Monday, June 9, 2014

Another Belated Race Report: American Triple T 2014

You have no idea what you're in for.
So about a year or so ago I was browsing for ridiculous endurance events and came across this gem: American Triple T.  The basic concept is a Sprint Tri Fri, 2 Olympics on Sat and then follow that all up with a half-Iron on Sunday.  Immediately after sending the link over to my fellow crazy person Aaron, I get an email from him saying he's signed up and that he's booked our lodging already.  Fast forward a few months later and I cave and sign up - why not.  I've done a half last year and Olympics are pretty much cake at this point (speed is a completely different story).  I figured with the HAT run 2 months prior my run shape should be top notch and I'd really only have to worry about nutrition and hills...boy was I wrong.

Pre Race: We set out to travel on Thursday before the race.  Aaron came to Baltimore and we left around 8PM hoping to maybe make it to West Virginia or something before midnight and book a hotel - which reminds me I still owe him $ for this thing... Instead we make it maybe 2 hours before I was falling asleep as the navigator and we plopped down at some Best Western near where the start of our Ragnar DC usually takes place.  Got up at a reasonable hour and headed out to Ohio.

Recommendation to any folks looking to tackle this challenge - give yourself a LOT of travel time.  The Baltimore to Portsmouth trip is about 8 hours by car and its a LONG boring drive.  I'd rather be doing just about anything other than sitting in a car for that long.  Also Aaron must hate me for the amount of times I made him pull over to pee.  Seriously it was every 40 minutes he couldn't believe it.  My 2 year old has better bladder control.
Shawnee State Forest

We arrived on site right as the packet pickup began distributing, which was also the same time all the damn rain clouds moved in. 
Arriving in the rain
We did a quick stop up at the lodge (sort of a rustic hunting lodge type place) and went back down the ridiculously steed "hill" to get our packet.  Did I mention the rain?  Because it started coming down.  Soaking EVERYTHING.  That and it was starting to get chilly out.  Luckily I'm a meatier triathlete but this wasn't something I was necessarily fond of.  In all the race videos and info on the website it seemed like this was always and extremely hot event so most of my gear was heat based.  Fortunately I did bring a sweatshirt at least.

Looking up from the swim start across the bridge
Once we got our packets we scouted out the swim course on the lake.  As you can see below it was fairly straightforward.  Couple bouys and a ramp nothing too complicated.
Brrrr its cold in here.
With that complete we headed back to the lodge to get something to eat and head down to the first of our many races for the weekend.
And more rain.
Race 1:  This consisted of a Super Sprint.  The swim was a 250m swim (no problem), a 6k bike (seems fine) and a 1mi run (woohoo!).  Luckily our numbers were together and we could set up our transition area together.  The race format does allow for teams in the later races so if you want to draft or just use your teammate as support you can.
Home for our bikes
Bikes racked we headed over to the swim start and lined up based on our number.  This took FOREVER.  They send everyone off time trial style 3 at a time.  This put us waaaaaaaay in the back.  Being a stronger swimmer this made it more of an annoyance than anything else.  A bunch of the folks we lined up with were not swim veterans and would take them a fairly long time to complete even this distance.  It also meant I have to trample people.  And get punched in the face in the process.  I hate weak swimmers.  Clocked in a whopping 4:44 for my swim time.  Not ideal but given that we had a long weekend ahead I really wasn't pushing either.  Made it up into transition to remove the wetsuit and hop on the bike.

You immediately mount at the base of a tiny hill that gives you a falls sense of what's to come.  Then you take a right out of the lot and get a nice quick flat/downhill to get some speed before pulling an immediate U-turn and heading right up the damn hill we could barely walk down earlier.  Seriously I've never seen a hill like this.  It was tough.  You then finish the top of the hill at another part of the resort where folks rented out cabins (prob a much better idea) then go around a nice mini traffic circle and then hold on for dear life on the downhill.  Remember the rain had JUST finished up at this point so the roads were slippery.  I've been mastering the art of riding indoors so this was literally the first road ride I'd completed all season - not great.  Either way I survived and headed in for the run.  I think Aaron was just ahead of me at this point after my 14:46 bike.  Not the best but given the hill and effort it was understandable.

The run was just a precursor of the main course you follow all weekend.  A quick out and back with just enough hills to keep your pace honest.  I dropped in just under 9 min plan was to hold off all energy I could for the weekend and not go blowing my energy stores on the first race.  All in all not a bad day.  We grabbed a quick race snack from the finish line and walked our bikes up that hill to call it a night (they don't really have any bike security at night so they made us take our bikes back to the hotel - seriously I don't know what the folks that don't stay at the resort do).

Race 2: This day takes a slightly more serious tone.  Olympic distances force me to eat and drink more on the course so I had to plan my strategy out a little more.  Start off with a GU before the race then a full GU Roctane and 2 GUs on the bike, one final GU at the run turnaround (3.5 miles into the run).

The swim was ICE cold.  I think someone said at the start of the race air temp was 39.  I don't doubt it.  I opted for my full sleeve unlike yesterday and put in a more decent effort on this one.  It was a 2 loop course for today and once I rounded that last bouy the damn cap started popping off.  This wouldn't have been a problem except for the fact that I put my goggles on OVER the cap.  A mix of backstroke and heads up freestyle for the last 50m probably dropped my overall performance a bit and I finished with a 24:03, I'll take it.

The bike was an eye opening experience.  I'll save some gory details but the hills presented a real tactical challenge both on the uphills and the down.  Not having my normal handling skills prepped I was extremely cautious on the downhills basically manning the brakes the whole time so I couldn't make up much time.  On the uphills my strong giant thighs helped power my way up ahead of most of the folks but still couldn't seem to get a good pace going.  Overall 1:40 on a semi-Olympic-overly-hilly course.

The run I had only one goal: take it easy.  That I did.  At one point the hills got the best of me and I slowed to a speed walk to keep myself at that easy pace.  I did manage to slow to a nice controlled pace on the way back from the turnaround and had a good 3 mile conversation with a guy who does this every year.  That conversation honestly helped me focus on relaxing and being able to finish.  1:08 which was well over where I want to be in a 10k but decent for the circumstances.

3:19 for the first Olympic which I think was better than my first tri ever and I was trying to take it easier than normal.  Pretty happy at this point.

We were allowed to leave our bikes down for this one but only had a 3-4 hour window before race 3 would start.  We headed back up to the hotel, grabbed some lunch and relaxed for a few to gain some energy.

Race 3:  This Olympic is a slightly different format.  You start off with the bike, jump in for a swim and then finish with your run.  Oh and you have to start/finish with your teammate.  Kind of neat concept and I was excited to do the swim later in the race...boy was I mistaken.

The bike was no less than terrible.  I don't know if it was the exhaustion from earlier or the hills were worse but neither of us could gain any speed even though we could draft.  I constantly felt like we were slowing down and it was a pretty miserable experience.  The worst of it was that feeling you get during a tri where you know you're about to jump on the run...then you realize that you're only on your first leg and there's a lot to go.  Overall 1:46...slightly different course but close to the morning time.  Not bad but felt way worse than the time showed.

We put on our wetsuits and headed into the water together.  Now let me caveat this that the race director STRONGLY recommended folks put on their wetsuits.  It should have basically been required.  I'm really strong in the water and I don't think I could have made it through without one.  The water was frigid but your body also is depleted and you're really prone to cramps.  I tried to pace near Aaron the whole time but lost him before we hit the first bouy.  Finished the swim at 25:51 which was right how the morning went so that was good.  Then Aaron was nowhere nearby.  I figured he'd be 2 seconds behind me so I didn't really worry until I got my wetsuit off didn't see him.  Luckily he was coming out of the water as I got my shoes on for the run...apparently cramps hit him hard but he toughed it out.  We headed out for our last run of the day.

This was where the real pain set in.  Aaron was cramping and still nursing an IT issue he acquired a few weeks prior.  I was exhausted and completely unmotivated.  This race really burned me.  It takes a lot out of you and doesn't quit.  We settled for a run/walk/run/walk combo.  The only uplifting part was the 2 dudes chugging beers at mile 1.  Luckily they had one left and shared it.  Aaron still has nightmares from his beer mile a couple months ago so he wimped out.  Wuss.  Run time: 1:25 yuck.

The Decision:  I think both of us were thinking it during Race 3 that this was going to be painful and we had to make a judgement call on what to do.  This weekend took a lot out of us, we were passing out and going to have to wake up in about 6 hours to do it all again only harder and the idea of getting up for another ice swim was not making either of us happy.  We decided to cut our losses and capitalize on the freed up time to make our long trek home.  Honestly given our level of fitness and expectation on the course we were most likely in for an 8+ hour day of racing and instead we applied that to driving instead.  Not what we imagined coming into it but probably the smart call.

All in all it was a hell of an experience weekend.  I think maybe in a few years we will come back to conquer this course but definitely not for a while.  One thing I'd recommend is taking your time with travel and staying at the resort.  I think the logistics alone of having to immediately head back home really gets to someone like me.  Having another day or two to relax after the race would have definitely put us in a better state of mind.  Also I think the idea of going with a team of people might be the better route.  If you have a tri club or folks with similar interests convince them to join you.  The race is the middle of nowhere so that added motivation of your teammates really helps things out.  Well that and having a cabin full of beer wouldn't hurt.

I think next up on my plate is the Dreaded Druid Hills...a local 10k up by the zoo with some of the worst hills imaginable.  Hopefully I'll get that race report out on time.  

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