I’ve been racing triathlons off and on since 2010 and seriously since 2012, so it’s safe to say, I get around, if you know what I mean. And by that, of course I mean I’ve done most of the local races at least once and have stories to tell (General Smallwood 2012 when people were dropping like flies due to the heat, anyone?). So it was a nice change to do a local race that was new to me: Rock Hall.
For those of you not familiar with the Mid Atlantic geography, DC is situated on the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, which then flow together into the Chesapeake Bay. East of the Potomac is a peninsula (shared by Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia) that is bordered by the Potomac on the west and Atlantic Ocean on the east. Each summer, DC residents flock to the Eastern Shore, or eastern part of this peninsula, for the beaches, boardwalks, and wild ponies. But what about the western part of this peninsula? Doesn’t it also have water access, flat terrain, and a low-key vibe? Yes, yes it does. Behold, Rock Hall.
One thing to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to Rock Hall is that when you first plug in a destination into GPS, it will give you the direct distance. Do not be fooled! Thanks to the hundreds of little inlets and peninsulas, nothing is ever direct. Something that is 10 miles away as the crow flies could actually be over an hour in driving distance. In other words, don’t stay in Annapolis if you hope to get to your race on time.
Luckily, this is not a cautionary tale. At least not that cautionary tale. I studied the maps, poured over hotels.com, and opted to spend a little more money for what looked to be a really cool experience: the Osprey Point Inn. Not only was the B&B located under a mile from race check-in, it was on the water, offered a huge breakfast, and had kayaks and paddle boards for the guests to use for free. Score! And really, it was a great place to stay…just not for a triathlon. For starters, the hotel was located about a half mile off the main road, at the end of a gravel path…so we couldn’t ride the whole way to the race site as planned. It also didn’t allow bikes in the rooms (more logistics than policy–think super narrow and twisty stairwells). Third, the breakfast started too late and finished too early to fit with the triathlon schedule. (On the second day, we were able to rush back between finishing the race and the award ceremony, since we just did the aquabike.) Otherwise, it was great.
Like all Kinetic Multisport races, the logistics of Rock Hall were solid. Easy check in, well-marked course, etc. I had originally registered for the triathlon both days, but was able to switch to aquabike that morning because of a persistent glute issue. (The folks at Rose PT diagnosed it as a super tight piriformis and obturator internus, not an injury per se, but still super unpleasant for running.) Also, I figure this sport should be fun, so why make myself suffer?!
And fun it was! The good thing about aquabike is that I can go hard in the swim and crank out the bike without worrying about having to run after that. After really bad swims last month, I was a bit worried about this one, and while it wasn’t my fastest swim ever (non-wetsuit, lots of turns), it was fine. The bike course was really fun–mostly flat, with a few rollers, and smooth roads. They had changed the course this year to avoid a gravel road, and I don’t think anyone was sad about that. Plus, the absolute best part was that once I was done, I joined fellow DC Tri Club Masters swim coaches James and Jason on the run course, soaking runners with a squirt gun (if they consented, of course).
Since we were racing on Sunday as well, we spent a second night in Rock Hall. The good thing about racing short aquabikes is they don’t trash your legs like long course triathlons (or any full triathlon), so we didn’t just Normatec and nap in the hotel room. We used a SUP and kayak to explore the area by the hotel (lots of ospreys, as predicted), walked around nearby Chestertown (way cooler than I had expected), and met some DC Tri Club friends for dinner at a delicious Thai restaurant (as I said, go Chestertown!). I even got a hat inspired by Friends at the dollar store. #winning
Race day 2 was even more low-key, since we already had our race numbers and knew the layout. One thing to keep in mind for this race from a logistical perspective is that it’s a point to point swim, so there’s a bit of a walk to swim start. It’s possible to walk it barefoot (watch your step), or you can leave flip flops at the start and pick them up afterward or have a non-racing friend grab them.
People frequently ask if it’s crazy to do the double, but I think it’s a lot of fun. You get two races for one drive, it’s a good excuse to get to know the town because you’re spending the night, and the second race is a lot less stressful because you’re already familiar with the course…plus the second race feels so much shorter (because it is). In this case, Coach Liz had given me a goal of a normalized power of over 205 W on the bike, so I just set my watch to that. After all, it was a short race and I wasn’t running afterward, so there was no need to pace myself. It wound up going really well and I finished first female for the second day in a row. Added bonus of going fast: still enough time to dart back to the hotel and polish off the last of the breakfast buffet.
Overall, it was a great weekend, in part because I was able to pull together a successful pair of races but really because it was a chance to hang out with so many DC Triathlon Club friends–from the masters group, elite team, ambassadors program, and others coached by Liz. After spending so many years racing far from home in order to chase a world championships qualification, it has been nice to focus on a local tri season this year.
That said, this was the last time I rode my triathlon bike. After this, it belongs to Elliott. I’ll be focusing on swim-runs for the rest of the season, and perhaps beyond. Stay tuned for another blog post on that question.
But for now, a huge THANK YOU to the DC Tri Elite team sponsors, especially Louis Garneau for the sizzlin’ kits, Xterra wetsuits (or in the case of this warm water race, Xterra transition bag), Osmo hydration, Gu energy, XX2i sunglasses, Normatec Recovery (key for day two freshness), Rose Physical Therapy, and Georgetown Sports Massage.