June in South Carolina like someone flipped the thermostat from “nice” to “surface of the sun”. We know it’s coming every year, but it doesn’t seem to make it any easier. The Greenwood Triathlon on June 11th presented a few challenges – the heat (highs that day were in the upper 90s), the distance (Olympic distance triathlon = 1500m swim, 24 mile bike and 10k run) and it was a point-to-point (two different transitions to set up and organize).
Multiple members of the FGM Internet Marketing team were in attendance. Competing we had Fiona Martin, Amy Wise, Kara Clyburn and Pamela Babbitt. Cheering us on was Jonathan Howell and Ricky Sox.
Due to the fact that the race was a point-to-point, this took a bit of extra organization so we arrived in Greenwood the day before. We went straight to transition 1 at Lake Greenwood to drop of our bikes and pick up our packets. It was close to 100⁰F that day, which made us fear the following day and its weather conditions. It was over 78⁰F so wetsuits were not allowed, making this the first open water swim of the season without the safety net of buoyant wetsuits. Another big difference between this race and other races is that there were only 2 waves to start – the first wave was the Open athletes, maybe only 10-15 people.
The second wave was everyone else, which turned out to be around 80-90 people. This was a first for me – I’ve never started in the same wave as the men and I wasn’t sure how that would turn out. I decided to place myself at the front but out wide to get a jump on most of the swimmers but stay out of the heavy traffic. The swim was 900 meters out, facing the sun, before taking a left hand turn, swimming maybe 500 meters, and a final left turn into shore. Even from the shore, you couldn’t see the swim buoys you were aiming for. This was probably the hardest part of the swim – sighting the buoys on the way out was nearly impossible so there was a lot of popping up to get a better view. After the first left turn, the sun was out of our eyes and the rest of the swim was easy, although I heard a few swimmers cut the course short and didn’t make it around the swim buoys. Unfortunately, no stewards caught them for the DQ.
Out of the water and then run, run, run some more through the parking lot to T1. My thoughts – I didn’t know we were starting the run this early! I didn’t expect to have to run a loop through the parking lot to get to my bike. Then, googles off, swim cap off, helmet on, sunglasses, shoes and all leftovers in the plastic bag, which would be transported to T2 while we were racing.
I can’t say much about the bike course. Maybe it was too hot and I was delirious already but my only recollection was that there were rolling hills and we rode through Ninety-Six. I know one of the male competitors hit a manhole cover that knocked him off his bike. I chatted with him after the race – he figures he lost a minute and half before he got back on and finished the race, road rash and all. The bike course length seems fairly short in comparison with the swim and run distance – 24 miles is an easy spin compared to 1500m of swimming (almost the same distance as a half ironman) and a 10k in the heat (think an hour of running).
Rolling into T2 I see Jonathan Howell cheering me on. It’s always great to have a familiar face there and it helps hugely with motivation. Off with the helmet, bike shoes and on with running shoes, visor, sunscreen, cool towel (wet down and tied around the neck) and run number. Kara Clyburn was kind enough to find us some gels with caffeine for the race and I saved that for the run to get my through the last bit.
The run course was and out and back on a rails-to-trails path. It’s really nice to run in an area closed to traffic and in the shade! What I had heard, though, is that the out is mostly downhill, and then you have to run the last 3.1 miles back up the hill. I tucked in behind another female runner who was doing around an 8:30/mi pace. Perfect for me. I chomped down on my caffeine gel and settled in. Ricky Sox rolls up on his bike around the 1.5 mile mark to ask how I’m doing – I’m feeling good. If I can keep this pace and feel like this for the next 5 miles, I’ll be happy as Larry! Pamela Babbitt is up ahead after a blisteringly fast bike split – she ended up with the 2nd fastest bike split for the women. Surprisingly, I had the 3rd fastest bike split overall female. With the out and back setup, I got to cheer, wave and high five some of my fellow competitors – Larry Shirey was looking strong, Wes Spratt wasn’t liking the run, Shawn Shealy was looking great even though he said his run wasn’t the strongest. I saw Pamela Babbitt just before the turn around point. I’m still sitting in behind my appointed pacer and enjoying the run as much as I can. At the turn around, my “pacer” drops off and I keep going. I pass Pamela, I pass Wes Spratt, but not everything is good. Without someone to pace behind, I tend to go too fast and then have to walk a little to cool down. Add to this that we’re running uphill and it wasn’t the prettiest run for the last 3 miles. The driving force – the longer I’m out here, the hotter it’s going to get! Also, I got to see many of my friends on the run course – cheers for Amy, Kara, Kristin Cattieu and all of the other fabulous ladies who ran that day!
After 2 hours, 50 minutes and 58 seconds, I crossed the finish line – sweet relief! First thoughts – can of coke, shoes off, feet in an ice bath. All items were right there at the finish line waiting for us, with tents for shade. I cheered my teammates and friends in and we commiserated about how tough it was and how glad we were that we were finished. There were some great results! Kara Clyburn completed her first Olympic distance triathlon AND won 2nd in her age group! Fiona won her age group and came in 6th overall female. Pamela was just slightly off the podium with a 4th place finish, and Amy had the toughest age group but rode strong with the 3rd fastest bike split in her AG. Next stop, the hottest tri of them all – Tri the Midlands on June 25th!