If things hadn't worked out the way they had, this would have been another "A" race for me. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect, having done a half Ironman the weekend before. I was just going to go, give it my best, have a good time, and be done with it.
Callaway Gardens is located southwest of Atlanta, towards Columbus, Georgia. It's about an hour and a half away. Unlike past years, I opted not to spend the night in a hotel. With just me racing, it just seemed so unnecessary. For a while there, Dee Dee was trying to work herself into the race, but with it being her weekend to work and all, it just didn't work out. She decided she would go with me anyways. She's a great spectathlete after all.
I got up at 4:15 AM Sunday morning. Happy Father's Day to me :-) I had packed everything in the car the night before. Nothing to do but eat, grab my coffee, and head out. I stopped in Marietta to pick up Dee Dee at 5:05 AM from work. She was changing her clothes in the parking lot. That's my girl. She caught a bit of cat nap on the way down. We arrived in Pine Mountain, Georgia just as the sun was coming up, just about our usual time.
We made the mistake of telling the park attendant that Dee Dee wasn't racing, and that little flub cost us $18.00, which made me mad. I understand that the park has no way of knowing if the spectators are going to enjoy the "benefits" of the park or not, but they should have some allowance for spousal units.
After finding a place to park, we headed over to transition to grab our race packet and timing chip. I got the number "3" placed on my right calf, indicating I was in the third wave, then Dee Dee and I hit up the bathrooms while there was no waiting. By the time we grabbed my bike and got to transition, pickings were slim.
I ended up setting up my transition on a rack with three (evidently new) members of the Atlanta Tri Club. One would think that they would have been taught to setup their area properly, but NOOOOO. They had their stuff spread out all over the place. I was still setting up my stuff when they left. I hung around for a while to make sure nobody messed with my stuff. A young man and his wife/girlfriend were wandering up and down the aisles looking for a place to rack their bikes, when I called out to him.
You can rack both your bikes on this rack. There's room for two more!
Are you sure, he said?
I know so, I replied.
I helped his lady friend set up her bike, as this was her first tri, and Dee Dee shared a few of her secrets with her as she set up her stuff. Callaway Gardens is a super friendly triathlon that attracts just tons of new triathletes, females, and kids, as evidenced by the following pictures:
The plan for this race is well known. After doing this race three times, I would think so. At 7:30 AM, we grab the goggles and head down to the lake to reverse swim the race course. Usually, we arrive just in time for the athlete's pre-race meeting.
Getting ready for the warm up swim. The Garmin 310XT is in the back of the cap. Can you see my birth mark above my left butt cheek? If so, you may consider your life complete. Carry on!
The water was as warm as usual. With no other swimmers in the water, it was crystal clear as well. I had to dodge a few boats on the way over. I couldn't tell if they were amused with my swimming or not. I usually opt NOT to swim the entire 400 meters, but get out at the end of the first turn.
The pre-race meeting had the usual stuff. This year's race had 1500 triathletes going off in 11 waves. Fifty-five percent of the racers were female. At eight o'clock sharp, the first wave of young whipper snappers went off. As the second wave got in, I made my way into the water, up front, at the end of the line. The second wave went off, and I hurried into position. I try to start this race right next to the end buoy of the starting line. I could barely stand, which was a good thing. Starting on the end avoids the walkers and the slower swimmers that hug the shore. The RD had asked us not to swim over anybody :-)
While waiting to start, the guy behind me asked me what I was going to do the swim in. He wanted to make sure he wasn't a faster swimmer than I. I told him optimistically six minutes, and he said that he would just stay behind me then. For my wave, the RD's bullhorn broke, and he had to yell the countdown. With 10 seconds to go, I started my watch and Garmin. At five, four, three, two, one, I stuck my head in the water and took off.
Some guy had snuck up on right side at the race start. He breathed on his left side, and I on my right. We stared at each other in the face as we headed down the back stretch. Somehow, I managed to veer left a bit and collided with some of the other swimmers before getting back on course. My strategy for this swim is to get to the buoy first and avoid the crowds, and I managed to make the right hand turn first, even though a few other people in my wave had been out front.
Along the side, I am in deep water, swimming for the second buoy. About half way, I see another gold cap over my right shoulder. I pick up the pace and try to hold him off. I am surprised when he bridges the gap quickly and passes. My mind goes, Just damn...
At the second buoy, I catch up with the proceeding wave. I'm having to swim between people and avoid the breast strokers. Last year, the waves were four minutes apart, and I had clean water all the way to the finish. Not this year. I swam until the water was knee high, climbed out, and ran up the hill towards transition. I crossed the mat and glanced at my watch. My swim time was 7:34. I visibly winced. If there was one discipline that I felt like I could hold my own on from last year, the swim would be it. This was my slowest time ever.
Aerowyn was right where I had left her by the big tree. I had carefully set her up for transition. First my HRM, then my shirt, followed by race belt, shoes, then helmet, and I was off. I decided not to wear a tri top on the swim this year, and I wish I had. My shirt was difficult to roll down. At least I got my shoes on right and my chain was on my bike, unlike last year :-)
Also, unlike the proceeding years, I got passed a LOT on the bike. The real stud triathletes, I wasn't worried about, but there were definitely some people that I should have been able to hang with. Still, its a fun, flat to downhill course, and there are just tons of opportunity to do some big ring work. I managed to keep my HR in high zone 4 and low zone 5, which I was pretty proud of. It was an excellent test of my fitness on half Ironman recovery.
I entered the bike exit and yelled at Dee Dee. She had missed me, and I could see the exhaustion in her eyes. She was such a trooper. I woggled my way to transition and threw on my Zoots. I'm not sure what took so long, but evidently, my muscles were running out of steam.
The first half of the Callaway run is around the lake in direct sunlight. It was definitely getting warm. I grabbed some water on my way out of transition. I had opted not to take any fluids on the bike, which we know is a mistake. Around the back side of the lake, I had to walk a bit to catch my breath before running to the aid station at the first mile. My pace was suffering, and I let all my expectations go.
The second half of the run is in the woods, and thus, we had shades. My Livestrong shirt was soaking wet, but the slight breeze felt oh so good. By this time, I was getting passed by one age grouper in my wave after another. Where the bike and run courses converge (in opposite directions), there was a kid riding with her mom. Mom was on a ten speed. The kid was a bike with training wheels. That was just amazing to see.
At the side walk, we made a right hand turn for the finish, which I could hear. I managed to get my heart rate up into Zone 5 as I made one final kick for the finish. Dee Dee was there to catch the moment as I headed for the finish line.
Some guy blew past me on the way to the finish, again, in my age group, but I was really done racing by this point and just wanted to get it over.
After crossing the finish line, I grabbed Dee Dee and headed back to the car. With a quick shower and a change, we were on the road back to Atlanta by 9:30. Dee Dee slept the whole way, while I got us home safely by 11 AM.
I was five minutes slower this year than preceding years. That's about the way things have been going for me. I realized after the race just how tired I am. I'm not sure if I pushed it too hard at the beginning of the year, or what. I just know that I am ready for a break. I have two more weeks to rest up and recoup before Ironman training starts, and I need to get my body and my mind in the right place.
And what a better way than to start that process by climbing Kennesaw Mountain? That's the Father's Day present my 14 year old gave me, and my daughter threw in a delicious Diablo burger and some beers at my local sports bar. It doesn't get any better than this.