Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Race Report: Cohasset Sprint Triathlon


Elle: Finally, I get to race! Granted, just a week prior I had oral surgery, and still have stitches in my mouth. And barely got cleared by my dentist to do any rigorous exercise. And I haven't been able to do any training to speak of. But still! I was just glad that I was finally getting in the first triathlon of the season. And considering how my year has gone, I had zero expectations. But I was ready to get out there, sport my TeamWater.org tri suit for the first time, and get back into the swing of things.

Webb: Elle had to race Cohasset. This was the first race we registered for this season because it sells out so fast. Indeed this year I believe it sold out in 90 minutes for 900 spots. We knew it would be tough to get in, so we wanted to find out about the hype. Why is this race so popular? Does it deserve it or is more like a crowd drawing a crowd? Also five celebrities (of sorts) were going to be in the race.

Here is the deal, if you are remotely famous (but not for being an athlete), then I want to beat you. That is just how it is. It is a flaw of mine. I accept that. This year former US Senator Scott Brown and recent US Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez would be racing. (Apparently both have done it for several consecutive years.) My goal: Beat them. Oh and to come in under 1:10. The other celebrities were all athletes. Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, Jr., was there doing the race again. The big thrill though was racing alongside Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick. If you don't know them, take the time to read about them. They are an incredible example of how sport is about more than just competition. (Yeah, I get the irony about writing that right after talking about the vanity of my goal to beat celebrities.)

Elle: Our good friends Lenny & Lisey had just recently bought a gorgeous home in Cohasset that happens to be right on the race course and less than a mile from transition. They graciously let us spend the night, and it was like being at an upscale boutique hotel. Absolutely lovely. We got there the day before to pick up our race packets and were able to get everything together and ready for race day. We had a nice, early dinner of sushi, and then back to the house to watch the Red Sox and relax. Sweet.

Webb: Mmmmmm tuna and avocado maki.
Race morning, the frosty water awaits...

: Spirits were high in transition on race morning - I think people were happy about the weather. I ended up loaning my extra race belt to one woman, and my body glide to another - hey, it's all about being friendly, and helping out your fellow racers, right? And as always, it's fun running into friends at the races. There were several BTT'ers, of course Beth Allen, and we also saw Leslie, whose husband, David, rode along with us a couple of weekends earlier. In the weekends leading up to the race, Webb and I did some practice rides on the bike course, and one of those times David came with us. We had met in the parking lot, got to talking (of course!), and the rest is history.

Webb: The weather was definitely perfect or close to it. And staying so close to the TA, we were able to get down there in plenty of time to ... wait ... warm-up??? We set up our bikes and gear and then set out for an easy 10 minute jog. The plan was then to hop on the bikes for a 10-minute spin before donning our wetsuits and wading out into the Arctic Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately there was a mix-up in communication that kept us off our bikes. The RD emailed prior to the race recommending everyone just relax and enjoy the event, including going for an easy bike and splash in the water to get acclimated before the race. Well, it turns out that once your bike is in the TA, it does not go out until you are out of T1. That was annoying, although to be honest, doing any kind of warm-up is kinda new to me.

Elle: We were anxious to get in the water, since we heard it was going to be chilly. Holy cold ocean, Batman, it was! It was the kind of cold that gives you a brain freeze when you put your head under. My favorite part was BTT'er Jessica Douglas  coming out of the pre-swim saying, "Well, that's enough of that!"
"You want me to do what
in my wetsuit?

Webb: My bones still ache a little as I recall that first entry into the water. <shudder> Anyway, Cohasset is unique to us in that the swim waves have healthy gaps between them. You are given an estimated swim start, but the way they do it is to wait for the last swimmer of the prior wave to reach a particular buoy. My wave started three minutes later than anticipated and probably a full half-hour before Elle's wave.

THE SWIM: 1/4 mile point-to-point ocean

Webb: I spent longer than I would have liked in that freezing water getting used to it, as if any normal person could get used to it. Standing on the beach waiting our turn I was afraid I would re-acclimate to the beautiful air temperature. I pushed it out of my mind and tried to think about how I was going to manage this dry start. It had been awhile since I had to run into a mass swim start, because this was a definite run-in. We must have had a good 20-30ft of sand to cross before entering the water.
Elle & Leslie - ready to race!

As you might guess, once they sent us off and the adrenaline was surging, the water temp was far from my mind. Once I was knee-deep I remembered back to Elle dolphin-diving at Timberman. I figured I would give it a shot. I leapt into the froth and immediately filled both sides of my goggles with sea water. Wonderful. I went back to high-knee fast-walking whilst simultaneously clearing my goggles. Once in the swim I tried to put my Escape the Cape experience to good use: Find feet and swim straight. I think it worked. But oh wow I was tired. From the get-go I was done. I told myself, forget about the race, just swim, follow those feet, or those, maybe even those, and keep moving. That seemed to work until I turned left toward the shore to make a final, hard push. Oops! Wrong buoy. I had to swim back into the fray and turn at the next (i.e., last) buoy. This was not the start I had planned.

Elle: I actually ended up having a good swim. As soon as the gun went off, we all dashed into the surf, and, like Webb said, with all of the adrenaline running, the water temp wasn't really an issue anymore. And I tried a new technique today, instead of bilateral breathing, I only breathed to the right, and thus swam faster and straighter, amazingly. Things are going well so far!

T1: That's a lot of sand

Webb: Out of the water and up the beach. And up the beach some more. And then up a little more beach. Ok, it wasn't that far. In fact, I've probably had longer runs into T1. It was probably my wacky swim that made it feel like it was far. When I finally arrived at my bike, everything went fairly well. I had a little trouble with the wetsuit, but nothing major. Given my dumb T1 at Escape the Cape, I was much better at getting into my old routine.

Elle: But for some reason my T1 was kinda of a mess. I'd like to think it's due to lack of practice. Or maybe the cold water had frozen my brain a little...

THE BIKE: 12 miles of rolling hills
Webb rocks the bike...

: I didn't know what was going to happen on the bike course. Two weeks prior I woke up with a strained muscle in back. Since then I had done little exercise. For instance, I swam once only to learn that rotating to breathe hurt. That was  bummer. I had done the bike course after the back incident with Elle and the aforementioned David (Leslie's husband). My back didn't bother me much then. But I did that on my road bike and going at an easy pace. On this day I was supposed to be racing, hunched over my aero bars on my tri bike. What would happen? A splendid bike time apparently.

The course is neither easy nor hard; it is challenging. And it is quite possibly the most beautiful sprint bike course I have ridden. St Croix's sprint course is harder and not quite as scenic. It runs through the southern coastal part of Massachusetts that is reminiscent of parts of English wetlands. The non-wetland parts are typical quaint New England towns. I started out pretty hard to test my back. Not only did it not hurt, it felt great. Pretty quickly I fell into a rhythm with four guys as we worked together to push ourselves. About five miles in I accepted that the guys were pushing me too hard so I let them go. Wouldn't you know it, but within a mile or so, we were back at it. All of the guys were great offering each other encouragement. I'm not certain but I think we all cruised into T2 within a minute of each other.
...while Elle rolls the bike

: The bike was fine - I felt good. I  kept yo-yoing with this one woman, which seems to happen kind of often for me. She was good natured about it, and even turned to me at the end as she passed me for the final time and said, "Alright, c'mon, let's go!"

Webb: Yo-yo.

T2: Helmet off! shoes on.

Webb: I was not sure how fast I rode but I knew it felt great. I was in and out of T2 pretty quickly but did not look at my watch until I almost hit the Run Out exit: 45 minutes and change. Nice. All I had to do is run 3.2 miles in under 25 minutes. I can do that.

Elle: T2 - Finally it happened. I did the one thing I'm always afraid of doing - I ran of of T2 with my helmet on! And of course all the people cheering at the 'Run Out' arch yelled as I passed by, "HELMET!!!" Dammit! I unlatched my helmet, ran a couple of steps back and dropped it off right inside the transition area, fully believing that a good samaritan would hold it or return it to my bike. That's the way triathletes are. Good people. (fingers crossed!)

THE RUN: 3.2 uneasy miles

The suffering is evident
Webb: The run is hard. Out of T2 you have about a 1/4 mile of undulating false-flats until you turn right and begin a looooooong, low grade ascent that just takes out of you whatever you kept on the bike. You reach the top and are greeted with a pleasant and too brief descent off to your right. The course then rises up again before taking an easy jaunt onto Jerusalem road. This road is gorgeous even as you are thinking about quitting and sitting on the shoulder to have a good cry. First it takes you up a hill and then drops you down near a wetland where there are birds and beauty and happiness and none of it is for you because you are about to climb a soul-crushing hill in two stages. It sucks. The descent from this monstrosity brings no relief. It is not that your quads will tremble, it is quite simply because you are done, even if you are not finished, and there is still .7 miles. Or at least that is how I felt.

I was so worn down climbing the first hill out of T2 that I told myself not to look at my watch until I made the summit of Jerusalem Hill. Two weeks earlier (the day before the back symptoms arrived) I set a new 10-mile PR on the Firehouse Run that features the famed Newton hills of the Boston Marathon.
Plus my 5k PR off the bike (set in 2012) is under 22 minutes, so I knew (I knew!) if I ran hard I could comfortably make my goal of 1:10. At the summit I glanced at my watch to see how fast I would need to run the final .7 miles. WHAT? 1:06:40??? Even fresh I could not cover that distance to make 1:10. I dug a little deeper and ran it out finishing in 1:11:37.

: The run was baaaaaaad. I could feel my loss of speed due to injuries & lack of training right away. And it was hot. And humid. And hilly. I just did my best and didn't stop. I still passed a bunch of folks, but I was definitely not at my normal, speedy pace. But today was all about getting back out there and having fun. And I was really happy to be there. It was great running past Lenny & Lisey's place, less than a mile from the finish line.
They were clapping and supporting from their driveway and even wrote words of encouragement in the road with chalk - super nice touch!

It felt sooooo good to run under that 'Finish' arch - the first race of the season - DONE! And there was Nicole (whose sister was also racing) and Natasja at the finish line, clapping and taking photos. Gawd, I love this.

Post Race Wrap-Up
Elle: Of course Beth Allen came in first in her age group, that rock star. And even with my less-than-stellar time, I ended up beating Gabriel Gomez (woohoo!), but not Scott Brown, who is surprisingly fast! We hung around post-race, chatting with friends and fellow athletes. All in all, I think a good day was had by all. We packed up our gear and rode back to Lenny & Lisey's glorious home, and then proceeded to take a ride in their super snazzy Caddy to get ice cream. This made Goose very happy (see photo below).

Goose smiles for the camera

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