Hey friends! I’ve got a fun race recap to share today!
Saturday morning I did the Grandman Triathlon Relay in Fairhope as part of a two-woman team. My teammate, Kristan, swam and biked and all I had to do was run (which definitely worked out well because that’s all I am good for anyway). Kristan is an amazing triathlete! She is currently on mend from a partially torn hamstring (ouch!) and she just needed someone to do the run for her. She asked me if I would be interested in competing with her … uh yeah! Of course I was. I got to be an honorary member of her tri team, the Zarzaur Law Triathlon Team (aka “The Gavels”), for the day and we had a blast!
Let me just start by saying, holy moses … there is A LOT of planning and logistics that goes into triathloning … it definitely makes running seem very simple. You show up with your shoes and maybe a watch (but that’s not really necessary at all) and you just run. Triathlons are much different!
The race started at 7 a.m. at the Fairhope Pier. Kristan told me that I probably needed to be there close to 6 to get “marked,” but that she would be there even earlier to set up her transitions. I woke up around 5, got myself ready, made some coffee and headed down to the race. Once I found a parking spot and walked down the hill (you know … the HUGE hill that I would have to run up during the race … that one), I was greeted by volunteers with sharpies who were eager to write our team number all over me. Seriously. Both arms, both legs and a calf. I’m sure there is some sort of secret to removing permanent marker from your body, but regular soap and water didn’t exactly cut it. Most of it washed away, but the remnants are definitely still visible a day later.
I will never forget the first and only other time I did this race (also part of a relay) was the year that Daniel and I were engaged. I had a dress fitting the next day (or maybe two days later (it doesn’t make sense that it would’ve been on a Sunday)) and I remember standing in this fancy dress shop in Birmingham, feeling like a silly goose for trying on my wedding dress with sharpie all over my arms. But I digress, sorry.
Once I got to the pier I found Kristan pretty easily and also met up with my friend Jill who was also doing the race as part of a relay team. We were able to warm up together and hang out during the swim and bike portions. It was definitely nice to have a fellow runner there to hang with!
Our teams were basically neck and neck the whole race. That’s the other thing about triathlons that is super confusing. You don’t really know exactly where you stand against the competition until the race is over. The swimmers all start at different times. This race had a staggered start with about 20 seconds in between each athlete. It seemed like it was close to an hour before everyone was in the water. Jill and I hung out on the pier, watched our swimmers take the plunge into the bay and then headed out to do our warm up.
We planned to do a three mile warm up, but only really ended up getting in just over two miles because we were both so nervous that we might somehow miss our teammates coming back into the transition on their bikes. They biked 18 (ish) miles and it definitely didn’t take them very long to do that. Kristan averaged 22 mph on the bike. She was smoking!
The transition area is a little hectic with all of the bikers zooming in, racking their bikes, changing shoes, etc. and heading out to run. I had to wait in the transition area for Kristan to come in and I was mainly just trying to stay out of everyone else’s way and cheer for the other racers as they came through. Once she got there, she had to rack her bike, take the timing chip off and give it to me before I could take off.
You climb from 1 ft (we are talking literally at sea level here) to 80 ft in the first tenth of a mile into the run. I don’t know if that sounds bad or not, but just trust me … it is TOUGH!
Up the hill I went (clearly I am thrilled) …
I knew that the hill was going to be the biggest obstacle of my race and I told myself over and over (and over) again that I would NOT try to run up that thing too quickly. The plan was to take it easy up the hill and then start to push. Theoretically this sounds wonderful, but it is incredibly difficult not to get caught up in the heat of the moment during a race (and especially in a relay when you know your teammate just busted her hiney and is counting on you to do the same :)).
To make matters worse (or better), there are tons of spectators out on the hill cheering like crazy for you. Daniel and his buddies had run that morning and were standing at the top of the hill cheering. I got caught up in the moment and took off up the hill much faster than I planned to. Oops! Once you get up the hill the course flattens out a little bit, but there are still some gentle rollers to deal with. Somehow I had completely blocked all of the other smaller hills from my mind before the race.
I came through the first mile in 6:15. I expected that mile to be a little slower, so I was definitely happy with the split. I was steadily catching people and picking people off throughout the run, which is usually pretty fun, but I honestly kind of felt bad passing people, knowing that they had to both swim and bike before they ran. On the other hand, I was fresh as a daisy and just out for a nice little 5K. I’ve got mad respect for you triathletes! I cannot even imagine having to run that course after swimming and biking. Y’all are all rockstars!
The first two miles of the course are an out and back, so as much as I’ve complained about the hill, it isn’t really all that bad because you do at least get to come back down. You can get a decent amount of momentum going down that thing and I kind of had to reign it in (for fear of getting completely out of control and busting my face). I came through the second mile in 6:10.
The last mile is a loop around the duck pond at the pier. I knew that I just had to keep pushing for one. more. mile. The last mile of a 5K can be really tough and yesterday was no exception. My legs and lungs were screaming at me and I was just so ready to be done! I came through the third mile in 6:15.
After the third mile split you have to do a little “off roading,” through some sand and grass before making your way onto the sidewalk and around to the finish line. Daniel was waiting down near the finish and got another picture of me. Again, I am not looking super thrilled …
I crossed the 5K in 19:29 (according to Strava), but the course was 3.2 miles, so my official time was 19:54. For 80 degrees, 90 percent humidity and a hilly course, I will definitely take it! I really think that is one of the toughest 5K courses around here.
I was planning to get in a two or three mile cool down after the race, but that definitely didn’t happen. I got in one mile, but that was it. I was over it. I was ready to just be hanging out, chatting with friends while we waited on the results. I also got to hang out with the most adorable golden retriever puppy ever (besides Brooks (obviously)). I may have tried to steal him from his owner and take him home with me, but Daniel wasn’t really as into it as I was (c’mon Daniel … pretty please … Brooksy NEEDS a little friend).
We waited on the results for a little while and we honestly had no clue how our team had done. We knew that we were pretty evenly matched with one of the other teams and that it could’ve gone either way as far as who came out on top (not that it even matters … we all had fun and THAT is what matters). There was definitely some [mostly] friendly competition going on though, so when we found out that we were the first place relay team (out of women, men and co-ed), we were pretty excited!
Lot of hugs …
Grandman is such a wonderful event. The location, the organization, the volunteers … everything is great. In all fairness, I don’t have much to compare it to, but I feel fairly certain that it is considered to be a top-notch event in the triathlon community. I’m not saying that I am ready to cross over into the multi-sport world by any means, but if I did, Grandman would definitely be the race that I’d want to do.
Participating in any event as part of a relay is always so much fun! As much as I enjoy individual sports like running and tennis, I can’t deny that there is just something about being part of a team that makes a sport feel more meaningful. I am so glad that Kristan asked me to do this event with her. It was a great experience and I really hope we get to do it again sometime!
Congrats to all of the athletes that competed yesterday! I am amazed by all of you!