Giant Acorn Sprint Triathlon Recap
A Race Experience by Amanda
As with many racers during Covid-19, I had two sprint triathlons deferred from registrations I paid for nearly 2 years ago. While I knew one race was coming up that I had been preparing for, I got a surprise email that I was registered for another race just three days prior to the race, and it was 2 weeks earlier than the one I had been training for! The race was the Giant Acorn Sprint Triathlon on September 26. Thankfully, I tend to register for sprint tri's because I can usually "get through" them, even if undertrained. The swim is 750m, the bike is anywhere from 12-16 miles, and the run is a 5K. I promptly checked my calendar and then the anticipated water temperature - it was teetering between wetsuit legal and not, so I knew I had to try mine on just in case. I get out my wetsuit and - Wow - it had new tags on it! I had apparently purchased this wetsuit in late 2019 and never got to wear it. With some weight loss in 2020, I wasn't entirely sure it would fit. Lo and behold, I must have purchased a size down because it fit like a glove - phew! I had kept my triathlon bag packed from 2019, in anticipation for 2020 races, so there was not much prep I needed to do and I keep a handy luggage tag checklist of the tri gear basics attached to the bag.
Race Day quickly arrived for the Giant Acorn Sprint, held at Lake Anna State Park, a course that I know well. I only had a short drive from Fredericksburg because I stayed at a friend's house the night before, which included one, or maybe two, s'mores. I arrived a solid hour before the race start at 7:00am, just as the sun was coming up. The air temperature was a brisk 49°F, but the water temperature was 77°F, which meant I could wear a wetsuit and still be eligible for awards (ha, not like I was prepared enough for an age group place!). The sun was shining, but because of the air-water temperature difference, there was quite a bit of fog rising off the lake, which made the swim a bit tricky. I checked in, got my numbers for my helmet, bike, and run bib, and set up my gear and bike in the transition area quickly. Being out of practice for race day, I think I must have walked back to my car four times thinking of other items I might want to have (inhaler, lip balm, who knows what else). Once set-up, I went to the Body Marking station and more or less derobed to have my race number written in permanent marker on my upper arm and hand, and my age on my left calf. With plenty of time to visit the port-a-potty more than once, just in case, it was finally 7:45am and the transition area was closing.
All the racers made their way to the beach, which had cold sand to go along with the cold air, for the National Anthem and to self-sort ourselves for a rolling start. Usually, the race starts in groups based on gender and large age groups. I'm not sure if the rolling start (1 person in at a time with the next person basically on your heels) is permanent or a temporary solution to make it seem less crowded during Covid-19. Either way, I think I prefer the rolling start! The water wasn't too cold, but my wetsuit immediately felt tight on my chest, which is always a bit disturbing. Despite having to alternate between free and breast strokes a few times, I was quite happy with my swim - one of the fastest I've had and I'm sure the wetsuit helped that!
After a quick transition, I was off on the bike, which starts on an uphill, so you must be in a low gear or else you won't go anywhere! It's a couple miles to get up and out of the park, then it's rolling countryside roads with a couple very steep inclines that never seem to get easier the more I ride them. The ride was 15.2 miles and one of the fastest race paces I've had, somehow, as my bike training was almost non-existent.
Transitioning to the run wasn't too bad. I usually get calf cramps, but not this race. However, it was another climb to start. The first two miles of the 5K were constantly rolling hills with the last mile being nearly all downhill, lending to a strong finish. I have been running a lot more recently and focusing on speed, so I was happy with my runtime. Overall, my entire race time was the fastest sprint tri I've done - a new PR! Hooray!
Post-race, I talked with other athletes in the sunshine over Papa John's pizza and Coke. No awards for me, but I was happy I didn't skip the race and gave it my all. It was a good day.
Oh, and you might be wondering about the other race? Well, it was two weeks later on the warm side of Lake Anna, so no wetsuits. It was really windy, so I swallowed a ton of lake water. The bike route had terrible pavement and I was cramping badly. My run was at least good ... but we don't need to talk about that race. It was not a good day. There are so many lessons I take from each race and I look forward to more. While not every race can be a PR, I'm happy and thankful to be able to race at all!