Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 Marble Falls Triathlon Race Report
Why You Should Show Relays a Little More Love

By Kat Hunter

Relays get a bad rap – that is, when they're not being completely ignored, which is more often the case. The general tri-population will tell you that relays aren't "serious." But honestly, that's probably their best trait.

There's no pressure in a relay. No one's going to critique your overall time, and at most, you're competing against a handful of other teams. You also tend to choose your strongest discipline, which in my case, eliminates worrisome questions before the swim start like, "Will I sink?" and "Will anyone stop me if I swim the wrong direction, or will I end up in the Gulf of Mexico first?"

Relays are also a great way to focus on improving a particular area of competition, compete in spite of or after an injury, or ease new people into multi-sport. And sometimes it's just a fun way to participate when you're not in top shape for a tri and still want to punish yourself in a race environment.

The Marble Falls Triathlon is probably my favorite local tri. The bike course is long (35k) and rolling, complete with a nasty climb at the beginning and a twisty, Mario Kart-style exit ramp before the final few miles back into town. Unfortunately, it also starts with a 1,000-meter swim. As much as I enjoyed myself at the 2010 race, after more than a year off from swimming and nearly four months off from running, there was no way I was going to sign up. When it comes to race entry, the aero-gear-or-no- aero-gear quandary, and other important life decisions, one should always consider the wise advice of Corey May: "Are the results on the internet? Well, there you go."

The relay offered the perfect solution for our ATC trio. Cassidy Santaguida, a swimmer in high school and later on club teams, was interested in tri training and checking out the scene, and Rita Stroobandt, a collegiate runner, and I had both fallen off the wagon in one way or another. Rita had been recovering from a knee injury, as well as mentally recovering from Ironman Arizona, and I had more or less fully transitioned into time trialing and bike racing.

We were put in the wrong swim wave, so Cassidy started her leg with the Women's 39 and under group. She was fourth or fifth out of the water, a position I would never in a million years have found myself in (oh, is that Kat just coming around the second buoy? Think we should send a rescue?). Nor would I ever have left the water feeling anything less than half-drowned, so taking off on the bike at full speed just behind the top women and Men's 34 and under group was a new experience.

I was having so much fun that I started out going far too hard. Four weeks ago, after my husband's aluminum-P3-vs.-steel-sedan incident (the P3 lost, but the Toyota took a heavy beating) our communal Powertap had to be sent in for repairs. It was returned a few days before the tri, but it was my first opportunity in a long time to use it for a race, and I forgot to pay attention to the numbers or to give them the proper respect. After about 20 minutes, I slowed up considerably.

My goal had been to catch and pass Maggi Finley, top amateur triathlete and my new teammate on the ATC Women's Racing cycling team (official announcement about the team coming soon). She had left the water ahead of our relay team and was moving fast, but I figured it would be a reasonable goal to try and catch her, since she wasn't strictly doing a TT. The joke was on me. I caught up to her at the halfway point, just as she was coming around the cones and I was braking to start the turn. I had underestimated her strength – as soon as she saw me, she sped up and a sizeable gap opened up again.

I was chasing her until about the final four miles, when the course turns back from Hwy 71 onto 281. I started to give it all I had left since I knew I was close. When I finally passed her, I croaked "Good job, Maggi," and thought that would be the end of it. Not a single guy had passed me on the course, or as far as I knew, had even tried to. So when a few minutes later Maggi came back around on my left, I was floored. "You know," she said, "that this is going to really mess up my run." I laughed, or tried to.

After that, I got close enough to be too close, so I passed again…then she passed again… At one point I took off as hard as I could go on a steep hill, knowing that I was blowing up my legs and figuring she wouldn't try to keep up with the pace, but just after the hill she was coming around me once more. We both hit the brakes hard at the first stoplight in town, unsure of whether to turn left or go straight, with another cyclist just to our right. After the police officer had waved us through the intersection, the other cyclist was ahead, followed by me and then Maggi. He slowed down (I would have been nervous about me, too, at that point) through the last coned-in section, which meant that I came in just ahead of him and Maggi into transition, by accident more than by legitimate effort since the last section was simply too hectic and tight to re-pass.

In transition, our relay team only needed to exchange the chip, so Rita started the run before Maggi. Through my post-TT haze I remember Rita saying something like, "Ha, no way." She was Maggi's "rabbit" for the first mile or so of the 4.4-mile run, and then Maggi won a firm victory against Team ATC, averaging 6:45 miles. But we don't feel too bad about having our three parts beat by one, since in the end Maggi not only came in first woman, but tenth overall.

Our relay team came in first in the all-female relay division, seeing as we were the only all-female team, but we also had the best time among the mixed teams. So we got our medals and post-race barbecue feeling like we had accomplished what we had come there for, or maybe even a little more (that's what my muscles were saying, at any rate). And other ATCers took home top honors, as well - John Trowbridge was 7th overall and Master's Overall Winner, George Schmitz came in 9th overall, and Tim Dove took 2nd in the Clydesdale division.

So why run a relay? And why feel good about being passed by girls with an "R" on their calves? Because first and foremost, triathlon is about having fun, and the more people involved, the better the present and future of the sport. Besides, when the girls are on a relay team, you have an excuse – you can say you weren't fully "chicked."

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJuly 18, 2011

    Wow, Rita you are famous! I don't see Adam's pic