Race Report: 2011 River Cities Triathlon

So this race is called the "Best lil' Triathlon in the South" and boasts that Lance Armstrong holds the original course record.  The course has changed since he's done it, but they still boast. The field is limited to 1,000 participants.  The race sold out in 25 minutes, online.  They also said 50 athletes showed up to packet pickup at closing, hoping for no-shows they could buy.  It's about a 4.5 hour drive from Houston, and I think well-worth it if you're up for doing a destination race, doable over a weekend.

It goes without saying, they also have the best swag of any race I have ever done!  This year was no exception... I got an amazing backpack/transition bag, a race-themed Tech Shirt, a Tee- shirt with the monster logo (to the left) on it, a running Jacket, a running hat and a pair of seamless socks.  Last year we got a piece of triathlon-friendly luggage that retailed for $250.  The same bag was on clearance this year for $90!

What I like most about this race is the thought they put into the details. It's in August.  It's Louisiana. It's gonna be hot.  They remember things like kiddie pools of water to wash the sand off your feet, after the swim, as you enter transition.  Their aid stations on the run are well-equipped... even for the slowest of finishers.  They have Spray stations on the run course, iced wash clothes, and seriously, the best volunteers.  I was thanking them for being out there in the 100+ degree heat, and they were thanking me for racing.  What????

So while the water is pretty dark and you can't see your fingers 3 inches in front of your face, the rest of the course is quite scenic and is in a state park.  The bike is rolling hills with a couple challenges, but nothing you have to get out of your saddle for.  The run course is mostly shaded and also very scenic.  

I ♥ Swag :)
I packed everything I needed for RCT and didn't forget anything. Yay! It was a drama-free and relaxing ride to the race. I decided to keep my own room so I could have some quiet time. Good choice. :)

We went out the park and drove the bike course. It was the same as last year... rolling hills with a couple of bigger ones. It was a slightly challenging course for me since I'm not great at climbing, but they were one right after the other, so I knew if I could work the down hills, I could pretty much make it up the next one, most of the way, anyway.

The night before I got my stuff ready, rolled my glutes and quads a bit (quads were sore when swimming at Twin Lakes Friday night -- glutes had been tight post-track) and hit the bed by 8pm. I don't know if I was nervous or what, but I just didn't feel "right" about this race. Maybe it was all the talk of the head and how miserable it was going to be... I don't know. I wanted to do it, but it was like a part of me wasn't into it. Just couldn't find my mojo. I did a race viz before bed, called the family and then lights out by 8:45

Got up the next morning and felt better about race day. Still apprehensive. Got to transition in plenty of time to setup. Found the in's and out's, counted my racks. Ironically, Joy's race sat right in front of a "No Alcohol" sign. That was funny. LOL. For race nutrition I did my 2 hr. pre start breakfast (bagel thin, almond butter, 1/2 power bar, banana, yogurt and 16 oz. of Fierce Strawberry G'ade). My wave start was at 8:39 -- finished eating by 6:30. Got my "poupon" and felt relieved that was out of the way.... for the 2nd time -- I knew I was good to go! :)

Had lots of time before my start, so after I was setup, I went for a swim. I swam out easy to the second buoy and back. I'm glad I did... I forgot how black that water was! I still noticed my sore quads on the swim. That was irking me, but I tried to forget about it and kicked some more to try and loosen them up.
Me (far left) and my BAM! friends

Once the race actually started I felt better... was getting more excited. Me, Sandy, Debbie, Kathleen and Cathy were all in the same swim wave! That never happens!!! On the swim I started right behind Cathy, so I claimed space right up front. Of course I didn't stay with her for very long, but I didn't shy away from the front there was lots of activity at the start, as usual... lots of kicking, beating, slapping and shoving LOL! I did feel good swimming. I noticed I was never alone (a good and bad thing), but I was still sighting and navigating the other swimmers well. I was feeling confident. By the time I knew it I had made the first turn and passed Joy -- she was in the wave ahead of us. Then, about half-way through the back stretch, a 2 blue caps swam right over me, literally! The Clyde wave started right behind us and caught me before my last turn. I had two guys literally swim right over me, and I think I accidentally copped a feel of another swimming near me. Yikes! Only a few had passed me, and they were FAST -- so I was knew I wasn't doing poorly. I started sighting on the finish arch and was feeling good -- I knew I was going to have a good swim. I got out of the water and my watch said 21: something -- I was hoping for 19:/20:. It was an uphill, sandy beach run to the timing mat. The clock time was 22:01. for 2:30/100. Was hoping for 2:20/100m -- especially since I had just done the lap at Twin Lakes in just under :20 on Friday -- and that wasn't race effort. Later, a lot of folks seemed to think the course was long -- but then everyone always thinks that when they don't achieve their desired race time.  Anway, this year 22:01. Last year: 23:37.  A little bummed.  :-/

I did not rush myself in transition. Upon entry to transition, they had baby pools of water to rinse the feet off (that was new this year). Yay! I got my gear on fast, but took time to reapply sun screen. Had a little problem getting my bike out of the rack with the water bottles on! Had to take them off to get my bike out, then put them back in. Weird design racks. Next year, maybe I need to mount my bike the other way? To exit transition you had to keep with the directional flow of traffic in a horseshoe shape. It didn't really affect me on the bike out because I was closest to the out... on the way back in I would have to completely go around the horseshoe to get back to my rack. Last year: 2:41. This year 3:01.

I exit transition and start the bike. For some reason the mount/dismount line was another 20 feet away from the transition exit -- up hill, of course! A lot of folks were struggling to get on their bikes right at the line, so I ran up past them with my bike and mounted well beyond the line where it was clear. I also noted that trying to run in my bike shoes, for the full horseshoe on my return would not be good. I decided I would take off my shoes once I got to transition and put them on my bars and run the horseshoe barefoot to my rack.

Once I got started on the bike, it took a good 3-5 miles to feel okay. I just kept remembering last year how bad I felt to start, and tried to be patient. I started feeling a little better, first in spurts it seemed, but it was probably the rollers that gave me that impression. I was riding unaware of my heart rate, because my Garmin was reporting wonky numbers... like 65 bpm, when I'm climbing consecutive rollers? Not sure what that was all about? I just did my best to ride by feel. I alternated Perpeteum & Nuun and just Water w/Nuun every 15 minutes on my ride. I did 3 scoops of Perpeteum (knowing I wouldn't drink it all, but extra just in case). Although I didn't need it, I did carry an extra bottle of water w/Nuun in case I launched one, or for some reason was out on the bike course longer than hoped/planned. I set my timer for every 15 minutes and took my nutrition as scheduled. By about 12 miles in I was feeling pretty good -- not great, but good. Probably should have eased up a bit at the end of my ride a little to get ready for the run, but I just started feeling good on the bike! The rollers were fun and as usual I was slow to climb (my right quad was causing me pain on the climbs) but killed it on the downhills. Even other riders were commenting -- we were all leap frogging. At the end though, I was able to pass those I had leap-frogged once and for all and tand finished ahead of several of them. Last year: 1:04. This year 1:02.

Hit the dismount line, entered transition and remembered to take my shoes off -- I put them on my handlebars and was off running the horseshoe to my rack. Nothing of interest here... got my socks and kix on quickly, race number, exchanged my helmet for my visor, poured a bottle of water over me (it was warm but worked enough), some more sunscreen, grabbed my hand held and off I went. Last year: 3:13. This year 3:31.

I chose not take the Garmin with me. My personal goal was to run the course and walk the aid stations (there were 4 of them). I didn't want to see my pace and get focused on it. I had heart rate, but that wasn't working right. I was a slow to start on the run, but eventually I got going after the first .25 mile. It felt slow and legs felt crappy, but I just tried to keep my goal in mind and moving forward at a non-walking pace. It was stupid hot by now, but tried to ignore it, thanking the volunteers and being happy, because I noticed, that the heat aside, I really was feeling better on this run than I have on any run, in any race. I took a swig of the Nuun from my hand held and spit it out. Ugh!! It was like drinking boiling water. I emptied it, took the lid off, and prepared to fill it at the first aid station. Another runner started running with me and chit-chatting... well, she was chatting, I was mostly listening. She told me I did great on the bike -- she was one of the ones I was leap-frogging and that her goal was to keep me in her sight... I thought that was funny. Then she said I was keeping her running! I had to laugh out loud at that. By the time I knew it, we were beyond mile 2 -- she said we had been running a 12:30 pace -- I knew my overall pace was a actually slower than her, because I started the run ahead of her. She said this was her IM pace! She told me how she ran this pace for CDA and I told her she lived my dream to do a 140.6 one day. She said she had no doubt I would. :). The run course was awesome. There were 4 aid stations with some kind of sports drink, ice water and iced down wash clothes. At each station I dumped two cups of water on my head, drank 2 waters and took two fresh wash clothes. I tied one around my neck and put one in my sports bra. Every aid station was well-equipped and I got new wash clothes each time. Add to that three spray stations! Nice cold water to run through!!! The 2nd to last part of the run course was the trail portion of the run course. It was well under a 1/4 mile, but it was a small descent and then a steep, up hill in the dirt and uneven ground -- just the kind of "yuck" you don't want to see in the last mile of your run. Nothing insurmountable, but when you look at it you just say, "Ugh!" The only redeeming value of this extra obstacle was the aid station was at the very top. I filled my hand held with ice water again and used it to drink and keep cool. I realize I won't be able to do that during a 70.3 -- I'll still need to take in electrolytes. But dang, it felt good for this 5k. I have to figure out what to do have cooler hydration on the run. I don't think freezing a bottle overnight will really make a difference at a 70.3 when I have a swim and bike for it to thaw out. Anyway, Jennifer and I finished the run course together, but split up and did our own thing coming into the home stretch. Right as I was entering the chute, some girl started puking her guts out right there. I either had to hurdle her or quickly go around. Poor thing! Last year: 45:55. This year 42:39 -- from a 14:49 pace/mile to a 13:45 pace/mile. I finished but felt good. Not that I wanted to run anymore... but I think I could have, if I had to.

Overall Time Last Year: 2:19:55
Overall Time This Year: 2:13:40

What I did right:
Kept patient and positive on the bike on the bike and run -- gave my legs a chance to come around.
Kept walking on the run limited to aid stations -- granted, there were 4 on this course, but still a first!
Nutrition is working so far!

What I need to do:
Figure out hydration solution for run before CLI... cuz it'll be hot!

I really want the opportunity to ride the Redman course several times on the CompuTrainer.

Slightly bummed about my swim time. I really, really felt good and thought it would be better. I'm completely okay with my bike and run because I know my legs were fatigued and to still be able to pull of better than last year in 100+ degree heat, is a sign of improvement. Being able to run that course and walk the aid stations is going to go far for my confidence... kind of like doing the Silverlake mile swim did for my open water swimming a couple years ago. I just needed to see myself do it.


  1. That is awesome! What an inspiring post. Love it. I especially love all the goodies you got at the race. :)


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