Tuesday, July 19, 2005

My First Off-road Triathlon!!!

What an amazing experience that was! I had such a blast this weekend at the EMS Off-road Tri up near Cumberland Md. I couldn’t have asked for a better race for my first one!! I only had one small flaw in the race, and it was in a transition. The race was held at Rocky Gap State Park, which is a really great park off of I-68 with a nice lodge. However, the rooms are a bit pricey, so we opted to stay at the Holiday Inn in Cumberland.

(BTW, this is pretty long)

Sat. July 16th
Preview Ride

Paul and I decided that we should go up Sat. afternoon, register for the race, and head out for a nice easy recon ride to see what the bike course was like. This was probably the best decision that we made with regard to the entire weekend. It helped me cut down my bike time significantly, I am sure. I would highly recommend this to anyone, especially for an off-road race. About half of the run course was along the same trail as the biking, so we decided it wasn’t too important to check out the rest of the run course. We got a big surprise when the run trail split! However, I don’t think that I would have done anything differently on the run by knowing where it went.

After our bike ride Sat. afternoon as we were packing up to go to the hotel, the rain was moving its way up the valley, so we had great timing! We showered and packed up for the drive to the Holiday Inn. We got a little surprise when we got there. There was a bit of a miscommunication as to what a “standard room” is when I made the reservation at the hotel. They told me it was 2 double beds, but when we showed up, the last room they had in the whole hotel only had 1 double bed in it! We got it worked out though, and I took the cot.

After getting settled, we met a fellow DC Tri Club member, Laura, to have a pre-race dinner at a place in Cumberland called Where Pigs Fly! They had a coupon for a free crab dip appetizer in our race registration packets, and that was really good. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was time to hit the sheets to get a good night’s sleep.

Sun. July 17th
Race Morning

We decided that it is better to get to the race way early than to be rushing to the start, so we showed up when they opened the transition area at 7:00 am. The race had a 10:00 am start time, so we could make sure everything was ready and we had time to relax. We got a good transition spot and got everything all set-up for the race. I recognized a few people from the W at W series that I have been riding and a few people from the M.O.R.E. website, so I chatted with them. Then it was time for the pre-race briefing, any last minute pit stops, and the race start!

Swim - 28:59 (68th)

This is the part that I was worried about the most. And it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it definitely could have been better! The swim consisted of 2 laps of 0.375 miles. In between laps, you got out of the water and ran a good 30 seconds back to the start of the lap. They corralled all of the entrants into the starting area. With the small number of people registered, there was just 1 start, no age waves. As soon as everyone was inside the corral, off we went running down to the water! They told the faster swimmers to run down faster, so as not to trample the slower swimmers at the start. I went down to the water about 2/3 of the way into the pack. Paul and I were running down together and we took an inside approach to most everyone else. This was a more direct way to the buoys. At the first buoy, I saw Paul, and he gave me a thumb’s up, however, that was the last that I saw of him in the water.

The first lap did not go quite that well for me. I was not able to get comfortable in my breathing. I could not breath alternating sides every 3 strokes; I had to breath every stroke. I also had to stop and breast stroke a few times to relax myself. Then I got out and ran for the second lap. This time I was sure that I would do better. I jumped in the water and right away I was able to establish my breathing and I was swimming a whole lot better. I was happy with my second lap, which made me feel good going into Transition 1. Paul was just taking off on the bike as I was cruising in. I realized that I need to spend a lot more time training in the pool though, since I have slacked off on that a bit. I think it would have helped me get comfortable sooner than the second lap.

Transition 1

I had everything all set up and it would have been fine if I only had a race belt for my number. I was not able to wear my DC Tri jersey for the swim, because I had to pin my number on to it for the run. Having a race belt with my number on it would eliminate this and smooth out my transition a whole lot. I cruised in, threw on my shoes and socks and then went for the jersey. This is where I lost a bunch of time because it got hung up since I was wet. I had trouble pulling it down and the number was in the way. Next time I will have a belt!! That was the only real issue that I had with the entire race, so that was ok. Then I put on the camelback, helmet, gloves, and glasses, got water thrown on me to cool down and off I went.

Bike - 1:25:55 (28th)

This was my strong point in the whole race. Once I got on the bike, I knew it was time to start passing people to make up for my slow swim. The bike course was 2 laps of about 7 miles. I think about 5-6 of those miles were on the trail, a very rocky trail in some spots. I gained a number of places on the road section and seemed to do very well in the trail section also, only getting off my bike once to walk through an incredibly rocky section. During the preview ride, I fell twice in that section, so I decided that walking was the faster option. Due to the rain from the night before, the back single-track section of the trail was very muddy! I thought it was fun, but it was really slippery. I almost lost it several times, but was lucky to keep my balance, sometimes due to well-placed trees!

I passed through the transition area to record my first lap time and then headed out on the second lap feeling strong. This time, the pack had separated a bunch and I was alone a lot more. I didn’t pass as many people this lap, but still got a few, including some back markers. When I came up to the end of the bike, I checked out the clock, and I was pretty happy with my time. I was also happy with how well I was feeling! I had taken a cliff shot of goo about halfway through my second lap of the bike and that definitely helped me.

Transition 2

This was a cakewalk, despite not getting my bike on the rack the first time I tried, and having to take off my “not so easily laced” biking shoes. When I was done, I stood there for a second, thinking I had forgotten something, so I jumped up and down a few times to get my legs moving, then stopped off at the aid station to get Gatorade and dump water on my head.

Run - 55:34 (44th)

Now it was time for me to stay strong, find my legs, and bring it in to the finish line! The run didn’t have as much on the road, instead it followed the lake trail, which was great. I started out a little bit behind a guy named Tucker and over the first mile or so I was gradually getting closer. I kept telling myself not to push it too hard, but eventually I pulled up next to him, we talked briefly, and then I moved ahead. I had a feeling that I would see him again. Off I went, following the bike trail to the top of a section called Evitt’s Revenge. This was about the highest we were all day and where the run and bike trails split. It was from here on out that we had not seen the run trail.

The course description could have been a little bit more descriptive here also, but I still wouldn’t have quite been prepared. We headed down the backside of the ridge we had come up, but this wasn’t as easy a trail as the trail up. It was very steep and incredibly rocky. Someone had passed me right at the top of the hill, but he was fast and I was left all alone to head down the valley. I am used to scrambling down hills like that from being in Cashiers, so I think I did pretty well there. When we got to the bottom of the valley, there was a decrepit looking bridge covered in slime. There was someone there to remind us to walk across it so we didn’t slip into the stream.

The next section of trail was more like a class 5 scramble, because I needed my hands to climb up part of it. Once I got to the top, it was back the road to the finish with one last aid station to help the last mile. I was feeling low on energy about this time, regretting not taking 2 goos with me on the bike! Now I was off for the finish with a few people in my sight. A few minutes down the road I heard footsteps behind me. It was Tucker, who I passed right at the beginning of the run. My feeling that I would see him again was correct. I probably pushed it a bit too much at the beginning, but his footsteps were pushing me along at the end. Eventually he pulled up next to me and was pushing me to the finish with his stride. I tapered off a bit so that I could sprint toward the line, and he went ahead, but he was still motivating me. Then I entered the finish area, sprinting as hard as I could, and crossed the line and the clock showed 2:50.28. I was so happy because I was shooting for less than 3 hours.


Tucker congratulated me after I crossed the line, but I was really spent. I walked it off to the aid station, downed a bunch of Gatorade and water, then headed straight for the lake to cool off and rest. It felt so good and I spent so much time in the water that I missed Paul coming across the line. What a horrible teammate I am! And then I got in the water with Paul, and we both missed Laura, the other DC Tri member cross the line, again, horrible teammates. But the water felt sooo good; especially because I knew I didn’t need to swim I could just sit there!

After cleaning off the bikes, and packing up the car, we stayed for a bit of the awards ceremony, and then checked out the results that were posted. Results! I was very surprised with my 33rd place finish! And if you remove all of the relay teams above me, I came in 28th out of 144! I came in 7th in my age group out of 14 who started the race. That was about 28 minutes behind the first place guy my age. I had no idea that I would do that well! Paul and Laura both finished very well also!! It was a great outing at an off-road tri by the DC Tri Club! I am so excited for my next one, but unfortunately I think that will have to wait until next year. I will be stuck with on-road tris to stay in shape until then!
*(Thank you to Will Ramos of 0bounds Photography for the wonderful photos)

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