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Race Result

Racer: Jamie Roberson
Race: Culpeper Triathlon
Date: Sunday, August 6, 2006
Location: Culpeper, VA
Race Type: Triathlon - Sprint
Age Group: Female 40 - 44
Time: (DNF)
Comment: Can Turkeys Swim?

Race Report:

(Caution: long-ish report for short event, written for newbies and those considering Culpeper 2007)


Coach Debi suggested that I sign up for this race after my debacle at Luray, since the course was similar in difficulty, especially with regard to the hills. Also, I had had to back out of Culpeper last year due to a calendar conflict, so there was added motivation to redeem myself this year.

But then another obstacle arose: I had a bilateral fasciotomy just two weeks before the race. The timing was unfortunate, right in the middle of pre-Reston "crunch time", but I knew that the sooner I had the surgery, the sooner I'd rid myself of longstanding problems with high-ankle pain, now formally diagnosed as "bilateral exercise-induced chronic compartment syndrome" - essentially, excessive pressure buildup in the lower legs brought on by running.

As a side note, I've got to admit that the name of the condition sounds like a bunch of pseudo-medical gobbledygook served up to hypochondriacs. But when I was told after the surgery that my calf was herniating out of the fascia on my right leg (!) and ripping it internally, my doubts were erased and I agreed to surgery. The only other option, not running, was a nonstarter.

The week before the race, my ortho, Dr. Hartley, removed the stitches on the condition that I not run for another two weeks or use excessive force on bike pedals. He did clear me to swim and use an aqua-jogger and gave me a physical therapy prescription. I therefore decided not to bail out of the race, but to use the swim course as an open-water opportunity.

Another pre-race note: though the race is not too far from Reston as the crow flies, I highly recommend picking up your race packet on Saturday and staying over the night before. The extra hour or so of sleep makes a huge difference, and the town really caters to triathletes. The dinner specials all over town
seemed as plentiful as tri-bikes mounted on SUVs. After cancelling at the Red Carpet Inn (aka Bates Motel), we ended up in the Hampton Inn in Warrenton. It was still a 30-minute drive to the race site, but well worth it in terms of comfort and cleanliness. We found an unintentionally retro steak house just
outside of town and had a terrific dinner, too.

Race Morning:

Knowing that I was only doing one leg of the race, I was very relaxed and happy on race morning. Even the long, long line of cars snaking into the park didn't bother me (another word of advice: get there early). I still found a parking place with plenty of time to set up a transition area if I had had to do so.

But since I didn't have to set up a formal transition area, I had plenty of time to scope out others' transition layouts. I always learn something by snooping this way, from optimal area setups, to fueling strategies, to the sheer variety of bikes on a course.

Today's lesson: the less in your transition area, the better. There seems to be a direct correlation between pack position and the accumulation of *stuff*: the farther to the front of the pack, the more spartan the transition area, while the further back, the more well-stocked. This probably has to do with the athlete's expectation of a longer time on the course, but all the same, it got me thinking that less is more.

The Race, er, Swim:

This was an in-water wave start in a fishing lake that, like Lake Audubon, is not generally open for swimming. There's a reason for that: it's gross. With a reported maximum depth of four feet, and an abundance of geese, ducks, and other floating poultry, we knew what to expect once we reached the waist-deep start position: silt. Deep silt. Actually that's a euphemism for what coats the lake bottom. After trudging through ankle-deep biological matter, I found a small rock on the bottom and perched on it like a semi-submerged, overstuffed flamingo. As an Athena, and over 40 as well, I was in the last wave, so the
water was even cloudier with kicked-up poo.

But an amazing thing happened: I really enjoyed the swim. The water temperatures were reported anywhere between 88 and 90, so wetsuits were not necessary or permitted in the icky hot tub. But I was actually comfortable without the security blanket of a wetsuit. I found myself getting into a groove around the
rectangle-ish shaped course. And my time didn't seem to suffer too much without the added flotation: 24:19, and 180th out of 194 competitors.

Walking away from the lake, I saw a large, funny-looking feathered creature floating happily near the shoreline. A little girl cried out to her mom, "Look, mommy! A turkey! Can turkeys swim?" I smiled to myself and thought, "Yes, and they can ride and run, too."

Postscript: since then, I've been back on the bike and running as well. I'm taking it slowly, with lots of walk breaks, but so far NO ANKLE PAIN. I cannot say how much I'm looking forward to Reston. :)

Another observation: how important is the swim to an overall race? You tell me: the woman who finished the swim in 179th place, just ahead of me, ended up in 50th place.

Thank you for reading.

Next stop: IronGirl.