I’m really behind on my race reports; as I write this, I’m resting after my fourth race of the season, but better late than never, etc.
For my first race this year, I wanted to do a sprint triathlon, and the stars aligned perfectly so that I could run the New Orleans Sprint. The timing would be tight; Dana wanted to accompany me, because she’d never been to New Orleans before, but she had the McKay Hollow Madness trail race on Saturday morning, and I had to get the airplane to Atlanta on Monday so I could catch a flight to Nebraska for customer meetings. We decided to leave right after her race, spend the rest of Saturday sightseeing, and come back Sunday right after my race. My mom was able to arrange her schedule to drive over from Alexandria and meet us, which added a lot to the overall fun factor.
Our flight was lovely; we had stable air and great visibility, although on our descent into New Orleans Lakefront we came uncomfortably close to another plane who wasn’t talking to ATC and obviously wasn’t watching where he was going. Mom met us there and after a little fiddling with the bike rack, we were off to find the hotel, have lunch at Deanie’s, and enjoy some sightseeing. We spent ome time touring the French Quarter (including Dana’s first walk down Bourbon Street; luckily it was in the afternoon so we only saw one dude passed out in the middle of the street).
By day’s end we were too tired to go restauranting, so we had dinner at the hotel– surprisingly good nonetheless. I suppose hotel chefs have to up their game to stay relevant in a city so dedicated to food.
The next morning we all saddled up and drove to the South Shore Marina for the race. The swim was held inside the marina, which is part of Lake Ponchartrain. The water temperature was forecast to be in the low 60s, so I wore my wetsuit and was very glad of it. As is typical of mixed distance races, the Olympic-distance swimmers started first, so I spent a fair amount of time in line with the other sprint distance men from my age group. Finally I was at the end of the pier, got the signal, jumped in the water, and.. promptly forgot pretty much everything I knew about swimming. A combination of adrenaline and the shockingly cold water propelled me to start out at almost double my normal 100m pace.. which would have been great if I could have sustained it. In the pool, I can normally turn out a steady 2:00-2:05/100 time and I averaged 2:26/100. Not at all what I was looking for.
Transition was an easy run up the dock and into the corral. The race organizers had thoughtfully provided wetsuit strippers, which greatly eased my transition, but I was tired already as I got onto the bike. That was reflected in my craptacular 4:40 time for T1: almost inexcusably slow. Once on the bike, I regained a bit of my equilibrium as I headed out, buoyed by seeing Dana and Mom cheering for me on the outbound chute. The course paralleled the lakeshore, which was nice, and passed very close to the airport, which I enjoyed. I was feeling pretty good as we reached the halfway point and that’s when it hit me.. the wind, that is. Take a look at the upper right corner of this picture:
That little “16” with the arrow indicates that we had a 16mph wind (with higher gusts, of course) from the east. That made for a lovely tailwind on the way out and a very unpleasant headwind on the way back. Let’s just say my enthusiasm wilted more than somewhat. The wind was strong enough that I had trouble controlling my bike (especially on the gridded metal road deck on the Seabrook bridge). I was glad to get back into the corral, transition (with another terrible time: 3+ min), and hit the road.
About the run: let’s just say I finished it. It was neither my worst nor my best; the route wasn’t very scenic either. I did appreciate seeing spectators on both legs of the course, and my Waffle House jersey provoked a lot of comments, so that was fun.
My entourage met me at the finish line, where I scored a really spiffy finisher’s medal and a towel inexplicably labeled “NEW YORK CITY TRIATHLON.” Maybe they ran out of the New Orleans-branded ones, or maybe they were promoting the NYC event? Who knows?
The post-race corral area was nicely set up, with pizza, fruit, soft drinks, and beer, but it was kinda flat– I think most finishers headed out to celebrate elsewhere as soon as they could gather up their stuff and get on the road.
My total time was 1:38:50, which was on a par with my races from last year. Still some room for improvement, especially on the swim but also on the run. I’ve got to work on building my pace off the bike; even running 9:30/mi off the bike would let me pick up an easy 3+ minutes, which in this case would have put me in the top 5 for my age group. Something to work on.
After the race, it was back to the hotel for a badly needed shower, then we walked over to Manning’s for a very pleasant al fresco lunch. Mom drove us to the airport and we had a perfectly unexceptional flight back– a calm end to a somewhat harried, though very enjoyable, trip.