Friday, September 17, 2010

Patriot's Half Race Report

Before weeks pass from my last race of the season, Patriot's Half Ironman, I figured I better skip over the last month and a half of activities and cut right to the chase . . . my race report.

Patriot's Half was not on my race schedule at the start of the year but after Eagleman, Bart and I decided to race a little closer to home this fall.  Patriot's was a logical choice.  Based in Williamsburg, near my college alma mater, a Williamsburg race had its appeal.  Plus, it was close enough that my parents were willing to make the trip from Pittsburgh to sherpa and more importantly cheer us on.

The course has really improved since the race debuted four years ago.  While the swim is still in the dirty James, the bike course is flat and predominantly along beautiful well-paved country roads and the run is on a combination of asphalt and crushed gravel paths.   We pre-rode the course the week before Labor Day and I was looking forward to a speedy bike on race day.  My big question mark would be the run, and, oh, the current.

Friday afternoon we headed down to Williamsburg for packet pickup and then met my parents at our B&B accommodations for the weekend, the Boxwood Inn.  Our room in the Inn was beautiful - a big four poster bed with wonderful red linens -- and our innkeepers didn't flinch a bit when I asked to use the kitchen for our very early pre-race breakfast.  After checking in and a bit of catching up with my parents, it was time for dinner.  I've decided that it doesn't really matter what I eat the night before in terms of my stomach the next day, so I figured we would eat at a place I love, The Fat Canary.  Like other times I've been there, the meal and service did not disappoint.  I had amazing grouper, a salad and even some gluten free crackers to snack on pre-meal.  Bedtime was 9 pm and haven't not slept very well the night before, I fell fast asleep.

Race morning was early as usually.  Up at 4:15, try and eat -- piece of toast, banana and an half of an Odwalla smoothie.  Dressed, car loaded and out the door at 5:15 am.  My parents were good sports and joined us.  After pumping my tires up, I left Bart to finish his set up and my mom and I headed to transition area.  Soon after I arrived at transition, I was shocked to learn that the swim would be wetsuit legal.  I was thrilled.  I'll wear an wetsuit any day to protect me from the murky water in the James. :)  I finished up my transition set up, visited the porta potty a few more times and headed down to the river to warm up.

After a quick warmup and instructions from Michael as to the direction of the current, I was ready.  I seeded myself near the front of my wave and soon we were off.  The initial start of the swim was a non-event, but as we headed out to the first turn buoy, the current in the river, directly against our swim direction was evident.  Bodies were all over the river and no one seemed to be headed in the direction of the small orange buoys.  I kept my course towards the first yellow buoy and pulled, pulled, pulled.  Only, the turn buoy wasn't getting much closer.  After what seemed like forever, I rounded the first turn buoy, took a few strokes, and seemed to be on top of the second buoy in no time at all.  From this buoy, to shore there were no guide buoys and the sun was right in our eyes, even through my shaded goggles.  I swung a little too wide and ended up a bit off course.  After a few corrections, I was soon in water too shallow to swim in.  I dolphin dove a few times and then waded my way into shore.  Wetsuit off and I ran the long run up to transition, thankful to be out of the water and looking forward to hammering it on the bike.

In T1, I shoved my sunglasses down the front of my tri suit (they were fogged from the cool morning dew), put on my new hibiscus flowered aero helmet and ran out of T1.   Once onto my bike, I settled in a bit getting out of the park and onto the first road before putting on my shoes and getting down to business.  The air temperatures still had some chill and I had a big smile thinking of my next few hours.  I settled in on the bike, started my nutrition and wondered when I would see my work colleague Ryan.  My hope was to hold him off on the swim and bike for as long as possible since I knew he had some fast feet.   Around mile 20, I heard, hey Bethany, looking good as Ryan rode by.  He then became my carrot for the next miles.  After the turn onto a super fast road around the halfway point, I caught him and passed.  At mile 40, I had a water bottle handoff snafu and ended up pulling over for a minute while I got hold of a bottle and poured it into my aero bottle.  Back in motion, I passed Bethany Church and was back on Route 5 for the last 20 miles back to transition.  These miles were harder than the pre-ride for me, primarily because of the slight head wind I was feeling in places.  I got my last bit of nutrition in and was back to T2 soon enough.

At T2, I quickly got into my favorite running flats, grabbed 2 gus and my visor and headed out.  My goal for the run was to run like I have been doing my tempo runs leading up to the race.  My pace goal was to stay below 10 minute pace.   And, since I left my water belt in transition, that meant, no walking except when necessary through the aid stations.  The first six miles went by fairly smoothly and my pace felt hard but good.  After a mile and a half into the course, my carrot passed me and I knew I had to keep my pace high if I had any chance to hold on to my 6 minute lead.  The run course is great - mostly shaded and the variety of surfaces kept my mind off of the distance.   Near the end of the first loop, I passed Bart on his second loop and he cheered out "Hey Sweet Pea, your smokin... keep it up."  I knew the next 6 miles would be less comfortable and sure enough around mile 8 and 9 they were.  In T2 I had left my salt tablets and while I was drinking the Heed they had on the course, I knew my body needed salt and that I was on the verge of goose bumps.   I tried to get some salt and/or more calories in me with coke at the aid stations but contrary to the advertised supplies, there were no salt tablets or coke.  Chex mix does nothing for this gluten free girl.   Finally, just short of the 10 mile marker, I ran up on an EF teammate who was struggling a bit, but thankfully had an extra salt tablet.  We walked through the aid station together and then jogged side by side for a while.  I knew she was a stronger runner than me so if I could keep pace, which by then although the same pace I had been running was far less comfortable, I would be able to make my goal.  At the next aid station, I dropped back a bit but was determined to keep her in sight.  Mind over legs I told myself and that this was the time in the run to prove what I could do.  I knew my run was close to a PR half run for me so I made myself continue to run as best I could between aid stations.  After a hard 2 miles, I was back into the park and rounding the corner to the finish.  I had no clue what my total race time was like but knew I had had a solid bike and run.  So I dug in and ran to the finish.  As I crossed the finish line, I finally saw a clock.  6:06....  At first, in my half delusion, I thought I had gone sub-6 since I was under the temporary impression that my wave was 9 minutes behind, but I quickly realized it was only 6 minutes.  I knew 6 hours would be close, and even though the final results told me I was a minute and 2 seconds past my goal, I was still proud.  I knew my swim wasn't my best, the bike was almost a mile long but I had still managed a 10 minute PR and a great way to end my season.  Next year, that minute and 2 seconds will serve as motivation.

My race stats:  11/31 in my age group.  51/155.
Swim: 43:40   T1: 3:42   Bike:  2:58.01  T2: 2:01 Run: 2:13.40