Tuesday, June 4, 2013

American Triple-T Ohio

heading into transition rocking the Rev3 shorts
This race is one of my favorites, one that I look forward to heading back to year after year.  It's pretty much a racing junkie (guilty)'s dream: 4 triathlons over 3 days!  The event takes place in the Shawnee State Park near Portsmouth, Ohio.  I say "near" because there's really no town within miles, nothing close by except for the lodge and cabins up big a hill from the transition area at Turkey Creek Lake.  There isn't even reliable cell service from the lodge area.  Factor in a relatively small field of racers who are seeing each other on the courses all weekend, many of whom are returning racers, and most of whom are staying within the park, and you end up with a triathlon retreat weekend of sorts.  Everyone is required to wear the provided official Triple-T tri top.  We keep the same race numbers all weekend, so you end up chatting up the people who share your rack in transition, meeting people in the "ice bath" that is the creek post-race, etc.  The camaraderie makes the experience really fun.

So, how does this crazy thing work?  Athletes can enter "solo" or part as a two person "team".  The four races are a super sprint Friday night, an Olympic distance Saturday morning, another Olympic Saturday afternoon (but bike-swim-run) and a half distance on Sunday morning.  Your times from all four races are added together to get a total time for the weekend.  If you race as part of a team, you are allowed to draft off of your teammate on the bike leg of the third and fourth races, and the team's time includes the times of each member from the first two races, plus the time of the slower member from the third and fourth race (teammates are supposed to finish together on those two).  This was my third time at the race- it would've been the fourth, but I broke my hand in 2011 and had to back out.  The first two times I raced it as part of a coed team (thanks for pulling me around and being my run sherpas, Kory and Bill!).
Yeah.  Word on the street is that I punched a dragon.
Last year on the half distance's bike leg I remember being passed by a solo female and thinking she was a complete bada**... so of course this year I thought it would be a fun challenge to try it solo myself. This event always attracts some really fast folks, including a few pros, so I knew there would be great competition.  I always like seeing where I can stack up against the guys too.

The format of the race makes for a few unique challenges.  The main one is pacing.  Don't let yourself hear "Ohio" and be fooled, these courses are HILLY.  Go too hard on the first two races, and you'll find yourself walking up the trail on the half.  Fueling is another very important part of the weekend: you almost have to force yourself to keep eating on Saturday.  Recovery is key.  That's the part I messed up this year- academic deadlines meant much less sleep during the pre-race week and during the weekend than I really needed, and I definitely felt it catching up to me on the second two races.  Another challenge is managing all of your race gear. Nothing seems to really dry between races, so it is good to have spares of things if possible.  The tri top is necessarily the same for all 4 (kind of "ew," but unavoidable) but I packed 3 pairs of shorts: my new Pearl Izumi Rev3 ones for the super sprint and half, Endurance House ones for the morning Olympic, and Wisconsin tri ones for the afternoon Olympic.  I also recommend multiple pairs of socks, and bringing some newspaper to stuff shoes with, at least after the Saturday races.

Full race reports for each race would be completely overwhelming, so I'm going to attempt to cover just the highlights.  If you have any other questions about the courses or want any more details about my races, hit up the Comments section below!  I know these routes VERY well by now! :)

Friday p.m.: Prologue Super Sprint (250m swim/ 6k bike/ 1mi run)

Fast and furious, a good time to check out the competition and shake out the legs after a long drive. I went wetsuit-less since the lake was pretty warm this year compared to past years (mid-60s).  The bike is a short out and back, then a trip up the giant hill past the cabins and a screaming fast descent back to T2.  I have thankfully improved my descending since last year so my knuckles weren't quite as white at the bottom!  The run was flat, with a turnaround just before the spot where the trail we would be running on all weekend starts to climb. I kept myself to a quick clip without running too hard, and enjoyed seeing so many friends on the course.  The state of Wisconsin had a pretty good contingent out there this year for a race so far away!
Time: 25:53

Calm before the storm. They send us off TT -style by 3's
Saturday a.m.: Olympic (1500m swim/ 40k bike/ 6.55mi run)

The swim here begins 3 at a time, time-trial fashion, and in what is supposed to be number order (assigned by previous Triple T results and submitted best half distance times).  However, a lot of people seemed unmotivated to talk to each other to actually figure this out, so a lot more people started in front of me than should have.  I must have swam around 40 or 50 people. Argh!  The bike course for this one is really fun and includes the infamous Thompson Hill (which you can see in my power file as a sharp spike at ~22 min/7.7 mi in) as well as a couple of really fast descents with some tricky turns.  When you see an ambulance parked up the road waiting for someone to crash, you know the course means business!  My legs actually felt really great on the bike for this race and it turned out to be my favorite one of the weekend.  The run was our first time onto the pretty-but-brutal Lamp Black Trail, which is pretty much uphill for 2.5 miles, steep downhill for one, then a turnaround and back up and over.  My running legs showed up that morning too, so I had a ball and was really happy with the progress my run has made over the winter.  On the ride uphill back to the cabin after the race, however, I could tell my legs were starting to feel the effort...
Time: 2:33:24

Saturday p.m.: Olympic (40k bike/ 1500m swim/ 6.55mi run)
transition set-up is a little strange for a bike-swim-run
As is typical for this race, by the afternoon it had gotten sunny, humid, and hot!  It was the first race of the weekend that teams came into play, so again we were supposed to line up in number order, but this time teammates lined up at the faster member's number for a time trial bike start.  Unfortunately transition was set up poorly for this and people were even less organized than in the morning.  The slower numbers, who were racked closer to the mount line we would be starting from, swamped the transition area's center aisle and blocked most of the faster racers (lower numbers) from getting through.  Luckily for me overtaking people on the bike is much less violent than in the water, but I was plenty frustrated by having to weave around so many people in the first ten miles.  In retrospect, my adrenaline-fueled riding cost me a few matches that I should have saved for the long climb on the way back... I still need to learn to control my emotions a bit better when racing.  As I reached the hill summit on the way back, the sky suddenly opened up into an epic thunderstorm, one that made me yearn for the pleasant riding conditions of Knoxville.  This was an instantly soaking, struggling to keep my eyes open, gee-I-hope-that-car-can see-me kind of rain, just as I hit the first of 2 big descents.  Needless to say, I lost a lot of time on that one trying not to die.  The storm, though intense, turned out to be fairly small and isolated, so a few miles later we were back on dry roads.  Two or three miles from transition there was lightning directly overhead (enough to make me shriek a little and curse) so I started imagining possible scenarios for the rest of the race. Bike/run? Probably super muddy.  Stop after the bike?  Anyway, I was shocked to turn the final corner into the lake area and spot dozens of flailing shapes in the water.  Guess we were swimming after all...

Long story, but I did not have my beloved sleeveless BlueSeventy wetsuit for the weekend, and the idea of struggling into my full sleeve in T1 didn't seem worth any time savings in the relatively warm water.  So I took off the tri top and charged through transition in just the tri shorts and sports bra.  In case you were wondering, swimming after a hard bike ride and two other races is really, really not fun.  I'm not sure how much the wetsuit would have helped, but I felt a lot like this:
from http://img.thesun.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00451/SNN1329C_682_451579a.jpg
save me.
and was thrilled to get out of the water.  By the time I got out, though, I was apparently low on fluids/electrolytes/calories because I rode the struggle bus all the way to the run turnaround trying to revive myself with sports drink. I came around quite a bit on the second half, but it was a little too late to salvage a good result.  I took advantage of the on-site massage afterward (glorious!) to begin the recovery for the big one on Sunday.
Time: 2:45:00

Sunday a.m.: Half (1.2 mi swim/ 56 mi bike/ 13.1 mi run)
Racers foggily trying to scramble out of transition in
time for the start.
I made sure to start a lot farther towards the front of the line for this race and was rewarded with a pretty clean swim.  My shoulders and back were tired, but I still felt like I turned in a pretty strong split.  Once on the bike I found that I'd beaten a lot of the top guys out of the water, because a bunch of them came by me in a pack as we started the long climb on that course (sigh).  Madison rockstar Cindi Bannink also passed me up that climb and I expected that to be the last I saw of her until the run, but to my surprise I caught her again about 5 miles later after a flat/descending section.  Pretty cool, until I botched a sharp gravelly turn and wound up doing a little off-roading on a rocky section.  Luckily I managed to save it/ sta upright.  I checked my tires after maneuvering back onto the road- no flats, but the incident killed my cornering confidence a little bit, and Cindi was long gone.  I came through the aid station at the end of the lap pleasantly surprised to see myself on par with the pace Bill had pulled me around in the year before.  But the bike course of the Triple-T half is no time for heroics, so I backed off a little bit on the second and final lap and brought it in with my bike power just above what I'd ridden at Oceanside (and a little over 25 minutes slower than my split there, which should tell you a lot about this race course).  Aside from a dropped chain on one of the climbs (gah), the second lap was without incident, just a bit lonely.  Knowing the course helps a lot at a race like this.

Finally it was time to run, and the day had heated up considerably.  I began to suffer pretty quickly and found myself grasping at anything I could find to cool me down. I was wearing the Fuel Belt I won last year at Rev3 Wisconsin Dells to carry some extra fluids and salt, so in addition to fetching ice and other fluids at aid stations I used the belt's bottles to pour water over my head and take in salt while walking the steepest uphill sections.  The leading males actually lapped me while I was walking up the long hill after the first lap's turnaround, which was kind of embarrassing even though they told me "nice job" as they glided by. The ice and fluids eventually helped to start perking me up, but I was still out of it enough at the aid station halfway to beg a nice volunteer for the rest of their Coke (it worked!) and accidentally leave one of the bottles I had intended to fill sitting on the table.  A small rain storm on the second lap helped me to cool down and feel more like myself, and I'm pretty sure my second lap was much faster than the first.
Time: 5:51:53
Part of the Madison crew at the post-race pizza party/awards

Overall I think I performed pretty well considering the fatigue I was carrying into and through the race weekend, and either way I had a great time again out there.  I came out as the 4th solo "senior" female (ages 24-39-- way to make me feel old) which was just shy of getting an award.  But I'm sure I will be back, and I've got plenty of good years ahead of me.  Special congrats to Cindi and Dan for taking home division awards, as well as Justin and others for finishing their first Triple T!

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