Nantucket is one of my favorite places in the world and I am lucky enough to spend time there at least once a year. This summer I planned a week vacation to the island scheduling my trip around the annual Nantucket Triathlon. In 2010 and 2011 I was at the tri as a spectator cheering on some friends but in 2012 I decided to sign up and get in on the fun. I didn’t train as hard as I should have but with the exception of a very challenging swim I did just fine and had a lot of fun. (Read more about the 2012 tri here.) Back in January when registration opened for the 2013 race, I was eager to sign up again. I remember thinking that this time I would do things differently – swim in open water a few times, get on my bike more before race weekend and feel much more prepared. None of that happened.
Due to some life changes and scheduling issues I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to do the race. In April I had started to assume it might be best to forfeit this year but then in May I got back on my bike for the first time (probably since the bike portion of last year’s race) and found a little bit of confidence. Soon after I secured a place to stay on the island and decided I would make it happen. I didn’t start swimming again until early July but that was when I started swimming last year. I committed to bringing a wet suit to help me with my confidence in the water and hoped for the best on the bike. It turned out that my family was renting a house on the island for the week so I was able to make a vacation out of the trip and started to really look forward to it.
On Thursday evening Jared and I took the Steamship Authority from Hyannis to Nantucket arriving in the late afternoon with time to clean up and meet some friends for a drink at Cru and then dinner at American Seasons. Our friend, Jordy, who was also signed up for Saturday’s race joined us and we went over some of his questions and concerns about the race. This would be his first triathlon and even when you train properly for a race like this some of the logistics and details can be a bit intimidating. We tried to answer all of his questions and give him some advice hoping that all the information wouldn’t make him more nervous. Afterwards we headed to some of our favorite spots and I was excited to reconnect with many of the people I’ve gotten to know each visit.
I woke up on Friday morning feeling the effects of a little over indulgence from the night before but it was nothing that a jump in the ocean couldn’t fix. After some time at the beach and a nice lunch it was time to pick up our friend and fellow racer, Brian – also competing in his first triathlon. That evening we headed over by bike (my 2nd bike ride of the year) to Jetties Beach where the race would take place to attend an information meeting, packet pick up and rack our bikes for the night. The process was pretty simple and I was excited to find my spot was in the first row and very easy to find.
Quick sidebar: Brian was borrowing Jared’s spare bike with clip-less pedals which he had never used. We gave Brian about 45 seconds to get used to them and then took off to the beach through town (which was busy) and over cobblestones (no thank you). I would have cried but Brian was a total champ and made it to the beach with only one stumble, and he didn’t even fall.
We enjoyed a lovely dinner at Fusaro’s making sure to take in some carbohydrates and extra calories. We then headed home to lay out everything we would need in the morning and apply our race tattoos before turning in for an early night. But we were all excited for the race and anxious for the alarm so no one slept very well.
The alarm went off at 4:00 am so we could get our things together and try to eat before our cab arrived to take us to Jetties. I had forgotten the inevitable ‘hurry up and wait’ aspect of a triathlon but it gave me some time to make sure I had everything in order. My wet-suit went on easily which was a huge relief since I hadn’t used it in several years but when we went down to the beach to do a swim warm-up it seemed as though the water was too shallow to swim much at all. It was too late for me to bring my wetsuit back to transition now so I would just have to make the best of it. Sure enough, as soon as we saw the first wave of athletes get started it was clear there was not enough water to swim most of the course. It would be more like a .33 water walk which in some ways was comforting to someone who isn’t a strong swimmer but it would be tiring for the legs. I would prefer to save my legs for the bike and run so I was going to do my best to swim as much as possible. It wasn’t ideal but it was better than last year.
While wearing a wetsuit has a lot of advantages, including increased buoyancy, it can be tricky to get off after the swim especially if you haven’t had much practice. Luckily, a friend recommended a product called Tri Slide to me and I used it on knees, ankles, elbows, wrists and along the back of my neck. Not only did it prevent chaffing but my wet suit slid right off with no problems. Tri Slide: I am a believer! Thanks Jordan!!
I tried to take in as much water as possible before the bike because I STILL can’t drink while riding and ‘ran’ the bike out of transition and headed on the next course. I remembered last year falling into a comfortable pace on the bike and being so nervous that I didn’t even try to pass many people until the second half of the course. This year I made a real effort to be a little more aggressive and push harder. I felt like I was passing a lot more bikers than in past years and the miles seemed to be going by rather quickly. I had an opportunity to glance at my watch quickly and was excited to see that I had over 10 miles of the 13.5 bike course behind me. Before I knew it I was back in transition and getting ready for the final leg and the only one where I have any confidence…the run.
I grabbed a bottle of water to carry with me to start to re-hydrate while I tried to get my legs moving after the bike ride. I thought maybe I had a pretty good bike ride because my legs felt the worst they have ever felt starting the run. Still, it was only 3.5 miles so I ran the best I could and hoped they would start to feel better, but it was very warm at this point. My first mile was a rough 8:22 while I shook the bike ride out of my legs and then I was able to speed up in mile 2 (8:07) and 3 (8:08). The last half mile with the finish line almost in view I finally found my speed rounding my run pace average to 8:12.
After collecting my water, towel and well deserved finisher’s medal I found my friends. Jared was very happy with his race and Brian was excited to make it to the finish of his first tri.
My official time was: 1:32:44 (A few minutes faster than last year)
Swim – 7:49 – much faster than LY but the swim in ’12 was a mess
T1 – 5:23
Bike – 49:20 (16.3 mph) – almost exactly the same as LY
T2 – 2:18
Run – 27:56 (8:12) – slower than LY. Bummer.
This is a great race. The course is beautiful and it’s well organized. The volunteers were amazing to get up early on a Saturday morning to support the athletes and it’s just a terrific event to be a part of. Later that day all of the athletes were around the island still wearing their tri tattoos and talking about their race.
On Sunday, we were back for more. Jared and our friend Chris were registered for the first annual Nantucket Hero Triathlon, an international distance tri (.75 mile swim, 28 mile bike, 6.8 mile run). I had opted to volunteer since I was planning to go to the race anyway and thought it would be fun to help out. My responsibility during my shift was to guide the runners into transition from the swim. This mainly involved a lot of clapping, pointing, and a little bit of yelling. The weather was a lot cooler Sunday and there was a bit of rain early in the morning but not enough to bother anyone too much (yet). I saw Jared come in from his swim and he looked fired up for the bike. The swim that morning was further in so the athletes could actually, well, swim. This is a huge advantage for Jared since that his strongest leg. Chris came in not long after Jared and was off to chase him on the bike.
My plan was to stay at transition helping out until I saw both of the guys get back from their bike or when I heard from Chris’ wife Christy who was planning to cheer on the course and then meet us all at the finish line. Once I saw both of the boys off on the bike I was free to head to the finish line to see them in. I had a while before Jared would cross but I headed in that direction to get a good spot to meet Christy and her daughter Sophie. I was waiting there excited for Jared to cross soon when the drizzle became a full on down pour. I raced back up to the tent near transition to get some shelter and watched the screen showing which athletes were coming through. I spotted a partial results list posted that I had to read several times because according those results Jared was in first place in his age group. I kept my eyes on the screen to see if anyone else in his division was coming through and finally his name appeared. Jared finished in 2:26:32 – First in Age Group and 19th overall! When I finally found him and told him the news he just laughed but I could tell he was excited with the results.
Finally the rain stopped and the sun started to come out again. Chris finished in 3:02:21 – an incredibly impressive race for someone who hasn’t done a tri in ten years! He seemed to really enjoy it and plans to come back next year. Christy and baby Sophie win best cheerleaders for hanging out in the rain to cheer him on.
We all had some fun at the awards ceremony taking pictures and Jared seemed to get pretty comfortable on his first podium. There was so much to celebrate.
I have always said that I like triathlons because it’s outside my normal routine. I can enjoy the fun of the event without being too competitive and I take a lot of pride in being brave enough to compete in a race where two of the three legs terrify me. That being said, I think if I put a little more effort in training for the swim and bike I could make significant improvements in my performance and maybe enjoy it even more. Looking ahead to next year I would consider registering for the longer international distance race and commit to putting the work into preparing. Someone remind me to read this post early next year when it’s time to sign up!
Thank you to all of the race organizers, sponsors and volunteers who make race weekend so special. It’s certainly not an easy task but it is much appreciated. See you next year!
Hold up! This was only a fraction of my trip to Nantucket. Stay tuned for a new post about the whole week and What I Did On My Summer Vacation – Nantucket 2013 Edition.