When I initially signed up for this back to back racing weekend I knew the courses were going to be tough. What I didn't factor in was how much HARDER extreme weather can make them. The week before the race I was having unbearable pain in my ankles that made it very difficult to run and had me questioning if I was even going to make it to the startling line. A few runs during race week gave me the confidence that I would be able to start, but the sudden heatwave that was projected for the weekend had me worried. Since the races weren't targeted races of mine I essentially went into the weekend with no taper except for a light day of workouts on Friday. After my last workouts I packed up my car and called it a night.
Fortunately the races were less than an hour drive from my house so I was able to drive up each morning and sleep in my own bed each night making the logistics of the weekend pretty easy. As I drove up Saturday morning for the first race of the weekend I started to go over my racing strategy and my pace targets for each leg of the race. Knowing how difficult the course was I was prepared to go slower than normal. Once I got to the park I waited for them to open up transition, set up my area and then caught up with a bunch of friends I had not seen in awhile. The 30 athletes or so that signed up for both races were corralled in one area which was nice since we didn't have to move our bikes after the first race. I went for a quick 1 mile warm up run to determine how my legs were feeling and before I knew it they were closing transition and it was time to line up for the start.
Swim .9 Miles/(.94 Garmin)
Target 24:00 Rev3: 23:16 Garmin: 23:25
I positioned myself as far to the right as possible to minimize contact and next thing you knew it they were counting down for our wave to start. Since we were the 4th wave of the day there was plenty of people ahead of us already swimming which meant lots of swimmers to sight off of. 3-2-1 and we were off I did about 4 dolphin dives before it was safe depth to start swimming. My plan had worked as there was minimal contact and I had a nice draft, as we hit the first buoy I started to get comfortable and left my group behind. I was surprised that we had already started to catch people from the wave before us that started 5 minutes prior. Before I knew it was out-swimming my group and in the thick of the wave that started before us. The water was a perfect 70 degrees which meant I would not overheat!
As I hit the first turn buoy I made my first mistake of the race. You could not see a thing as we were swimming directly in to the sun and they had the half rev course(1.2 Mile) already marked for Sunday. I started to swim towards the wrong buoy! Fortunately I realized rather quickly that the steam of swimmers that I had previously been swimming towards were all going in an opposite direction and i rerouted myself back on track. I continued to follow the feet sling-shoting through the field. By the time I had hit the turn buoy to head back to sure I was in the middle of the second wave. It was a relief to make the turn to head back to shore as I was back to sighting myself and not having to rely on bubbles of others. I continued to swim past people from earlier waves and I was feeling amazingly strong. I could see some people from my wave were with me by the color of the caps, but we were all having a great swim. As I approached the shore I was getting excited to get on the bike because I had so much energy, and I was feeling so great! I came out of the water a few seconds over a PR performance thanks to my HUUB Archimedes. If I hadn't swam off course I'm almost certain this would have been a new Olympic distance PR.
T1: 2:05/ Garmin 1:59 .
We had a slight uphill 1. mi run into transition but nothing too bad, I ran by a few people coming out of the water and easily slipped my suit off. I grabbed my shoes and helmet and I was off!
BIke 25.69 Miles
Target 1:10/ 300 Watts Normalized
Rev3: 1:09:59 22MPH
Garmin: 1:09:53/304 Watts NP/ 22MPH
I started the bike feeling strong and with a confidence that I don't think I ever had in a race. I rocketed out of T1 on a mission and never looked back. I continued my passing streak always keeping my sights on the next rider ahead of me. I was riding uphill with reckless abandon and descending the hills without fear. I was having so much FUN! I was giving out encouragement to friends while pushing the pace. I went through the first 5 miles at 24.1 mph and I was loving every minute of it.
The next 10 miles were mostly climbing with some fun descents in the middle. There were some spots that if you descended correctly the momentum would carry you up the next hill and some spots you needed to be out of the saddle to climb but I was up for the challenge and enjoying my day. Somewhere around mile 15 I caught up to last years second place overall, Tim, who is a ridiculously fast swimmer. I had never beaten him in a triathlon before since our bike and run times are similar but he is so much faster than me in the water. That gave me a renewed boost of confidence as I knew I had to be nearing the front of the field.
Between miles 15 and 20 there is a lot of descending including the most technical turns of the race. Over this stretch I averaged over 26mph and I narrowly avoided crashing. One thing I have to say about the Rev3 guys is that they have every dangerous corner marked and they make sure to tell you to slow down when you need to! As I continued to move up in the field my confidence was growing, so much that when I came off the hard s turn I almost went down because there was a 90 degree right hand turn that I wasn't expecting that I came into at speed. As I slowed down to avoid crashing a few of the guys that were on my tail had caught up, but once I righted myself I was able to re pass and continue on.
From that point on it is essentially a 350 foot climb for the next 5 miles before you get a slight relief and some downhill. I eased up just slightly on the throttle and I came in to T2 exactly where I wanted to be and ready to tackle a very difficult run course.
Run: 6.2 Miles
Rev3: 42:11 6:48 Mile
I ran through mile 1 which was mostly downhill in 5:58 I probably should have pushed a little harder here knowing what was coming but I thought I was very close, if not in the front of the race at this point. I was still feeling strong and the athletes that I could see ahead of me were very few and far between, but like the bike I focused on picking them off one by one, mile 2 was also pretty flat and I was able to hold steady with a 6:08. Mile 3 starts off flat before you are greeted with a 1/2 mile 150 ft climb before a short 50ft descent leading you to mile 4. Between miles 3&4 there is another 150 ft of climbing, but this time there is no flat or descent both these miles were tough and while I was only running a little over a 7 minute pace I still was catching people!
It was good to see all the Mossman team manning the aid station close to the top of the hill at mile 4. At this point I was hurting after basically climbing 2 miles but I asked if there were any under 35M that have gone through already. When I heard yes my confidence took a beating for the first time all day. It's also where the perfect race that I was having started to unravel. As I was cresting the final portion of the hill I got passed for the first time all day by 2 guys running a pretty good pace. A quick glance at the calf revealed one of them was in my age group. I tried to respond but the heat had started to get to me and the legs just wouldn't move.
At this point I could feel my body slowing down and not wanting to play anymore. I maintained my pace the best that I could and mustered a 6:22 from mile 4-5 which was mostly downhill. I could feel my body overheating but I knew I was almost done. Coming up on the mile 5 aid station I had heard another athlete ask for ice behind me. I immediately grabbed the ice and held it in my palms while I ran. The ice had helped me (or at least tricked me into believing) lower my core temperature because within a minute my running pace came right back around to where it should have been. It's a good thing too because the last mile to the finish sports and almost 200 ft climb before you get a small bit of relief and the downhill to the finish line. That being said it was still my slowest mile of the day at 7:26. I came across the finish line in 2:18:04 which was good enough for 3rd place age group and 14th Overall out of 717.
I came away from the race super pumped because I hit my swim and bike goals, and even though I missed my run goal, I finally had a decent race in hot conditions. This was key for me going into the half rev on Sunday as I knew it was going to be another hot one, and I still have not gone that long in the heat without falling apart. I stuck around for the awards and then headed home. I made a quick stop at Sherpa to use their recovery boots and then spent the rest of the day doing normal Saturday chores and relaxing before dinner.
Day 2 started with another 3 AM wake-up so that I could make the 1 hour drive up to Quassy in time for the 5 AM opening of the transition area after getting myself race ready. I don't know what it is but I like to be at the race site as early as possible even when I know I'm just going to be sitting around and waiting. I just think there is something comforting about knowing you are at the venue and its almost impossible to miss your wave start. I got my transition area ready and sat on the back of my car watching the pros get ready and just trying to relax and focus so I could have another good day. As calm and relaxed as I was I knew in the back of my head its really hard to be "on" two days in a row. While I was waiting I overheard the MC saying that this was the most stacked Rev3 Pro field ever! It was sure going to be an exciting race I knew I wasn't going to be able to see what happened with the men until after, but I was hoping I would be able to catch a glimpse of the women if I could move fast enough. Before I knew it we were getting kicked out of transition and headed down to the swim starts!
Swim: 1.2 Miles
Garmin: 1.3 Miles/ 31:58 (24:39/Mile) 1:23/100 yds
I positioned myself in the exact same spot that I did on Saturday knowing the line I wanted to take. I was a little worried about swimming in a full suit as it was so hot the day before the lake temperature jumped from 70 to 72.5! I told a couple of the guys about not being to see after we made the right and they all told me I was nuts for racing the day before. 3-2-1 GO! I started off with a few dolphin dives the same exact way I did the day before and right into swimming. There was a little more contact than I had the day before but nothing to crazy. I was able to maintain my line, my form and get a decent draft so I was happy. Either I started off too fast or I was feeling the ill effects of racing the day before early on but within a few minutes I started to feel like I might have to throw up. Fortunately I calmed down very quickly and focused on the task ahead.
By the time we hit the first turn buoy we had caught the wave that started 5 minutes ahead of us. This is the point where the group started to really break up the faster swimmers were long gone, This time I feel like the sun was stronger because I really couldn't see a thing, once again I was forced to rely on the bubbles from other peoples feet and this time for a longer period of time. This time I stayed on course and made it to the next turn buoy picking my way through swimmers on the way. Even though the course was much more crowded I was still able to maintain a rhythm. Right before the turn buoy I started to notice the extra 2.5 degrees that the lake had increased. Which wasn't a good sign.
After making the turn I could finally see and was able to carve my own path back to shore. Even though I was hot I was still moving at a pretty good pace and I was back to feeling relatively strong after a shaky start. I picked up my pace a bit and headed towards T1 with a head of steam. When I came out of the water and I looked at my watch I was a little disappointed because I felt I swam really well but I put it behind me and my focus changed to riding my bike.
T1 2:10/ Garmin 2:30
I'm not sure why it took me so much longer today. I actually felt more fluid but the fatigue was probably starting to catch up to me. Or it could have been that I wanted to be sure that I had everything I needed for what turned out to be a brutally hot day. I grabbed my second bottle, my EFS flask and my bib and I was off.
Bike 56 Miles
Target 2:40/280 Watts NP
Garmin 55.92 Miles 2:41:23/20.8 Mph 269 Watts NP
Starting off the bike I could already feel my legs weren't happy with me however I knew that only meant I was going to be uncomfortable earlier than normal for this race. As we initially headed out of the park I started to pay attention to my watch early to make sure I wasn't going to blow my race early by pushing the pace like I did in the Olympic. The first stretch had some of the same climbs and descents that we did the day before so I was familiar with them which was great, but I also knew that meant me having a few power spikes over 500 watts which wasn't the best thing to have to do.
The first 5 miles is relatively downhill and calm and then you spend most of miles 7-14 climbing before spending 14-20 pretty much descending, none of the descents were technical so you could carry your speed. I was passed by one or two cyclists early on that seemed to be riding way too hard. I was focused on my race and keeping within my power goals because I knew it would otherwise be a very long day so I just let them go figuring I would see them at some point again. Somewhere along the the first quarter of the ride I realized I was constantly around the same group of 3 or 4 riders. We would take turns passing others and each other so it ended up being an unintentional "legal" pace group. I've read some reports complaining about drafting but I did not see any all day with the exception of riders bunching up on the long climbs.
From mile 23-32 is one long 700 ft+ grinding climb with very little relief. This course is unique in the fact that there isn't really any flat sections, you are either climbing or descending and the almost 4400 ft of climbing is definitely a challenge! It was on this long climb that I started to catch some of the female pros that were having a bad day. I was in shock when I saw my first P on the back of someones calf, but it reinforced that I was having a good day. Even so, It was starting to get hot and there was nowhere to hide. The climb was very exposed and the only relief from the heat was a very subtle headwind that would show its face every few minutes. I was never so happy to feel a headwind before! Even though I really dialed my pace back on this section I was still passing a string of athletes and I was feeling strong climbing. I had one or two more athletes pass me along this section but staying within my power targets I was happy to let them go. I was staying within my power targets and dumping bottles of water on my head at every aid station to keep cool.
Once we finally hit the top of the climb there is a short steep downhill with a nasty S curve which is probably the most dangerous descent on the course. I watched the course preview video a bunch of times and read several race reports that mentioned this area so I came in well prepared for it. It was well marked by the Rev3 crew and I took it very conservatively. So conservatively in fact that I could smell the burning carbon from my brakes rubbing against my wheels fighting with gravity. Unfortunately this is also the point where I lost my pace group. By this point I had ridden myself pretty close to the front of the race so it was pretty lonely stretch. Fortunately there was an out and back stretch where I could see other athletes coming the other way so it kept me alert and in the moment as I knew I was going to have to turn around and climb the hill that I was enjoying flying down. Once I hit the final aid station I grabbed another bottle of water and doused myself to keep cool.
For the next 10 miles or so there was a bunch of rollers and we ended up on a lot of the same roads from the Olympic race the day before. I probably only passed one or two riders before I finally reeled in of the guys from my earlier pace group back in so I could at least see him. I made it through the descent that I almost crashed on in Saturdays race without and issues and I was feeling good. Over the last 5 miles I passed another cyclist or two but I was generally conservative noticing the heat and knowing I had tough task ahead of me on the run. With about 3 miles left to go on the bike I could see the Womens pro race unfolding on the other side as they were about 3 miles in to the run. What worried me was that no one that I saw running looked particularly good, and they were all running downhill! I eased up a tad and picked up my cadence to get ready for the final run leg of the weekend.
T2 :50/ Garmin :53
Coming off the bike I felt good, I popped on my shoes, Grabbed another EFS 400 calorie flask and my salt tabs. As I left transition I dumped every cup of water I could find on my head in preparation for what I knew I would be facing.
Run 13.1 Miles
Garmin 1:40:20 7:45 Min/mile
As I was leaving the park I felt good but I had a feeling it wasn't going to last long, I never have been good racing in the heat, and it was getting brutally hot. I adjusted my pace from a 1:26 to a 1:30 and thought by slowing myself down I might be able to get the best of my body and keep any overheating issues at bay. I ran the first mile in a conservative 6:47 and felt that pace was sustainable. Coming into the first aid station I had to pee which was a good sign, I made a quick stop at the portolet and continued on my way. Even with my stop I managed a 7:08 so I was still right on pace. Coming out I grabbed ice and dumped it down the front and back of my shirt, in my pants and grabbed some to run with in my palms in an effort to keep my core temperature down. This would be the theme at every aid station all day. Keeping that core temperature down is key!
Despite being as hot as I was I was managing to stay right on target to where I wanted to be I was able to hold a sub 7 minute pace for the next 2 miles. Then somewhere around mile 4 we got sent on to what I have heard as described as the dirt road from hell. There was a 200 ft climb over about a 1 mile stretch that just never seemed to end. I probably ran past about 10 athletes, including my whole pacing group from the bike, on this hill and I never once stopped to walk no matter how steep it got. Although it was steep it was shaded. Once you hit the top you get out of the shade and into some rolling hills but the area was completely exposed with no shade. I hit the 1st turnaround and I felt great, but that greatness would prove to be short-lived. I have nicknamed this 2 mile stretch the blast furnace. I knew that once I hit around mile 7.5 the majority of the run would be a downhill stretch and I would be home free. The problem was I wasn't sure I was going to make it to mile 6.5 without passing out!
Somewhere along this stretch is where my race unraveled I went from being strong and confident to weak and dizzy, for the first time on the course I was reduced to a walk and I was mentally broken. As much Ice as I was using my core temperature just was not going down, I had stopped sweating and I was in a bad place. I walked a good 3 minutes and took in some salt pills in an effort to compose myself and set myself up for a good second half of the run, hoping it would help. All of the sudden I had a sudden urge to go to the bathroom and hit the portolet at the aid station, which would be the theme for the rest of the day. After coming out of the aid station I attempted to start running again I was able to hold my composure and run, but I did not feel good at all!
About mile 8.5 there was a right hand turn with a bunch of volunteers and cops I tried as I noticed them I could feel my stomach just start to revolt and empty. I held it back and forced it back down in fear that my vomit coupled with the fact that I was likely weaving across the road would give them grounds to take me off the course. I was starting to get delirious and paranoid but I was so close to finishing! I was really fighting with myself over the next few miles running as fast as possible while making continual stops at every aid station to "drop the kids off". The 95+ miles of racing over the last 2 days combined with the extreme heat had gotten to me and my body was not happy with me. The run by the park at mile 9 or so is just plain cruel. You come within 500ft of the finish line, yet you still have to run another 3 miles! The crowds around this area were great and they provided me with a much needed but relatively short burst of energy. The last few miles of the run were pretty shaded but it was still hot and the damage had already been done. I was shuffling along minding my own business when i saw Zach a local triathlete who I have a friendly rivalry with. He had just come off the last turnaround and muttered something about me trying to catch him. It was just the little spark I needed to get me going again. I knew I had a lead on him, because he started before me, but I wasn't sure how much. Even so it gave me something to shoot for. As I hit the base of the last mile I had not seen him yet but I knew I had a long climb to the finish ahead of me. I finally spotted him with about 1/2 mile to go walking up the steepest part of the hill however I was in no condition to make a move so i just continued my steady pace by the time I got to that same exact point where I saw him walking I was reduced to a walk as well but only for 10 seconds. I decided I wanted to be done and I picked up the pace as much as I could and ran right to the finish line. While I didn't catch Zach I had a virtual 5 minute lead on him so I ended up with bragging rights for the day. I crossed the line in 4:56:56 which was good enough for 8th Place Age group and 35th Place Overall. I'm disappointed to have not hit my goal however I know I could not have gone any faster
I came across the finish line and I was a wobbly mess. I seriously thought I was hallucinating when I saw Erica at the finish line. She had to work in the morning and she told me she wasn't going to come because she didn't think she would make it in time but after finishing what I think was the hardest race I've done in my life, it was a wonderful surprise. I had her help me get int the ice bath immediately and I literally sat there staring in to space because I didn't have any energy for anything else. After sitting in the ice bath for a good 20 minutes I couldn't get up. I struggled to get to my feet and when I finally did I think it took me at least an hour before I could walk straight. While I was initially upset with missing my goal time of 4:45 the last few days have proven to me that I pushed myself far beyond where my body wanted to go. I really liked the challenge and I'll be back to conquer the demons left on the course this year. I spent most of Monday not being able to talk and have been nursing a cold ever since. I am finally back to a normal training schedule but there is just no pep in my legs right now. I'm hoping they come around for this weekends race or its not going to be pretty for me!
A special thank you to Erica for giving up her weekend with me so I can pursue my crazy passion that is racing and as usual dealing with me on a daily basis. As always thank you to my generous sponsors Endurance Films, Forte Gelato, Pacific Swim Bike Run, Skora Running, and HUUB USA. If you made it this far thanks for reading!