Hey friends! I’ve got a fun race recap to share today!
Yesterday morning I did the Grandman Triathlon Relay in Fairhope as part of a two-woman team. There are typically three relay team members (swim + bike + run), but my teammate, Kristan, is an amazing triathlete and she can actually do all three on her own. She is healing up from a hamstring tear and she just needed someone to do the run for her (we basically did the same exact thing for the same reason last year). I was happy to be part of her team again this year!
The race started at 7 a.m. at the Fairhope Pier. I woke up around 5, got myself ready, made some coffee and headed down to the race. I got there around 6:30. Once I found a parking spot and walked down the hill (the same monster of a hill that I would have to run up during the race), 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.
Once I got to the pier I found Kristan and the rest of her teammates pretty easily. The new orange jerseys are VERY easy to spot! I walked out on the pier to watch the swim get underway. The start is staggered (so not everyone goes into the water at once). The athletes jump in one at a time and start making their way to the shore.
I made my way back over to the transition area to watch as the swimmers came out of the water and got on their bikes. Once Kristan came through and headed out for the bike portion of the race, I knew I had about 45 minutes or so until I would start the run. I used that time to get a few warm up miles in. Since no one was actually on the run course yet (lots of geese, but no runners), I did a few miles along the course. I likely confused several of the spectators and volunteers who were working to get the water stations set up. I repeatedly told people that I was just warming up.
I got 3 miles in and made my way into to the transition area to wait. The transition area was a pretty hectic with all of the bikers zooming in, racking their bikes, changing shoes, etc. and heading out to run. I mainly just tried to stay out of everyone’s way and I cheered for as many people as I could as they came through.
I saw Kristan zooming down the hill (her orange bike, Betty, and her orange jersey made her hard to miss) and I was excited to get out there and RUN! She had to take the timing chip off and give it to me before I could take off. She told me that she had the ride of her life, which was really exciting and made me want to run even faster. She crushed the bike portion, averaging over 21 miles per hour! Smoking!
I secured the timing chip around my ankle and took 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 hard or not, but trust me when I tell you that it is … very challenging!
I knew that the hill was going to be the biggest obstacle of the race and I told myself to be patient and not try to run up that thing too quickly. I wanted 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 :)).
Once I got up the hill the course flattened out a little bit, but there were still some gentle rollers to deal with. Here is the elevation chart …
I came through the first mile in 6:22. I didn’t really have any specific pace goals in mind, so this seemed decent enough. I was steadily catching people and picking people off throughout the run, which is usually pretty fun (especially in a pure road race setting). I actually feel bad passing people when I am on a relay team, knowing that they had to both swim and bike before they ran. I, on the other hand, was fresh as a daisy and just had to run. I tried to encourage everyone that I passed and I hoped that they all saw the big “T” on my left calf (indicating that I was part of a team). I cannot even imagine having to run that course after swimming and biking.
The first two miles of the course are an out and back, so as much as I like to complain about the hill, it isn’t really all that bad because you do at least get to come back down. You definitely 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’m pretty sure that if you did fall, you would continue to roll down just as quickly as you could run down. I didn’t, however, plan to test that theory. I came through the second mile in 6:19.
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. It can be really tough to hold the pace during the last mile of a race, but somehow I did manage to keep it pretty consistent this time. My last mile split was 6:20. 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.
My mom was down near the finish watching and got a good picture with the pier in the background.
My 5K time was 19:48 (according to Strava), but the course was 3.2 miles, so my official time was 20:15. Triathlon courses aren’t always exact distances, as in this isn’t a certified 5K course, so I’m simply including my 5K time for my own refernce. An extra tenth of a mile can definitely add 30 seconds or more to your 5K time. I was a little bit faster last year, but I think it was hotter and more humid this year. Either way, I am happy with the time.
I decided to forgo a cool down. I don’t think people really cool down after triathlons … at least, it doesn’t seem like they do. At a running event, you typically see lots of people cooling down after the race, but at a triathlon, not so much. Perhaps the run is the cool down? We just hung out, chatted with friends and waited on the results for a little while. I thought we might’ve won the women’s relay division, but then again, you never really know (especially since no one starts at the same time) …
We got to stand at the top of the podium again this year! Woo!
Grandman is such a wonderful event. The location, the organization, the volunteers, really just everything is great. 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 again this year. I’m pretty sure that it’s becoming a tradition at this point …
Congrats to all of the athletes that competed yesterday! I am amazed by all of you!