As I mentioned here, this past weekend I capped off my triathlon season at the inaugural Rev3 Anderson race. I had planned for this event to by my “A” race this year, and I put as much as I could into peaking at just the right time. Going into Anderson, I was about 99% positive that I’d take a personal best (knowing full well that my prior two attempts at this 70.3 distance were….shall we say….dismal), I just was a little unsure about how fast I’d actually be able to go. Especially after I saw the bike course – but more about that later.
For me, a Rev3 race is a weekend event normally composed of some sponsor commitments, maybe a volunteer gig, driving the course, and hanging with my teammates. This past weekend, the added benefit was that my friend Jeff from the ATL was racing as well. You may recall Jeff from this race report. Jeff and his family are good friends of ours, and our endurance sport history goes back several years – and includes both a failed and a successful Ironman race in 2009.
The weekend started off with a deluge. Literally. I drove from Jacksonville to Anderson, and the first two hours were in a monsoonal downpour as I headed north through a nor’easter. As I approached Anderson, however, the weather cleared and blue skies prevailed. After arriving in Anderson, I checked in at the race site, ran into a few teammates and team boss Carole Sharpless, and stole an interview with Mr. Recovery Pump, Doug Weatherby. Jeff and I then grabbed dinner.
Jeff and I stayed at the lake house of one of his friends – about 30 minutes away in northern Georgia. The drive was quick, the lake beautiful, and Friday evening the beer was cold!
On Saturday morning, Jeff and I made our way down to Lake Hartwell for the practice swim. Jeff donned his wetsuit and went for a swim while my teammates and I attacked everyone in sight and sprayed them down with Tri-Slide. I hopped in afterwards and swam maybe 400 yards. I mostly played. I did a few pick-ups to get my arms moving, but I also did a little backstroke, some side stroke, and a little floating. If I knew how to do butterfly, I probably would have done that too. I just wanted to get the lay of the land (so to speak). At one point, I was just floating there when teammie Kristin Deaton came by and asked if I was standing (I wasn’t…just floating vertically).
Apres swim, Jeff and I decided to go drive the bike course. At this point, I must say that I’m glad we did. The course in Anderson is quite hilly. I think the first 10 miles are essentially all up hill. After that, there are endless rollers. My first thought after seeing the hills: “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” (See, I have a bad history with hills – if you’ve followed this blog long, you’re aware of my debacle in the hills of IMKY). The second thought was, “You did a lot of climbing in Knoxville. You know what you’re doing now – just take them as they come”.
Attitude became the word of the day. Or Aggression. Or Ability. I can’t really remember which. These were all key-words that Jeff and I talked about as we drove the course. Attitude stands out, so that’s what I’m sticking with.
After we drove the course, we decided to take a quick ride from T2 to T1. The sad thing? We didn’t make it and it was all my fault. There’s a couple of hills there that literally swamped me as I tried (unsuccessfully) to stay with Jeff. Saturday’s ride confirmed to me that I’d just need to take the ride on Sunday with a measured approach.
Jeff and I joined a bunch of Trakkers for a lively, entertaining, and scrumptious dinner on Saturday night. Too many stories to tell – suffice it to say that we totally enjoyed ourselves and my teammates.
Sunday Morning Pre-Race
Race morning started early, but not as early as some races. I awoke at 5:15, and breakfasted on a cup of coffee, a banana and a bagel with peanut butter. We headed off to the Anderson Civic Center, where T2 and parking was. We arrived at the parking lot at 6:50. Transition at T1 closed at 7:15, and we were still a 10 minute bus ride away! My normal race morning jitters were very quickly replaced with fear and panic that we wouldn’t arrive at the race on time. Jeff was actually a calming force during our time on the bus. We did, in fact, arrive at T2 on time….but just barely. No sooner than I got to my bike and laid my transition stuff out did a guy come through telling all Half Rev athletes to leave transition and head down to the lake. I ignored him for a few minutes while I donned my wetsuit and gathered my morning clothes.
I headed down to the lake front and met up with Jeff. We had a brief conversation about wearing goggles under your swim cap (as I do) or over your cap (as he does). My thought is that you wear them under your cap so that if someone hits you on the head the chances of them taking off your goggles in the process is lower.
After the national anthem, we watched the pro men, the pro women and the young guys take off. We were in the old guys + aquabike + Clydesdale catch-all wave. No sooner than we lined up at the water’s edge did the horn blow and sent us into Lake Hartwell.
The swim course was roughly triangular in shape; it took us around a peninsula. We swam probably 200-300 yards out to the first buoy, took a left hand turn, swam what seemed like forever before turning left and swimming forever again before turning into the finish. I thought the swim went pretty well. In fact, of the three segments of the race I think it’s the one I’m most pleased with. I found a rhythm pretty quickly. I started in almost a sprint and ultimately slowed down as I was winded pretty early. I did find a groove, though, swimming with a very nice “front quadrant” stroke….I was almost doing catch-up drill the whole way in order to maximize the glide benefits I had from my wetsuit. Sighting was dead on, and surprisingly I didn’t have to correct my course all that often. For the most part, I had clean water and found some feet to follow. I did get hit a couple of times, and I came real close to getting kicked in the face once – but overall no issues.
My swim time was 39:59 – which is a best by about 7 minutes at this distance for me. I’m sure that the wetsuit aided me, but my swim fitness is much higher this year than in recent years. I was pretty excited as I headed into transition.
I’ll admit it now. I am notoriously slow in T1. Especially if the swim is a wetsuit swim and there are no wetsuit strippers. In all honesty, I’m slow in transition because I don’t practice it. Jeff shared with me on Saturday that he sees triathlon not as a three-phase event, but as five. Perhaps I need to adopt this philosophy and practice transitions more. Surprisingly, I didn’t have that much trouble with my wetsuit this weekend. It came off fairly well. I did my deal and tried to get out as fast as I could. 4:03 transition time. Certainly not fast at all – but faster than my last wetsuit race transition (by almost a minute), and this time I had to stuff my wetsuit and goggles into a bag before I left transition!
Ah….the bike. That meant hills. Joy.
The hills started literally right after transition, and pretty much didn’t stop for the entire 56 miles. Now, don’t get me wrong – there weren’t any mountains or anything – but there were some pretty good, long climbs. There were a few that you couldn’t see the top of when you started climbing them, and a few that were short and fairly steep.
My approach? I was on the conservative side – I didn’t want to go out and blow up my day by hammering right out of the gate. I pushed fairly hard up the hills, but also wasn’t afraid to take it down to the small chainring and spin either.
The descents and flats were fun, as I had a chance to really grind it out. Going down hill is my all-time favorite thing. There’s nothing better than going FAST! I haven’t loaded my Garmin onto my computer to get a good look at the data, but I know that hit at least 37mph. There was one downhill that was a little on the terrifying side…..there’s a pretty long descent where you build up good speed – but right at the bottom of the hill there’s a bridge and a 90+ degree left hand turn. I took the turn pretty close to 30mph and thought I was going to slide right off the right hand side of the road. It was certainly a white-knuckle experience.
The one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that Sunday was windy. The forecast called for 12-15mph winds, and Mother Nature certainly delivered that! It seemed like we had a crossing or head wind for a good part of the day. Let me tell you, climbing hills into a headwind just isn’t fair!
All in all, I actually liked the bike course. The scenery was beautiful and reminded me of the area where I grew up in North Carolina. Leaves had started changing and the farmland was beautiful. I’ve heard some folks complaining about some of the road conditions. I actually didn’t have any real issues. There were certainly some rough patches, but there was a lot of smooth surface too.
My nutrition plan was spot on. I started the day with a bottle of water and a bottle of double-dosed EFS drink. On the ride I also picked up a couple of bottles. I took a hit of Liquid Shot every 30 minutes. I finished the bike extremely well hydrated (as evidenced by a LONG port-a-potty stop in T2).
Fittingly, the last couple of hundred yards into T2 were uphill. As such (and also not knowing the last part of the course as well as I should have), I was not quick enough to unclip and do a flying dismount. So…I had to unclip and run into T2 with my cycling shoes on. Joy # 2 for the day.
Bike time 3:26.23, or 16.28mph. Quite slow overall (especially in comparison to Jeff, who averaged about 21 mph), but I was not displeased. There were lots of hills that I climbed, and I came into transition not feeling totally spent.
T2 was pretty uneventful – at least once I found my spot. Shoe change, put on the visor and port-a-potty stop (which, oddly, was inside transition….so that “break” time counted in my transition time). About 2 minutes total.
The run has proved to be my nemesis at this distance. Now, granted, the only 2 other 70.3’s I’ve done have included an African Grassland run in 95+ degrees and no shade, but that’s a different story. Out of the gate I felt pretty good. I got my legs under me pretty quickly within the first mile or so.
The run course was sort of pretzel shaped at the beginning – running around and through a park adjacent to a hot-air-balloon shaped water tower. After three miles or so, we headed out for a long out and back through town. What was unique is that our course took up the middle two lanes on a road, leaving the outside lanes for traffic.
By the time I hit the 5k mark, I had developed hot spots on the balls of both of my feet. Actually, “hot spots” is probably a gentle name for what I got. Without stopping to look, I knew that I had what would turn out to be half-dollar sized blisters on both feet. And yet I trudged on.
Running the flats was pretty easy and pain-free. Going up or down, on the contrary, was not. I ended up doing a fair amount of walking on the hills (mostly up-hill). Nevertheless, I felt pretty happy about my run. My nutrition plan continued to be spot on. Water and Gatorade at every aid station, Liquid Shot every 30 minutes. I did something during this race that I’ve never done before though…I took a cola at mile 9. Not sure why I did it; not sure I’d do it again.
I sort of felt cheated as I approached the finish…..as we ran in, we came literally 20 feet from the finishers chute and turned off to go one more time around the park. Being so close to the finish and not being able to finish was actually tough! In all seriousness, I knew that I was close to being done, so I just kept picking them up and putting them down.
I finished the run with a split of 2:24 (11:00/mi). Not totally displeasing. It’s about 19 minutes off my open half marathon PR, which I guess considering that I had just finished biking 56 miles isn’t all that bad.
To sum up, my time overall was 6:37:14. I posted a ridiculous 57 minute personal best! I really would like to go sub six hours – and I’m positive that on a flatter bike course I absolutely could do that…but given the course I was very pleased with my race. The course in Anderson is certainly the real deal, and not set up for someone looking for an easy half iron distance race. That said, I thought it very, very fair, challenging, and fun.
I’ve got to thank my outstanding sponsors for making this race (and my whole season) great. Trakkers/Rev3 is just a top-notch organization and I’m so happy to represent them. Seriously – it’s super easy representing a company and people who are as high quality as Charlie, Eric, Carole and crew are. Major props to TYR for my slippery Hurricane CAT 5 wetsuit, to First Endurance for outstanding nutrition products that kept me on the move all year, Recovery Pump for helping my legs recover faster. I must also thank Tri-Swim for making such awesome products like Tri-Slide and Foggle and Avia for great shoes!
This race capped off my 2011 triathlon season. This was a pretty good overall season – with two personal bests and significant gains in my abilities overall. I’ll do a couple of running events this fall, but I’m already thinking hard about next tri season!