Sunday, September 14 was the Rev3 Pocono Mountains Olympic and Half distance triathlons. My wife and I LOVE the Poconos, and the race was in the place we typically stay, so we used time share points to book a house and chose to work it as a hybrid race and vacation. The best kind of races, I think.
This was a team race for Empire Tri Club so I knew other people would be there. Four teammates stayed with me, and the house was large enough to comfortably host a team dinner for 10 people the night before the race. There’s something to be said about having different rooms. And a kitchen! I liked this much better than hotel life.
This was going to be my last race of the year, and before a busy three days.
On Saturday, every athlete had to rack their bike at T1. This was a point to point race, with T1 located about 20 or so miles from T2 and the finish line. It was a lot of running around the day before the race: first to the finish line and race expo to get my packet and hear the mandatory race briefing, and then to T1 to rack my bike, then my house mates and I went grocery shopping to prepare for the team dinner. All of this in the cold, cold rain. I had not packed appropriately for wet or for cold.
Back at the house, Hallie flexed her catering skills while Cameron DJed. Olof had supplied beer and Caitlin brought homemade cookies. The team came over for a mega dinner and everyone took off around 8:30 pm. We were all sorting transition bags and gear by 8:45 pm (courtesy of the house having a dishwasher, I think), and everyone was in or around bed by 9:30. That’s too early for me. I played on my phone for a while and then turned in around 10:30 pm.
I was up at 4:30 am along with the rest of the crew. We prepped breakfasts and put on race tattoos while Cameron DJed again – probably the first time I was okay with music (or talking) so early in the morning. Then: coffee, grab stuff, and out. We drove to T2 and the finish line to set up T2. I had an easy morning because I was doing the aqua bike race, and had no T2. I looked at my space and then left to hop on the shuttle, which took us back past the house again and over to T1. I ate a bagel with chocolate peanut butter and drank some Pre Race mixed with Accelerade. I don’t typically drink that but I had forgotten my drink mix and Hallie saved my morning.
When I got off the bus at T1, I could see my breath. I was shaking. I had on my kit and a wind breaker and didn’t want to take it off. Transition closed at 6:40 am so I rushed to set up my bike gear and pump my tires, and then put my wetsuit halfway on and got in line for the bathroom. I left my socks on to save my feet until the swim. It was 45 degrees and I hated everything.
The swim was in a lake, with one section so shallow that my hands hit the rocks. I got up and walked that part (I DON’T CARE!). The rest of the swim was uneventful. It was a little longer than the distance they said – and I know this not because my time was slower, but because everyone’s times were slow. I didn’t have a gps and cannot confirm, but this is my suspicion. The swim felt horribly slow, although my time was better.
In all, the swim was actually okay, although it took about two thirds of the swim for me to adjust my attitude about the race. I hated everything in the morning. I hate being cold. The water was the warmest part of the morning so I actually didn’t mind it. I sighted okay and didn’t get kicked, so that’s a success. And my goggles actually worked flawlessly, so that was cool too.
My left (formerly injured) shoulder has been hurting for about 10 days, so I had low expectations of the swim – as I often do. I got out of the water with a pinch in my back near my shoulder a bit worse than it had been, but I can’t really complain. The last two times I swam? NYC Triathlon and Gay Games. I exited the water in the middle of the pack.
I entered T1 just before Joe, a friend also doing the aqua bike. He’s a very strong cyclist, a coach and instructor at Tailwind Endurance, and a beast of a racer. I saw him run out as I was getting my wetsuit off my feet and trying to get into my socks. I thought that was it – but I was putting on my jacket no matter what. Cold + wet is even worse than just cold.
I saw Joe in front of me about 100 feet when I started riding out. The first few miles were fast descents – I don’t have the weight so he gained a little time on me, but I passed him around mile 10. I felt the pressure of having him behind me the entire race, and I timed my lead at the turn around points: there were three 180 degree turns around park “toll” stations. I did not have much time on him, even going into mile 40. At mile 50 or so I saw he was less than a minute behind me, so I really pushed.
The good thing about racing an aqua bike is that you can turn it inside out on the bike and not have to worry about putting together a decent run. I kept thinking about this while riding. I tried to keep a strong cadence and full pedal strokes. Then I’d grit my teeth and grind it out for a while. It was good enough for the fastest bike split of the aqua bike.
I started the bike with only my half filled bottle of drink from the morning. At half way I threw it and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade Endurance. I forgot my gel in my morning bag so I took in no other water or nutrition. Not a solid plan. I didn’t bonk on the bike ride, but I think I suffered later in the day because of this.
The final miles of the bike route were through the run course on some hilly sections. I cheered for all the runners and saw I had a gap behind me, but I still pushed as hard as I could through the final stretch to make sure Joe didn’t catch me. I didn’t know that he dropped his chain somewhere out there, which bought me a little time.
The final stretch was through a few driveway paths, and then there was the dismount line going into T2. I got off my bike and sprinted with it to the transition timing mat, which served as my finish. DONE.
There was no T2 for me, but I still had to get my finish photo and medal. I had joked with my teammates about wearing my wetsuit across the finish to be funny… so I got my swim bag and put it on, along with my helmet and glasses, and one shoe. Not sure why one shoe. Why not? Joe finished and we chatted, and then I walked out of T2 and on the first section of the run course to get to the finish line. I walked across and enjoyed my Jumbotron photo. Then, the standard wet towel to medal and visor to chip return to food to gear bag to cheering. I saw the ETC people who did the Olympic distance and ate some food with a few people.
In the finish area I checked my results and grabbed my race receipt and then waited to make sure it was right. I also took a ton of photos.
By the numbers
Temperature: 45 start, 60 finish
Weather: clear and beautiful, no wind
Number of times I thought about not doing the race while in T1: at least 7
Number of big gulps of lake I took: surprisingly, none
Big burps I let out on the swim: 2
Number of times I walked during the swim: 1
Number of back strokers I passed on swim: none – the 1 guy was going as fast as me
Number of 180 degree turns on bike: 3 (nearly 4)
Number of spiders I saw in the house: 3
Wildlife I saw on the course: 1 snake, 1 lizard, 1 deer carcass, 1 roadkill raccoon
Number of bears I saw: 0
Number of bears on the course: at least 1
Finish time: 3:14:26
1st place overall
Bike: 2:30: 01 (average 22.4 mph)
SPECIAL SHOUT OUTS:
Andrew & Kate for doing their first halfs!
Hallie for getting 1st place AG and 5th overall in her first Olympic attempt