“Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup…”
2018 Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon
3/10 AG 19/125 Overall
May 6 2018 – A week after the RTC Sprint I was signed up for the Monticelloman Olympic race in Palmyra. I’d been wanting to do the race for a few years, but it had never made it onto my calendar. I’d signed Leigh Anne up for the Super Sprint race in the East Coast Triathlon Festival, forgetting that both races were on the same day. She was not really happy about having to tackle her tri without me, but Busher was nice enough to go out and watch her race at Innsbrook as I headed off towards Charlottesville.
I was feeling well and rested for the race, with the exception of some nagging left oblique issues, but wasn’t really sure what to expect competition-wise. I also was’t quite sure about the course. I knew that it would be fairly hilly since the race takes place just outside of Charlottesville, and I keep forgetting how hilly that area can be. I’d looked at the course maps and checked the bike and run course profiles in the days leading up to the race, but I really can’t fully wrap my head around a course until I see it in person.
The forecast was calling for mild weather, but rain was expected in the early afternoon. I figured that I’d be done well before the rain began, so I wasn’t worried about that too much. I was more worried about the alarm going off at 3:30 a.m. so I could get on the road by 4:00 a.m. I was out of the house pretty quickly after some oatmeal and coffee, and made it up to Lake Monticello a little after 5:00 a.m.
There were a fair amount of people already in the transition area when I arrived, and I had to go pick up my race packet before they’d let me enter. That was a pretty painless process, and soon enough, I was set up. Interestingly, they had blocks for your bike instead of racks, but I found the setup to be a bit wobbly. I had to prop my bike up just right to keep it from leaning and possibly falling over.
Once I got situated, I went for a short run and then hit the portapotty one last time before putting on my wetsuit. The swim was taking place in Lake Monticello, so I headed down to the beach to survey the swim course. I then learned that the swim started with a 100 yard run down the beach instead of starting in the water. That was new for me, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. After some initial confusion about the priorities of the different swim waves, we all gathered on the beach and waited for the start.
Swim- 27:34 (1:50/100m) (6/10 AG)
I was in the second swim wave of the day, and positioned myself on the water line. We started a few minutes after the first swim wave, and when the gun sounded, I took off running at a pretty good pace. We ran as far as the beach would allow, and then veered right into the water and ran a little more until the water was deep enough to start swimming.
As soon as I put my head in the water I knew that I had a problem. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, which was due to jacking up my heart rate while running down the beach. I tried to swim slowly to get my heart rate under control, but I had to pull up several times to try to catch my breath. This was probably the closest to having a panic attack in an open water swim that I’ve ever had, and it wasn’t very pleasant.
I kept moving forward, but the first 500-600 meters were pretty tough….and pretty slow. Shortly before the first turn buoy things started to get a bit easier, and my breathing was pretty much back to normal. The swim back up the lake was smooth and easy, and I felt like I was making good time by that point. I started catching a few people in the prior swim wave, and was also passing a few people in my wave who had gone by me when I was struggling.
At the 1300 meter mark I hit the last turn buoy and made a right turn to head back to the shore. There were two guys swimming next to me, and it looked like we were having a race to get back to the shore first. Sighting was easy thanks to the inflatable wiggly man on the dock near the swim exit, and eventually it got shallow enough to run out of the water.
I hit the lap button on my Garmin as I crossed the timing mat on the beach and it read 27:34. This was a PR for me by almost a minute and a half, but I was still a little disappointed. I felt like the first 1/4 of my swim was pretty dreadful, but at least I’d learned my lesson about sprinting into the water. Next time I’d take it slower and would probably have a faster swim time.
T1- 1:24 ( 2/10 AG)
It was a pretty long run from the timing mat up to the transition area, but I tried to make it as fast as possible. My heart was thumping pretty good by the time I reached my bike, and I got my helmet and shoes on as quickly as possible and took off for the bike out area. I was quick enough to have the second fastest transition in my age group, and as it would turn out, my transitions and my bike split would be the driving factors in snagging an AG podium spot.
Bike – 1:09:32 (20.7 mph) (2/10 AG)
By the time I mounted my bike, the skies were getting pretty dark, but it wasn’t raining. There was a hill coming out of transition, and then a right turn onto Lake Monticello Road. There were some small hills there, but it was only about a mile before you had to make a right turn onto South Boston Road at a T intersection. The roads were still wet from overnight rain, and the right hand turn was about 110 degrees and at the bottom of a steep hill. The race director had warned us about the turn before the race, and there were signs warning us to slow down. I rode my brakes all the way down the hill to the turn, but with the wet road and my wet tires, I couldn’t physically stop my bike (if I’d needed to). I was able to make the turn, but if volunteers hadn’t been there to stop traffic, it could have been an ugly scene.
After turning right, there was a steep uphill immediately, and the course was a net uphill for the next 13 miles or so. Around mile 5 the skies opened up and it began dumping rain. There were several steep and winding descents in that portion of the course and the rain was coming down so hard that water was running across the road. That made for some dangerous conditions, and I had to take it easy on the downhill portions because I was afraid of hydroplaning or losing it in a turn.
The dumping rain lasted for about 10-15 minutes and then became more of a steady rain. The hills continued, and even though I passed a few other bikers, it just felt like the going was really slow. Around mile 16 I was catching a couple of other bikers, but two cars passed me and got in between us. I couldn’t go around the cars and they couldn’t go around the other bikers. I was held up for a couple of minutes, but the cars continued straight when we turned right onto Martin Kings Road, and then I was finally able to pass the other guys.
I was on my own for the rest of the bike course, but it was mostly downhill from there. I was able to lay in aero for the remainder of the ride and began making really good time. There was standing water in some spots and some slippery corners, but at least the rain had already done its worst. The last 8-9 miles of the bike were fast and fun, and I was actually a little disappointed to have it end. My bike split was the second fastest in my AG, and I’ve seen a ton of improvement in my biking ability after two years of doing coach Erin’s workouts. Some of her workouts are brutal, and at times, I like to remind her that Erin is a four-letter word.
T2 :1:32 (3/10 AG)
T2 was not quite as fast as T1, but was still pretty good. I was, perhaps, a tad too concerned about making sure that my bike was properly racked so that it wouldn’t come crashing down, so racking it took longer than normal. I then switched shoes, grabbed my race belt and visor and was off. My legs felt pretty heavy as I made my way to the run out area, but that’s pretty normal and I figured that it would abate soon enough.
Run- 49:15 (7:57 min/mile) (6/10 AG)
Miles 1-3 (7:56)(8:17)(8:11)
My goal was to run at an 8:00 minute pace or faster, and my stretch goal was a 7:45 pace. I figured that’d be out of reach due to the hills, but I was going to try nonetheless. The 6.2 mile run course nothing but hilly suckitude, and it hits you immediately out of transition with an initial climb that is about a third of a mile. The course profile indicated that the “out” portion of the run was mostly uphill, so I knew that my 5k split should be a bit slower than my 10k split.
After the initial climb away from transition, the course flattened out just a bit, but then began climbing once again. There were a few small downhill spots in between the climbs, but some of those were steep enough to really work your quads. The hills were brutal, but at least it wasn’t hot. I was having trouble hitting my 8 minute miles, but I was still hoping to make up some time coming back in.
Miles 4-6 (8:10)(7:58)(8:04)
I was pretty happy to hit the halfway point since it was a net downhill coming back in. There was a short downhill portion to start mile 4, but that was immediately followed by another fun climb. That process repeated itself pretty much all the way back. The run was really taking its toll on me, more so than I had predicted.
The course flattened out again around mile 5, but then closed with a final climb that was about a quarter of a mile long. There had been a guy ahead of me for a while in the last couple of miles, and I had finally gotten within striking distance of passing him. I threw down everything I had left in the final 200 meters and was able to pass him just before we crossed the line. When I was behind him, I wasn’t sure if he was in my AG, and I didn’t want to give up a spot to him if at all possible.
My official pace for the run was 7:57, which was bit faster than my GPS pace since my GPS was slightly off on the mileage (6.09). I was OK with that pace, particularly since the run had felt pretty shitty from start to finish. Still 6/10 on the run in my age group isn’t good enough, and I still need to improve in that discipline. Karen and her 800 meter repeats have been helping, but hot, nasty, bad-ass running speed has never been in my DNA, so I’m still a work in progress. Karen still has her work cut out for her.
After crossing the line and collecting my medal, I grabbed a slice of pizza and then found fellow Pro-K teammate, Justin Koehler, who had finished less than a minute after me. He’d had a monster run, and his run was the fastest in our age group. Had the run course been much longer, he would have caught me for sure.
When we checked the results we saw that I was third and he was fourth in the 40-44 AG. I was happy to be on the AG podium for the second time in two races in 2018, and had missed out on second place by only 23 seconds. Of course, I immediately began to wonder how I could have been 24 seconds faster on the day. That’s not a lot of time in a 2.5 hour race, but I felt like I’d left it all out on the course. I didn’t have anything on my schedule until the Robious Landing Triathlon in late June, so I had some time to do a little more speed work.