I had investigated this race early on as potentially a race to do late-season that could allow me to qualify for worlds. This would be fun I thought because Worlds were scheduled for Australia. However, between the original consideration and the race day, Australia was closed for COVID and the location for World's was unclear. This caused me to consider not doing the race since I had hoped for a good excuse to fly to Australia again. I had also found the competitor list and noted that only one other person was signed up in my age group for the Aqua Bike OLY. This person appeared to be slower than me in past races when I checked on Athlinks so the potential for doing well was higher than normal.
Later, I could not find the athlete list, and apparently, 7 other women in my age group signed up after I had done my initial investigation. I ultimately decided I'd like a trip to NY and as it turned out, after several rainy cold days, the weather cleared up and it was quite pleasant to drive the 13 hours to the race and back. I enjoyed the scenery and the contemplative time alone on the drive.
I spent the night in Youngstown OH on the way there and split the drive into two days making it a lot more enjoyable. I arrived Friday at about 1:30 and got in line for check-in. This was not well done. The waivers were not given out until we got to the check-in table making every person sign and fill in 3 forms at the check-in spot. IM normally has you do these before getting in line with big tables filled with these forms. This is far more efficient. The time I spent in line was about 45 mins and I was like 20th in line. Silly procedure. They were also very short on volunteers it appeared throughout the race event. No silicon swim caps for latex allergies. I had my own but the wrong color. They appeared unworried about that.
After check-in, I tried to purchase a water bottle and was unable to do so because the person at the store did not know how to use the Ipad for card purchases. OOOOKAY.... I could have bought one later but decided not to.
I walked through the transition area which was still being set up and had no one to answer questions about where bikes would go. There were no signs on the racks so I could not figure out where I would be stationed the next morning. There were no bike out or swim in signs so it was hard to figure out how the flow would go. Not a terrible situation but not helpful either.
I then walked to the water to check temp. I had gotten readings from 50 to 81F online so it was unclear if I would really need a wetsuit or not. I hoped not. While I know I swim a bit faster with one, I also know it sometimes ruins my race by inducing a panic attack and I just didn't want to deal with it. So I test the water and found it quite warm. Like 78F warm. True it was just the surface and at shore but I figured I was good without one. Turned out I was correct.
I then tried to drive the bike course to understand the challenges I would be facing. I was able to finally figure out the map which was very confusing and find the roundabouts we would go through but the turnaround was not yet marked so I wasn't sure where we would turn around. I knew approximately but not exactly. What I realized on the drive was that this would be mostly downhill, some very steep downhills on the way out, and mostly uphill, some very steep, on the way back. There were some signs out but later I figured out these were for the run but this made it confusing and concerning because the runners would be on the same road as the bikers. This is dangerous because runners are turning around, crossing the road in front of the bikers, and not paying attention...nearly hit a runner the next day.
At that point, I was like, welp, not sure how this will go. I had my road bike since it has a hill-climbing cassette on the wheels I brought and is sturdier for rough roads...there were a few very rough places... so I was prepared but knew I wasn't the best hill climber and likely it would a hard day for me.
I arrived at 5:00 AM the next morning and entered transition quickly. I was one of the first to arrive. Not my usual plan but I woke up at 3:30 and at 4:15 gave up and got up. I was unable to eat anything, however. Finally later that morning I was able to get 1/2 an Oat bar down, but I knew this lack of nutrition was probably going to bite me. I still couldn't eat much despite that. I had gels on the bike but never used them. My stomach just wasn't cooperating that day. I got body marked because somehow I lost my tri tats in the hotel room. I saw them, then they were gone. NO IDEA how I did that.
The morning was cold, 52F so I was covered up most of the wait time to our race start. The sprint went first and they got a late start so we started 15 mins late. Wasn't a big deal but not sure why they started late. Someone said they didn't have enough volunteers that day. I think they were right.
I took my outerwear off and left them at the swim out to pick up on my way to transition. Headed to the swim start and once I entered the water I was so happy. Such a wonderful morning and a beautiful swim, until I made the turnaround. 5 buoys out, 5 buoys in, but the sun came up and I had a hellish time spotting and eventually swam sideways for a bit, following a kayaker who looked like a buoy in my fogged goggles with sun reflections obscuring my vision. I had hoped for a 30 min swim but ended up with 38 mins. I wasn't surprised. I figured I swam a mile instead of 1500 yds. So hopped out and collected my clothes and headed to transition. Per my norm, despite the delay, I was ahead of several women and had a faster transition than a couple of women ahead of me so left before them.
I had a lovely ride. Was pretty sure I would not need a jacket and I was correct. I was a bit cold but had left my top in transition so I'd have a dry top and swam in my sports bra and tri pants so I was mostly dry on my core for the ride. Note to self, get a tighter bra for this, because it filled with water as I swam, creating a bit of drag and annoyance.
Got my Garmin working so I could see my speed and took off. It was up and down a bit but my speeds were good and I was enjoying the ride. When I got to the big downhills, per my norm, I took all the speed I could gather doing almost 40 MPH in a couple places. The rough roads caused me to have to brake a few times and a turn or two cause me to shed some speed but the way out was totally fun and beautiful. After I got to the turnaround, I think the lack of nutrition was starting to catch up. I struggled with a few hills. Thought about eating a gel but my stomach was having none of that. I did have liquid nutrition so I used that a bit. Maybe it helped but not much.
I figured if I would do that ride in 2 hours or so I'd be okay with my performance. I think I hit that exactly. At about mile 20 I was at the hardest steepest part doing like 2 mph and struggling, thinking "I should just quit and wait for someone to pick me up" Yep I was in a dark place and not happy, watching person after person pass me on the hills, wondering if I was the last person on the course (I wasn't) and feeling like "I'm really not very talented at this sport, why the hell do I keep doing it?" when the devil sits on your shoulder and tells you how bad you are. At that moment, a guy passes me and asks how I am. I mean we're both riding like 2-3 mph at the point so there's time to talk. I tell him I think I'm done and might just DNF. He says "NO! you can do this! One foot in front of the other, one pedal at a time..." and he's still yelling encouragement as he disappears around the bend ahead of me. So I say to myself "okay, no place else to be, not rush, just ride and take it all in." So I did finish but I have to tell you it wasn't cake after that either. Still, more hills that I managed at 8-12mph but still it was slow and steady-going and my butt was killing me. Legs were good.
As I got close to the finish, runners were on the course, a few of them crossed over on their turnaround and neither the volunteer nor the runner looked before they ran across the road so I was avoiding runners on the last 3 miles. Annoying because I'd have to lose some speed I had built up to get around them or avoid them. Not a good plan.
I arrived at transition and gratefully dismounted and then walked across the finish to pick up my medal. I was very happy I did not have to now run 6 miles after that ride. Yes, I could have run, but it would have required more nutrition than I had consumed.
I came in 8th in my age group. I met several of the ladies at the awards ceremony. Many of them were locals who rode that hill before and had trained on it. There are hills in KY but nothing like the mountain I was on. It was relentless. In a word, Tough.
So I did it, I finished and felt glad I had gone and done it. No podium or national qualification for worlds but it was a lovely trip, stopped to visit a friend who moved to PA on the way home, stopped at Gahanna Forest for a picnic and bird hike as well, and enjoyed my time in the beautiful early fall weather. The leaves were just beginning to change so some red and yellow-tinged forests were lining the roads. I avoided tolls mostly on the way up but because I went through Harrisburg, I could not avoid them on the way back. About $30 in tolls for the trip. The hotel in NY was the most expensive. $00 for one night. The total cost for the trip was about $1000 I calculated including tolls, gas, hotels, and food.
Just a note, there's a lot of folks driving the US these days as flying is less desirable so the roads are crowded and hotels are selling out so plan ahead!