Monday, August 6, 2007

every second counts

Lake Logan Race Report

It was another early start on race day - alarm going off at 4:20. We predicted the drive time to be about 90 min... oops! In leaving 10 min late, and underestimating travel time... we pushed it WAY too close. After fighting through the mountain fog and trying to avoid state troopers on the highway... we finally pulled into the Lake Logan Park. We were funneled off the main road into the grass area parking lot, further and further and further back. As Dean, Peter, and I were opening car doors... we caught a race announcement over the loud speakers: "transition area to close in 15 minutes."

AH! We grabbed for bags, threw on shoes, ran to registration (praying that it wasn't already closed). Stood in line for our race packets, port-o-potties, body marking... then another mad dash, back to the car. Scrambled for bikes, wheels, wetsuits, etc... then ran, sprinted, back to transition. This was, by far, the closest I've come to missing the start of a race.

Well, with a "warm-up" already accomplished, I tried to locate an opening on the bike rack... and set up my area.

"The transition area is now closed, please make your way to the swim start"

I hooked my bike on the rack, unloaded shoes, socks, helmet, sunglasses, race belt (numbers... I know they gave me numbers, where are they... oh, phew...), attached #165 to helmet and race belt, dug for goggles, grabbed my wetsuit, looked for Peter, and we hightailed it to the mass of people already in the water.
We were both struggling to get our wetsuits pulled up, while holding our goggles & cap. Jeremy proceeded with the kick off speech, while Peter and I zipped each other up. With a quick "good luck," we split up... and I saw him dive into the water.

I took a breath and tried to gain composure. I was to start in the 2nd wave, which I thought was all the women. Without much time to get nervous, I made my way around the dock and found a spot among the girls. In the past few races, I've been in the elite wave... a small group of strong competitors. Usually, I know the people I'm starting with. Well, this race was different. I knew Alicia Parr (the race favorite) was among the ladies... Kimberly was here somewhere, right?

We got a 60 second warning, then 30 seconds... my heart was pounding. The gun went off, and as usual... I felt like I was instantly in last place. I tried to find some feet, but the girls around me were either way ahead of me... or going off course. I aimed for the 1st buoy. My stroke felt labored, breathing irregular, shoulders tight. As I sighted the yellow turn buoy, I was passing men from the 1st wave. I tried to pick up my pace as I rounded the 1st turn. *Here's where I finally calmed down.

While breathing to the left, I caught sight of the mountains. Ok, so maybe I shouldn't have been sight seeing during the race... but, it was so gorgeous. One of my favorite Peter/Joe quotes popped into my mind, "aren't we just so lucky to be doing this?!"

I rounded the second turn... now, it was a straight shot to the bridge (swim finish). I focused on my stroke, reach, pull, kick, breath, stay straight. The bridge was getting closer. Because we were in such a rush to get everything in order before the race, I'd failed to identify the important entry/exit points at the transition area. Oh well... the one benefit to knowing you're not going to be the 1st person out of the water, ha ha. Always someone to follow.

I swam under the bridge and felt a rush of cold water. The swim finish was located right where a river fed into the lake. (see pics at top of page - dock on bottom left) I got to the floating dock and pushed myself out of the water (never easy at the end of a swim). It was a pretty long run to TA... hum, what # am I again (so I could find the rack which held my bike).

Following a not so speedy transition, I ran my bike down the gravel path to the mount line. I jumped on my chariot and took off after the guys ahead of me. The start to the bike course was up a hill to get out of the park area. My legs felt strong and I passed a few guys going up the hill.

Now, according to what I'd been told... this was to be a "flat/fast bike course." Yeah, so when I found my average speed to be 24.5 mph at mile 12... I began to wonder. Uh, what goes down from transition, must come back up to transition. It was pretty much a false flat most of the way back, with a nice 1 kilometer climb right before we finished the bike. I had passed 2 girls along the ride, and as I made my way onto the run someone yelled, "2nd girl."

I knew who was ahead of me... and in knowing her capabilities, I was sure she was AHEAD of me. The run became a personal challenge. Thank goodness I'd read the race description: 5K up and 5K down. To be honest, hills don't bother me. I took the first mile out conservatively... I felt good. Well, 2 miles into that uphill run, I could feel my calves getting tight. There was no relief from the uphill. The route was not steep, but there was NO flat or downhill for 5K. I pumped my arms and put my head down. Already, I could tell my legs would be sore the following day!

The run, albeit challenging, was fantastic! We were climbing, winding up a road, alongside a river, a waterfall splashed to my right. I took a second to appreciate the surroundings, the beauty around us. I was having fun. Soon I saw Peter flying down the mountain, no words - but a smile shared. Not long after him, Alicia came charging down. She looked comfortable, fast, and strong!

Finally, calves on fire, I could see the turn around. Ah, sweet relief. I opened up my stride, let my legs fly. It was downhill the whole way back (fyi my 1st 5K was 23:55, my 2nd 5K was around 19:30). I saw other women running toward the turn around, but none in super-close distance. I caught sight of Kimberly running uphill... hum, what's going on. Normally, we're very close out of the water. If I happen to beat her in the swim, she's for sure to pass me up on the bike. I suspected mechanical problems, a flat? *remember, I thought all the women started in the 2nd wave.

I felt great rounding the last turn and running across the Finish. However, without any competition ahead of me (Alicia was a mile+ ahead on the run)... there was no need to sprint the finish. (or so I thought)

I caught up with Peter, grabbed some water, and looked for Alicia. She was with a reporter and I made my way over to where they were talking. After they finished up, I congratulated her on an outstanding race. According to Peter, they'd rolled into T2 together! Damn girlfriend. It was great to meet Alicia and hear about her Nationals experience, and plans for Worlds.

Walking back to the transition area with Peter, I was so happy with this race! I had managed a decent swim, strong bike, and I had really enjoyed the run. 2nd Place (what I thought at this point) was awesome... coming into the race, I had no idea what the competition would be like.

Not only was the race challenging and fun - the location was Amazing! Personally, I give this one the "most beautiful race site in the SE award!"

Dean, all smiles after his race, found Peter and I when he finished. I was glad to see his excitement... in his 2nd Olympic distance tri, he dropped 15 minutes!!! WOWZA!

Without waisting any time, Peter collected his stuff and we went back to the car. Not that Peter didn't race hard (I don't think he'd know how to take a race easy if you paid him)... but, he's had a tough 2 weeks of training in preparation for IM Kentucky. The race was great training, and just for additional fun... he would be riding up to the Blue Ridge Parkway (11 mile climb nearing 6,000 ft of elevation), and all the way home (est. 110 miles).

After giving us instructions on where to meet him along the way, he was off. Dean and I headed back over to the post race gathering for awards. To check my final time, I made my way to the posting. That's when I realized that Kimberly had beat me by 3 seconds! What?! Did I have a penalty... no. After asking around, I leaned of a 2nd wave of women (over 40). And it all made sense. That's why she didn't pass me on the bike. Seriously, we started in different waves and finished 3 seconds apart. wow.

Alicia had dominated the Women's race by 9 min! I can't wait to see what she does in Germany. She was a gracious champion and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her.

Kimberly and I shared a laugh as I accepted the 3rd place trophy. Since our swim times are consistently very close... and she can kill me on the bike... I'm usually left to run after her. Lake Logan proved to be what triathlons are all about: going as hard as you can, for yourself. I have learned that every second does count. Looking at the results, I shake my head at the transition times... I swear I don't stop for coffee after the swim!

After awards, Dean and I drove off in search of the crazy Czech riding into the mountains. After winding, climbing, and almost going off the road admiring the views... we found Peter, out of the saddle, jersey unzipped, sweat streaming down his chin, SMILING as he pumped his legs.

"This is AWESOME," he yelled. "I feel like I'm climbing to the sky."
We left him to his "play time," and accelerated ahead. Dean and I pulled onto the BR Parkway... frequently pulling over at the scenic overlooks. After an 11 mile climb, and 10 miles along the parkway, Peter stopped at the car. Dean unloaded his bike and they made final plans for the trip home.

I would drive the car to the end of the descent, and wait for them at a gas station. Well, I think they were ahead of me most of the way down! Driving Dean's beast, I had to go slow around the frequent turns. They however, got aero and probably came close to 50 mph.

After loading up on snacks and coke, I drove away from the insane boys. They had quite a journey ahead... and a couch was calling my name.

Anticipating their condition upon getting home, I stopped to buy drinks on the way back to Peter's. The temperature was around 96 and I was soaked just unpacking the car, bikes, and bags.

Around 5:45 pm, I was getting anxious. Dean's longest ride (before Saturday) was 75 miles. Today they'd be riding close to 100 (very hilly miles)... home from a RACE! Finally, the very salty, sweaty, tired, boys came through the door. Dean immediately hit the floor.

YEAH! They made it home and lived to tell me about it. My favorite story from their ride involved a guy, obviously drunk, who pulled up to a gas station.... on his riding lawn mower... beer in hand. Mmmm, back-woods NC. Ye-haw.

What a GREAT weekend. I loved that race! I'm pleased with my performance and how I felt throughout. I was even able to wake up on Sunday and, after a slow 1st mile, get into a rhythm for 10 miles.

Here is an article about the race (from an Asheville, NC paper)


Alicia Parr said...

You know, Jeremy was announcing awards and when Peter didn't come up to get his, he suggested that Peter was probably already on his bike riding home. I thought he was kidding. That boyfriend of yours is a freak o nature. I like me some long rides, but a hilly 110 after a race? My goodness...

Keep up the great work yourself and practice those transitions!

Anonymous said...

OH Ash!
Nice work!!!! You are getting to be SUPER FAST. Come home to the flatlands and it would be a piece of cake out here!! Congrats on your 2nd err...3rd place OA finish!!
Jenny :)

Sally said...

Congratulation Ashley. Great racing! The photos make me homesick. What a beautiful race site. Love to read about your races and adventures. xo Mom