The Iron Girl Columbia, a .62 mile swim, 17.5 mile bike, and 3.3 mile run, is one of my favorite triathlons. It is an all-women’s race which means plenty of pleasantries and two-piece bikinis. The race also has great swag: v-neck race shirts, post-race quiona, and glass trophies. The participants range from professional triathletes, to first timers, to competitive age groupers, to cancer survivors. It’s hard not to be inspired. It’s impossible.

2010 Iron Girl Columbia Race Report

The night before: I arrive at Amity’s house embraced by good people and the smell of homemade lasagna. Everyone eats a serving. I eat two. I unbutton the top button of my jeans to set my stomach free. I am full and sleepy. Amity shows me to the guest bedroom. There are posters of Michael Jordan, Moses Malone, and Joe Theismann on the wall. There are books by Malcolm Gladwell on the shelf. There is a vintage bike sitting in the corner. I lay down certain something good is about to happen.

Race morning: Amity tells me to wake up. I look outside. It is drizzling. I climb the stairs and eat oatmeal drizzled with honey. We drive to the race site. Amity heads to her bike. I head to mine. They call for her wave. We exchange words of encouragement and I watch her swim away. I have 56 minutes to kill before my debut. It is raining hard. People are scurrying. I am c-walking.

The swim: I touch the lake’s bottom. It is disgusting. It feels like marshmallow meatloaf. Everyone is squealing. (We are girls.) The horn sounds. I start kicking. There is seaweed everywhere. It is sliding through my fingers and threatens to slither into my mouth like a suitor’s tongue on an unsuccessful first date. Thankfully, it is over before I know it. Pep talk + ducking & dodging = 23:41

The transition: I am more energized than normal. I ice skate through the muddy aisles like Nancy Kerrigan’s brown-skinned cousin.

The bike: The rain is pounding and so are my feet on the pedals. I feel good but I’d feel better if there were less road blocks. The slower riders are spread all over the road. I am wasting energy weaving between them. When I say, “on your left”, few riders respond appropriately. Most respond by glancing back to see who is in such a hurry. I am flying down a two lane highway that is not closed to traffic. I am battling nudnicks who are hanging out in the middle of the lane. I am doing all of this in the rain on a hilly course. I forego the polite warnings and yell my way out. Practicing in the rain + bobbing & weaving + a hint of tourette’s = 53:25, 19.7mph

The transition: I rush my bike into the transition area to the sound of a familiar cow bell.

The run: The trail is packed with slower runners. It is hard to avoid brushing arms. Whenever I find an extra breath, I announce my presence, “on your left” or “coming through the middle”. Most oblige freeing my energy for the hill-mounting. The hills are monstrous. Many are walking. I lift my knees to propel myself up and over. It is the hardest course of the season. I wonder if I will fade. The screams of Liz and Jimmy tell me I won’t. They beckon me home. I go. Oatmeal w/ honey + focus + friends = 23:48, 7:03 min per mile.

The results: In my age group, I am 2nd out of 241. Overall, I am 26th out of 1,785. My run is the 8th fastest out of 1,785 women. Daddy’s leg speed + lasagna + Amity’s chi = 1 hour 44 minutes.

I highly recommend Iron Girl Columbia! If you want to participate next year, registration opens on November 1st. It sells out quickly, usually within a day. No sleeping in!

*Please note: The races in Columbia, MD are notoriously hilly. It is typical for competitors, even the professionals, to have slower times than normal because of the steep terrain. Do your hill training, baby girl.