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Race Result

Racer: Erik Melis
Race: Columbia Triathlon
Date: Sunday, May 17, 2009
Location: Ellicott City, MD
Race Type: Triathlon - International Distance
Age Group: Male 50 - 54
Time: 3:09:47
Overall Place: 999 / 1568
Age Group Place: 761 / 1052
Comment: Tough race as always but with a 1.5K swim PR

Race Report:

Pre-race activities

Logistically, this race is usually an easy one for me since my sister-in-law lives in Columbia only minutes from the race venue. It was more challenging this year both logistically and mentally with my wife's absence due to her deployment to Aghanistan. I couldn't stay overnght in Columbia like I ususally would because I needed to tend to our pup Saturday evening. The weather forecast for the race was not too promising but nothing could be as wet as IMLP was last year... I drove up Saturday for packet pickup and that went off without a hitch. Got over to the transition area early and, as it happened, in between minor rain showers. After racking my bike, I met the in-laws for lunch and headed back home to finalize preps for Sunday.

Race morning

Since parking at and near the race site is always tight and since schlepping your transition gear for a long walk in the rain wasn't my ideal scenario, I decided that an early start was called for so that I could get there, get parked, get transition setup, and then relax before my late swim wave (9 of 12) start. I got there and got a parking spot not too far from transition and not too far from the swim start, got my gear set up, and then went back to the truck to finish my breakfast (banana, english muffin with peanute butter, and drink). After that, I stretched out in the back of the truck and relaxed until about 45 minutes before my start time. Put my wetsuit on at the truck and headed down to the swim start.

Swim (31:19) *1.5K swim PR*

Interesting and ecclectic makeup for my swim wave - Men 15-19 & 25-29 & 50-54...it felt quite multi-generational. Water was chilly but I don't think as chilly as last year. Made sure I got my face used to the cold water so that it wouldn't take my breath away at the start. When the airhorn sounded and we were off, it didn't take long for me to get into my rhythm and, at the same time, realize an additional challenge for this year. Sighting is always a chore for me. I usually have quite the time trying to spot the yellow course buoys and the orange turn buoys. Now, imagine trying to do that when the wave ahead of you is in yellow swim caps and your wave is in orange swim caps. I don't know how many times I was sighting on other swimmers instead of the actual buoys. Thank goodness that most people don't have triangular shaped heads so as I got closer to the buoys differentiating them from swimmers was easier. When I made the final turn I kicked really hard to get blood flowing to my legs in hopes that would ease my usual swim exit wooziness.

T1 (4:30)

I was still a bit wobbly coming out of the water but kicking hard seemed to help. The runout to transition, the transition itself, and the bike runout up the hill was made even more fun by the muddiness of the ground. I was a little slower getting my wetsuit off than I should have been so will have to practice that more. Good thing I had cleat covers on my bike shoes or never would nave been able to clip in after the run up the muddy hill.

Bike (1:29:53)

The bike course on Columbia is always interesting given the rolling nature of the course, the bunching up of riders on certain portions of the course, and a couple of nice descents. Now add wet roads and showers to the mix and it's sure to be entertaining (if that's the right word). Had to watch myself on the descents and turns to make sure I didn't get out of control. As often happens when it rains, the amount of debris in the road increases which was apparent to me based on the number of flats I saw. More disconcerting were the crashes I noticed that had occured especially one apparently nasty one at the roundabout at Folley Quarter where I saw a rider strapped into a stretcher being put into an ambulance. The other thing I noticed during the ride was that it was quite breezy on portions of the course. In retrospect, I'm glad I chose not to ride my race wheels this day - I didn't need crosswind issues on top of everything else. I finished the bike safe and sound but noticeably slower than last year (7:40 off last year's time).

T2 (3:11)

The run in from the bike down the muddy hill was a challenge but luckily my transtition spot was right near the run in so I didn't have far to go. Because of the issues I've had lately with my feet and because my feet were cold and wet after the bike, I needed to make sure that I was running with dry feet so I took the extra time to change socks during T2 which added some time but in looking back was well worth it.

Run (1:00:56)

I wasn't sure what to expect on the run. Columbia's run is always tough. Given the recent issues I've had with my pre-arthritic knees and a neuroma in my right foot, I decided I was just going to do the best I could. Tried to maintain a steady pace but allowed myself to walk portions of the worst hills as needed to give my knees and feet a break. I turned the final corner and turned on the afterburners for the sprint to the line. Taking everything into consideration and with my run only 1:44 slower than last year, I was quite pleased with the results.

Summary and lessons learned

This swim portion of the race was a 1.5K swim PR for me (if you don't count the Make-a-Wish Tri in 2007 during which the strong current resulted in a 16:47 swim time).

Overall, it was my second best Columbia time. I'll take it.

Lesson learned for Columbia is always the same - practice biking and running more hills...

I'm glad there are still several weeks before Eagleman so that I can get some more training in for the bike and for my feet.