Race Report – Nantucket Triathlon, July 21 2012

The island of Nantucket is special to many people in many different ways.  Its beauty and charm are so exceptional that there is something for everyone to fall in love with.   I am lucky enough to visit Nantucket a few times a year and although it’s a small island – I experience something new and wonderful every time. This past weekend is a perfect example of that when I competed in the 4th annual Nantucket Triathlon. 
For the past two years I have been on the island for the triathlon but was on the sidelines cheering for Jared and his friends as they swim, bike and run the island starting at Jetties Beach.  It’s always a fun event and there is always some excitement, like last year’s unexpected mid-race lightening storm.  I was ready to be part of the action this year so back in January I registered for the race even though I hadn’t completed a triathlon since 2010 and had not been on my bike or in the water since that last race.   I assumed with six months to prepare I’d be ready by mid-July.  Fast forward to July 1 and I still had not found the motivation to ride or swim.
Back in January, I had great intentions
I got in exactly 2 rides before the race – the first on my July 1 birthday and the 2nd on our way to pick up our race packets the night before the tri.  I was a little bit more responsible with the swim training.  After joining the local YMCA earlier this month I swam once or twice every week and felt confident I could complete the .33 distance of the swim portion. 
The alarm went off at 4:15 Saturday morning giving us enough time to gear up, eat some breakfast and get down to Jetties Beach for the race.  We had already racked our bikes the night before so all that was left to do was set up transition and get ready to race.  We all gathered on the beach for the start and it wasn’t long after the first horn before we realized that some of athletes were struggling.  The third wave had just taken off with the fourth on deck when the race was delayed.  All of us on the beach stood around confused for a long time until we finally discovered that the current was so strong it was dragging the racers away from the course.  So many people needed help from the rescue boats that they filled up leaving many swimmers stranded and scared.  They finally stopped the race in order to rescue anyone who needed help and make sure everyone was safe.  Some swimmers even decided to not finish the swim course and walked back to the beach giving up their timing chip and forfeiting the race.  Approximately and hour later they shortened the swim to a quick out/ back to the first buoy making the swim about 300 yards.  The rest of the swim was so shallow it was easier (and safer) to walk through than swim.  Waiting on the beach I saw Jared’s wave swim and was relieved to see him come out of the water looking strong and ready to take on the bike. 
Finally it was my wave’s turn to get into the water.  The women before us were finishing up and you could see that even with the shorter course it was still a tough swim through the current.  When the horn blew for my wave I began to swim as hard as I could to reach the buoy – and suddenly the lack of training, my anxiety and that nasty current all took over and I felt as if I had a rope tied to my legs holding me back.  Too add to the pressure, some swimmers had already reached the buoy and were turning around swimming toward me creating more distraction.  I finally touched the buoy and began heading back but I was already exhausted and barely making any distance in the water.  I found myself repeating in my head ‘You can swim, you’re okay, just don’t panic’ over and over again, I never stopped wondering if I was going to need a rescue.  The volunteers on kayaks and swimmers in the next wave cheered us on but it wasn’t until I was able to touch bottom that I finally relaxed.  I ran out of the water and up to transition.  I have never been so excited to get on a bicycle!
Transition was pretty smooth and I grabbed my bike to head out to the course.  I settled into a manageable pace and enjoyed the ride out to Madaket.  I got comfortable behind another racer who was at a speed I was happy with.  We passed several other bikers on the way out and it seemed like no time at all before we were at the half way point of the 14 mile course.  I decided to push myself a little bit more but started to fatigue and the wind on the way back was a little more challenging.  I was also getting thirsty because (this is insanely embarrassing) I can’t drink on the bike.  Due to lack of confidence, balance and time spent in the saddle, I’m terrified to take my hand off the handlebars long enough to drink.  If biking a longer distance I need to pull over to take in fluids – yep, I did Mooseman without drinking on the course and had to stop twice.  I would like to eventually take care of this problem but that would require more biking and I haven’t committed to that.  Finally, I made it back to the beach and racked my bike to head out for the final leg of the race, and the only part that I am actually any good at. 
Many triathletes don’t like to run, especially after a bike ride when your legs feel so wobbly you’re not sure how you are going to walk never mind run 3.5 miles.  I am so excited to get to the run that I could care less what my legs feel like.  I switched my shoes, grabbed water and took off.  Since I struggle (suck at) both the swim and bike once I get to the run I end up passing people the whole time.  It’s a huge confidence booster for me and a great way to end the race.  The run course is ideal with only one hill and lots of people cheering along the way.  I was able to hold steady around an 8 minute mile with each split a little faster than the one before.  I stepped on the gas for the last half mile ready to finish up and collect my medal and high 5s.  I ran through the finish line with Jared waiting for me right at the end. 
My official time was: 1:36:39 (chip time – official times did not include the swim)
Swim – 9:48
T1 – 5:27
Bike – 51:05 (16.4 mph)
T2 – 3:04
Run – 27:17 (8:02)
Post race smiles
It was quite a race.  I’ve read a lot of comments, complaints and suggestions about how it could have been handled differently but I believe that the race director and coordinators did the best they could with the situation.  I feel terrible for the athletes that gave up on the swim and were forced to hand in their timing chip before everything was sorted out but the volunteers were only following instruction.  Obviously with the swim problems it wasn’t an ideal race but as we enjoyed the island for the rest of the afternoon and evening wearing our medals and number tats like a badge of honor – it made for great conversation throughout the night.  There was a sense of camaraderie around town among everyone who competed.
I am most certainly planning to return for next year’s Nantucket tri, assuming the town allows another one – which is definitely not guaranteed.  There are some adjustments I will make in preparation including:
  • Maybe I’ll try training.  There is no excuse for me to not spend some more time on my bike and get more comfortable.  I’d like to officially state that my goal on the bike is to be able to take a drink without losing control and I would like to average 18 mph next year. 
  • I’m going to run faster.  I was aiming to run sub 8’s and while my watch had me around there the official time was 8:02 average.  I can run faster than that for 3.5 miles if I push harder.
  • I’m going to bring a back pack that I can ride with so Jared doesn’t have to carry two. I don’t have enough balance to carry a back pack while I’m riding so he had to wear both his and mine from Jetties to the house.  Next year I’ll do that better too. Poor guy.  I wish I took a photo. 😦

We got back to the house can cleaned up quickly to get back out and celebrate.  Our first stop was to visit our friends at Cisco Brewery.  You can read my Trip Advisor Review to learn more, but this truly is one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon on the island.  There were lots of fellow triathletes stopping by congratulating one another and enjoying celebratory beers and cocktails.

Showing off our new bling at the brewery

Any muscle soreness from the race (along with a headache I had from possibly over indulging Saturday evening) was washed away Sunday by a swim in the ocean and a beautiful lunch in town.  Later that afternoon I headed back to real life and already looking forward to my next trip to ‘the rock’ – which will hopefully be next month.  I can never stay away from The Grey Lady too long. 

I do plan to keep swimming and maybe even cycling even with the tri behind me.  Cross training is incredibly beneficial for distance running and does wonders for speed and injury prevention.  The NYC marathon is getting closer and closer and I am still on track for a great training season.  I am almost 50% to my fundraising goal of $3500.  Please consider helping me get there by visiting http://go.liverfoundation.org/goto/LauraNYC
Finally, I want send a very special thank you to the Nantucket Triathlon Race Directors Jamie Ramney and Bill Burnett for coordinating a really terrific event.  The town does not make it easy for them and coordinating 1000 athletes on Nantucket has got to be inconceivably difficult – and by difficult I mean a pain in the ass. 
Thank you also to the awesome volunteers who are such an integral part of a successful race and gave up their Saturday morning to take a care of a bunch of cranky athletes.  You are loved and appreciated.  

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