Tri the Midlands 2017
We’re halfway through the South Carolina Triathlon Series season and to mark the occasion, athletes from across the state punish themselves on the Tri the Midlands course in Lake Carolina in Columbia.
I consider this my “hometown” race as it’s only 16 miles from my house and I ride these roads every week with the Summit Cycles group on Wednesday nights. I kind of wish it wasn’t my home course because boy, is it tough! Since the first race in 2008, it’s been held in late June in Famously Hot Columbia. The 500 meter swim takes place in a bathwater-like lake; the 15 mile bike course is surprising tough with long, technical climbs and short, steep kickers; and the run tops it off as an extremely hilly out and back on the asphalt, no shade in sight The FGM team was represented by Fiona Martin competing in the open female category. The best part of living so close to the race was a later wakeup call and less driving – my alarm went off at 5:15am and it was a short 20 minute drive to the course. I arrived at 6am with plenty of time to park, walk my gear the quarter mile to transition, and set up before the 7:30am start.
My goals for this race weren’t lofty – I couldn’t use last year’s time as a marker as they cut the swim short due to fog. I have also had an incredibly stressful few weeks leading up to the race, which has negatively affected my sleep, training and mental state. I knew this would affect my race performance so I promised myself to take it one step at a time and listen to my body. My competitors in my category included Jen Kryzanowski, who I beat at Lake Murray but I know she’s a formidable competitor, and an 18-year-old that seemed to be a track and field star. There were other ladies signed up who didn’t show.
I warmed up briefly in the lake and shortly after, the open competitors were told to line up for our wave start. There were quite a few men in the open and masters open categories, and I was happy for them to line up in front of me. When the cannon was fired, the men took off and us 4 women jumped right on their feet in pursuit. The swim to the first buoy was good for me – I was sighting well and right in the same pack with my two competitors. Making the right turn at the first buoy put us swimming into some surprising chop. This knocked me off guard a bit and I dropped a few meters behind my competitors. Unfortunately, I never managed to make up those few meters and all three of us exited the water within 18 seconds of each other, me in third place.
I got through T1 the best I could and hopped on the bike. I beat Jen in the bike at Lake Murray but in that case, I left T1 before her. This time, she had a 25 second jump on me.The first 5 miles were mostly climbing so I grinded away and hoped to catch my competitors. I caught the 18-year-old and passed her confidently around the 6 mile mark. I came up on Dianne Fladung, masters female competitor, who encouraged me to catch up with Jen and overtake her. Her encouragement gave me a very fast split for the 2nd 5 miles. I could see Jen up the road from me but in the last five miles, I just wasn’t able to reel her in. I also knew what lay ahead in the run and I was worried about setting myself up for an extremely painful 5k if I went too hard. Plus, I was battling with irritation in my right calf. I rolled into T2 with a 43:18, a 20+ mph average, exactly the same time as Jen and 2 minutes ahead of my other competitor.
Jen got out of T2 ahead of me and unfortunately, I knew she wasn’t within reach at that point. I had no idea how much time I had on the girl behind me so I told myself to just hang in there. I had a decent pace for the first half mile and even got to see Adam Feigh finishing the race with a new course record as I passed the finish line on my way out. Training buddy Larry Shirey caught me at the quarter mile mark and ran a few steps with me before powering ahead. At about the 1 mile mark, where the real hills began, I started getting goose bumps and chills. That’s not a good feeling when it’s 90F degrees outside, a sure sign that I was overheating and was in trouble. I had to walk a bit to stop the chills. The race from that point onwards a walk/run affair, and my competitor passed me in the last mile. In the end, I finished with a 26:51 5k (horrible!) and an overall time of 1:23:27, good for 3rd in open female and 7th overall.
I’m happy with the final time, a new PR on that course for me (not counting last year’s since it was short). I’m happy I hung in there, but the race really highlighted the negative affect of the past few weeks on my wellbeing overall. I look forward to coming back stronger (and less stressed!) next year and kicking that run’s butt!