The Riverbluff Triathlon is one of our favorite races. This is the 3rd year we’ve done it and we always have a blast! The race has grown over the past few years, yet is still has that small town feel to it– everyone cheers each other on during the race, the transition area has laid-back vibe, people are friendly and strike up conversation at the swim start, and the volunteers are AMAZING. Basically, we love this race.
We had a little speed bump in our training as my Grandpa passed away last week and we flew home to be with family. We missed a few days of training, but managed to fit in a short run and swim. We both didn’t feel fully prepared for this race and my heart just wasn’t that into it. Regardless, we decided to give it our best shot.
In true type B triathlete form, it took us longer to get ready on race morning than we thought and so we had to drive a bit on the fast side to make it to the transition area in time. We got there in plenty of time and even scored 2 spots next to each other.
I made friends with a fellow triathlete in the transition area and as we chatted while waiting in line for the porta-potties, I found out that her and her husband are also doing Augusta 70.3! I love how the sport of triathlon makes people become instant friends… especially when they’re doing the same race as you!
We lined up and the conversation centered on how far away the buoys looked. (I’m in the yellow sports bra and Davey is in the bottom picture all the way to the right, ready to dive in!)
Davey: The swim was uneventful and I used my usual strategy of not starting out too fast and trying to get into a rhythm as soon as possible. On the second half of the swim, I felt really good, so I turned up the gas and picked up my pace.
The swim felt really long, and my Garmin clocked 1600 meters, which was 100 meters more then the usual Oly distance.
Jess: The water was warm and I decided to start towards the front of the pack which was something new I’ve never tried before. Even though swimming is my strength, I always start out in the back, but I decided to be brave and confident and it was kinda fun to try and swim fast so that I wouldn’t get passed.
I felt amazing and focused on gliding through the water. The refection of the sun on the water was spectacular and I enjoyed every moment of the swim. My goggles rocked and didn’t leak or fog up.
One very important lesson I learned is this: Ladies, if you’re wearing a sports bra, make sure you’re all tucked in before you come out of the water and pose for the pictures. I have THE MOST EMBARRASSING swim pictures because I failed to heed this advice. Oops! (Don’t worry, I photoshopped the pictures.)
Davey: I like to keep T1 nice and simple so it’s fast, but my shirt keeps rolling up when I put it in after the swim and so I have some pretty interesting race photos.
Jess: My new friend came out of the water a few seconds after I did and so we were in the transition area together. We chatted about our swim time (she had a Garmin) and as I ran out, she said good luck. I’m pretty proud that I was able to carry on a conversation and not forget my helmet or shirt.
Davey: After I got shirt situated, I took off on the bike. I saw a photographer and tried to do a flying eagle pose, but I guess he didn’t capture it.
I’m not sure why, but my quads were burning the first 5 miles of the bike, even though I wasn’t pushing the pace. But I eventually got into a groove after the turn around of the 1st loop.
Since I wasn’t pushing the pace, I was passed by a 51 year old woman and decided to try to keep up with her, which was good challenging motivation. I hung with her the rest of the ride and later found out that she was part of a relay team. No wonder they chose her to do the bike… she crushed it!
Jess: The bike course was changed last minute because of some traffic safety issue, so we had to bike on the highway and do 2 loops. Although I beat her out of the transition area, it wasn’t long before my new friend sped past me on her bike. I cheered her on, but my mind went to a negative place after she passed me and I never fully recovered.
The bike was pretty easy… lots of rolling hills, but for some reason, I felt super sluggish. My bike seat was really uncomfortable and my hands and feet were so numb that I couldn’t shift gears with my left hand. It was really weird and that has never happened before. It was pretty discouraging and I don’t think I ever got into my groove.
My speedometer didn’t work which was a buzz kill because I wanted to time my loops and try to go faster on the second one. Oh well. It was fun to see Davey three times on the course!
It really hot and humid and even though my hands were numb and I was scared to grab my water bottle, I made myself drink both bottles in the course of the ride.
A lot of the other racers said “good job” when they passed me and I was loving the fact that most of them also said “on your left”. but I was really glad when the bike was over.
Davey: T2 was nice and simple. This time I grabbed my race strap instead of my helmet strap, which always helps to save a few seconds.
Jess: I was really looking forward to a margarita shot block, but when I got to my transition area, I saw that my pre-opened pack of shot blocks were covered with ants! I tried to salvage them, but it was no use. I grabbed a Huma Gel and hoped for the best.
Davey: When I got off onto the run, my calves were really burning for the first mile and me legs felt heavy. I wondered if I pushed it too hard on the bike, but I just kept cranking out the miles. At mile 2, I settled into my pace which was slower then my usual pace and I saw the race leader, Craig Evans, on his way back which meant he was about 30 minutes ahead of me.
I was chatting with a fellow racer for a bit and he told me about how his recent move and new baby made it hard for him to find the extra time to train. Then we both decided that if we were able to talk, we weren’t running fast enough, and shortly after, he hit the sprint turnaround and I was a bit jealous of him as I still had 4 more miles to go.
At that time, I started experienceing some serious nipple chaffing and I wondered why since I always race in this shirt and hadn’t had this problem before. So I made the decesion to carry my shirt the rest of the race rather then suffer through.
After that, it was just a matter of trying to maintain my pace for the rest of the 4 miles. During the last mile, I was passed by someone in my age group who was flying and I think he was the same guy that passed me on the run last year. That’s what’s fun about local races… you start to recogonize people and make friends.
On the way back, I saw some of the half distance racers starting their second loop and I cheered them on as I thought about what I should do for my finish photo. As I ran through the finish chute, I decided to take a bow. It was a great race!
Jess: My legs were so numb that I couldn’t even feel them hitting the ground. The numbness finally wore off and I started the 6 miles at a pretty sluggish pace. My mental toughness was at an all time low and I found myself focusing on the negative.
I tried to shift my thoughts and just focus on making it to the next water station. Thank God for those glorious waters stops! Those volunteers were amazing and that water and Gatorade never tasted so good! I walked through the water stops like I usually do, but I found it almost impossible to get myself to run again after stopping to walk. I kept trying to set goals for myself: run to that tree, or just make it to that stick, but it was a loosing battle.
As a slow runner, I usually get passed by a lot of people on the run and I cheer them on and keep on plugging along, but for some reason, it really got me down this race. I felt like such a loser for being so slow and I wished running came naturally to me. At one point I thought, “geez, I could probably swim faster then I’m running right now”.
Since the run is an out and back, I noticed that I would be one of the last people to finish the Olympic distance. I started beating myself up and getting angry that I wasn’t a better triathlete. I even felt sorry for Davey since he was married to me– the worst triathlete ever.
But then I stopped believing those lies and I reminded myself of why I do triathlons in the first place. I don’t race to win or to get a medal. I race because I love it, and it’s fun and because it makes me feel closer to God. I race to prove to myself that I can overcome challenges and do hard things and finish what I start.
At the last water stop, the most adorable little boys yelled out, “ma’am, would you like some energy?” Um, yes please. They handed me some gel packets and told me that they’d help me run really fast. It was the highlight of my day. It made me realize that they had no idea I was running slow, nor did they care. I was doing a freaking triathlon for goodness sake! So, I bucked up, took a deep breath and started running.
I always love seeing Davey right before the finish line. His encouragement and cheers help me push through to the finish. And boy was I glad to cross that finish line!
I think the highlight of the day was when we were sitting under a tree, sipping Gatorade and eating bbq, we were looking at our times and I realized that Davey got 3rd place in his age group! I’m so proud of him! He’s such a triathlon rockstar!
As always, we had a lot of fun in this race and can’t wait till next year!