KO-lumbia!!! First Tri of 2011

Two days before Columbia, after a morning swim workout, Zack proudly announced that the Columbia Triathlon could turn into a duathlon. Beaming, he proclaimed that "as of this morning, the bacteria levels in the lake were too high for the water to be safe enough to swim in. It's all that rain from the past week." I glared at his smile, angry that the race I'd been looking forward to for five months might cancel my favorite leg. Bacteria? Psh, babies survive when they stick pennies and snot in their mouths! Columbia shouldn't - they couldn't - cancel the swim.
Sure enough, Facebook soon announced that Howard County had deemed the lake waters had passed the standards. Hallelujah! I danced a silent victory in my work cubicle, relieved that the Rain Gods hadn't caused too much damage.

Morning of the race:
At 4:23 am, Bart woke me up. "Aren't you supposed to be getting ready?"
I panicked. I couldn't have slept in; I'd set 3 alarms on my cell phone! "Whata buta it's not time..." I mumbled as I tried to rally up my senses to start the day. I brushed my teeth and put on my Snapple tri kit, made some extra-strong coffee, and went over my packing list for the fourth time. Turns out that I was the only one ready to do some conquering today; Bart's stomach had been bothering him all night, so I got a good-luck kiss before leaving him standing in his boxers and rubbing his stomach like a mute five-year-old.
Arriving into transition, I quickly found Penelope. It's easy to spot my bike - it's the only one whose front wheel (yes, those would be 650s) can't even touch the ground. She'd been racked the night before and at 5:45 am had dewdrops on her seat and body. I wiped her down, stuck my water bottle in its cage, and pumped up the tires. I'd bought Penelope only 3 weeks before Columbia, after a war with myself over the reasons why I should - and shouldn't - invest in a tri bike. Penelope and I are still very much in the honeymoon phase. Every morning when I see her hanging vertically in the laundry closet, I want to hop on her Adamo saddle and ride, ride, ride.

I set up my bike and run gear on a tiny towel, chatted with some old Team in Training friends, and took one last trip to the Port-A-Potty. Waves of age-groupers were heading out every 8 minutes at the swim start already.
My twin sister Phebe was roaming around near the swim entrance, and I was happy that I found her before I jumped in the water. I was giddy. I couldn't wait to swim a couple of strokes to get my shoulders used to my Xterra Vendetta wetsuit, which I hadn't worn in over 8 months. I pulled on my sexy latex swim cap as the wave before me took off, gave Phebe a quick rundown of where she should go after the swim gun went off, and then it was off to the waters!

(This isn't really the Columbia swim start, but a very large lake not anywhere near Maryland with green, instead of pink swim caps...I didn't have anyone taking pictures for me)

Pink caps surrounded me. I was annoyed. My wave combined the Female 25-29 and 30-34 age groups, and I couldn't tell which pink caps lining up at the front row were going to be feet I wanted to catch, and which were going to be run over and clawed through as soon as that gun went off.
At 7:42, we were off. I targeted the first buoy, which happened to be directly in the line of the rising sun, and pushed. I love swimming. I love how natural it feels and how, when my head's underwater, all I'm doing is counting to three and watching the bubbles from my hands. Thanks to Bart's teammate Phil, who had given me a pointer several months back (focus on the follow through of the stroke and accelerate as your hand breaks the water), I settled into a good position. The waters were so muddy that I couldn't see anything, so I just focused on my breathing (1-2-3, 1-2-3) and sighted every 20 strokes. There were no feet to catch, which made me think that I wasn't swimming for the buoys, but soon I came across a struggling grey swim cap that had left in the wave before me. He seemed to be frog-kicking and working harder on splashing than on moving forward horizontally.
Fast forward to the finishing stretch. I saw swimmers merging into one zone, but I have such horrible depth perception that I couldn't tell if the swim finish was 400 meters or 50 meters away. Extend, extend, extend on each stroke, feet on the ground, initial feeling of disorientation as I go vertical...I was stripping out of that wetsuit.
I always struggle to get my wetsuit off because it gets stuck around my ankles. I don't think I have fat ankles, that just seems to be the problem zone for me. This time, I got the wetsuit off my left leg without a problem. Right foot. I tugged and tugged. Why wasn't my wetsuit sliding off? Turns out I was pulling on my chip anklet and my wetsuit, trying to slip both of them off in a rush to hop on Penelope. Oops! I finally got that wetsuit off, buckled my helmet, and hoisted Penelope off the metal rack and out onto the bike course.

Joy ride on Penelope:
Bike felt awesome. I don't believe I have ever said that before! For the first 5 miles, I was dripping from my tri shorts. That thin chamois pad can still retain a lotta water! I don't really think about anything technical, strategical, or worthwhile when I'm biking, so I won't pretend that I focused on my cadence or my aero-ness. Here's what really goes on in Mindy's world when I'm on the bike:
"I hate pointy helmets. That guy looks like a dork and he's getting passed by a 5-foot chick now."
"That guy has four water bottles for a 40K bike? A bit too much agua there, buddy."
"I wonder whether the pros are finishing now."
"Ooooh, nice bike."
"I wonder if Bart's feeling better."
"It's the Eye of the Tiger, it's the cream of the fight..."
"Is that a 15 on his calf!?!?! A 15-year-old boy is passing me?!?!"
"These roundabouts suck."
Alright, so the great thing about Columbia, besides the awesome hills, is the fact that it's a one-loop lollipop course. None of this double-loop crap.
Volunteers started screaming at me to "Slow down! Sloooooooooo dowwwwwn!!!" about 400 meters from T2. Alright, buddy, I'm not going to run into any spectators.
The bike dismount line was a disaster. There were four men trying to clip out at a dead stop on top of the dismount line. No joke. I ran between a bald guy and a hairy guy and into T2.

Run, Forrest, Run!
Pink Zoots on (love those babies), race belt on, visor in hand! I started on the 10K run course, grabbed a water from the first aid station, and slammed the water into my face. It was getting hot without any wind blowing in my face. I started to pass some of the guys who had passed me earlier on the bike. A lot of people seemed to struggle with the hills, choosing to walk. My pace felt good. I'd done some short brick workouts earlier in the year, but my legs didn't really feel like I'd just done 40K on the bike. It helped that there were plenty of aid stations - I grabbed a water at each one and splashed myself in the face with it.

Best part of the run course? Between mile 3 and 4, there were a couple of neighborhood kids with water guns. I locked eyes with one of the little punks and they both sprayed me, bending backwards like they were shooting full-ammo guns. Thanks, boys. That water was perfect.
Sometime during Mile 4, I got redemption. The skinny 15-year-old pre-pubescent boy who had passed me on the bike got chicked on the run. Never mind that I am nearly twice his age and have reached my full physical maturity; I wasn't about to be beaten by a middle-schooler wearing spandex that sagged around his skinny quads.
Mile 5 I got passed by an older guy wearing a red kit. No way, man. I hadn't been passed by anyone on the run yet, so I wasn't about to let it happen at mile 5. I stuck right behind him, thinking that he would break before the finish line. I could tell he knew I was right behind him, and we worked to push each other.
Mile 6, home stretch. Red kit guy and I started ticking off the people who were holding on for the last several hundred meters. He pulled away and I tried to match him, but let's be honest: my short, squat legs were never meant for sprinting. During the last 20 meters, I heard Phebe yelling my name: "Go!! Mindy!! GOOOOOO!!!"

Finish line: I love Columbia's volunteers. A girl handed me a water, another donned me with my finisher's medal, and a third unstrapped my timing chip for me. What a great crew. I congratulated my friend Scott, found Phebe (who had been worrying since T1 that I was still on the bike course with a flat, as she hadn't seen me enter or exit T2), and spent the rest of the afternoon with Beth and Kristen as we cheered Karmen into the finish.

Love this race. The weather was beautiful, the swim was soothing, and the hills were epic. I'll definitely be back next year!! It was awesome to see Snapple do so well at this race among the elite heats. Can't wait for summer as the tri season really gets going and Haines Point pool opens up for lunchtime swims!
Time: 2:30:06
2nd in AG, 26th female overall
Swim: 21:57
T1: 2:03
Bike: 1:19:44
T2: 1:07
Run: 45:17

Next stop: Quassy Half-Rev, June 5!

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