A Callaway Gardens Super Sprint Race Report
The alarm clock kicked off at 4:20 on back to back race weekends for me. For Dee Dee, it was to be her first race of the season. We loaded the car up to head out as close to five as possible. I was pleased to see Dee Dee bring her tri-bike out to the car. Yes, I assured her, the bikes were securely fastened to the bike rack.
We were just a few minutes shy of 5 AM pulling out of the drive way, and the sky was visibly lightening just as we reached the other side of Atlanta. Around Newnan, a few more automobiles with bikes on the back began to appear on the road. We waved “hi” to our Waffle House as we exited the interstate for the 10 mile drive or so to Callaway Gardens. No time to dally. Somebody was about to have an impending explosion. We hustled through the entrance and found a parking spot right next to the pavilion where race registration was ongoing. This was the perfect spot for our immediate needs, but not so good for race logistics.
The biggest challenge at Callaway is finding a good spot on the racks for the bikes. We gathered that this year was less crowded as they were taking race day registration for the first time ever. As I walked the bikes to transition, it became apparent that this year’s field was smaller. I put Dee Dee and my bike on an open rack right next to a big tree, then walked back to the pavilion to pick up my registration. Dee Dee met me there, and we breezed through packet pick up and marking. This race is rather casual in that they don’t put race numbers on helmets or bikes, and they only mark your wave number on you calf. The usual assortment of bikes was present, and Dee Dee and I laughed quietly at some of them. A few bikes had three (or more) bike bottles on them for a 9 mile bike course!
Our bike pump was in the car, so we stopped by there on the way back to transition. We spent a few minutes getting setup, and I pumped up both our sets of tires, then walked the bike pump back to the car. At 7:30, Dee Dee and I headed down to the lake for our warm up swim. I told Dee Dee I would meet her at the far corner and got bizzy wid it. They had moved the buoys further in, and in some places, the water was barely 3-4 feet deep. The good news was that unlike previous years, the skies were overcast and the water was relatively cool. I guess the lake had gotten some rain recently.
At 7:45, the race announcements took place. Starting at 8 AM, the various age group waves hit the water. I was in the third wave. Dee Dee was in the 8th, I think. After the first wave went off, I kissed her good bye and lined up behind the second wave. You got to get in the water early to get a good position on the end of the line. After the second wave went off, I quickly moved into position on the end of the line. The water wasn’t as deep as it usually is. While we were waiting to get started, one of the triathletes stated that somebody had drowned last year (but resuscitated, I think). That was why the buoys were closer to shore. Another guy was complaining that his 310XT wouldn’t pick up us heart rate. I laughed and recommended to him that he not wear his HR strap in the water. I heard the RD start the count down from 10 seconds. I hit start on my watch, and we were off.
This race, I was going “nekkid”: no Garmin for me! For the first 40-50 yards, my wave surged, and I’m right in the mix. I begin bumping up against the guy on my right before he passes me, then the guy on my left begins to dance with me. I’m holding a straight line to the buoys and he is trying to go off course.
Man, I think to myself, these guys are fast!
By the time we reach the first buoy, I’m behind the lead pack of 5-6 swimmers and I’m going hard. I’m trying to decide at this point if this is the effort I want to hold for the entire swim. I was at puke pace +5. I decide its not a good idea and slow down a bit to catch my breath. I’m at the first turn buoy in no time. I feel a guy on my right hip, and I leave him a little room at the turn. I peak my head up to site on the next buoy, and all I see is a swarm of yellow caps from the preceding wave. What a coincidence that the buoys are also yellow. None the less, I see it sticking out above the crowd, and I settle back into my swim. Periodically, I feel somebody drafting on my feet, and I dodge the breast strokers and walkers. At one point, I have to dolphin dive to get around a group of walkers. From this point onward, the swim into shore was pretty easy. I achieved a rhythm that was comfortably hard for me, and brought it home. The only question was when to start running through the water. I swam a little further than most people and started my run about 30 feet from shore. Unlike previous years, I wasted no time getting up the hill and across the timing mat. I hit “lap” on my watch at the waters edge, and I was rewarded with a 6:19 swim time, my best ever.
Official swim time: 6:47 2nd in Age Group. This proves there is no need to get flummoxed by burn and crash swimmers at the starting line!
I tried to run through transition this year, but I was seriously out of breath, and the rocky pavement is just not conducive to running. I quickly found my bike and got everything on, grabbed my bike and trotted to the other end of the parking lot. This year, I made sure my chain was on, and my bike was in a low gear. I had a wee bit of trouble getting clipped in, but nothing serious. Wheels were on the pavement and rolling in no time.
Official T1 time: 2:07
They bill the bike course as a 10 miler, but the reality of it is that it’s an 8.4 mile loop around the lakes at Callaway. There are a few slight up hills, a few sharp turns, but for the most part, it’s built for speed. All the excitement of the bike ride happened in the first 3 to 4 miles. I’m behind some dude on a ten speed when I heard a loud “POP”, and his front tire went flat. I had to slow down a bit to both let him over and to make sure he wasn’t going to crash.
Not more than a mile later, I hear the whir-whir-whir of a tri-bike coming by with race wheels. I’m not really worried about what anybody else is doing, but I don’t like being passed by people in my age group. This guy goes past me, gets up the road about a 75 yards, and I hear the sound of metal on pavement, followed by a crash. The man had gone around a corner in aero, bent over too far, and his pedal had hit the ground. I slowed down a bit to check on him, but when I saw a volunteer rushing over, I continued with my race.
The rest of the bike course was one Z5 blur. I did my best to hold effort, but there were times that I wondered if last week’s race was making it’s presence felt. I pulled my feet out of my shoes on the final straight away into transition. I jumped from my bike with no problem, but my left shoe came off the pedal (again!), and I had to stop and pick it up. I found my row and started trotting back to my spot in transition. An older lady with “racoon eyes” was coming towards me with her bike. Gotta love a woman that wears eye make up to a triathlon. She asked me where the bike course was. I guess she was a wee bit confused with all the cyclists coming and going. I pointed her in the right direction then hustled over to my stuff.
Official bike time: 22:36, 9th in age group, 22.3 mph
I smiled when saw Dee Dee’s bike was gone from the rack. In our excitement for her to use her new tri bike, we had neglected to get her a tire changing kit for her new 650 wheels. I teased her about not flatting, and told her to “run it in” if she did. Bike to run transition was pretty quick. I dug out my old Zoots for this race, even though they are about ready to be retired. I grabbed a cup of water on the way out of transition, but again, given the length of the parking lot, my T2 time was nothing stellar.
Official T2 time: 1:52
From past experience, I knew I could gauge my run pace when I hit the halfway point on the other side of the lake. I took off at a hard pace, and I just felt like I was gonna die. After you round the nearest side of the lake, what usually happens is you emerge out on the far side in full sun light, with no shade until you reach the aid station. This year, however, was different. It was overcast, and a little cooler. Funny thing happened on the far side of the lake. I found my running rhythm. The pace was still hard, but I was no longer dying.
At the aid station, I decided I didn’t need to stop this year. Usually, I cop a walk, because that’s my way of giving in. Not this year. I glanced at my watch, and I knew there was a chance that I could go sub-50. If you remember, that was my goal for this race in 2009, at which I failed miserably. After the aid station, there is just enough uphill to tweak your legs and remind you how tired you are, then its back to flat and fast running.
I kept asking myself over and over again. How bad do you want this? I ignored the runners in my wave that passed me. This was about me. I heard the band and the finish line through the woods. At the edge of the woods, we make a right onto the side walk. I glance at my watch and mistakenly believe I have two minutes to reach my goal. As I crest the small hill there, I look at my watch again and smile. I was off by a minute. I really had 3(!) minutes to reach my goal. I run down the hill and enter the finish chute. I didn’t sprint this year. I had run a pretty even pace/level of effort for the entire run. I did, however, raise my arms as a crossed the finish line, and I was happy. I hit stop on my watch, and it reported a time of 49:16.
Official run time: 15:59, 8 min pace 17th in age group
I went back out on the course and ran Dee Dee in. She finished in an hour fourteen, two minutes faster than last year. I was very proud of her. It had been almost 18 months since her last triathlon. We spent a little time browsing the expo after the race, and of course, we stopped at our Waffle House for breakfast on the way home. What a fabulous way to start off Father’s Day!
This makes my third PR this year in a row. This is really really sweet after going through all of 2009 and 2010 without really setting any. I don’t want this to end, although I know that it will. For now, I’m going to focus on my final sprint triathlon in July, then its on to the marathon!