Rocksport Training’s first official group trip took place in Greenville, SC, after several of our members elected to compete in this early season race. We booked an AirBnB, and traveled down from Lexington, KY (and Louisville) with plans to race Sunday.
We all arrived Friday afternoon to a beautiful house in a peaceful and wooded neighborhood less than ten minutes from the venue. The house slept ten, and we filled all ten of those spots with two of us having to utilize the sleeper sofa (thanks Caroline and Matthew!) Several of us headed to White Duck Taco for a casual, outdoor bite while waiting on others to arrive later that evening.
Greenville is a lovely venue, and we had time to do some exploring Saturday despite intermittent rain (which would be par for the course over the weekend.) We started off the morning with a planned shakeout ride through the neighborhood. On the second mile, we came around the corner and suddenly faced one of the steepest hills I have ever seen! In fact, I worried about our riders running out of gears before reaching the top. Fortunately no one toppled over, and we were able to re-route and do an out and back into town.
We followed that adventure with a quick drive to packet pickup. The draft-legal races had just finished up, and we were impressed with the venue. Being a USAT Nationals event, everything was top notch. It had all the bells and whistles of the Triathlon Nationals, with the huge finish line, bleachers, transition area, etc. Volunteers were everywhere and there appeared to be millions of cones marking the course. No one would be getting lost! The expo was small with only a couple vendors but packet pickup was painless and super fast.
After packet pickup. we headed to Sidewall Pizza with our other friend Sally and her mom, and then walked down to check out Falls on the Reedy park. The sun had miraculously appeared, and the flowers were in full bloom. The waterfalls were spectacular, and everything was so walkable, Kids, dogs, couples and athletes were all milling about. What a great destination!
At 6am on race morning, we made the long journey (about 5 minutes) to transition. It was humid and it was also a little rainy, which would continue all morning. Transition spots were numbered, so it was easy to get set up. And the best thing about this race? With only a few hundred competitors, port o potty lines were non existent!
Everyone from our group was racing the standard, non-drafting race with a distance of 5.25 mile run, 25 mile bike and a 2.85 mile finishing run. We were all in different age groups, but I would be starting in the women 50 and under wave along with two of my athletes, Caroline and Sarah. (Sarah would also do the sprint later that afternoon in stormy weather.) After a short warm up, we had to duck for cover for a few minutes due to a torrential downpour. Thankfully, it lightened as we headed to the start.
The starting line was impressive! They had a wonderful announcer, who was introducing some of the strongest competitors and reading their race resumes. I heard the words “Champion” and “All-American” a lot. One thing about this race, the athletes were in it to win it. They had flown in from places like Texas, California and Oregon. I felt very humbled to be standing up there with such dominant women athletes.
When the gun went off, this group of women took off like a bat out of hell. It was hard not to get swept away with the crowd, so I aimed to hold back along with my athlete Caroline. I knew our run speed would be similar, so we had elected to go out together. The first quarter mile was straight up a hill in humidity that we were not ready for, so our heart rates were surging early.
Once we found a rhythm we started to pick off a few of the girls who had overexerted themselves early. We held a high 6:40’s pace most of the way, and backed off a bit the final mile to regroup a bit before the bike.
I lost a few seconds in transition, as I was more careful due to the rain/ wet conditions. Jumping on the bike, we were met with about a half mile of twisty and winding curves through the parking lot, so it was not super easy to get the shoes adjusted. But once we left the park that was the end of the technical portion.
The bike course was not easy. It didn’t have any particularly steep or challenging hills, but it seems to be a constant battle against high wind (especially crosswinds) and long grinders. I never did find my rhythm. The only thing that kept it interesting was that I played cat and mouse with a strong cyclist who was in the age group ahead of me. She was on a road bike, and was killing it. Any time I would get too comfortable, she would pass me, and then it would be a challenge to keep her in sight.
25 miles later we re-entered transition. Again, I rode into the park at a very conservative pace being careful of the wet, twisty roads. I made it through transition with a less-than-impressive time.
For our second run, it was back up the steep hill. I passed a couple girls on the hill, and then settled into some kind of rhythm. This was my first duathlon in years, and despite preparing well, I had forgotten how heavy-legged you feel on race day!
My second run was less than stellar, but I seemed to be holding my own and continued to pass a few folks. About half a mile in I passed the girl I had cat and moused with on the bike. She was looking strong. I managed to hold about 7:00 pace but just couldn’t find that extra gear. The bike course had been more fatiguing than I expected.
With a half mile to go, I started chatting with a local guy and we stuck together for most of the homestretch. The downhill finish was awesome, and the announcer was great about calling us each by name as we crossed the finish line!
After grabbing some water, I was able to watch our other athletes come in. Caroline came in just about a minute ahead of Sarah. Dolores finished strong, and so did Luke. Ben had an impressive race as well! Between our group, we had three podiums and all of us were invited to compete for Team USA in the Netherlands.
As far as my race, I was in a very tough age group. Despite being 7th overall with a 2:08, I could only swing third in the women’s 40-44 age group. I was pretty consistent across the three legs, with my bike being slightly better than my runs as usual.
Next year this race moves to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and I am already putting it on the calendar. It is later in the season- May 31, so we will have to get ready for a heat wave!