Two years ago was my first time ever racing Nation’s Triathlon. I had missed racing in DC, so the opportunity to tour the city by land and “sea” this year was very welcomed. This would be a warm-up for a half iron in October, so no real plans to break any (personal) records here.
Packet pickup for this race is always one of my favorite parts. Downtown, excitement, lots of people, and I always run into friends from the DC Triathlon Club. I rode my bike to packet pickup and left my steed with the Bike Valet while I got my bib and swim cap, then joined a host of folks rolling down to West Potomac Park to rack my bike in transition. Sunny and beautiful skies made for promising thoughts for the Sunday race. It’d been nice and dry, for a change, so no worries of a muddy mess like in some races before.
Sunday morning rolled around, and I forced down my concoction of eggs, rice, and avocados (with a dollop of Sriracha, of course) before getting picked up by a friend. Parking wasn’t a problem, as there was plenty of street parking just a few minutes walk away. I imagine it’d get full pretty fast later in the morning, but we got there early.
Transition prep was easy: Pump the tires. Apply plenty of lube. Despite downward trending water temperatures during the week, a small heat spike had rendered the swim non-wetsuit legal (unless you wanted to go off in the very last wave), so that was one less thing to hassle with. Fine by me! I was excited and ready to go.
This year I’d started with Wave 1 (Male Elite), which allowed us an in-water start. At the sounding of the horn we set off and splashed about like a bunch of playful otters. About 200m into my swim my shoulders began to tighten, but I shrugged it off to not being warmed up yet. Over the course of the next 400m I could feel myself gradually slow down more and more, my pull felt weak, and my body was saying it wasn’t really all that thrilled to be moving. Somehow I managed to find a bit of a groove and hold stroke with another racer next to me. The course was so well marked – distance buoys were every 100m, so I could keep track of my progress and know how far into the swim I was. I don’t get that at other races, so this was a treat for sure! After a less than thrilling start to my race, I made it back to transition without drinking too much water from the Potomac. I saw my friend Ryan heading toward the bike start while I was just making it to my bike. Goodness, I had a really bad swim.
The morning was still cool (for what that’s worth being September in DC), so the bike felt breezy and lovely. This year we had a new course, a 20km double loop venturing down I-395 (how cool is that!?!?), around some of the most spectacular monuments our nation’s capital has to offer, and even a trip across the Whitehurst Freeway. The roads, for the most part, were smooth, with only a few divots here and there, and the 180 degree turns I worried about in the course map really weren’t all that bad – there was plenty of space. In fact, there was a LOT of space in the straightaways. Trying to be courteous and stay within the prescribed rules of the course, I chose not to pass in the No-Pass Zones and risk an accident (even though there was plenty of space to perform the act if I wanted to). I loved how excited everyone was back near transition as I came in to finish out the 40K – not my fastest performance by any means, but decent enough after a mid-season break.
After a quick change from cleats to shoes I started out on my run. My legs instantly turned to jello and I tried to believe that would shake off after a kilometer or so. I was only a little off my pace from my PR run at Maritime Triathlon earlier in the season, so I figured I could move a little faster once I found my legs. That ended up not being the case. I caught up to some of the elite females who had smoked me in the water (and the bike) and ran with them for a little bit as we crossed the Sound and started making our way toward Hains Point. Cruising along the long loop to the point, I managed to sneak in a few hugs from members of the DC Triathlon Club at the mid-course aid station. There were people dressed in tutus, banana, and hot dog costumes – love my club. They were loud, supportive, and had exactly what I needed – WATER! I picked up my pace slightly, but just maintained for the most part along the super-flat course. Despite a PR-friendly course, no big gains for me this day, but I was satisfied crossing the line.
My biggest success of the day was finishing without injury or being sore at all! It’s exactly what I wanted. The course was stunning, and the new bike route worked well despite early criticism – even I was concerned at first, but having tried it once I’d do it again.
The only thing I had to do for the rest of the day was hang out in the post-race party area with music, food, and a tent just for the DC Triathlon Club. From there I could see other members finishing and congratulate them on their race. I don’t think I could have asked for better temperatures or race conditions.
Big thanks to the DC Triathlon Club for the huge support and presence at the race, and to Nation’s Triathlon for hosting me and my club for another successful race day.