Tuesday, June 21, 2011

RR: Dragonfly Triathlon - Sardis, MS

Dragonfly Triathlon
Sardis. MS - June 18, 2011
0.5m SWIM - 18m BIKE - 4m RUN
Overall: 2:43:10 - 7/8 Athena Division

Executive Summary:  This race was a whole lot of FUN with a challenging RUN course that I was not very well prepared for.  But when I look at the week as a whole, I feel like I did pretty well considering I had a root canal 2 days prior and was racing on sore/tired muscles.  I still feel like I WON (see Prelude to a Race post)

The Rest of the Story:  It was a easy (longish) drive from Millbrook, AL to Sardis, MS on Friday afternoon.  I got into town around 4PM, picked up my race packet and headed to the Super 8 Sardis to check in for the night.  Dinner at Crackerbarrel (Breakfast for Dinner, my GO-TO race meal - 2 eggs, 2 pancakes, glass of milk) and then I spent the night watching TV and relaxing.

Up at 515AM and at the Sardis Damn/National Park by 6:10AM, Transition was "self-selection" so I got a spot second row from BIKE OUT on the end.  Set up my transition space, got my numbers marked (#33) and put on a lot of extra sunscreen.  That took me about 30 minutes and then I still had about 2 hours until my race start so I found a shaded spot and sat and people watched until about 7:30AM.  Then I headed down to the SWIM start and got a nice 10-minute swim warm-up.  The water was perfect - not wetsuit legal - but cooler than the outdoor pool at Maxwell AFB has been lately.  I was looking forward to a nice open-water swim.  Spend some time talking to another woman who asked me some questions about the water and the swim course (bouys on your right - Green Triangles are Turn Bouys) and then admitted that this was her First Triathlon.  I wished her Good Luck and told her to "Just have Fun" and she left to check her bike one more time and I sat on the grass, watching folks getting worked up and excited as the race start grew nearer.  No nervousness for me, these are distances I can handle, just ready to start the day and see how it all pans out!

SWIM: .5 miles - 22:58  Swim started in Waves and, as usual, I was in the last Wave.  The race started at 8:00AM and my wave started at 8:14AM - I was prepared to not see many people and feel "last" for most of the race already.  Even with that in mind, I was pretty confident about what to expect from myself on this swim, around 23:00 is what it has been taking me to do 800yd in the pool and I was hoping, with cooler water and descent siting skills, I would come out in around 20:00.  I had a new experience in this open water swim and that was that it took me a good 400yds to find some "clear water" to swim in.  I spent the entire swim to the first turn bouy in the masses, getting kicked and slapped and generally pushed around - I guess that means that I am hanging with the main group longer than ever but it was pretty annoying.  At one point, just past the first turn bouy, I swam right over a woman - who had stopped to sight (I presume) - I immediately stopped and we both apologized and from that point, I think I slowed down a bit and looked for clear water.  I was less concerned with 20 minutes and more concerned with not getting pummeled and swimming on people at that point. 

T1: 2:15  Happy with transition, I didn't waste much time, just ran up the beach and across the grass to Transition and then quickly rinsed my feet, put on my sock and shoes, helmet and bib number and grabbed Sunshine and we were off on the BIKE course.

BIKE: 18 miles - 1:14:47  Holy Headwind BATMAN!  We started the bike heading into a serious head wind/cross wind and I just got into gear, tucked into my aerobars and focused on spinning.  I was hoping that when we got back, we'd have a nice tail wind all the way back to the park but it was too soon to tell.  The course was nice - FLAT for the first 5.5 miles and then about 1.5 of gradual uphill that included a half mile stair step climb and then about 2 miles of rolling to the turn around.  I knew from reading about the course that after the turn around, we would be riding mostly downhill back to the final 5.5 mile turn so I really focused on spinning effortlessly on the stairstep climbs up - telling myself that I could push hard the entire trip back if I "saved something now."

I passed about 3 people on the way to the turn-around - including one women who stopped at the top of the first half of the stair-step climb, exclaiming, "Oh God, there's another climb!"  which made me giggle a little and yell out "But what goes up, MUST COME DOWN!"  I don't think she appreciated my hill humor much!  Then we got to the turn around and I just put my "hammer" down.  I knew what was coming, I just climbed it and as far as descents go, there was nothing technical or dangerous so I just put the bike in a big gear and kept my promise to myself to PUSH.  I passed 4 people on the return trip and when we turned at Mile 12.5 there is was....TAIL WIND!  It was the perfect gift for all the nasty headwinds on the way out - and I just dropped into my aerobars and hammered my way home - seeing 20mph on the speedometer for most of the last 5 miles...

T2: 2:09  Got back into Transition and there were plenty of people milling around already done with there race but I also knew there were still plenty of people out of the run - so I racked my bike, changed my shoes, grabbed my hat and got going. This T2 should have been faster, considering how little I had to do...

RUN: 4 miles 1:01:01  Truthfully, if it were not for the fact that I passed people on the bike, so I *knew* that I was not going to be the absolutely last person on the course, I might have really not been able to enjoy this run.  I always prefer races where I get to start in a middle wave because then, at least on the RUN, I still feel like there are people around racing with me.  But today I *knew* that nearly everybody that I passed on the bike would - eventually - pass me on the run. 

With that in mind, I did everything that I could to find a nice pace and get my heart rate and breathing settled, early in that first mile.  It was hard, because that first mile is also the last mile, so I had to watch a lot of athletes coming the other direction, who were walking.  Not to mention the woman just ahead of me (about 100 yds) who left transition just in front of me, who was also walking.  Nothing sucks my motivation away more in Triathlons than seeing other people walk because I often think "Well if they are walking, I can walk for a bit, what will it hurt?"

But I fought the urge because I knew this RUN course was different from anything I had done before.  Only 2 miles were on regular paved roads.  The middle two miles were actually a running trail through the woods - with some considerable climbs and descents - so I didn't want to walk in that first mile and loose time.  The Woods were AWESOME FUN and VERY CHALLENGING.

Here is the RUN COURSE description as borrowed from "Can't Stop Endurance" BLOG:

When you exit T2 you follow the same one mile stretch of Cypress Point Drive that you used on the bike.  The first aid station is near the one mile mark just before Hwy 35.

Cross Hwy 35 and veer to the left you will be in the grass headed for the woods.

One of the unique features of DragonFly is that half of the run is on trails.   After a few hundred yards on the grass you reach the trail head for Sandstone Trail.  It is a beautiful, well-maintained trail... but it is not flat.  Not even close.  

As soon as you hit the trail it begins a half mile climb that will get the attention of your heart rate.  Aid station #2 awaits at the top where the trail splits.  Take the right split at the aid station and begin a long gradual downhill counter-clockwise loop. 

When the trail takes a sharp left over this wooden bridge you will be headed back towards the finish. 

The trail flattens for a half mile and crosses a series of wooden bridges.  (Caution: If the bridges are damp they can be slick!)

The end of the loop leads you up another steep climb back to the aid station at the trail split.  Turn right at the aid station and now, depending on your heart-rate and aggressiveness, you can bomb back down to the trail head.

(Caution: there will be two-way traffic on this narrow stretch of trail.  Do your best to yield enough room for others to pass in both directions.)  
Once you reach the trail parking lot you run back across the grass, cross Hwy 35, pass aid station #4 and begin the one mile stretch of Cypress Point Rd that you have already seen three times.  
If it is sunny this will be the hottest stretch of the race due to the lack of shade.  
AND here are my RUN COURSE splits, this was by and far the LONGEST I have ever taken to "run" 4-miles in any race so far.

Mile 1: 13:24
Mile 2: 16:15 (there was inevitably some walking on the steeper parts of this trail)
Mile 3: 14:48 (more running than walking, than gosh)
Mile 4: 14:16 (this last mile I did run/walk intervals for the last 1/2 mile, I was HOT and TIRED)

On this particular course, once you pass the 4-mile flag, its about a 500yd run around transition and to the Finish Line and I refused to walk any of that, no matter how beat down I was from the heat and the "little mountain goat climb" on the run. So I put my head down and got it done - running the last 500 yards at a 13:00 pace (according to Garmin) and there was the Finish Line!

Final Finish Time: 2:43:10 was about 13 minutes slower than I was hoping to do for this course (I was hoping for 2:30 or so) but honestly, I had so much FUN that I really didn't care and in looking at the finish times, overall, while I was very much in the Back of the Pack, there were plenty of other athletes that finished in my time range.

Bottom Line: It was a great race, lots of FUN and while I didn't come anywhere near my goal of finishing Top 3 Athena (Top Place Finished in 2:02 ...I couldn't have come close at this race no matter how hard I tried...LMAO) it was still a WIN in my book!

Take THAT Melanoma!  It might have taken me 6 years but damnit, I DID come back and race Dragonfly Triathlon!

Life is Good! Live STRONG!


RoKa said...

Way to go Hollly!! :-) Challenging runs are rough but it seems like you conquered it like a true champ.

IronLinae, PhD said...

I feel the same way about the swim these days. Clean water is so nice. Way to finish the Dragonfly Tri!