The past two weekends I competed in the Columbia Downtown Sprint Triathlon followed by the Anderson YMCA Sprint Triathlon. Both ended with 1st place Overall Wins by a large margin and show my significant increase in fitness over the winter! This is great considering I did not reduce my training for either of these races in preparation for my upcoming priority races.
The Columbia Downtown Triathlon was the first triathlon I competed in back in 2011. Nearly every year it has been cold and raining so that is fully what I expected for this year as well. To my surprise, the morning was completely dry with temperatures around 50 degrees around race start. For some this would be considered chilly, but I would much prefer cooler temperatures such as this compared to higher ones.
Being a hometown race, I was able to get a fair amount of sleep before the race and still have plenty of time to set up and socialize at the race site. I knew many of the people at the race and enjoyed discussing how prepared (or not prepared) they were for the race season. I started 3rd again at this race which began with a 500 meter pool swim at the Blatt PE Center at USC. For the start, we had to slide in and this push off the wall to get going. I kept a strong, steady stroke for the swim and managed to catch both of the athletes that started before me by the end. My time of 7:27 placed my swim as the 3rd fastest of the day. This put me leading the race going into the first transition as we ran through the rocky parking lots beside the Blatt.
The bike course is one that some people love and others despise. It is just over a 3 mile loop around Columbia that you repeat 3 times with 8 sharp turns per loop and some monstrous hills. This makes it great for those that are good at bike handling and don’t fear going into turns at high speeds. I fall into that category decently well, especially since I knew the course extremely well from past races. As I headed up Wheat Street, I passed a Police car that turned on and came back around me fairly quickly. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they would be leading me along the bike course. This was good news to me as it has been a problem in the past that volunteers were not aware of racers coming yet and traffic not being blocked! The first lap went by fairly quickly with some surging up some of the hills and backing off on some of the faster downhill, such as coming down Gervais. I had to slow down once when the Police car made one of the sharp turns, but was very grateful that they cleared the way for us racers!
The Police car pulled off the course as I started the 2nd lap and began passing some of the racers that started later. I tried to yell some encouragement to some of the people that I knew racing but couldn’t recognize everyone from their backsides! My pace held steady for laps 2 and 3 with the occasional swerving between other racers. Before I knew it I was heading into transition to start the run after posting the fastest bike split of the day by about 3 minutes.
The run course was changed last year due to construction that was going on in Columbia. While the course is a bit short at around 2.8 miles, it is ridiculously hilly with multiple hills that I have done hill repeats on in the past. As I headed out, the Race Director Leslie Poujols joined me on a mountain bike to lead the way. My legs felt good enough and as we went up the first hill, I decided to pick it up and give Leslie a challenge! I passed by her and kept the pace until I got back to one of the downhills. Since the run course passes by the bike course a couple times, many people I knew cheered me on which was really cool!
The last uphill on Pickens Street seemed to take forever, but eventually I made it to the top and started the long downhill to the finish and took 1st place with a time of 49:43. My about 5:40 min/mile pace on the run gave me the fastest split on the day and my lead by the end was a little over 4 minutes to Cory Tretsky, a good friend of mine who has unfortunately had some injury mishaps recently. My time was also about 3 minutes faster than last year, which is partially due to better weather, but hopefully just because of my better fitness!
The next weekend was the Anderson YMCA Triathlon which is a not too long 2 hour drive from the house. I left with Timothy at 4:30am for a 7:30am start which is just excessively early. It also didn’t help that it was about 35 degrees for the race. While I don’t mind the cold much, this was going a bit far. I stayed bundled up until the race start.
I was starting 3rd again for this race which started with a 300 yard swim. This is a really short distance for swimming and after a lot of flip turns, I was getting out of the pool and running into the freezing cold. After a quick transition I started the bike in the lead after having the 3rd fastest swim of the day…again.
This course was about 12.5 miles with some flat and fast sections, but mostly rolling to steep uphills and downhills. Race Director Jeremey Davis was in a car leading the way for me on the bike course waking up all the volunteers in the freezing cold. The parts of my legs that I could feel felt decent, but most of them were numb and turning different combinations of white and red from the cold. After a solid bike effort and the fastest split of the day, I got off the bike to notice my numb feet and a host of other sensations.
The run course is an out and back with one very large, steep hill and otherwise gentle inclines and declines. I began to feel my feet somewhere between miles 1 and 2 which was potentially worse than them being numb. At the mile 2 mark I passed Jeff Brandenburg, which meant I was about 1 mile ahead of him and an even larger lead on anyone behind him. I kept the pace moderately hard the rest of the way and pulled off the fastest run of the day as well for a time of 51:17. This was almost 7 minutes ahead of the next racer and a new Course Record by about 3 minutes. To be fair, I held the Course Record from the previous year, but simply went much faster this year! This was despite the frigid temps and apparently everybody else put on extra clothes while in transition.
The races were great confidence boosters that my fitness is there and I simply need to execute to make my goals a reality. My priority races will be much larger with much tougher competition so I have to be ready to push myself even harder when the time comes. I will also likely not be in the lead throughout the race as I am used to and will have to fight my way up in position. My first half distance triathlon is this Saturday at the TryCharleston Half which will be nutrition and pacing practice for the Chattanooga 70.3 at the end of May. There will be some tough competitors present, but I will have to ensure that I stay focused on my own race and goals. Definitely getting excited and hope to see these goals turn into reality!