A couple weeks ago, I raced a very short sprint triathlon that was for women only. Women’s only triathlons hold a special place in my heart. My very first tri was a women’s race and it instantly hooked me. Usually I’m very conflicted about women-specific races, because if it was flipped in favor of the other gender we’d never hear the end of it. However, it is nice for beginners to get a chance to experience the very competitive and intense sport of triathlon in a much more supportive environment. Women competitors are just more supportive of each other before, during, and after races. And while male triathletes are usually really great people, during competition they can be overly aggressive and unsupportive and sometimes downright jerks, which is not very appealing to women athletes until they get their feet a little more wet in the sport. (And if you really want to see a male triathlete get jerky and aggressive, wait till you see him get chicked in one of the events!)
So, when I saw that we were getting another women’s race, I got excited and signed up. Sure it’s pretty late in the season and such a short distance while I’m working on races that are more than 2-3x that distance, but it sounded like fun. Plus with such a short distance I could really try to sprint my heart out and hope for a good placement in my age group, especially since it’s really geared toward beginner athletes.
Well race day didn’t quite go as planned. I did sprint my little heart out and I did get a good age group placement. But due to mistakes caused by volunteers, the result was a little different. I have debated writing about this race, but I feel that it is important for any triathlete and especially beginners to read. Everyone makes mistakes. Being prepared is key, and even all the preparedness in the world can still cause errors.
Swim: 200m, 4:16
Pre-race, I got a quick dip in the 50m lane, hoping to alleviate some of my anaerobic race anxiety I get in the water sometimes. It worked. When my number was called I took off. I worked on a slow stroke at first to make sure I was keeping my aerobic breath in check. I worked on swimming strong and hung on to one swimmer in front of me for the short swim. I didn’t push too hard because I knew I would really try to hammer the bike and sprint hard on the run where I was stronger.
Bike: 8k, 15:40
Two loops of a very short, fairly flat course. So I hammered as hard as I could, and tried to pass whenever I could. One other competitor and I traded back and forth for a while until she got an advantage on me and got a little ahead.
Run: 2k (actually 1.05mi), 8:12
This is where I was planning on crushing it. I know I’m a faster runner than most of my competitors, but especially most of my female beginner athletes. With such a short distance there was no reason why I couldn’t sprint hard and hold a sub-8 pace or less. The course left transition, down a street to a very short greenway walking loop, back to transition and then make a second loop of the same. I caught up with the woman who had passed me on the bike and passed her fairly soon on the run and basically passed everyone ahead of me. As I came around out of the walking trail, I started to head out for a second loop, but a volunteer with a flag was screaming at us and insisting we make the second loop within the walking trail instead of leaving the trail and going back to the beginning. He was very insistent and yelling at us in an admonishing tone as I started to head out he told me “NO!” and waived into the walking trail. For a second I second-guessed myself and followed his instructions making a second loop. And everyone followed me. At this time I was ahead of all of the other runners and kept passing those on their first loop. As I came out of my second loop I headed towards finish. Just before I reached the chute, another volunteer (rightfully) tried to get me to make a second lap. I explained that I had already looped twice and was done. We argued for a precious several seconds before I just ran on into the finish chute. I was the first through the finish line. I explained to the volunteers there that the course got messed up and a volunteer is sending people the wrong way. Apparently everyone else did the same loop that I did, with the exception of about 4-6 people who were convinced by the second volunteer to make the 3rd lap.
So, because of the 4-6 outsiders in the race, the directors decided to drop everyone’s run time from the official results. Instead of going with the majority of everyone, they just dropped the other 200+ competitors’ results. I was furious. The run is why I really wanted to do this race and what I was banking on for my results. I did not sign up for the Aquabike division for a reason. Though this was an Aquabike + T2 results. Yes, they included the T2 results!! How bizarre! So with that I was placed at 2nd in my Age Group. While on the podium, the 1st place winner told me she got it by a technicality because she walked the run! She was VERY lucky I’m not a violent person.
Official Results: 2nd in Age Group, Total 22:50
Unofficial Results: 1st in Age Group, Total 31:01
I got a very nice plaque and some Swiftwick socks. I’m conflicted about this podium finish. Technically it’s not a triathlon award. But technically I would have gotten an even better award in the full triathlon results. I will be more sure of myself the next time I race. Though it is rare that I’m ever in the lead and would be leading people the wrong way on a course and have to make these decisions on whether the very angry sounding volunteer was right. Then again, I do not necessarily agree with how the race directors handled the results. I understand it, but I found it very frustrating.