Tri the Midlands
Tri the Midlands is hot, hot, hot (to the tune of Buster Poindexter’s Hot Hot Hot)! This race, that takes place in late June every year in Lake Carolina in northeast Columbia, has the reputation for being the hottest, but also serves as our “hometown race”, so it’s not to be missed.
A sprint distance triathlon – 500m lake swim, 14 mile bike and 5k run – may mean it’s short, but the course combined with late June heat and humidity packs a punch on the suffer scale.
This year, the race organizers must have heard our cries of “too hot” because they moved the start time back an hour to 7:30am. Unfortunately, there was no change to the run course, an especially hilly and exposed run that will guarantee you your slowest 5k time ever.
This year’s race was very exciting for the FGM team. As mentioned, this is the hometown race for those of us who live in and around Columbia, which means we had the most FGM teammates racing so far – 5 teammates spread across 4 age groups and 1 member doing the relay.
I also took the opportunity to hire a photographer, Jeff Amberg, to take some team shots and action shots and asked some of our teammates who weren’t racing to come out and join us.
Early morning arrival was the usual routine – packet pickup, transition set up, quick warm ups. Just to add to the fun, we also got some group shots of me (Fiona), Amy Wise and Scott Ravan posing with my bike. The early morning shots turned out great – Jeff has a real eye for setting a mood, capturing the atmosphere and making us look like proper athletes. We even got lucky as not 2 minutes after we wrapped up the photos and packed away the equipment, the sprinklers came on where we were shooting! Next, a few of us headed down to the lake to warm up for the swim. This is where we encountered the wall of fog. I have never seen fog so thick. Lake Carolina is a narrow lake, but we couldn’t see the other side of the shore. Never mind the shore, we couldn’t even see the buoys! As we got closer to start time, the fog was going nowhere and people were asking if they would cancel the swim. The race director made a quick decision and had the paddleboard volunteers move the buoys in closer. That meant they weren’t anchored – the buoys were simply on the paddleboard with the volunteer trying to keep them in place the best they could. Funny thing – even with moving the buoys closer, you couldn’t see them from the shore. Solution – stand up paddleboarders led the way for each wave. Basically, we had to keep within 20 feet for the paddleboard in front of us to see where we were going. This meant it was a very crowded (read lots of kicks in the head) and short swim. I was out of the water in about 5 minutes. Everyone was out in well under 10 minutes – a great start to this year’s Tri the Midlands!
Into transition and on to the bike. Jeff was about 100 yards out from the transition capturing some great shots of us on the bike. The bike leg is one of my favorites simply because these are roads I ride on a weekly basis with Summit Cycles. That doesn’t make it easy, but I know where all of the little kicker hills are (Mickle to Kelly Mill) and I know where to push after racing this course 3 times already. The goal was to beat last year’s split of 45 minutes. I’m happy to report I finished in 43 minutes. Scott Ravan was riding the bike for his relay team and did a great job doing it in 42 minutes. Pamela Babbitt was in my sights for the entire ride, but I couldn’t catch her as she was 50 seconds faster than me and fastest in her age group. Amy Wise has the fastest bike split in her age group and Kara Clyburn took an entire 5 minutes off her bike split from last year! Safe to say that the FGM team was rocking it at this point.
Up next was the dreaded run. This run course will suck the life out of you – the hills are especially tough simply because there doesn’t seem to be any downhill, no matter which direction you’re running, and the course is completely exposed to the sun with no shade for relief. What we did have in our favor this year was the fog – we had a beautiful, cloudy run. In the first mile, Lake Carolina residents are out with their sprinklers, hosing us down. I love that about this race. Next up was passing “The Green” where most of the spectators are hanging out. The run course is an out and back and this is where we finish. Jeff was there catching snaps. A few of our other FGM teammates were there cheering us on – Tami Leonhardt, Lance Schultz and Jonathan Howell made the trip and it was great seeing them. After passing “The Green”, all that’s in front of you are those darn hills on Lake Carolina Drive. My goal was to walk as little as possible. I trained on these hills the week before and even then, I couldn’t get through them without a little bit of walking. I told myself not to beat myself up about it and just keep moving. Up and down, up and down, and then up, up, up to the turnaround point. I make the turn and see one of my age group competitors not that far behind me. That means I can’t walk at all. On the way down, I also get to cheer on Pamela, Amy and Kara. As I take the last turn into the final mile, I hear people cheering someone on behind me. This must be my age group competitor. I can’t turn around in fear I’ll fall on my face. I can’t have a repeat of the Lake Murray Tri where I got passed in the last 25 yards. That means I have to step it up. Faster, faster, they’re still cheering on whoever is behind me. I’m about to reach “The Green” where my teammates are cheering – I feel like I’m going to puke. I tell myself to hold it in until the finish line. There’s a left turn into the finish line, I take a quick look at who’s behind me while in the turn and it’s not my age grouper, but I still kick it up to finish strong. 1:18:32 – 10 minutes off of last year, 1st in my age group and 5th female overall. I join my teammates and we cheer Pamela, Amy and Kara through the finish. Everyone did great! All FGM teamsters who raced ended up on the podium:
Scott Ravan – 1st place relay
Fiona Martin – 1st place age group 30-34
Amy Wise – 2nd place age group 35-39
Kara Clyburn – 3rd place age group 40-44
Pamela Babbitt – 2nd place age group 50-54
We wrapped it up with some team photos by Jeff and our trips to the podium. We were incredibly lucky it stayed cloudy for the entire race because come 10am, the sun was out and the temp was up to 90+ degrees. Good thinking by the race organizers to start earlier!