position with all the women behind. A pretty solid accomplishment.
The bike was tough. At least, it wasn’t fast. I don’t think I even averaged 22 mph, which is a fair amount slower than I rode at Tri Nats and Du Worlds. Yet, I wasn’t getting passed much and only had two guys ride by the entire 30 miles, once of them the fellow I’d just passed in T1. Considering that I started the ride so close to the front, that was kind of a surprise.
Then I ran and it was tough. Up hills, down hills, and especially up hills. I cheered myself with thoughts that at least I wasn’t pushing a big baby in a stroller up these hills. I think it helped. One guy passed at the beginning of the run. I ran by the two guys who passed me on the bike, which is more indicative of their suffering than it was my speed. The volunteers at the aid stations were fantastic. Some people who live in the neighborhood we were running through were out on their lawn chairs cheering us by.
Eventually, enough miles crept by that I arrived at the finish, crossing the finish line 5th out of the entire elite wave. After factoring in the age group men, I was 9th overall. Not too shabby. Time for the off season…