2011 Nation’s Triathlon Race Report!

Dear Adoring Fans,

This race report is long, long overdue. Maybe even long, long, LONG overdue. I promised myself I would write it by the end of September, and then October, and then November, and then before the end of 2011, and here it is January 2012 and I’m only now getting around to it. Yeesh.

Before I get into the race report, though, I just want to thank you all for your amazing, ongoing support of me and my fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This year, with your help, we raised nearly $4,000, and since 2005 together we’ve contributed somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 to help find a cure for blood cancer. That is no small feat. And it is pretty amazing to think about how small donations can add up so quickly. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your support. I truly could not do this without you all.

Okay. On to the race. If any of you have been waiting on the edges of your seats to hear how things went, wait no longer! Grab a seat and maybe a refreshment or something. We are taking trip back in time to September 2011…(insert time travel sound effects here).

Jennie and Melissa at North Lookout, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

This year’s Nation’s Triathlon took place on September 11, 2011. Through a fun coincidence, I had a work-related meeting a few days before the race in eastern Pennsylvania, at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (where I had an internship in the mid-1990s). Through an even more fun coincidence, my good friend Melissa was also at the meeting, so we got to spend a few days together there helping with strategic planning for Hawk Mountain’s education program. It was really nice to be back there after so many years, see faces I hadn’t thought about in a long time, and to just enjoy the beauty of the Appalachians.

Jennifer Nell and Nellie Clare at the pasta party (just for reference, Nellie is the little girl in middle picture in the header of my blog, standing behind her father, my Uncle Kenny).

From Hawk Mountain Melissa and I drove down to D.C. for my triathlon, where I met up with my friend Christopher, who’d taken the bus down from New York to come cheer me on, and my Aunt Mary and cousin Nellie, who live nearby. The night before the race was the traditional TNT Pasta Party/Inspiration Dinner, and Christopher, Mary, and Nellie were my guests. My friend Rick Karl, one of the coaches for our Tucson Team In Training, was also there doing the event with me (you’ve met him here on the pages of my blog before), so it was really nice to be surrounded my friends and family at the dinner.

Sunrise before the start.

Race day dawned nice and clear (you might remember last year it was incredibly rainy on the day of the race). In 2011, however, you might remember the excessive amounts of rain that the eastern U.S. had in the late summer and early fall. Because of this, the Potomac River, where the swim is held, was too dangerous to allow them to set up the swim course, so the race directors made the difficult decision a few days prior to the race to cancel the swim portion. Building the docks and placing the buoys general takes two or three days of work, and during that time the current was just too strong. It was disappointing after having spent so many hours in the pool training over the summer, but I certainly understand the decision. So instead of a swim-bike-run, the race would be just a 25 mile bike ride followed by a 10k run (6.2 miles).

Travel Buddah and Travel Rubber Chicken get up early to wish me luck.

I got up early, ate my normal breakfast of cereal and a banana, got dressed, grabbed my race bag, and took the shuttle to the transition zone and start/finish line. It was a lot more crowded this year than I remember it being last year, with much longer lines for bathrooms and even just to get into transition to set things up. For those of you who are not familiar with triathlons, there is an area called ‘transition’ where you hang your bike and set up all of the gear that you will need for the rest of the race, so you can transition from one sport to the next. In this case, since there was no swim, everyone started ready to ride their bikes (they allowed you to have your helmet on and I think you could even wear your cleats in the corrals, if memory serves, but I just had my socks and flip flops on. I wasn’t trying to win anything and the thought of running in my cleats any more than necessary just didn’t sound fun.) We were divided into corrals based on age, and I have to say, for as many people as there were, this part went really smoothly. Since normally we would have been lined up on the dock, getting into the water to start, they instead led us up to the entrance of the transition area and let us run in in groups of 10 or 15 every 15 seconds or something like that. As they let each wave run in to get their bikes and run out the other end to start the race, the next wave would be lining up. It was actually quite orderly.

Waves of races move toward the start line.

Waving to Aunt Mary and cousin Nellie.

My bike ride was fine. I was slightly slower than last year and for the first half I just felt like I couldn’t quite get into the right gear and get going. It seemed like everyone else in the race was passing me and I was surprised that I wasn’t in dead last! After I hit the turn around point and headed back, though, I got a nice surprise when I spotted Mary and Nellie standing on a bridge above the roadway, holding a huge American flag and screaming my name as I rode underneath them. I waved and smiled like a mad person and that gave me the nudge that I needed to kick it into gear. The rest of the ride felt really good and I finished in 1 hour, 22 minutes, and 42 seconds. It was a little slower than I’d planned for, but fine.

Feeling strong on the run.

T2 (the transition between bike and run) went quickly and before I knew it I was out on the course in my running shoes. I spotted Christopher as I made the first turn onto the road—big smiles and waves to each other and I was on my way. Before I got to the first mile marker I hear a familiar voice screaming, “Jennie!! Jennie!!” I look over and it is Kelly Klein, from Camp Willson, my first job after college. She was standing there with her family. I knew she was going to meet me at the finish line, but seeing her on the run course was just fantastic. I was off to a great start. I ran my first mile in under 9 minutes and just kept going from there. I saw Kelly and her family again around mile 2, and then I just put my head down and went for it. Each mile ticked by and I didn’t really seem to be slowing down and felt good. I somehow missed the 4 mile marker (they told me later it had fallen down), so I was really surprised to all of a sudden be at mile 5 when I was expecting mile 4 (I was intentionally not looking at my watch until each mile). Suddenly I only had 1.2 miles more to go, so I just went for it and ended up with a personal best for the 10k: 53 minutes, 40 seconds. Overall race time: 2 hours, 21 minutes, 55 seconds. I came in 89th in my division, but I am not sure out of how many people that was. Still, I was really pleased with how it went, especially my run.

At the finish line I quickly found Rick Karl, who had also had a great race, and Christopher, who was smiling from ear to ear. Kelly and her family were waiting at the TNT tent, so we had a short visit, and Melissa and her friend Chris also came and met us at the TNT tent. It was just a great race.

Jennie and Rick at the finish line.

Chris, Jennie, and Melissa at the finish line.

Kelly and Jennie at the finish line. Kelly is the person who introduced me to Team In Training back in 2005, when she trained for her first marathon with them and sent me her fundraising letter. I thought, "Kelly is going to run a MARATHON? Wow! I wonder if I could do that?" The rest is history. What a treat to be able to have her there at my race this year!

My double triple crown! (one marathon, one triathlon, and one century ride for TNT, times two...and then some, in my case!)

After visiting with everyone and getting something to eat, Christopher and I headed back over to transition so I could gather up my gear and drop my bike off to be shipped back to Tucson. We had to wait forever and a day for the shuttle to take us back (we waited nearly an hour, no kidding), but when we finally got back to the hotel we had something great waiting for us: my brother John and his family was driving back to North Carolina from Massachusetts, so we managed to meet up at the hotel after the race and have lunch together, which was really nice.

Nina, Jennie, Freddy, Ben, and John (I swear I was just squinting at the sun, not being annoyed at the photographer.)

It was also interesting to be in Washington, D.C. for September 11th. When a woman from the D.C. Triathlong Club sang the national anthem at the start of the race, with the Washington Monument there in the background, I felt a little emotional, in a way that surprised me a bit, and I found myself getting a little choked up. I felt glad to be in a place like D.C. for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and I think we all felt  a real sense of of solidarity and unity.

Here are a few more highlights:

Did you know the Lehigh Valley is where they make Peeps, Hot Tamales, and Mike & Ike's? Me either! Photo taken at the Allentown, PA airport.

World War II Memorial

Christopher and Jennie at the WW2 Memorial.

Abe.

C3PO

Julia Child's kitchen.

For the smart aleck who asked if the swim portion of the race was going to be in the reflecting pool. The answer is: no.

After spending Monday morning seeing some of the sights of D.C., Christopher and I caught the afternoon bus to New York. Rather than try to describe everything we did in words, I’ll just take you on a pictorial tour of some of the highlights:

Rockaway Beach.

Rockaway Beach.

Ding dong! The Book of Mormon on Broadway--totally lived up to the hype and then some.

Tiffany stained glass at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Visiting with cousin Evan and his daughter Etta.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Staten Island Ferry.

Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry.

Ground Zero and the new World Trade Center

Dinner with Amanda.

It was a great race, a great trip. Thank you for your indulgence, and also for your patience in waiting for the write-up!

But the most important part of it all, the biggest thing I have to thank you for, is that together we raised $3,905 to help find a cure for blood cancers. That is pretty darn amazing if I do say so myself. Way to go, Team!

So what’s up next for me? I am thinking about doing a half marathon here in Tucson in March with the TNT Alumni team, and later in 2012…I’m not sure. I know there is an event that I will be doing, but I just haven’t decided what it will be yet. It has been awhile since I’ve done a marathon and I’m feeling like I might be ready for another. I do love triathlons, though, so I’m not sure–maybe one of each? I also know that I will be doing a half marathon somewhere with my cousin Chris, who was unable to participate in Nation’s with me in 2011. All of that is to say, stay tuned to this blog–there will be a JND TNT event in 2012. Details to follow…

Warm wishes for a peaceful, healthy, and happy 2012!