Monday, October 24, 2011

Race Report: Hickory Knob International Triathlon

1,500 meter open water - 28m bike - 10k run

Results (based on chip time):

Swim 32m 43s (1:59 min/ 100 yards) GR 2/26 AG 1/4
T1 2m 20s
Bike 1h 38m 51s (speed  17.0 mph) GR 7/26 AG 3/4
T2 2m 17s
Run 1h 04m 18s (pace 10:22 min/mile) GR 17/26 AG 4/4

TOTAL 3h 20m 27s GR 10/26 AG 4/4
GR= gender rank AG= age group


My friend and tri team buddy Audrey and I took off Friday afternoon for Greenwood, where we would stay the night and then drive the remaining 20 miles to McCormick at race morning. Once in Greenwood, we checked in the hotel, had dinner (Italian... I overdosed on bread) and then watched Wipe Out on TV until the lights went off.

I tossed and turned all night, not because of races nerves, but because of the poor quality of the bed. The next morning I was awake before the alarm at 6am (race start at 9am rocks!) and we slowly got our stuff together and hit the road a little before 7am. I had a banana in the hotel room and then a cashew cookie larabar in the car... That seem to be just the amount of fueling I needed.

We got to the race site, got body marked and set-up transition. Talked with some friends and then just went through the pre-race routine. Audrey was doing the sprint, I was signed up for the international. I really felt stupid for signing up for the international, I was dreading the temps (water was 67 degrees) and everyone around me had toe covers over their bike shoes and gloves. In a bright moment the day before, I threw my cycling wind breaker in my bag and that really saved me.

My feet already felt like frozen stomps by the time I was finally squeezed in my wetsuit and zipped up. But once I sat on the dock and put my feet in the water, I knew I would be fine. The water felt warmer than the air at that point and wearing my neoprene swim cap over the race issued swim cap probably helped too.

One thing that I haven't mentioned here before, is that I have been battling lower back pain for a couple of weeks now. I have been mostly ignoring it, because I thought it's going to go away eventually and it sometimes does, but Saturday was not one of those days and the above mentioned bed certainly didn't help. Funny enough, I was able to train pretty normal, because I don't feel the pain much while swimming, cycling and running in training, but the volume of pain also was turned up a notch in the last couple of days. When the friendly lady next to me in transition zipped my wetsuit up, I felt the pressure on my lower back immediately and while I wasn't worried about the swim or bike, I kind of mentally braced myself for potentially walking the 10K.


While I really struggled the last time I raced in a wetsuit and sorta blamed the wetsuit for it, I knew the moment I was in the water, that this is going to be a good one... I was just calm and relaxed and for the first time looking forward to doing this race. There was no chop, the sun was up and the fog we saw earlier had disappeared.

The first 200 meters I bumped into people on and off and some people bumped into me. Nothing bad though. Eventually I found some feet that looked like they were going at a good clip and just latched on to them. I stuck with her until after the first turn buoy (500 meters), but then we ran into some traffic from the previous wave and I lost her for a while until I was able to draft some more after the second turn buoy at the 1000 meter mark.

Eventually, we ran into the sprint swimmers and from then on, I just booked it in a straight line back to the dock where I just reached my hand to one of the volunteers and with one big pull, I was flopped on the dock (think beached whale here for a second). The speed of all of this took me by surprise and I needed a second to get on my feet.

The last part of the swim was the run hike up to transition where the timing mat was. My back was a little peed off after the swim and the first couple attempts to jog from the deck hurt a lot, but since it was all so steep anyways, I just hiked up and by the time I was in the flatter area, the muscles relaxed to a point, where I was able to jog.

I am soooo happy about my swim... Stoked to have the 2nd fasted swim time (disclaimer: the results stated 3rd Saturday night, now they say 2nd, I hope this is the final version now) out of all the women doing the international distance... Stoked about the time itself, especially because it included the run up to transition... STOKED!
Thanks for the picture, Sarah!

My T1 time was certainly a little longer than I like them to be. It took me a while to get out of the wetsuit and throw my jacket and put socks on... All these extra steps! ;-) But other than that, T1 was pretty uneventful and I was on the bike.


My instruction for this leg was: "Ride the bike like you stole it!"

While I thought I had a solid bike, I am not 100% happy with it. I am not quite happy with the time, even though 7th fasted female bike split is not too bad either. I was just really fighting my demons a lot during this ride. Some of it could have been prevented by just studying a course map for once and some elevation charts to get more of a feel of the course and what to expect. I talked to people that did this tri before and they warned me about two miserable hills and one girl said that the whole course is pretty rolling. Well, it felt like the whole course was either going up or going down. There were no really flat sections where you could hammer it out for a couple of miles and the constant up and down was just wearing me out.

Thanks for the picture, JJ!
The first five miles of the course was shared with the sprinters and therefore on the crowded side, but not too bad. I got passed by several women in that section, but really didn't know if they were doing the sprint or the international distance. After the sprint turnaround, there was much less traffic and I saw a couple of guys in the distance and that was about it. A couple of times I got passed by guys but not one woman and I freaked out... I had all kinds of stuff going on in my head, that I was the last on the international course and that the run would be really really lonely. Of course it was BS and instead of focussing my energy on how I manage the wind and the hills and my back (which was fine on the bike as long as I didn't try to eat or drink.. which I still did, but it was painful)... I let my mind worry about that stuff. Not good! In the last five miles of the course, I got passed by a couple of women and trying to keep them in my site until getting to transition was giving me the focus that I needed.

On my way back to transition, I saw Audrey at the car racking her bike being done for the day and once again, I wished I had signed up for the sprint distance. I rode up all the way to the dismount line, unclipped and tried to start running with the bike, when the sh!t hit the fan.


The moment I tried to stand upright, the muscles in my lower back were seizing up on me. I don't know, if I cried out or if I just showed all the pain on my face, but everyone around me suddenly asked if I was alright. I just tried to move forward somehow.... running didn't work and so I walked into transition, to my rack, changed shoes, took of my jacket, grabbed the visor and a water bottle and walked out of transition. While this transition time is slow compared to my regular transition times, it felt so much slower when I actually did it, that I was surprised to find out that it was still faster than my T1 - barely.


While I gingerly walked out of transition, I tried to hold back tears and just get used to the possibility that I might really end up walking this 10K. I tried to start jogging, but it felt like fireworks were being set off in my back and then I just cried for a minute and was back to walking.... After a while of walking, I felt the muscles starting to release in my back and maybe a quarter mile into the run, I tried to run again and it felt alright, so I kept on going and I didn't have any more bad pain until after the race, after I sat in a car for two hours driving home and a good bit into a party that I was at that night... Maybe that was also the Ibuprofen wearing off that I took right after the race. I'll get to this back pain stuff a little more in another post.

After I started running it actually felt pretty decent. I wasn't winning any speed records and was as usual passed by a lot of women on the run, but at least I was running and that made me very happy. I still walked up the steep hills on the course, but other than that, I was running the remainder of the course. At one point, shortly before I reached the turnaround, I actually noticed that I let my focus slide again and wasn't even close to pushing it.... So I started to push more.

In the last mile of the run, I saw a girl in front of me and I made it my mission to pass her and I made it... I was actually picking up speed in the last couple of miles and felt like I had still something left in the tank* crossing the finish line... Even though breathing was really hard for a couple of minutes right after the finish. That's unusual for me.

*I will follow-up on this in a post, I want to write about my off season goals... And this tri was far from going perfect for me, but so perfect to send me into the off season showing me the things I need to work on!


I went for a bbq sandwhich  right after I crossed the finish line. Then packed up my stuff and waited for the awards ceremony. I was hoping to place in my age group, but that didn't happen, but given that all four of the girls in my age group ended up in the top 10, I can't be too mad about it. Also, the girl in 3rd was 6 minutes faster than me, so it's not like a faster transition or something like that was the deal breaker.

We then drove home rehashing the race, the season and everything else triathlon related. After that, I got even more tri stuff in by going to an Ironman send off party for some of my team mates, before finally calling it a day. At the end, I couldn't sit or stand anymore with my back, so it was time to head home.

While I was dreading this race for weeks and then cursed myself for signing up for the international instead of the sprint... Looking back now, I think it was the perfect ending for the season.


  1. "Ride the bike like you stole it!" = Hysterical!

    I think it sounds like you really had a good race - especially since your back was bothering you so much! Congratulations & enjoy your off season now!

    I'm leaning towards racing 1 more time this weekend - but I'm dreading it because I don't have a wetsuit OR a windbreaker! Water temps are already at 70* (or less by now) and it's been in the 50s here in the morning - I'm going to freeze!

  2. impressive nonetheless - especially toughing out that back pain. i would say that you still felt like you had some left in the tank b/c you were forced to hold back a little at the end of the swim and start of the run?

    congrats on a great swim and solid bike placement!