Race Report: Long Distance Triathlon Caminha, Portugal
by Jen Connet
First race since moving to Portugal at the start of the year. Race registration was all a bit confusing in Portuguese and different rules because of new country and covid. Had to wear masks and get a temperature check to enter the race area ..no guests allowed. I set up my bike transition area and put all my stuff in my gear bucket.
I drove to the swim start with people from my new club, CNATRIL Triatlo. The weather was looking perfect - forecast had previously been to rain all day, but the water was calm, some blue sky was showing, low 60’s. The tide was very low. Masked racers all had to walk out a 1/4 mile along the sand to the start line. The Caminha race usually starts with a jump off a ferry - but it was cancelled this year because of covid restrictions, so we started from a sandbank.
I lined up at the front of the race start with the other 20 women. Men were behind. The front row of girls were called out by name with several other announcements I couldn’t understand. I lined up in the second row. Swim started smoothly and I relaxed into a pace. With only 4 pool swims in the months before the race and a fractured arm still in recovery, I was relieved to feel strong-ish in the water. Halfway through the swim and the men started to catch up. 2 swam on top of me and then kicked me in the nose. I had to turn on my back for a couple strokes to fit my goggles back on. Got a bit startled by seeing the pack of men fast approaching me so I flopped back over and carried on. About 100 yards before the swim exit, the water became too shallow to swim and we had to hop through it. I lifted myself out of the water and was happy to remember how to unzip my wetsuit halfway as I ran to transition.
Wetsuit slipped off easily after dowsing my ankles pre-race in body glide. A race official was standing behind me watching my every move while I put on my race belt, strapped on my helmet and my bike shoes. I may have gotten a penalty for folding my wetsuit behind my gear bucket, instead of in the bucket.
The first 10 minutes my watch was reading 14 mph and I resigned to the idea that I was just not in shape for the race and it would be a long slow slog to power through. But as I powered away the avg speed suddenly switched between 18-19mph. I thought it was a mistake. After only riding on my trainer for the last 2 months while my arm healed, my speed readings were always off and I didn’t think I was able to go over 17mph. But I carried on. Some rolling hills and 2 laps. I was relieved I didn’t put on the rain jacket or arm warmers that I panic purchased the day before since my wind vest hadn’t arrived in the mail. SiS gel every 45 minutes…until the time came for my last gel and I reached into my pocket and got a fistful of sticky gel, my last SiS had exploded all over. Slightly confused for a second , licked the remaining gel off my hand and took a bite of an unknown bar from the last aid station. By the third lap I felt like I was one of the last riders on the course. I proudly held on to my 18.8 average speed and rolled into transition.
Bike shoes off. Run shoes on. New pink lock laces for race day, yay! Race official reminded me to move my bib to the front. Off I went.
One SiS gel at the start of the run, with water from the first aid station. 4 loops, completely flat, out and back along the river. Good course for lots of spectators. 1 double espresso caffeine gel after 45 minutes. I wanted to slow down but told myself I could keep this up for another hour. People were moving very fast..it felt like a sprint race. I went with the vibe and held onto a 7:47 min/mi avg pace. Not nearly as fast as the others. I felt like the course was almost empty by the time it started raining with a 1/2 mile to go. I picked up the pace and finished in the rain, happy with a 1:41 half marathon and an overall 1/2 ironman PR of 5:09, despite my official DSQ (not sure yet why I was disqualified! Will update when I find out). The race was the National Long Distance championships and my result would have put me 13th overall from the 37 women who competed.