That afternoon we hopped over to Hilo for the Inaugural Triathlon. It was a pretty small race this year with just ~270 athletes but honestly, that's kind of what was awesome about it. It had such an old school feel to it... Hilo is a little town where locals speak in full pidgin and drifters are hippy with dreadlocks. (Side note- have you ever seen someone try to get their dreadlocks into a swim cap? I don't think it can be done, but saw a few who tried!) The whole town has been over run by these little Coqui frogs that chirp their little hearts out all night long (loudly!) They are actually an uncontrolled invasive pest but I actually really liked listening to them. We stayed at a dumpy little hotel and the whole thing just brought back so many memories of my first year(s) in triathlon when I was a starving college student and 5 of us would jam into the cheapest hotel in town the night before a race, flipping a coin to see who had to sleep on the box springs. Yet here I was, ~20 years later, doing the same thing except now with my husband and 5yo daughter in tow.
My overall impression of the race was that it was extremely well run. The town seemed supportive of the event and it was fun- great course! Of course it rained on us the entire day which was a bit of a bummer but those Hilo folk are unfazed by rain so I tried to adopt the same attitude... (Hilo gets like 100 inches of rain/year- there is a reason it is so green there.) I was more just bummed for the race director that the weather was such crap because he'd obviously worked so hard to pull off this great event and everything that was under his control was exceptionally well done. The weather... well, that's not under anyone's control.
Anyway, can I just say how psyched I was about the swim??? Wow finally a triathlon that gave advantage to an experienced ocean swimmer!! :) The water might have been rougher than normal b/c of the storm that was rolling in just as we were starting the race? Bit of a bummer that it was called wetsuit legal. I'm sure there were spots where the water was cold enough (brackish water so there were pockets of colder water near the start/finish) but the majority of the swim was plenty warm to go without. Anyway, women started 5' back from the men which usually I find to be a royal PITA but in this case it was fine- the conditions of the swim had the men completely spread out all over the place so passing them was a non-issue. I started beside Karlyn- I didn't have high hopes of being able to hang with her, and then the fact that she opted to use the wetsuit since it was allowed made me think my chances of hanging with her were actually now a big fat zero... so when the race started and I was actually hanging on her feet without dying it was like shock and awe in my brain! (Eventually she got away of course.) The water was moving like ocean water should move, it was tough to see/sight much at all, and there was some surf and shallow reef coming in... it was just like this awesome adventure swim that is so rare these days in triathlon and I was LOVING every second of it. I had heard that the race director was allowing athletes to opt to wear fins in exchange for a 5' penalty... at first I was like WHAT!?! But then given the conditions of the water I completely understood. It was definitely the kind of water that would/could be quite intimidating to a new triathlete. Some athletes did choose to wear fins- I passed a guy toward the end who was wearing fins- he was also swimming breaststroke (with a real breaststroke kick) and I wanted to stop and tell him Dude! Fins don't work like that... You're doing it wrong!... But instead I just made sure to swim WIDE around as I passed.
Looking at the results it appears Karlyn and I both out-split all of the men so that was find of fun. :) I got to my bike in T1 and most of the bikes were still there which was an indicator that indeed that swim was as tough as it appeared. I made short work of T1 and was off and rolling in the rain.
It was a good steady rain and consequently I changed some things about the way I planned to race. #1 I skipped the sunglasses and #2 I thought I wasn't go to DRILL IT, but rather it seemed prudent to just ride safely. But then I got riding and within a few miles I'd caught and passed Karlyn and then a woman on the side of the road cheered for me and I heard my two favorite words, First Woman! Hearing that makes it tough for me to lolly-gag on the bike and all of a sudden I was moving right along and feeling super happy! I was still stoked about that awesome swim, I wasn't feeling bothered by the rain, and my legs felt good. The course is a pretty simple out/back with some rolling climbs on the way out and then rolling downs on the way back. So YEEHAW Y'ALL It's ADVANTAGE SWIMMER here at the Hilo Triathlon and I was all about taking advantage of this very rare opportunity!!
At some point not too long after I'd heard my two favorite words, my happy bubble burst right along with both my tires when I hit a giant pothole.
I think the pothole was about this big.
I was not prepared to change 2 flats (my fault, yes), which meant that I had to wait for a sag truck to roll up. It's funny how I felt super bummed for like a second and then I just let it go. I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do about it- what's done is done and at that moment there was no air in my tires. And that's what I get for not bringing along two spares!! There were some policemen right there after the bridge so they called the number they had for the sag guys but no one answered... I sat down in the rain to wait and while I was waiting (maybe ~15'?) three more guys hit that same pothole and flatted too. I sat there for so long one police officer finally asked me "Oh, You gun try finis?" Um, yes if I can get air back in these tires I saw no reason to not finish. Maybe I could have a good run?? In good news I was first in line when the sag truck did finally come along. The mechanic did an awesome job helping- his sense of urgency was WAY higher than mine by that point... in fact, when my bike was ready to go he was ready to push me off as if I was doing a TT but I was like, um, no worries man I'm out of it here at this point...
So I got back on my bike and then just cruised the rest of the 40K. It was still raining and I could see no point in trying to make up 20-25' by risking anything with a big effort. So the rest of the ride was super cruisy. I'd definitely like to go back though and have another shot at it b/c I think I could rip off a fast 40K there given better conditions! I should note as well- the Hilo Police did a superb job of stopping/directing traffic and keeping the course safe for the athletes. Mahalo!
One lesson I learned in all of this is that my run speed is not dependent on my bike effort/pace. I was sort of thinking that hey maybe this was my chance to really have a decent 10K given that the effort on the bike had not been hard... it was still raining so it was not hot... the course was mostly flat too just a few short gentle up/downs... so the only reason to not run fast here would just be if you're not a very fast runner! So yes, I proved to myself on this 10K that my run pace at these shorter races is the same whether I drill it on the bike or whether I soft pedal. It was a little bit less uncomfortable than it likely would have been had I ridden hard, and it was maybe a little bit more fun because I actually passed some girls on the run (I never get to do that!). It's hard to say though that my heart was really IN IT though during that run because I felt like I was just OUT OF IT when it came to the actual race, but turned out I ran my way up to 9th OA female (it was a small race) and 2nd 40-49.
3 of us from Honolulu traveled over for the race and all ended up with age group awards!
The atmosphere after the race could have been a ton more pleasant I think had it not continued to dump rain... They had a good band and good beer/food... The mayor of the Big Island did the race and gave a great speech afterward- he is funny! (I would vote for him to be my mayor for sure.) Anyway, overall impression of this first year race was that it was a good one indeed. It was exactly the kind of fun that is the reason most of us fall in love with the sport of triathlon in the first place and even though someone joked that this race should be called The RainMan, I can see myself going back to this one again next year. Though next year, I'll bring proper Hilo attire. And two spares.