Monday, September 10, 2007

Matching Bags!

Hartsville International Tri RR

What a weekend… full of more ups than downs, so lots of good news to report!

Friday night: Dinner (cooked by Peter) at Gerald & Sarah’s. A wonderful, relaxing evening with friends. Thankfully, Sarah is not easily offended. It’s either because Peter is European… or, because he’s European, people chalk it up to his culture. Whichever, we’ve discovered many “areas” in which we consider him a snob. He’s picky about wine, pizza stones, cleaning techniques, filtered water, hot sauce, olive oil, coffee, etc… Don’t worry Peter; we know you’re just particular.

Saturday morning: Short run followed by a short bike ride. Legs were feeling good and I felt ready for Sunday’s race! Then, while Peter got the bikes “race ready,” I packed other tri-essential items. Around 4:30 pm, Peter’s VW Golf packed with 2 bikes, 6 wheels, 2 transition bags, overnight bags, and 2 athletes left for Camden , SC.

My Great Aunt Sarah & Uncle Ken offered to take us in for the night, as the drive to Hartsville is too far for a race morning commute. Pulling into Camden was like driving back in time. Not only is it known for historic beauty, it’s a place my family visited every Christmas break throughout my childhood.

Sarah & Ken were the perfect pre-race hosts! Beds ready, towels out, and plans for dinner at an Italian restaurant. We spent some time catching up and describing the triathlon world. I was most impressed that Aunt Sarah had spent some time researching triathlons. Very few people, outside the tri community, know to ask the race distance. She already knew the Hartsville race was not an Ironman.

Dinner at the Camden Pizza House was great. While Sarah & Ken split (and didn’t finish) a baked spaghetti entrĂ©e… Peter and I split the large Greek Salad, Pizza with olives/feta/tomatoes, and spaghetti with olive oil. I think we shocked Uncle Ken with our eating abilities.

Once home, we began planning for the morning. Sarah, who called prior to our visit for food requests, had already picked up plain bagels! Peter had packed his stove top espresso maker, so we were set for breakfast. We got the maps out and planned the drive, played musical-cars in the driveway, and sat down to relax… or so I thought as I turned on the Carolina/Georgia game. Yuck, yuck, yuck… a UGA loss, to Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Now there is some race fuel.

We actually got to bed early! Then, for the 1st time this season, I woke up at 4:50… 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I felt rested. Peter made coffee, we got our things together, talked with Sarah in the kitchen (she was coming to watch, but didn’t need to leave at 5:30am), then headed on our way.

Thankfully, Sarah had given us great directions to the park (helps to know a local). Most of the trip was on one road… known as Old Stagecoach Rd, W. Camden Rd, Hwy 15, or New Hwy 23. I’m pretty sure Peter averaged about 80mph and we got there in about 35 min. How nice, to get to a race an hour before the start! I’ve almost gotten accustomed to setting up my transition area by opening my bag, turning it over, and dumping the contents on a towel next to my bike.

This time, we were stress free. Got our numbers, unloaded the car, set up transition, located places like swim start/finish, bike mount line, run out…. I took off for a quick warm up jog, and almost ran into Aunt Sarah! I was so excited to have her at the race. Admittedly, she knew nothing about being a triathlon spectator, but just having her there was motivating.

Athletes began heading to the water, so I stripped off my t’shirt, grabbed my cap & goggles, and followed the mass. The forecast called for high 90’s during the day… but, at the start of the race, it was in the high 60 / low 70 range. However, any chill I felt was erased the second I touched the water!

*Hum, there was a Nuclear Power Plant just off the lake. Supposedly they use the water too cool their machines…. Leaving the lake in the low 90’s. Seriously, it was warmer than bathwater. I’d rather not think about it (the nuclear power plant, that is). We got in, warmed up, tried to locate the buoys through thick fog, and waited for the go-ahead.

The Elite field was pretty small for this race. Missing regular faces: Katie – IM crash injury; Amy – health problems; Sarah – moved to Texas … and the Tracy’s racing the Sprint Distance. We were left with 4 Elite Females in the Olympic Distance. As 2 of the ladies are known swimmers, Kimberly and I stood together knowing that Lindsay, Kelly, and the guys would quickly leave us behind.

The gun sent us off, and we swam away into the nuclear bath. Luckily, I didn’t have to swim the 1500 meters alone, because I quickly found myself near Kimberly. We swam next to each other for a short distance and I pushed to stay with her. As she pulled away, I followed into the turns. After tapping her feet a few times, I propelled myself to her side. If she wanted me to take a turn pulling, now was her chance. She seemed strong, and continued increasing the pace right into the shore… Thanks Kimberly for your strength, good pace, and straight sighting!

We were the last elites out of the water… and I ran behind her into T1. As I was getting “bike equip,” I thought about my goal. Today I wanted to be tough on the bike. After some recent sub-par bike splits, I wanted to do better. The air temp was still on the chilly side, and it took some time to warm up. The course was totally new to me…. Therefore, I was not expecting such hills. I took advantage of the down hills and while riding uphill, I thought about climbing to the Blue Ridge Parkway (if I can climb for over an hour, I can power up these “bumps”). Thanks Katie for your encouragement on the course!

Coming into T2, I was happy with my ride. Since there was a Sprint race going on as well, many people were already out on the run course. I got my shoes on and got out of T2 quickly. The slight uphill out of the park forced me to calm my breathing and find a rhythm.

As I took a left out of the park, I spotted Lindsay. She looked strong and comfortable in her pace. As I passed, she gave me encouragement. Hitting the 1st mile mark, I was right on goal pace and feeling good. That’s when I spotted Kimberly. Surprising, as she usually puts 3+ min on me during the bike. I was amazed to move past her so early in the run. That’s when I knew I’d delivered a good bike time.

From 2 miles on, I simply forced myself to hold the pace. It didn’t feel great, I wasn’t floating, and I grabbed for more water than normal. Then, I got the push I needed… the lead cyclist riding in front of… Peter! He had a huge smile on his face as he said, “Awesome!” We were both in the lead, very cool.

Not long after that, Aubrey (one of Peter’s athletes) passed me like I was standing still. Seriously, his pace was faster than my 100m sprints. Check it out: Aubrey’s 10k split was a 33:47! No kidding: flying.

I rounded the out and backs, up and down the hills, and ran most of the way with Blain Peerson. The downhill for most of mile 4 was fantastic. I was ready to cross that finish line. We made our way back into the park, and I pushed my way to that lovely FINISH inflatable arch. I heard Jeremey say, “and here’s Ashley Long from Greenville… our 1st female in the International Distance.”

Crossing the line and being able to stop felt so good. Peter was waiting near the water supply station…. Drinking what was probably his 10th Coke (as he’d been done for about 20 min ;) We had a short, sweaty celebration hug…. And then I downed 2 bottles of water and a Mmmmmm…. Orange Powerade. Ah.

I found Aunt Sarah who seemed to have enjoyed her first triathlon experience. She told me, “well… I now know what you’re supposed to yell at all the competitors: ‘way to go; great job; keep going!” Yeah, I think she’s got the hang of it. Soon, she’ll be recording splits.

Peter left for a cool down run with Bryan… while I talked with Kimberly. She asked if I wanted to join her for run as well. Having someone to talk with during a post-race run was wonderful. I enjoyed learning about her athletic history and comparing training/race stories.

In looking back on the race, I’m really happy with the performance. I wanted to improve on the bike, and I did seem to ride with a bit more intensity. Then, although I’d pushed harder on the bike… I was still able to keep my legs turning over on the run.

The post race food and awards ceremony were nice. As Elite winners, Peter and I got matching bags embroidered with the race logo and "1st place." Very useful "trophies," and won't we look cool traveling with identical Hartsville tri-champ bags. Oh yeah.

Thanks again to Aunt Sarah & Uncle Ken for having us! Hopefully, now that I’ve added this blog to your “favorites,” you’ll be able to keep up on all the triathlon happenings. I know it’s your new favorite sport. He he.


RobC said...

Congrats on your win!

Sally said...

Way to Go Ashley ... loved reading the race commentary. You did so well. I'm so glad you got to stay with Aunt Sarah & Uncle Ken. Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

OH ASHLEY, Kicking ass and taking names, I LOVE IT!!! Nice OA win! Is this your first OA win at an OLY race? You go girl....! And Peter too! Nice pics of you and P. as well. LOL! Are you ready for some running & swimming in BOULDER, my friend? Ha ha