This past weekend was the NJ State Triathlon. I should have known that this weekend was bound for complications back in May when we found out that the American Zofingen Triathlon was cancelled due to lack of interest. In an effort to try to get in another race, I decided that this one would do, and Ryan and Mike decided to come with. Flat and fast, quick and dirty, we could get it in and still get in some good training hours otherwise. In theory, sounds like a great plan.
The weekend started out interestingly as Ryan and I left Panera on Saturday after getting breakfast. With my bike on the rack behind my car, I had backed out of my spot when I spotted the car behind me starting to back out of theirs. Another car had pulled up in front of me, so I couldn’t just floor it and move forward. And my horn on the Tracker decided it wasn’t going to work. So I did what anyone would do – I just started screaming bloody murder. Something along the lines of “NOOO” and “MY BIKEEEEE” were the words, but who really knows. Crunch!
I felt like I had just watched a dog get hit by a car. I ran out of the car and promptly yelled at the girl who backed into it. Despite profusely apologizing, I just had no sympathy seeing as we just sat in Panera and overhead them talking about being hungover and all their antics of the night before. I inspected the damage done and as Ryan rode my bike around to check it out, I discovered that my trusty Thule bike rack had put a nice hole into her bumper, and by the magic of the triathlon gods my bike had been strategically placed that, while it got bumped, no apparent damage was done. Disaster averted. (Note: After riding the bike on Sunday evening – more on that later – Ryan did notice my chain drooping in the small ring; tuns out she bumped the rear derailleur and while no major damage was done, I did need a new chain).
So anyway, we packed up and caravan up to NJ. The best part about going up north is always the Wawa stops! We eventually got to the race site and picked up our packets where, not really to our surprise, we found out that NJ was just as hot as Maryland. So hot, most of the vendors hadn’t even bothered to come out for the expo-type event at packet pickup. Onward to the hotel and into Princeton for dinner. I had tweeted Jordan Rapp asking for suggestions on where to eat. But, right after I sent the tweet we left and I didn’t bring my phone, so we ended up at the Triumph Brewery. Jordan’s suggestions were: Hoagie Haven, Masala Grill, Mediterra and Messaluna in case anyone is interested! The brewery was great though and then we took a stroll through Princeton’s campus right across the street. Definitely a cute little town.
On to bed, and up for the race. I think this was the latest I ever got to wake up before a race – 5:15 the alarm went off. Gathered up our things and headed to the race site where we were informed that the water temp was 90 degrees. Nice. Our little elite wave gathered and I noticed a couple other women as I got into the water, but I really didn’t look around too much to scope anyone out. I was excited for this elite wave – while I knew it wouldn’t be as competitive as Columbia, it’s always nice to be able to gather the fastest from the age groups and race together.
During the swim, I never got quite comfortable. Maybe it was the hot temps, maybe it was the sun in my eyes, or maybe it was just fatigue. I came out of the water with Ryan, saw a 26 on my watch, and someone told me I was second woman. Wait….what? Immediately my interest was piqued, but obviously it was no time to stop to chat. I knew, however, that there was really no way I would be second out of the water, in any race, with a 26 minute swim. Something was up. Either way, the worst was over, so I headed onto my bike. I couldn’t get my computer to work before the race so I was riding on feel…..and from the getgo I felt pretty terrible. In general, I like having a climb or two at the start of a ride to shake my legs out and wake them up. This had nothing of the sorts, it was flat and fast, requiring constant pedaling. At that point though, there was nothing to do but grit my teeth and go. I was with the girl who came out of the water right behind me through the first loop, but couldn’t quite hang on for the second loop. Turns out I rode a 1:09 and with the bike being a little long at 25.5 miles, that makes me pretty happy!
I knew at this point there were 2 women ahead, but I was interested to see during the run how close others were behind me. A run with a bunch of out and backs like this makes a perfect setup to see the competition. So I was looking…..and looking….and looking. It wasn’t until I was turning into the finish chute that I finally saw another girl behind me on the course. And then it all made sense….there were only 3 women in the Elite wave. I came through the finish in 2:26, a time that’s really consistent with my other Olympic Distance races this season. I was mostly happy to see that even on a day where my legs felt terrible, I was still able to get in under 2:30 fairly easily – something I hadn’t done much of ever before! Keeping in mind that this also followed a week with my highest volume of training to date, I couldn’t be not happy about it.
Now, I want to go back to the Elite wave issue for a minute. I was actually pretty disappointed to find out that there were only 3 of us. Now, I know that some of the girls are doing some of their first races and don’t know how good they are. But I also know that a quick athlinks search on some others reveals plenty of other races where they went under 2:30. And not only that – but, let’s be honest for a second and admit that if you’re tuning up your $5,000 whip with Zipp wheels…you’re trying to compete. And if you’re trying to be fast, you know what’s better than Zipp wheels and a nice bike? Actually racing hard against fast girls.
This isn’t the first time I have seen this phenomenon. In fact, it happens at most group rides I go to in Baltimore where I am one of (if I’m lucky) 2-3 other girls. Now, I know I have worked hard and have become pretty strong on the bike. But, I also know that I’m not one of the only girls in this area who can ride well. Rather, you hear all sorts of reasons why not to go – I’m going to get dropped, it’s too hard, I don’t think I can do it, blah blah blah. This is my official call to arms for the ladies out there – GET OUT THERE AND DO SOME WORK! It is FUN to compete against each other. Especially in a sport where we are constantly having to be at the mercy of wave starts, having an elite group gives us a rare chance to break out of that and go against the best.
And maybe some of the responsibility here falls on the shoulders of the race directors. Incentives can be put out – i.e. don’t allow AG athletes to place overall if you’re going to have an elite wave. Or, if you see a small elite field, wipe it out all together. The purpose of it is meaningful, but if you’re not going to follow through, don’t try and get away with it half-way.
Ultimately, I don’t necessarily think that my time would have been faster if I had girls closer to me to push me. But, I was disappointed that I didn’t have the chance to find out. I didn’t come to NJ to eat tomato pie (which I actually find repulsive) – I came to race, and I just wish more girls shared the same view.
Ryan’s race appeared to be fairly similar to mine (we also both came in 8th overall), and Mike managed to crush it and get 2nd which earned him a super sweet trophy cup thing. Pretty baller! We headed home, but not before stopping at Varsity Pizza. If you’re ever up in the area, go there, it’s quite delish.
After a quick nap at home, Ryan and I got back on our bikes for what was supposed to be an easy 2 hours. 36 minutes in, 10 miles out in Shadytown, USA, I got a flat and between the two of us we didn’t have enough stuff to fix it. So Ryan had to ride back home and get the car, while I sat and waited on the side of Rt. 40. In this hour, I received approximately 3 honks, one cop that waved hello at me when I tried to wave them down, and only one family was nice enough to stop and see if I needed help. Welcome to Baltimore.