Nathan Tri Race Report 
Friday, October 2, 2009, 10:59 PM
Posted by Administrator
After 14 months without doing a single triathlon, I recently completed three in three months...and just signed up for another. This past Saturday, I raced the sprint distance of the Nathan Triathlon while Paul opted for the Olympic.

We drove up to Tempe on Saturday for packet pick-up and the mandatory bike check-in which, I have to say, I rather appreciated. The fewer things I have to think about on race morning, the better.

At the expo, I, along with all female competitors, received a high-quality technical shirt in the most God-awful color of...I don't know, dark tan? Whatever you call it, this sad color does not flatter any skin tone. Fortunately, the sponsors made up for the unappealing shirt with some impressive schwag. This packet was, hands down, the most bountiful I have received at a race.

After checking out the expo, chatting up some Tri Girls and picking up Paul's new XOOD race top (as he is now a proud member of the XOOD racing team), we drove less than 1/2-mile to the Marriott Courtyard. This hotel's location makes it perfect for events at Tempe Town Lake and I highly recommend it for anyone racing SOMA or IMAZ.

We took a few minutes to organize our race gear and then walked to Phoenicia Cafe for an early dinner which included some out-of-this-world Baba Ganoush. Paul's gluten allergy prohibits us from partaking in the traditional pre-race pasta fest. But really, doesn't this look so much more appealing than a plate of spaghetti?

At 5:45 the next morning, we reunited with our pre-racked bikes and had 30 minutes for race prep before the transition area closed.

While I respect the need to clear transition for racers going through T1, I don't understand why it needs to be cleared a full 15 minutes before the first swim wave even departs. Everyone knows that a last-minute, pre-race potty stop is vital to every successful race. The early closing of transition doesn't take into account the need to ditch your flip flops at your transition area after taking care of business.

With no other options, I set hygiene and my better judgment aside and ventured into a porta-potty barefoot. I convinced myself that since everyone else was barefoot, then they would be extra careful and clean in there. Right?

The swim was divided into 10 waves by race distance, gender and age. It was all very orderly with waves started every 4 minutes and were differentiated by colored swim caps. I looked for the orange caps signifying swim wave #4 and joined my fellow female sprint racers ages 35 and up, including Tri Girls Shannan and Angie.

I was prepared for the worst, but must admit that Tempe Town Lake was not nearly as foul as I had anticipated. And, after finding my own space and rhythm, I actually began to enjoy myself. If you can get past the initial terror, open water swimming is surprisingly fun.

Sighting was difficult as we were swimming into the sun, but I felt on track...right up until I almost swam into a kayak and realized that the course was way over to my right. On the bright side, being off-course kept me out of the path of the next wave of swimmers, the Olympic distance pros, as they caught up to and bulldozed over many of my fellow orange caps.

After the turnaround, sighting was easier and I picked it up a little as I weaved my way through the carnage of breast-stroking and kayak-clinging red and blue caps from the first two waves.

I felt really great throughout my swim and so, after getting up the stairs and onto dry land, was dismayed to see 28:33 on my watch. I had been expecting something in the low 20's. How could that be?

I had a difficult time getting into a groove on the bike, possibly because there were a few turns on the "new and improved" course. 15 to be exact. 3 of which were U-turns. Double that for the Olympic racers. I shudder to think of what the old course was like.

While slowing things down, the turns certainly kept the ride interesting and allowed me look for friends who were also racing and cheer them on. According to Paul, this means I wasn't pushing nearly hard enough.

I felt somewhat lost when I realized that technology had failed me - my heartrate monitor had not been picking up my heartrate at all during the race. Without the hard data, I tried to just go by feel, but, at the first mile marker, realized that I wasn't doing a very good job. 10:33 - too slow. I picked it up and brought my pace down to a respectable 9:30 for the rest of the run.

There were two very motivating factors during my run, aside, of course, from the very obvious and always present motivator of being able to stop running once I reach the finish line. The first was Randy Accetta whose voice was in my head, reminding me of advice he had shared at the previous weekend's tri camp. "Focus on your arms. Bam. Bam. Bam." The "Bam. Bam. Bam." followed me for most of the 5K which was both motivating and irritating. As I crossed the last bridge, there was Randy again. "Don't give in to pity form!"

The second motivating factor was searching for and passing women in my age group. Body marking, specifically the age on the calf, is a wonderful thing. I managed to pass four of my competitors on this leg.

Just minutes after finishing, I got to cheer on Angie as she completed her very first tri, followed shortly by Shannan. Go Tri Girls!

I snapped photos of Paul, Robin and Kathy as they began their second laps of the run course and I really felt for them. The temperature was rising rapidly on its way to a high of 105 degrees.

While waiting for Paul to finish, I took in as much fluid as my tummy could handle along with some bananas. I also discovered that animal crackers, being one of the world's driest foods, are a terrible post-race snack. They are almost impossible to swallow when you are parched.

Paul finished strong with a time of 2:32:34, although his first comment after catching his breath was that he was really frustrated with his swim time. For the past month, he's been more dedicated to swimming than ever before and yet his time was just plain slow.

Everyone we talked with after the race seemed to have the same disappointing swim experience which began to cause speculation that the course was long. The following morning, I emailed the race organizer who confirmed that, yes indeed, the swim course had been incorrectly marked. Sprint racers swam an extra 150 meters, while the Olympic folks swam an extra 300.

We didn't leave Nathans empty-handed as Paul wrapped up second place in his age group! We celebrated over Picazzo's gluten-free pizza on the way home.

Overall Time: 1:51:50
Age Group Placing: 40 / 62

Swim: 29:21 (note that this time is different from that on my watch because they had the timing mat at the transition entrance rather than the top of the stairs.)
Age Group Placing: 49 / 62

T1: 2:04

Bike: 47:41
Age Group Placing: 44 / 62

T2: 2:07

Run: 30:31
Age Group Placing: 29 / 62
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