I'm starting to feel really lucky. I had my third triathlon today and yet again, it was a perfect race as far as most things went. We drove to Niantic, Connecticut yesterday, had a really fun and relaxing afternoon, and then a nice evening free of the usual pre-race stress. I think I fell asleep around 11:30 or 11:45 and only woke up twice - once at 12:30 when I received an email that vibrated the whole room awake, and once around 3 a.m., when I was amazed I had another 2 full hours to sleep.
The alarm went off at 5 and I had my usual sleepy daze of wondering what the heck I was doing. I forced down half a bagel with peanut butter and half a bottled Starbucks Frappacino (yes, I'm THIS desperate for pre-race caffeine that doesn't come in a gel). I also sipped a 24-oz Gatorade Endurance mixed about 2/3 strength to hopefully avoid the cramping I've battled at previous races. We arrived at transition and set up fairly quickly so we grabbed our wetsuits, caps and goggles and headed to the water. I wanted at least 10 minutes of warm-up, particularly because the water was about 70 and the air was around 66. We got in, I was feeling pretty confident and then I hit them - the bay weeds. This is an ocean bay so I'm thinking some rocks and sand and not much more. But oh no, there were huge masses of weeds, I guess a type of seaweed that grew in big, shrub-like masses. They appeared out of nowhere and lasted for what felt like forever. I hated being in them and couldn't wait to get out, especially when I spotted the purple jellies hanging out in there. The weeds stuck to my arms and head and were definitely distracting. I swam through them over and over until I stopped being short of breath and freaked out. Luckily the swim course successfully avoided most of the weeds so the warm-up was the hardest part.
This swim was different than my last two in that it was a beach start so when the horn sounded, we all just rushed the water and jumped in. You can't run very far in it so we ended up swimming freestyle in about 2 feet of water, which is definitely interesting. If you're weren't careful, your arms would end up scraping along the bottom. I started to the far left, the furthest from the buoy line, but didn't necessarily start last this time. I also didn't back down to every swimmer I physically encountered. I swam through groups and very close to other swimmers and tried to remain calm. As usual, it took about 200 yards to get into a comfortable breathing rhythm but just like the NYC tri, I didn't need any bail out strokes for the entire race, which made me very proud. I even drafted a little in this race because the water was so clear. You could see a few feet below and several feet all around so it was much easier than drafting in darker water. I got one minor jelly sting and swam right through it, but otherwise, it was a really comfortable and uneventful swim. This was the furthest I've ever been from shore so I tried to get as many glimpses as possible and take it all in. Once again, I didn't want to miss a thing.
I saw the exit and swam for it, but all the guys in front of me started to walk so I ended up having to walk as well. I got through the water quickly and was on the beach in no time. I ran to transition, but it was a very steep hill so it didn't feel very fast. I grabbed the bike and ran out really strongly and just as I passed over the chip mat right before the mount line, my bike slipped to the side and my computer holder sliced my right knuckle open. I didn't realize this until I mounted the bike and started to ride. It was bleeding so badly at one point that the blood was running down my hand and blowing off in the wind. I wasted time and energy trying to rinse it but when I realized it wasn't helping, I just left it. My entire palm ended up bloody and my handlebars and right shifter ended up bloody as well. After about 5 minutes I forgot about it and settled into a nice pace. The course was not as flat as they claimed, there were some nice hills and one really challenging climb that required an easier (ahem, granny) gear. But I was able to keep up a fast pace and my legs still felt great.
I had a much faster T2 and was out running before I knew it. There were no course markers so once again, I thought I was running slow. At the only water stop, I asked a woman that had been right alongside me the whole time if we were half-way yet and she said we were much further. I looked at my watch and thought if she were right, I would be on track for another PR run so I pushed it hard. The last 400 yards or so were on the beach so the sand running kept it interesting. I was able to finish very strong and felt I gave it my best. I was given a nice double popsicle immediately which I found to be very nice. I waited for Roberto to finish and cheered the other racers on.
I went to the medics to clean off my hand and we spent some time in the post-race festivities. There was really good food and we were starving so it was nice. We checked out of the hotel and went straight to the waterfront in nearby Mystic for a big lobster lunch. I had raw local oysters, stuffed clams and a 1.5 pound lobster, before apple crisp for dessert. I have to admit, I wasn't even that full!
After staring at the water for what seemed like an eternity, we finally got back into the car for the long drive to NYC. The drive was made longer by the fact that Roberto's AC seemed to have died on the way back so the ride was very hot. We were practically passing out at times, but we managed to get by until the sun went away and the heat subsided. It was a small price to pay for a great weekend getaway and a picture-perfect race.
I know not every race can be perfect, but I'm thankful to have had good experiences thus far. This race was really phenomenal so schedule permitting, I'd like to do it again next year. When we were standing and looking at the water, Roberto said, "So this is how a triathlon is supposed to be." We were amazed by the water quality and the scenic surroundings. Yes, this is how it should be, but since they can't and won't always be, I'll settle for this being an annual excursion.
Pictures from the road trip and race, plus a race video, will be posted tomorrow!
Distance - 880 yards (.5 miles)
Time - 17:47
Distance - 12 miles
Time - 37:40
Distance - 3.4 miles
Time - 24:55
Total race time (with transition) - 1:24:59