This was my first Olympic distance triathlon which means it was double the distance of a Sprint tri. For this race that meant I had a 0.9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike then a 6.2 mile run. This turned out to be one of the most difficult races I’ve done. Not because of the distance but because of the hills. Lots of hills, which is mostly normal for tri’s in NY State so you’d think I would be accustomed to it but it just seemed so much harder at this distance. I don’t think I was truly prepared for this particular race. I got through the swim and the bike great, no issues with the distance at all, but the run that was my own little private hell, but let me start from the beginning.
The race venue was 2 hours away and my wave had a 7:16am start time so that meant I couldn’t do a race day drive. So I got a room, loaded up the car and drove up early on Friday so that I could pick up my race packet and have some time to drive the bike course. I got to the packet pickup site about an hour early so I decided to go check into the hotel. It was only 5 minutes away up the road so I was glad to be so close. After I turned out onto the road I suddenly realized where I was. It was the Lake George strip, the place where all the bikers go during the Americade Motorcycle Rally. I hadn’t been here in probably 20 years; back when I was riding motorcycles and it was great on how all those memories came flooding back by just seeing all the shops. It just so happened that my room was right on the strip…cool! After picking up my packet then driving the bike course (a portion I couldn’t drive because it was on a bike path) I went and dropped my bike off in the transition area. It was very windy and as I stood and looked out at the lake we would be swimming in the water was very choppy. This was not going to be an easy swim if those conditions remained but I was talking with a guy who had done the race the year before and he said it’s usually much calmer in the mornings. It was getting late and I needed to get some dinner then get settle in for the night. I wanted to walk the strip but I didn’t because I knew getting off my feet was more important. I’d had the last 2 days off with no training so there was no point in ruining it being out on my feet too long. Even though I was only 5 minutes away from the race site I still had to get up at 5am.
Saturday morning I’d packed up and off to the race at 5:45am. It was still dark and quite chilly at 54 degrees. I got to the transition area and they had flood lights up so we could see. My bike was completely wet with dew; I knew would happen so I had a towel with me to take care of that. As the sun came out it started to warm up and I could finally able to see the buoys out on the swim course. There was still a light fog over the water as it was reported to be about 74 degrees. After I got my area setup I spent some time helping others around me get their area setup. As more people come in I noticed that most of the older guys were setting up in my area. That’s when it dawned on me that the corals were staged by age group. They did the same thing at Nationals and I really liked it because the bikes for people in the earlier swim waves would be gone giving you a clearer line of site to your bike.
Standing around waiting for the swim to start my feet were freezing. I should have put my running shoes on but like normal I was standing there in flip-flops. Because the transition area was getting ready to close I headed down to the beach to get in a quick practice swim. The water felt great and because it wasn’t windy at that point there wasn’t any chop. I swam out a couple hundred yards then turned around and swam back. After getting back to the beach I looked out at the buoys that marked the course. I thought I would be a little nervous about it but I wasn’t. There was a time when I would get nervous looking out at a 750 meter swim course and this one was 1500 meters and it didn’t bother me. Even when I knew that I could swim the distance and have had practice sessions where I swam over 2 miles nonstop. There was just something about open water that would get to me. Now I do something a little different and I’ve done it in my last few races. I just concentrate on the next buoy, like doing one lap at a time in the pool! We had a large group in our wave. It was guys 50+ and guys 29 and under that were not part of the college participants.
I got a good start off the horn and got just behind one of the younger guys who also went out fast. Someone behind me was hitting my feet and it was affecting my stroke so I stopped kicking, kept my head down in the water and went into my power stroke where I don’t breathe and pull much harder. That helped me pull away from whoever was hitting my feet but I caught the guy ahead of me and I started hitting his feet. So I altered my course to get out off his line. Now I could concentrate on the buoys and my line. After getting to the first turn buoy I felt good. My arms didn’t feel tired and more importantly, I was calm. After I made the next turn to head back to the beach I was feeling confident…it was time for me to pick up the pace. I could now see guys ahead of me that I was catching. I was surprised that I hadn’t been caught by the young ladies that were starting in the next wave 4 minutes behind us. They are normally faster swimmers but I was going well so I pressed on. The only issue was the sun. As I breathed to my left I was staring right into it and it would wash out my sight briefly when I would lift my head to sight the next buoy. I had to compensate by closing my eyes when I breathed. Eventually, the first few ladies passed me. They seemed to be on a different line than I was on. I think I was a little further away from the buoy line than I wanted to be. They got a little ahead of me so I used their pink swim caps to sight off of because I wasn’t picking up the last orange buoy well. I started to feel some slight pulling in both my quads; nothing that really hurt it just put the thought in my head about possible cramping that might occur. I was started catching back markers from the wave’s that started before me, fist some white caps then some greens. I slammed into at least 2 of them, swimming right up on top of one person. I didn’t even see him until I was right up on top of him. I felt bad but I knew I couldn’t stop so I kept swimming because I could see the swim out area. I kept swimming until my hand hit the sand then I stood up and started running. I pulled my goggles and swim cap off and pulled my ear plug out then I unzipped my wetsuit and pulled my arms out all while still running to the transition area. As I crossed the timing mat at the entrance to the transition area I took a look at my watch…31 minutes, not bad but I wanted to be faster.
I got to my bike then pulled off my wetsuit. I was surprised that there were still a lot of bikes in my section of the coral as I’m normally a middle of the pack swimmer in my age group. After looking at the splits it turns out that I was 5th out of the water in my age group…that was fantastic for me! I put on my helmet, grabbed my bike and took off and pulled into line with 2 other guys heading out of the transition area.
Both those guys stopped to mount their bike, not me, it was going to be a running start and mount. I got both feet on both shoes at the same time and was off and peddling. I knew I had to get my feet in my shoes quickly because as soon as we would get out of the parking lot there was an ascent up the first road. I wish I could have been going a little fast before I had to do this but I didn’t have the time. So I was a little slow on getting my feet in my shoes and getting the strap fastened. So slow that one of the guys past me but 25 miles is a long ride so I knew I’d get it back. Lots of hill climbing on this course but one of the fun sections was the bike pathway. It was narrow and twisty and I got to take advantage of the skills I learned racing motorcycles like looking ahead, not at the corner you’re entering, hitting the corner at the apex and trail braking. There was no shortage of bikers from the early waves to pass but I know it had to spook some people having a biker going so much faster than they were going by them in such close corners. We were told to only pass on the right but one guy took such a terrible line on a corner on the bike pathway that he ended up all the way on the left-hand side of the pathway. I came up on him so fast that I had no choice but to go to the right or I would have smashed into him. The bike pathway was awesome; it was the first time since I started doing tri’s that I had the feeling like I was racing a motorcycle. There was one point where we had to cross over a big arched wood plank bridge. There were 2 people ahead of me as we approached it. At first, I was just going to slow down and follow them over the bridge but as we got on it I said nope, they are going too slow so I banked to the left and went by them both. It was sunny but not hot and my toes were cold. I had planned on putting socks on for the run so maybe I should have put them on going into the bike. I may have to consider that for my next race. For now, I was just concentrating on my speed and getting fluids in me. Instead of putting water in my bottle I put Gatorade. With the added distance I thought it would be better for me. However, because it wasn’t hot I didn’t feel the urge to drink much. My water bottles hold about 32oz; I think I drank 8oz out on the bike course. I also had gel shots with me that I was intending on taking but I didn’t because for some odd reason I got it in my head that the Gatorade was enough. I did have some slight cramping in my calf but I didn’t think it was because I was dehydrated or anything, I just thought it was because of the added workload. The hills were destroying my speed. There were 3 times where I had to drop down to my small front gear and still go to my largest rear gear to get up the hill. I know everyone had to get through them but knowing I don’t do them well had me thinking I was losing time to those that can do them well. I was really glad I drove the course because I knew what to expect. It probably would have been tougher not knowing this course ahead of time. When I made it back to the park I got my feet out of my shoe’s (my toes were still cold) to setup for my dismount. I stepped off and went into my run and my heel’s felt great. No pain at all so I was able to run into the transition area with no issues.
I unclipped my helmet before I got to my area, racked my bike, took off my helmet then reached down to grab my left sock and put it on. Then I reached down and grab the right sock and as I was twisting to get it on while standing on one leg I got a spasm in my left quad muscle…youch! It stood me back up straight for a second then it went away. It just so happened that the area next to me had a milk crate sitting there for the guy to sit on when he got to his bike. I plopped down right on it and sat there to finish putting on my socks and running shoes (thanks for the loaner whoever you are…lol). I’m going to have to consider bringing one for myself or just sit on the ground from now on when I put my shoes on. Once I got my shoes on I grabbed my race belt, took a big drink from my water bottle then I was off running.
I felt OK running out of the box but once I got to the road it was an immediate climb up a hill. I knew right then and there that I was in trouble and that I would not be going fast. I looked down at my watch and saw 10…that meant I was only running 6 miles an hour. This was going to be a tough 6.2 mile run. I couldn’t go any faster. I thought if I got a gel shot in me maybe that would help so I opened one up and started taking small amounts at a time. I was able to pick up my pace when I got to the flats but not by much. I think just about everyone I passed on the bike went right back by me on the run! This was one of the hilliest tri run courses I’ve ever been on. There was one section that after I mapped it out turned out to be a class 5 hill. My pace dropped to somewhere around 11 minutes when I got to it. There was a nice section where we went through the woods. There were some trip hazards in there but for the most part, I enjoyed being on the softer ground. After getting passed the hill’s there was a flat section then downhill back to the park. It was at this point when I finally got to actually pass a few runners. But this was a 2 loop course meaning I was going to have to do all those same hills again. I was dreading that! I was hoping that the gel shot I took would kick in before I got back to that one class 5 hill but I don’t think it did as my pace was even slower the second time around. My quads were aching trying to go up that hill again. I barely had a stride and I looked down at my watch and saw a 14…that was pretty much a walking speed for me. But I didn’t let my legs stop as I told myself to just keep going, get past these hills then you’ll be fine. I never felt like I was in any respiratory distress as my breathing was OK but my legs were aching and they just felt drained. As I made that last turn off the final hill the guy sitting on the corner yelled you’re doing great, it’s all downhill from here. I smile and gave him a thumbs up and it was just at that time my legs felt better. I actually picked up my pace and began to catch runners who had just passed me. I slowly went from a 13 minute pace to a 7 minute pace when I hit the downhill. I even had a sprint at the end. Sure my quads were still aching but I somehow found the strength to put in a decent finish!
So, I finished in 100th place out of 280 in 2:46:00, 8th in my age group out of 35 when they posted the early time sheets. After the final times were posted, I had finished 101st out of 396. Maybe my legs are just tired from all the racing and training but I have 3 more races to get through so no rest for the weary as I’ll be back at it next week!