Nation’s Triathlon Relay – Race Report (Team Hardbody)
Rise and shine!!! It’s race morning. Nadia and I were kid-free and once we got up, we made a B-line to getting out of the door. This was the Nation’s Triathlon, which is an Olympic distance triathlon right in the heart of the nation’s capital. I did it in 2010 as my first Olympic distance triathlon (Triathlon #2 of 14). Transition opened at 5:00am, but according to the relay wave in the athlete’s guide, we had ample time after transition closed to start the race. To be exact, it was wave #23 out of 29.
I keep race morning breakfast very traditional. If something works well for you and you’re afraid of experimenting, stick with what you know. As I mentioned in previous race reports (ie: Quassy 70.3), race day morning is not the time to try something new. So what does breakfast consist of? Whole Grain Toast with Justin’s Almond Butter, organic strawberry jelly with dry oatmeal sprinkled on top and a sliced banana/bottle of water and 2 salt pills (Salt Sticks). This is my power sandwich and by having it early enough, it breaks down slowly in order to avoid the feeling that there is an anvil in my stomach at the start of the race. This meal isn’t where I get the race day fuel from. Race day fuel actually comes from the carbohydrate-rich meal 48 hours prior which for me, proceeded my long swim workout. The key for pre-race breakfast on race morning is to top off your glycogen tank and a some good fat to get your wheels turning (like any other day). Always remember not to have that big meal the night before. The last thing you want is a full belly of noodles on race day as the rate of digestion varies by person and poo-pooing mid-race will ruin your time. IJS!
For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been experimenting with Powerbar’s gel chews versus GU Chomps that I’m accustomed to having. There was nothing wrong with the GU Chomps, but I like variety. The goal is to have your concentrated nutrition of choice approximately 30-45 minutes prior. Any sooner and you run the risk of looking for a port-a-potty. On to the swim, the buoys for this race were ginormous and were spaced out every 100 yards with the distance plastered on the side of each. We had an Olympic start with approximately 7-8 racers starting at a time. You sit down on the dock and at the sound of the “GO”, you jump in feet first into the 9 feet deep Potomac River. The water was warm, murky and compared to 2010, it was not crowded. I breathed on both sides like I normally do and sighted (the practice of intentionally looking forward while swimming to avoid going off course), like I practiced. Every few hundred yards I would relax to make sure I was heading in the right direction…this being said AFTER I failed to sight properly at around 600 yards. The water was choppy coming back to the dock, so there was more work that I had to put out. No race condition is perfect, so you recover quickly, rely on your training and finish. I felt like I could have put out more energy on the swim, but you also have to trust your judgement and conserve when necessary. I know that my heart rate is normally very high at race exit, so to avoid any dizziness, it was a good choice for me. Swim time: 42 minutes
T1: Nadia was cheering as I ran in and I ran to my bike. Bike shoes were attached to my bike, but with this course, you have a decent run from the bike racks to the bike mount line (where you are allowed to get on the bike). There were approximately 4,000 racers, so the field is huge. So the downside was that I was barefoot for about 150 yards through grass, dirt and a little gravel. Not a problem, just a reminder to those who clip their bike shoes to their bikes.
Bike Start (Distance 40K/26 miles – Shawn’s perspective)
Since I ran a good distance bare foot, I rested my foot on the top of my bike shoes for the first mile or so keeping the RPMs high (90+). First, to dry my feet off and secondly, to make sure I didn’t have any pebbles in between my toes to irritate me once secured. The bike course was well marked, lots of volunteers and very technical. Technical means that you better pay attention because there are some tight turns, some merging, no passing zones and instances where you just have to be alert. Once my feet were in, I had a few more Powerbar gel chews since it was 45 minutes since the last intake. I also had a few sips of water and I was ready to rock-n-roll. I average over 20 mph for the entire race and it felt good. Rather, it felt great. Making sure to push and pull on each stroke and I had a goal and it was to stay under 1:20 minutes. This was a great confidence booster for the upcoming races to come in 2014 and I wanted to push it. After looking at my Garmin data, there were some scenarios where I remember shifting poorly and ended up with a slower RPM, but you can’t cry over spilled milk. So, what did I see on the bike course that can help you? (1) Always know how to fix a flat quickly. I saw a lady freaking out and (2) Understand that passing on the right of a biker isn’t a good idea. I saw someone attempt to do that and it could have ended horribly. Bike time: 1:17 minutes
T2: Transition was seamless. I came in and Nadia was right there. She snatched the timing chip and my bike as planned (within the relay transition pen). The way they had it set-up was efficient. Once she had my bike, she took it into transition to rack it and then she went out on the run. She was in BEAST MODE!!! I was quarantined to the relay pen. I had taken the backpack from her, freshened up and went to grab some food. LOTS OF FOOD!!!! Then eased over to the finish line to cheer my lady in. It was a great vibe and it’s always amazing to see people give their all for the last 100 yards to the finish line.
Run Start (Distance 10K – Nadia’s perspective)
I found myself having to remind myself that I was here to race, and that I wasn’t just a “spectator” today! I was so engrossed in waiting to see Shawn on the bike so I could cheer him on, I literally snapped out of my trans and headed over to the relay coral, literally 13 minutes before Shawn appeared. Tag……………I’m it!!!!!!!!! As I started my leg of the race, I began experience some cramping in my hamstring which had me wondering “did I drink enough water?”, “am I fully hydrated?”, “what the hell was I thinking?”. I literally had to tell my mind to be quiet and simply enjoy the moment. Once I calmed my nerves and began to enjoy the scenery, I was able to get in a zone. I was shocked when I saw the “mile 3” sign, because it seemed to come fairly quickly. Then next thing you know, I’m approaching “mile 5”. By now, all I could tell myself was “finish stronger”! That was my goal and that’s what I did. Once I saw that finish line, it was a WRAP!!!! Time to bring it home for the team……………………………………….TEAM HARDBODY! Run time: 1:26 minutes
Would we do this again? Absolutely!! The relay was a great opportunity to rely on your partner to perform at their best. It takes the pressure off of you to train for each leg, which is time consuming and not everyone feel confident in attempting all three sports in one day’s event. If you are strong in one sport (swimming, biking or running), practice and become proficient. A great goal is to build your relay team based on those strengths and tackle races like Nation’s as a team. We had a great time cheering not only one another, but seeing people of various fitness levels do their best. You work hard on making your health a priority, why not put it to the test? We look forward to doing more races as TEAM HARDBODY.
Yours in health,
Shawn & Nadia
Hardbody Outdoor Fitness, LLC