Well well well. We find ourselves here, together…again. I hope that your stay is an enjoyable one. Please make yourself at home and feel free to open and check the fridge several times over the next hour to see if anything better has materialized since the last time you looked.
This past Saturday I raced, what most likely will be, the second to last race of my inaugural triathlon racing season. The race was in North Myrtle Beach, which for all practical purposes, is my backyard. It is 2 hours away, but the terrain, the lay of the land if you will, is basically the same as here in Charleston. It was a sprint distance with a 700 yard open ocean swim, a 13 mile bike and a 5k run. I was really excited to get to race another flat, fast course and my plan was to bring my A-game and have a breakout race. I was getting the hard push from my teammates as well to PR or ER.
I will warn you upfront that there was no official race photographer for this event, so I am digging deep to bring you race pics that represent me during this race. I think you will agree that you can imagine me in the place of those representing me.
Lets get started shall we?
Mr Trotta and I arrived to the host hotel to find that it was most literally at the end of Main Street on the famed Boulevard. It was one of those beach front towers that have been there since Moses parted waters, but it was actually half-way decent. The view was worth the price of admission, for lack of a better idiom.
The transition area was almost IN the parking lot of the hotel which meant that we could basically roll out of bed and into transition. We still decided to head down early on Saturday morning and grab spots in transition. We got set up, took a quick little bike down the boulevard and then a quick warm up run. By that time it was time to head down to the beach.
(This was quite possibly my most eventful swim ever so I apologize in advance for the length of this section. I promise you, though, that you will appreciate it.)
Swim – 700 yards – Open Atlantic Ocean Swim
This was my first ever open ocean race. Just before it started, I heard someone mention jellyfish. Not sharks. Not stingrays. Not mermaids. Jellyfish. Hmmmm. Why hadn’t I thought about jellyfish being in the water? I mean this IS South Carolina and it IS late summer. Hmmm. Oh well. No time to worry about it now. The start buoy was what seemed like a mile down the beach to the North and so the entire group of racers all started walking down. Someone mentioned that it seemed like we had already walked more than 700 yards. More on that later. When we all finally got to the start I jumped in for a very quick warm-up. I noticed two things. a) The current was ripping down the beach. b) the waves were freaking awesome. NOT awesome for a triathlon start mind you. Awesome for surfing. Clean, little chop and 2-3 feet. Perfect longboard waves. I decided to move up the beach even further for the start (well Jason had told me to watch where the elite group started and follow them) because the ripping tide was going to push me past the first turn buoy if I wasn’t paying attention. Sure thing when the first wave started, the ones who started further up the beach got pushed almost directly to the buoy while the ones who started more southerly had to fight the current to get around the turn. Did I mention how awesome the sunrise was?
When the horn sounded for my wave I broke into a run and hit the water like I was going to walk on it. That is when I realized that I should have practiced dolphin dives a bit more. It was tough going for the first 10 yards. I had a hard time getting past the break quickly. I did however punch through and realized that I was still ahead of the majority of the pack. I swam perpendicular to the beach and because of the current it pushed me right to the first turn buoy and I had no trouble making the turn. I could see when I started sighting for the next guide buoy that a lot of people had missed the first turn and were swimming back to get around it. My first problem occurred around this point. While trying to sight I realized that if I didn’t time it perfectly then I would be in between the incoming swells and would not be able to see the buoys. Several times I had to go to breaststroke in order to get my head high enough to find the guide buoys. And once I did find them, they seemed forever away. I just put my head down and kept on swimming, kept on swimming, kept on swimming. And then it happened. A sudden shocking pain on my shin woke me up to the realization that jellyfish were a force I had not prepared for. Now let me tell you that I have been stung by jellies before. But this was a pain I have NEVER felt before. It seriously felt like I was being shocked and that where I was being shocked was on fire.
The above picture is a common-to-local-waters-jellyfish known as the Sea Nettle. I am guessing that this is what got me. And boy did they get me. I got stung three times during the race, the worst of which was in the armpit. I just kept swimming because I didn’t know what else to do. It may have even made me swim harder. All I know is that I kept praying that I didn’t get stung in the face. IF I had, I know right now that I would have called it quits. But I made it to the last turn buoy with out getting hit in the face.
The best part of the swim for me was at the point when I made it back to the break. While taking a breath I saw a wave behind me and I actually caught it and rode it in to the beach. It pushed me past at least three other swimmers and allowed me to get to my feet and head into transition. There is a lot more I could write about the swim, like how Jason and I pretty much had a mid-race collision between the sighting buoys or how I kicked some guy pretty hard in the face, but I just don’t want to take up anymore pixels talking about it. The last thing that I want to say about the actual swim part is that because of buoy drift the actual distance was closer to 1000 yards. That was confirmed by both my race watch and Jason’s. What an experience for my first ocean swim in a race…
Official swim time: 17:23
T1 – Bike (13 miles) – T2
So there were lots of tech glitches about this race. Not that a lack of photog is a tech glitch, but the timing mats were malfunctioning and my watch was doing really weird (read: user error) things too. For some reason the timing mats between T1 the bike and T2 were not working properly so my transition times are actually wrapped up in my official bike time. Therefore I do not have transition times, but I think you knew that already. I ran out of the water and up the beach into T1 where they had a kiddie pool for us to run through to get the sand off of our feet. I ran to my bike, got my helmet on, fumbled with my glasses, and then ran out the shoot. I had rubber-banded my shoes again for a quick transition and I am guessing that in and out in about 1:00. As I got to the road I jumped on the bike with my feet on top of my shoes and started pedaling hard. Once I got up to speed I tried to get my feet in my shoes and I had some trouble getting them in for some reason. At one point the toe of my right shoe actually somehow got caught between the road and my foot and it popped up. I knew for sure that it had come out of the clip and hit the ground and that I was leaving it in the dust. Luckily it didn’t do that. Finally I got both of my feet in my shoes and I screamed down the road. It was long, straight and flat and I was surprised to see that I was holding above a 20 mph average out of the gate. I got to the first turn and had to slow way down because I am still not comfortable making fast rolling turns. I will get there. I got back up to speed and kept on trucking. Nothing really too exciting happened during what turned out to be closer to 13.5 miles except that I knew that I was holding a MUCH faster pace than I ever had. Did I mention that my leg and armpit were still on jellyfish fire? Because they were. I hit the last turn around and a wall of headwind which slowed me down, but I just kept right on chugging. When I got back into transition I realized that I had ridden what would turn out to be a personal record for the distance. Too bad the timing mats screwed up and wiped that out of the record books for me! I jumped off my bike and ran back into transition and tore my helmet off. I racked the bike, threw on my shoes, grabbed my race belt and headed out (the wrong way again…luckily a race volunteer yelled and pointed and got me back on course). I am guessing that this was another 1:00 transition. This was also the point that I realized that I had done something wrong with my watch and that I probably wouldn’t have accurate race data to rely on there either. As I was running out, I completely reset my watch and started over because I knew that I HAD to have the best run of my life to stay in contention for a podium in the SC series.
Official Bike Time: 43:06 (with T1 AND T2 included)
(IF my T1 and T2 were 1:00ish respectively then my bike time would have been 41:06ish which would be crazy)
Run – 3.1 miles
So if you know me at all, you know that my run is my weak spot. I have yet to break under 30 minutes for a 5k during a triathlon. I really, really wanted to do it during this race. I felt strong coming out of transition and so I started chugging pretty hard. I knew that I was holding under a 10:00 pace and so I tried to settle in and keep the legs turning. The temperature was awesome for this race and so it didn’t seem like the heat was going to kill me. That helped a lot. What didn’t help was getting passed by two Clydesdales before the halfway mark. I knew that Jason was way ahead of me so having two more clydes pass me meant no podium for me. But I didn’t have to let it kill my run. I was really working on posture and turnover in this race. My bud Pearce had told me that whatever I do, I HAD to keep an upright posture in order to get my legs to turnover properly. Every time I felt myself starting to slouch I tried to remember what he had said. And it worked. I felt my pace increase whenever I fixed my posture. Go figure right? Well before I knew it, I was rounding the bend to the home stretch. I had not looked at my time on my watch, only focusing on pace. When I could see the finish shoot about 200 yards away I really gave it my last and final push. The last two minutes of the race saw my pace go from just under 10:00 to 8:00 to 7:05 for the finish. No way I could have held that pace, but I sprinted it home. When I looked at the time on my watch it was under 30 minutes. I just hoped and prayed that I had started it about the same time as I left transition. When the official results came out I was thrilled. I had PR’d the run by over 2 minutes.
Official Run Time: 29:53 NEW 5K PR
Official North Myrtle Beach Sprint Triathlon Time: 1:30:22
This race was the best race I have had to date. Even with the jellyfish stings, I had the race of my life. It felt great and I felt great. Man this sport gets in your blood.
I have one more race on the schedule for this season. It is the Dam Tri in Lexington and everyone who is anyone will be there. It is just under an Olympic distance, so I am going to go in prepared and not let what happened at Greenwood happen there. I plan to finish the season strong!
I love you guys.