Well, the night before my next race seems like as good a time as any to reflect on my last race. Seven days ago I raced the Columbia Triathlon in Maryland. It was the most challenging triathlon course Iâ€™ve ever done, which made for an interesting race. The field, which normally stays relatively close when the quality of the field is high, blew apart after exiting the water. The swim was an easy lake swim, but the first transition was a steep climb uphill and onto the highway. There was an immediate hill after starting the bike, and then the road kept rolling upwards for the first 5 miles of the course. After that the undulations became greater and greater, like a wooden rollercoaster at the carnival, we whipped up, down, and around the countryside. Several times during the race I mumbled obscenities to myself, I was so shocked by just how much harder the race was than expected.
I started off strong on the bike, but Cameron Dye was stronger. I had him in my sights for about 5 miles, but then he was gone. About the time I lost sight of him Andrew Yoder caught me and blew by. It was everything my legs could do to keep him in sight on the straight-aways, but around the 20k half-way mark I got pulled over for a stagger penalty. Andrew was way up the road, far enough that I could only see him on the climbs. He was using the full road to take the fastest lines possible through the turns . According to the rules I have to be staggered off the next person in front of me, no matter how far up the road that person may be. I was having trouble keeping track of what part of the road he was on because he was far enough ahead, I also had Jimmy Seear riding a bike length back on the other side of the road, making it pretty hard for me to change sides. Since the road was windy, and the stagger rule doesnâ€™t apply on windy sections (I thought) I just stuck to the yellow line and only looked far enough ahead to navigate â€“ not all the way up to Andrew. The ref told me that I had been in direct line with Andrew for 8 seconds and that would be a penalty. So I stood down, took my penalty, thanked the ref for waiting until the top of a hill to pull me over, then went on my way. A couple miles later I caught Jimmy as he was finishing a penalty for the exact same violation off Andrew. I guess triathlon and basketball are alike in some ways, you can apparently ride in such a way that the people behind you are unable to follow the rules. You can give your competitors fouls, much like the â€œflopâ€ in basketball. I will remember this for the next time I have people who are actually drafting behind me, and Iâ€™ll remember it also when the refs donâ€™t call penalties on similar situations, like the solo athlete sitting right behind Cameron and me at St. Anthonyâ€™s.
Moving on. I came into T2 WAY back from Cameron Dye. Over three minutes. Even without the penalty, Cameron spanked me by more than I could possibly have made up on the run. I started running right in front of Jimmy, but opened a gap in the first mile. Up ahead was Yoder, but the course was twisty and I had no idea how far. I think he was about 2 minutes ahead starting the run.
The run course was even harder than the bike. I had ridden only the first mile and last mile of the run, and thought that it was a little hilly, but tolerable. Wrong. There were some really big hills, and really big descents. There were a few flat sections, but they were short and seldom. Mostly we were going straight up or straight down. I crossed the finish line in 3rd, 18 seconds behind Yoder, and still over two minutes behind Cameron Dye. It was a really hard race. I think I said that about ten times after the race, and again every time anyone asked for my opinion. I loved it, but in a painful sort of way. I think Iâ€™ll be back again next year. Especially if I can have the same homestay. She was amazing!