Monday, August 5, 2013

Culpeper International Triathlon Race Report

I didn't really mention it on the blog but this race had me pretty nervous. I have put in a lot of hard work over the past two months but my running was not where I wanted it to be and bricks were pretty nonexistent in my training. I knew I could cover the distances strongly on their own but I was worried about running a 10K after biking for 24 miles. Luckily things turned out alright.

With the race being around 3 hours away my dad and I drove down to Virginia on Friday night and made the very smart decision to head over to the race site to check things out. The website describes both the run and bike courses as being challenging, with both hills and technical turns. I'm terrible at turns on the bike so I wanted to get an idea what I was in for. While driving the course I noted a few turns that looked a little hairy and a few big hills but nothing too scary. I knew I would have my work cut out for me but was so much more relaxed after driving the course.

The morning of the race went pretty smoothly. It was really easy to pickup my packet and get body marked with plenty of time to set up my transition area. Despite the earlier wake up call, I recommend getting to the race site on the early side so you have enough time and don't end up worrying and running around trying to get everything done on time.

Swim (1500 meters)
Before I knew it the race was starting. I was in the third out of five swim waves, meaning I started at 8:08 vs 8:00. I didn't really have a plan for the swim other than to stay with the leaders. When the horn sounded it was pretty chaotic. I've never experienced contact like that in a swim start but it didn't really bother me after so many years of some intense swim meet warm ups. I pretty quickly found myself behind a girl who had on a green cap vs the light blue ones the rest of us were wearing. I tried numerous times to pass her but she cut me off every single damn time so I decided to just hang out on her feet and let her do the work.

She ended up being really good at sighting so instead of looking for the buoys I just made sure I was still behind her. I definitely could have gone harder in the swim but I wanted to save my energy for the rest of the race plus the free sighting was a huge help. Towards the end of the swim the girl started to pick up the pace so I went with her. We pretty much caught up with the other girl in our wave and all finished within seconds of each other.

Swim: 23:58 / 1:35 pace / 1st AG / 5th overall
T1: 1:29

Bike (24 miles)
The bike course started with a pretty steep grassy hill that you had to walk or run your bike up, followed by a descent down the other side of that hill, a sharp right turn, and another steep climb. The beginning and end of the bike course was the hardest but only because it was fairly technical. After the hill I settled onto the bike and started to get to work. It was lightly raining and fairly cool out. My plan for the bike was to ride the first half at whatever felt comfortable and then pick it up for the second half.

There were two decent hills on the course, one towards the beginning and the other towards the end. I was really worried about the first one, only to realize I had already gone up it about 5 miles later (guess I'm getting better at hills!). When my watch got to an hour I looked to see my pace and was shocked to see 17.25. I knew I needed to pull it back a little if I wanted to survive the run but I didn't feel like I was overexerting myself at all. I kept the pace up but took all of the uphills easier.

Before I knew it we were at the final descent back to the park with a really sharp right turn at the bottom of the hill. I was so nervous about this turn all day but just took it slow and did fine. Once dismounting we then had to run our bikes down that grassy hill which was actually pretty challenging to do in bike shoes.

Bike + run up/down a grass hill w/ bike: 1:26:24 / 16.79 mph / 2nd AG / 45th overall
T2: 1:30

Run (6.2 miles)

I knew the run course was hard going into the race and in some ways it was worse than I was expecting but in others it was better. I thought there was one super huge monstrous hill and the beginning of each of the two laps. While nothing was that bad, there were three pretty big hills on each lap. Luckily for each uphill was a pretty sweet downhill. My plan was to go conservative on the first lap and then push with whatever was left on the second lap.

I think I positive split this but I still did so much better than I thought I would. Given my general lack of run training I was hoping to be able to hold sub 9:00. Despite all the hills, I took advantage of the downhills and was not only able to run a much faster 10K than I was expecting but I felt really strong the whole time. There was definitely some bargaining with myself not to walk on the last few hills but I made it through with a run that I am proud of.

Run: 53:15 / 8:35 pace / 2nd AG / 32nd overall

The final ~half mile of the run is slightly downhill in the grass which was certainly not fun but it wasn't too terrible either. I realized about half way through the run that I might be able to go under 2:50 if I really hustled. I didn't set any time goals for this race beforehand since I didn't know just how hard it was. At dinner the night before I did tell my dad that I think on a flat course I could probably go 2:45 so to be even kind of close on a hilly course is amazing to me.

Finish Time: 2:46:34 / 2nd AG / 21st overall

As they always do, Set Up Events put on an outstanding race that I would absolutely recommend. This race showed me I am capable of so much more and I am so excited to see what next year has in store for me. I have one more sprint triathlon on the calendar, although I am thinking about switching to the Olympic distance. I am also contemplating doing another sprint in early September but from here until November 3 the New York City Marathon is what takes priority.


  1. Great write up and congratulations on a great race!!

  2. Congrats on an awesome race! Smart to go check out the course when you know there might be some technical or hard spots!