Monday, July 22, 2013

Would I Do It Again?

The answer is YES! Despite the fact that it's taken me a month to blog about it, REV3 Williamsburg was a fantastic venue and I had a really great time visiting and racing in the area. True, there were some hiccups that kept the event from running as smoothly as has come to be expected from a REV3 production, but overall I left with a good feeling about the race and am very hopeful that the kinks will be smoothed out and that REV3 will be back again next year. My personal experience is as follows:

I had the fantastic good fortune to be placed with a really wonderful host family for the weekend, Daniel and Michelle Ballin and their little daughter Alivia. Thank you Ashley Q. & Eric O. for organizing the homestay and to the Ballins for being not only generous hosts but just really great people! One of the great perks of racing and traveling is meeting new people, and I definitely feel that I made some new friends in Williamsburg.

I arrived a few days before the event which gave me a good opportunity to check out the course as well as visit some of the surrounding historical sites. My family took a "Revolutionary & Civil Wars" trip when I was 5 years old so I'd been to the Historical Triangle before, but I was so young that it didn't really mean that much to me at the time. It was fun to poke around Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg a good 30 years later when the historical importance actually made some sense. It was like walking on hallowed ground!

The day before the race I had the chance to lead a swim clinic Q&A at the Jamestown Park Beach swim venue. It was held in conjunction with the open water swim practice and the Blueseventy Worst Wetsuit Contest so we had a great turnout. I really love doing this sort of thing---can't help it if I have a little bit of diva in me!---and always enjoy the interaction with the age-group athletes. Everyone has their own unique story and it's interesting to hear what draws different people to the sport. After the swim clinic I had a chance to swim a bit of the course myself, then it was off to the pro meeting and one last preview of the bike course before getting the legs up and relaxing for the rest of the day.

My alarm was set for the usual 3 hours before race start to give me plenty of time to eat, drop off my run gear at T2 then head to T1 for a warm-up. As I was applying my race tattoos I heard a noise that sounded like pouring rain...but no, it couldn't be! Must have been the air-conditioning kicking in. A few minutes later I stuck my nose outside and realized it was in fact rain! A torrential downpour really. I'd originally planned to ride my bike to T1 for a good warm-up but luckily Daniel came to the rescue and offered to drop me off instead. It was soggy setting up gear but the rain soon cleared and the morning turned quite pleasant.

This race helped reinforce what little I knew about the nature of tidal rivers. At the practice swim the day before, the water had been relatively calm and while it was shallow close to shore you weren't hitting the bottom with every stroke. Different story on race day! I'm not sure if it was the rain or the tide, but the water was choppy and much more shallow than it had been the day before. In fact, you could have run in and done dolphin dives for a good long way towards the first buoy. It helped to watch the pro men go off first to know a little better what to expect, but I have to admit I was still caught a little off guard and didn't have a good plan of how to attack the swim start. The swim definitely blew the race apart as the strong swimmers were separated from the weaker ones. I was one of the stronger ones on the day but I actually had a pretty horrible swim. My goggles fogged up within minutes so I was blindly following other feet to the first turn before I had enough of that and stopped to clear them out. On the second leg it was tricky to see the far red buoy and once I did eventually spot it I swear it kept moving further away! Once I FINALLY rounded the second turn I was battling for space with Margie Shapiro, then suddenly she disappeared and somehow got to shore about 20 seconds before me. I'm not sure if I fell asleep there, if I picked a bad line or if there was some magical current that I missed, but I came out of the water 5th place in No Man's Land in probably the slowest time I've ever done for that distance.

I really enjoyed this bike course. My homestay family kept telling me that REV3 picked the hilliest course possible in the area and it certainly ended up being more challenging than it appeared from inside a car. The course was broken up well with a couple of out-and-back segments and a really fun tricky section towards the end on Jolly Pond Road. The only drawback I could see was that there was heavy traffic in some areas which made me a little nervous, and the cars got backed up. It must have been pretty frustrating for the drivers to have to sit there so long while the bikes came through; I hope this issue is addressed for next year so that the community embraces the event and welcomes REV3 back in the future! I spent the entire bike in 5th place, holding my spot in No Man's Land and not really making any headway. Margie was ripping through the course like it was nobody's business while Tenille Hoogland, Lauren Goss, and Kelly Williamson were riding strong in front of me.

Once my shoes hit the pavement I was pleased to discover that my running legs had shown up! The run course featured two circuits of a long out-and-back through the William and Mary campus, followed by buzzing past the transition/finish line area and doing another mini out-and-back before repeating the whole thing. There was a good hill at each of the far ends of the course which made for a special challenge. I felt GREAT during the first lap and got a good look at where everyone was, both up the road and behind. The gap to the leaders was huge, but I also had a pretty solid lead over the girls behind me. Once again I was in No Man's Land and comfortably holding 5th place...until the very end that is! At the final turnaround I saw that Jess Jones Meyers had made up some serious ground and was barreling towards me. Crap! I tried to find another gear and almost managed to hold her off, but unfortunately I experienced being out-kicked in yet another sprint finish at a half-ironman this year. Obviously I need to work on my closing speed---or better yet, on my overall speed so that it doesn't ever come down to a sprint! I HATED losing out on 5th place at the very end, but overall it was a solid effort and considering the minor setbacks I've had this season I was happy with progress.

My flight back to Salt Lake wasn't until later the following day, so I had some more time to enjoy the local sights. I kicked off the day by doing a swim workout with Daniel and some of the other local triathletes, followed by a HUGE revitalizing breakfast with my friend Brittany from Georgia. Brittany had had a tough race day that ended with a trip to the med tent & ER, so it was nice to see that she was feeling better. Once we demolished enough food for 5 people we moseyed around Colonial Williamsburg and soaked in some history. We ended our tour in the stocks---I seem to remember doing that when I was a 5-year-old too!

REV3 Williamsburg capped a race-glutted month for me, which included 3 half-iron races in a span of four weeks. While each course was starkly different and it's hard to compare race-to-race, I feel that I made some good progress throughout the month. Now that the June race-fest is over (followed by a nice mid-season break when my brother and his family visited Utah), I'm immersed in a nice long stretch of uninterrupted training; this is when I typically get into a really good groove and lay the groundwork for a strong back half of the season. Because of a couple of niggling injuries this year my race schedule is slightly altered, so that I'm dropping Ironman Mont-Tremblant in favor of racing Ironman Wisconsin three weeks later instead. I'm still heading to Boulder next weekend for a fitness check at the 70.3 race there before putting in one more big block before Wisconsin.

To the Ballins for the good times and hospitality; to REV3 for the vision and making the show go on; to my sponsors for the support through thick and thin (Powerbar, Blueseventy, Rudy Project, Recovery Pump, REV3, Reynolds, Maxxis, Powertap, Fezzari, and The Bike Shoppe); and to my family and friends for putting up with my shenanigans for so long.