Over the Mountain Triathlon
I’ve been saving articles to post for quite a long time now. It’s been months since my last post, so I should catch up on race information first. My first Olympic race of the year was the Over the Mountain Triathlon in King’s Mountain, NC over the 5/18 weekend. It’s supposed to be a pretty challenging course. I was quite intimidated by it for multiple reasons. It was my first
olympic of the season and since my wife hasn’t moved down to NC yet, I had to do it all on my own. She’s always a big help on race morning to take away stress and help me make sure I have everything ready. If this was an ordinary race or one I had done before, it might not have been such a big deal to not have help. However, this is a point to point race (meaning two completely separate transition areas which are 15 miles apart and have to be set up the morning of the race). Needless to say, I had a long list of things to do before I ever got to start the race. I have never been to King’s Mountain, so I didn’t know the area nor did I know the course so everything was new all the way around.
I arrived at T1 first (as required). I picked up my race packet and dropped my bike as well as all my bike equipment. Then I drove back to town to set up my T2. After checking and rechecking that everything was set, I dropped all my gear at the car and caught the bus to the swim start. Of course at this point the rain started. What’s a race without rain, right? Typical. Oh well.
At the swim start, it was all pretty low key. Put on the wet suit, do a bit of warm up and get out for the elite wave start. I was in the second wave, so I didn’t have long to wait thankfully. The swim wasn’t bad. It’s a floating start (new for me) and the swim was in nice open water and it never seemed to be too crowded although I started with about 75 other swimmers. It did rain decently hard as I could feel the rain hitting me as I was swimming. I had a bit of an issue in this race and I’m not sure what it was. I may have started out too hard, but I consciously tell myself to back off and swim at an even pace. I expected to cruise through at a 1:30/100 pace or so. However, I kept having to stop and breast stroke. It happened about 5 or 6 times. I don’t know that I’ve ever known what a panic attack is so I can’t say that’s what was happening, but it felt almost like claustrophobia. I’m in shape to swim a mile. I do it several times over each master’s practice, but this race just felt odd and I kept feeling like I needed to stop and get a few breaths. I noted that in my race report and I’ll have to keep an eye on it and work on that for future races.
Regardless, I swam a 27:25 which was a new record for me, but I was hoping for closer to 25 flat. But, with all the breast stroking I did and for the amount I went off course (I swam 0.99 miles according to my watch), I still feel like it was a fairly decent start to the day. However, the fun was just beginning.
At the end of the swim, they have a nice steep hill that goes on for about 75 yards as you run up the boat ramp to T1. I ended up walking most of it b/c I was pretty winded from the swim. Once I got to the bike, I thought it would be time for the fun to start as that’s typically where I make up most of the ground. I rush the actual transition area, drop my wetsuit in the bag, grab the bike and I’m off into the rain… with my sunglasses on. My wet sunglasses. My fogged up sunglasses. I literally didn’t even make it out of the transition area before I couldn’t see anything through them. I rode all 25 miles with them down on the tip of my nose so that I could look over them and see the road. That means the rain was hitting me right in the face and in the eyes. Nice. Once again, what can you do? Just roll with it. So I did.
Unfortunately I was rolling with it, but without a heart rate signal. My watch was only sporadically reading my heart rate. What’s going on? I’ve never had this happen for more than a minute or two. Usually it fixes itself. For this race though… nothing. I rarely knew what my heart rate was and if it was showing a reading, I had a hard time believing it because it was so far off most of the time. A good chunk of the ride, it said my heart rate was in the 80s. I’d like to think I was in shape so well that that could be true, but there’s no way. If that were the case, I’d be preparing for the Tour.
Anyways, there I was, rolling with it. Fogged up glasses pushed down to the tip of my nose and no heart rate. I typically race by heart rate b/c I haven’t ponied up to get a power meter (yet). So, I was racing completely by feel. Then as I was concentrating on the road and trying to watch out for debris as I squinted through the rain drops, I happened to catch something out of the corner of my eye and I look back. Yep, that was a police officer telling me to turn right at that turn. Oops. So, I stop, and turn around and go back and get back on track. I have to pay closer attention, but that’s what I get for not previewing the course. About 2 miles later, my chain drops as I’m getting ready to climb another hill. Well, I suppose I wasn’t climbing another hill so much as the course was just turning more uphill. It seemed this course was completely uphill (it’s actually about 60 feet per mile and 27.6miles long). I typically consider myself a good climber, so I figured this course was tailor made for me and I thought I had a decent run at it, but as I counted the miles and did the math, my time simply wasn’t up to my expectations. I had looked at previous results and previous racers as well as done my homework on the course (except for the preview) and I expected around a 1:12 on the course. Turns out I finished at 1:17:54. Once again, not up to expectation, but I figured everyone raced through the same conditions, so times were probably slower. However, that wasn’t the case unfortunately. I was beaten by a number of people that never beat me on the bike. The most frustrating thing though is that I was beaten by nearly 10 minutes by some people. I never get beaten that badly on the bike. I have some work to do and some retribution to deal out on this race next year.
But, with the bike behind me, I cruised into T2 and moved quickly out onto the run. I’ve really improved my transitions this year. So much so that I’m typically gaining time on people in the transition area. It’s free time, so that feels good. But, out on the run course, I had decided to go out at a decently quick pace and see how I felt. I started in the high 6 to low 7 minute per mile range and felt good. So, I tried to hold it there. The nice thing was that as I got onto the run course, my HR monitor started to work, so I had something to go by now. The run is hilly, but not all uphill as it’s an out and back course (38 feet per mile elevation gain). I kept a nice even pace and ran with another guy in my age group for a while. I still felt I had a bit in the tank and I picked the last mile or two up just a bit and separated myself from him as well as passed a few others in my age group. I finished in 43:02 which is a PR for me. I actually ran myself into second place in my age group so I was proud of that as the run usually isn’t my weapon.
What has been frustrating for me though is that I’ve raced 3 races in the North Carolina series now. In the last two, I’ve come in second in the age group which is good and in the first i was third. The last two races, I’ve lost to a guy who is racing as a pro in the ironman races. So, I consider it a win as he’s definitely in another league.
My overall time was 2:32:16 and my goal was 2:25:30. I’m not that far off, but I definitely have some work to do for next season. I’ll be prepared.