Dam Tri and SCTS Awards Banquet!
The 2016 triathlon season came to a close for the FGM Internet Marketing team on October 15, 2016. The final tri of the season is the Dam Tri at the Lake Murray Dam, followed by the South Carolina Triathlon Series (SCTS) awards banquet that evening. Last year’s tri was cancelled due to the devastating floods that hit Columbia and Lexington. This year’s tri was scheduled for October 8th but was moved back to October 15th due to Hurricane Matthew – what’s with this event?? Maybe next year they’ll get lucky and the event will be held on the scheduled day.
Because of the date change, nobody was really sure who would show up or who wouldn’t be able to attend. Being the last race of the season, many of the participants’ series rankings would be decided by this race alone. That sort of atmosphere – last race of the season and series rankings up for grabs – always leads to a nerve-wracking and exciting race. Representing the FGM team were Fiona Martin and Amy Wise.Fiona was ranked 3rd in her age group going into the race, forever chasing Becky Arndt and her speedy run. Amy was holding down 2nd place in her age group, but she had competition – this race alone would determine the standings for the top 5 spots in her age group.
Fiona and Amy arrived at the Lake Murray Dam early, like everyone else, before the sun rose and gathered their race packets. They set up their transitions.
To add to the competitive feel of the race, the organizers place the age groups together on the racks, which means that every time you are in transition, you can tell if you are ahead or behind your competitors depending on whether they had hit T1 or T2 before you. Amy was nervous with 5 strong competitors showing up in her age group. It was down to this very last race of the season to determine the placing for her age group from 1st – 5th place. She knew she hadn’t been able to swim much in the last few months due to a shoulder injury, but was determined to try her best not to lose her competitors in the swim. Fiona’s age group had less competition, but Becky Arndt was there and racked right next to her. They greeted each other and went about their morning. Fiona’s strategy was to go hard in the swim and bike to get enough of a jump on Becky to hold off her blistering 7:00/mi pace on the run.
The swim is an in-water start, counter-clockwise, triangle-shaped 1000 meter open water swim. Luckily, this swim was wetsuit legal with water temps at 73F. It was only 60F that morning so it was actually warmer in the water. Amy and Fiona were in the 4th wave, after the open athletes and 2 men’s waves. Our wave was all of the women, aquabike and relay teams, wearing green caps. Behind us were the novice athletes. Once the other 3 waves had set off, Fiona lined herself up in the front of the group to start at the front and hopefully stay there. Amy decided to stay towards the front left closest to the buoys and try to get to the front of the swim as well. The countdown begins and then the air horn blows. Some ran through the water, Fiona decided to swim right out of the gate. Getting to the first turn buoy about 300 meters out, Fiona hadn’t been passed by anyone else in her age group yet, that she could tell, but soon after the turn she saw a green cap on her right. Whoever this was was swimming at a good clip, but she saw it was a guy (either an aquabike or relay competitor) so no need to chase him down. About halfway between the 1st and 2nd turn buoy, another man in a green cap went swimming by. At this point though, most of the time was spent passing men from the previous waves. Making the final turn, Fiona turned up the heat to get back to shore and was the first female age grouper out of the water. Amy started out her swim trying to keep with the pack. About 75 yards into the swim she noticed two girls swimming almost at each other and blocking Amy’s line of swimming. She decided to try to skirt left around both of them. Every time she tried to pass, the girl to her right would swim over her. It was frustrating to say the least. At this point she noticed the front group getting further and further away from her. She decided to continue at her same pace and try not to lose too much time. Getting out of the water she peered over towards transition area to see how much ground she would need to make up and noticed one of her age group competitors mounting her bike. She decided to transition as quickly as possible to try and make up the time on the bike.
The first transition was a long run up the beach, a quick dip of the feet in water to wash off the sand and then off on the bike. Fiona was the first female into transition but Nicole Ramsbey from Amy’s age group was right on her tail. Nicole got out of T1 slightly faster and motored up the steep hill leading out to the bike course. Fiona lost sight of her after the first mile. The bike course is two loops and has you crossing the dam 4 times.
Both the bike and the run course give you opportunities to see where your competition is on the course. The rolling hills are okay. We did have to dodge a dead coyote in the road and Fiona twice almost ran into male athletes who didn’t know where they were going on the course. Fiona had a bit of back and forth on the bike with Melissa Ludwig (from Amy’s age group again!) but she got away on the second lap and Fiona couldn’t catch her. Amy started out on the bike fast as she usually does. Her strategy was to use the downhill to gain as much momentum as possible for the gradual hills. The first loop she kept peering at her odometer and trying to keep it as far above 20 mph as possible. With a looming worry of a small split in her back tire, Amy tried to avoid every little pebble she could. A blow out would not be fun on this course. She still kept her speed going downhill and passed as many other riders as possible. Coming to the end of the first loop Amy was able to see where her competitors were at. They had what seemed like a 5 minute gap on her. There would be no way to close that gap on the bike. Amy kept her speed through the second lap and rolled into the transition with a time 2 minutes faster than 2 years ago. She quickly hurried out to the run course to survey the damage and see if she could make up the time. As Fiona completed her bike leg, she still hadn’t seen Becky come up behind her. Did she have enough of a gap on her to hold her off on the 4 mile run?
Quickly into T2 and out on the run course. Fiona kept it steady for the first mile, but then she heard the dreaded fast steps behind her – it was Becky. She passed Fiona at the 1 mile mark at a fast clip. Fiona sped up to see if she could hold it and only lasted 100 yards at that pace. She backed off to a more manageable pace, but a higher turnover and ended up negative splitting the run at an 8:10/mi average, a little redemption after the Augusta run. The out and back run led to lots of high 5s and encouragement from other athletes. Amy’s run was initially one where she was going to try to catch her age group. Despite the possibility of being 5 minutes behind she wanted to give it all she had. Right before the turn around she passed a few of her age group competitors and of course Fiona and gave her a high five. After seeing how far behind she was Amy lost hope and decided to just finish the run the best she could. It was time to try and pr on this race. Fiona finished her race 1:57, 8 minutes faster than the last time she did the Dam Tri, 2 years ago. She finished 2nd in her age group after Becky Arndt and 10th overall female. Amy had a bit of a race belt malfunction while coming into the finish line. Her bib number came off one side of the belt. She slowed down a second to refasten it so she wouldn’t incur the 2 minute penalty for not displaying her number. Then she got down right mad at herself and sprinted as hard as she could for the finish line. A good season finish race. Amy was pretty satisfied with a nine minute pr over her time 2 years ago. No podium finish this race, but she was still happy to close the 2016 season.
Amy and Fiona stuck around for the race awards and enjoyed chatting to friends. That evening, they went to the Awards Banquet at EdVenture Children’s Museum. SCTS put on a great spread with barbeque and a Lowcountry Boil and SCTS head Jeremey Davis’ chat is always amusing. The FGM team came away with some great prizes.
Pamela Babbitt – 3rd in AG 50-54
Fiona Martin – 3rd in AG 30-34
Amy Wise – unfortunately dropped down from 2nd place to 4th place in AG 35-39
The women’s 35-39 age group was so close that they called the top 5 up for recognition, so Amy had her well-deserved time on stage. Fiona and Amy also won the Midlands division for their respective age groups. Finally, Amy won 5 free race entries for 2017 after competing in 12(!!) races this year and Fiona got lucky and won free entry to ALL SCTS events for 2017 in a raffle. What a fantastic season! 2017 looks to be even better.