This weekend I raced in the Brett Robinson Alabama Coastal Triathlon (Olympic Distance) located in Gulf Shores, AL. This seemed like a good training race for mebuilding up to Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, and let’s face it, I’m always looking for an excuse to visit the beach!
Truth be told, I was actually pretty worried about this race. I had developed a nice case of sinusitis the week building up to the race which had morphed into a URI two days before race day. I was congested, lethargic, and my chest hurt any time I exerted myself. Not exactly my best race shape. But, I had already paid the money so I thought, well I’ll go, and if I feel terrible during the race, I’ll just stop.
I loaded up Scarlett and drove out to Gulf Shores from New Orleans on Friday afternoon.
We arrived with enough time to catch packet pick up that evening, so I wandered down to the race location, The Hangout, and grabbed my stuff. The location was excellent – right on the beach, tons of space inside The Hangout’s large outdoor patio for an organized packet pick up (and post-race shindig), and transition was huge, meaning not cramped! I was even able to leave Scarlett overnight in transition, which I took full advantage of.
I was planning on having a quiet evening by myself, but I realized two friends of mine, Michael and Patrick, were also in town for the weekend, so I went to meet up with them at the
world-famous regionally-famous Florabama bar. To make things more interesting (amazing!!!), the bar was hosting a touring rodeo that we stumbled into, making for an entertaining evening. At that point I decided that even if the race was a bust, at least I saw cows (and cowboys)… at a bar… on a beach. 🤣
Race morning was pretty straight forward. I woke up feeling very congested and coughing and was really not feeling it. However, Mr. Big had arrived to meet me AND was also racing himself for the first time (more on that later!) so I focused on making sure he was set up to take my mind off things.
When we arrived at the beach I noticed that the gorgeous ocean from the night before had been replaced by a choppy mess of surf and the wind had picked up. Ugh. I assured Mr. Big that the ocean swim would be fine, but as we stood and waited for his turn to start in the sprint portion of the race, I was having second thoughts. The current had a strong pull to the west and the waves were a good 5 ft. I told Mr. Big not to think about anything I had taught him in our swimming lesson the week before and just to focus on literally keeping his head above water. He only has 300 meters to go, I thought, hopefully the gods of the sea aren’t looking for a handsome land creature to sacrifice today.
I saw him off, watched his swim cap bob and weave around his first buoy, and then realized I needed to line up, as the Olympic distance was about to start and somehow I’d seeded myself second overall for the swim start. Yikes. I dashed to the front of the pack and found myself clustered with six or seven very fit men, all dressed in sleek black tri suits, black goggles, and with very serious looks on their faces. They were most certainly part dolphin. I felt a little out of place at first as I caught one of the dolphin-men giving me the side eye, but then I realized he’d obviously never seen “The Little Mermaid” – gingers are naturally aquatic, after all.
To make a long story short, the swim was a shit show. The waves were horrific to get through, the current was super strong and pulled tons of people off course, and getting out of the surf back onto the beach was a major struggle. To make matters worse, we had to do the swim loop twice to make our 1500 meters so that meant two bouts of entering and existing the swim through the battering waves. It was awful. I’m fairly sure I batted a few jellyfish, I’m pretty sure I gargled a good chunk of The Gulf, and I’m completely sure that if I wasn’t as confident in the water as I am, I would have given up. I give serious kudos to the weaker swimmers of the group that stuck it out in the swim.
Swim pros: no sharks
Swim cons: everything else.
Swim time: 38:00/ 1500 meter. 2:19 HM
Shockingly I felt ok enough after the swim to keep going and tackle the bike portion of the race. I took my sweet time in transition and off I went. We had two 12.5 mile out and back loops on a nice flat course and I felt really great starting off. I settled into aero position, had a nice pace of 20 mph going with not too much effort, and I felt good. I saw Mr. Big heading back to finish his 12 mile loop when I was just a couple miles in. Looks like the Sea spared him this time, I chuckled. The rest of the ride was uneventful. The headwind was pretty impressive (18 mph) after the turn around, so on my second loop I decided to push my pace a bit while I had the tail wind, and not fight the headwind on the way back in. I knew my pace would be bad, but overall, legs felt ok, spent 90% of the time in aero position with no problems, and even remembered to drink some water.
Bike pros: no seat pain, legs felt solid, hydration.
Bike cons: the headwind destroyed my pace
Bike time: 1:30.30/ 25 miles, 16.4 mph
This is always the worst part of my race. I was dreading it, but I figured I’d come so far, it was silly not to finish. The run was a 6 mile out and back course. The first 3 miles were literally up hill and into the headwind, but heading back was blissfully downhill with a nice tailwind. Not a bad way to end a race. My chest was struggling during the run, and I was feeling hot and beaten down. I decided to take it easy and allowed more walk breaks than I’d like to admit, but for the girl was questioned even starting the race 4 hours before, I was doing ok.
Run pros: pace was faster than it was 6 weeks earlier in a sprint tri.
Run cons: pure exhaustion
Run time: 1:11.17 /6 miles. 11:53 min/mile
I compared my times to the Olympic I did in 2015 and all of my paces were much faster, which gives me hope for my upcoming 70.3. I plan on putting in some hard time for the next 5 weeks before a quick taper for Oct. 22. Hopefully I can keep the paces dropping.
After the race we hung out at The Hangout (hehe, get it!?) ate some food and had some beer. Mr. Big proclaimed that he 1. Enjoyed himself and 2. Would do another one. (Don’t worry, I’m having his head scanned later this week!!) His times were pretty good for roughly 1.5 weeks of training and he didn’t let the swim beat him down, which I was proud of him for. All in all, we’ll chalk this race up as a success!