A Callaway Gardens Super Sprint Race Report
I got up early Saturday morning to get my pre-race brick in. I was so proud :-) I drove to the gym, only to find out it was closed. I drove to the park, thinking I would swim in the lake, but the attendant wouldn't honor my state parking pass. Hell if I was gonna pay three bucks to swim in the lake. I drove back to the gym and got my swim on, an easy 600 meters with some sprints thrown in for good measure. For my bike, I rode down to Hobgood Park and back. I did a few pick ups and (always!) hills got the leg muscles firing. The run off consisted of 10 minutes of trails in the small park at the back of my neighborhood.
That's when the fun began....
It was time to head to Dothan to pick up the rug rat from Panama City. My father was meeting me there. Having not heard from him, I left the house at 11 AM. Everything was running smoothly until I hit construction traffic outside of Atlanta. Even with this small blip, I made good time. My dad called me when he was 39 miles from Dothan. My GPS said I was 41 miles away. Perfect timing! We pulled in the gas station a few minutes apart from each other, exchanged rug rats, hugs, and luggage, then it was back on the road again. The trip home was a little less hectic, but all in all, I was on the road for 7.5 hours.
When I arrived back in Atlanta, Dee Dee texted me to let me know that rooms were still available at the Hampton Inn in Lagrange. We've stayed there every time we've done Callaway. It fits the bill nicely. At the last minute, we decided to drive back down there that night so we could sleep a little extra in the morning. Tack another hour or so of driving after dinner, and I was mentally exhausted! Physically, I was feeling fine.
Dee Dee and I got to bed by 11 PM, and the alarm went off at 5:15 AM. We ate some banana bread for breakfast, got dressed, and hustled over to Callaway Gardens. We weren't able to pick up our race packets this year early. As a result, we weren't sure what to expect. Quite a few triathletes had arrived before us, but check-in went smoothly. Dee Dee and I headed over to transition and got a good spot on the racks for our bikes. By 7 AM, we were ready to go.
Every year people complain about there not being enough racks at this race, and every year, I see the same thing. The racks in transition are big enough for six bikes per rack. Most of them had 4 or 5 bikes per rack, because the new triathletes do not know how to set up their transition area. The little old lady next to me had a mini-base camp set up, next to her bike, underneath the rack! With about 45 minutes till race time, you have scores of participants wandering transition, looking for a place to rack their bikes, until they give up and use a tree or the medians in the parking lot. LOL... If there is one thing I would change about this race, that would be it. Have someone there to help the new guys organize their transition area.
Dee Dee and I spent a little bit of time talking to Kevin and Cathy. It had been quite a while since we had seen each other (South Caroline Half?). It was good. Cathy is doing Iron Girl next week with Dee Dee, so we'll get to see them back to back weekends. With a half an hour before race start, the four of us went down to the lake and swam the race course backwards as a warm up. The water was very warm (again), and it looked like they had added more buoys to the swim course, forcing the swimmers along the lake shore.
After the pre-race announcements, the waves got under way. The RD had reminded us to be nice to the new triathletes and not kick, punch, swim over, or otherwise traumatize them. I was in the second wave. I entered the water behind the first wave and waited for them to start. After the RD sounded the horn, I claimed a front row starting position, as far right as I could get. The RD said the buoys were in six feet of water, but I couldn't stand where the starting buoy was located. I treaded water for three minutes or so until the RD sounded the horn for our wave, and we were off.
Some guy had come up behind me and pushed the buoy off to the side. He started out a lot faster than I did, but I let him go. This swim course looks like an inverted U, with the bottom much longer than the sides. I sprinted some what to the first buoy, passing my friend on the right along the way. I expected to find the usual cluster of people trying to get around the buoy, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself all alone. I made the right turn and began the long swim down the back stretch.
So far so good. I was very pleased. I was starting to get out of breath and decided to hold my pace at that level. I started to pass through the slower swimmers from the prior wave. I saw some feet in front of me and latched on. I poked my head out of the water to sight and saw that my swimmer had a blue cap on. Doh!! He was from the first wave. I passed him. When I poked my head out of water to sight again, I saw nothing but clear water between me and the landing. I swam until my hands scrapped the bottom and climbed from the water to run. I went in a staight line to the lake shore, then ran across the ground and up the hill to transition. Up ahead, I saw one silver cap climbing the hill. I thought I was second out of the water in my age group. Later, I found out I was third. I measured the swim on G-maps, and it is 400 meters in the lake, then another 100 meters up the hill to transition. I crossed the timing mat in 7:23 or something like that, a slight improvement over last year.
Having taken the time to register some land marks, I went right to my bike. The transition area for this race is big. I put my helmet and race belt on, grabbed my bike, and headed for the exit. The RD had asked everyone to walk in transition, due to the large number of participants. I was fine with that, but it did not allow me to improve on my T1 time at all. I still came out the exit in about two minutes. I jumped on my bike and started coasting down the hill. No matter what I tried to do, I could not get my right foot into my shoe. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally crammed my foot in the shoe, did the same with my left foot, and started spinning. My chain was off. Holy crap! I had to stop my bike and put my chain back on. Finally, I got started. I actually entertained the idea of riding the entire course with my feet half way out of my shoes. Instead, I rode in pain.
The course hadn't changed, of course :-) I spun out of there as fast as I could. It wasn't any more crowded than last year, despite two hundred more registered athletes. I had to remind a few peeps to stay to the right when the could, but other than that, it was about the same. By mile four, my feet were hurting so bad, I had to slow down and pull the tongues of my shoes out. Relief! The pain was bearable enough to make it through the rest of the race. I pedaled hard and tried to maintain good aero form. I actually tried to enjoy the scenery a bit more this year. It IS a beautiful course. Unlike the past two years, this year, I actually got passed by four to six people, some of whom I knew were in my age group. It is hard to tell in this race since they do no body marking what so ever. This race is less competitive than your normal sprint.
I worked hard to not let anyone else pass me and finally I pulled into transition. I was able to get my feet out of my shoes before the dismount line and hopped off the bike with no problems at all. I crossed the timing mat into T2 in 23 minutes and some change, almost a minute slower than last year. I found my row in transition but had a hard time locating my spot. I was looking for my transition bag but just couldn't find it. It was actually further down from where I was looking. (Note to self: get landmarks from the otherside too!) Once I located my bag, I racked my bike, took off my helmet, and threw on my shoes. Unfortunately, my T2 time this year was actually slower, at least two full minutes. I was not happy with that.
The volunteer at the aide station handed me some water as I exited T2. He asked me to stay to the left to avoid the swimmers coming in off the lake. Yes! That's how many people there were. I was heading out onto my run as swimmers from the final waves were still coming in.
In order to meet my goal on the run, I pretty much had to haul bootay from the git go. This, more than any other place, is where I failed myself. I was not in my mind and heart on this day to do what I had to do to succeed. I gave it my all. I walked a few times, but without my heart rate monitor, I had no idea what level of effort I was giving. Shortly at the start of the run, I was passed by a guy with one leg. It was very inspiring. I tried to latch onto him for as long as I could, but eventually had to let him go. I passed the one mile marker with a sub-8 mile, but as I got closer and closer to the finish, I realized there wasn't much of a chance to break fifty minutes.
The enthusiasm of the crowd at the finish this year was amazing. I crossed the finish line in 51:08, and I'm sure the finishing photo will show both the pain and the disappointment. I had to find a bit of shade to catch my breath and control the urge to throw up.
Mister? Can I have your chip?
I reached down and removed the chip strap from my left ankle and handed it to the young man. I wandered down to the pavilion to get something to eat and drink. The race was playing over in my mind: the awesome swim, the craptastic swim to bike transition, the pain on the bike, and the gasping for air on the run. The cups for gatorade were so small, I decided to go and get an empty water bottle out of my transition bag. Dee Dee's bike was still out.
After retrieving the bottle, I went to the bike entrance and cheered her in. I walked back down to the finish line and up the short hill there to assume my usual after race position, cheering in the runners. My friend from work came in. Dee Dee followed shortly there after. We hung around for a few minutes chatting with Kevin and Cathy before making the short drive back to Woodstock. We took a long nap than made a most excellent Father's Day dinner. My family gifted me a really nice Livestrong running shirt that I can't wait to wear. All in all, I can't think of a more perfect way to spend Father's Day.
Per coach's orders, I am not reading too much into this race. I am not seeing any improvement, and my mind really wants to know if I am competitive or recreational. My body doesn't care. It's happy doing what ever its doing. This is only my second full year of triathlons. I have to believe that more and better is ahead of me, whether or not that includes better times or not.
Happy late Father's Day to all you dads out there!
** EDIT: I did come out of the water second in my age group. The first guy came out in 5:00. That seems awful fishy to me... but no worries.