Aug 13, 2007

Litchfield Hills Triathlon Race Report

Getting There

The weekend didn't start so good, I was feeling pretty sick starting Friday night and spent a lot of time... eh... well... on the toilet Sorry... not a pretty subject, but it ended up having a lot of impact on the race. I was up all night Friday and stayed on the couch most of Saturday and into the night that evening. I wasn't able to hold anything in until Saturday evening, and I ate a bit on Sunday morning. I still decided to go to the race with my uncle Eric, without any expectations and just see how it went.

The Litchfield Hills race is an olympic distance race, .9 mile swim, 23.7 mile bike and 6.2 mile run. I've done a few of this distance so far, and just looking at the distances I should be able to finish in 2:45-3 hours. This day I wasn't really thinking about that though, I knew my reserves were way down and I wasn't going to have a lot of energy.

We got a bit lost on the way there, there was a bridge out and the road was closed. I ended up following another racer who was on her way there as well, but she didn't have much better luck. We finally just followed a sign for a road that I knew was on the course, and managed to find our way there. At this point time was a bit tight, but we didn't really panic at all although I ended up skipping two steps that I wished I had taken. I taped 2 gels to my bike and laid out the transition area, having secured a great rack position right by the aisle.

We starting heading for the swim start, after deciding against taking sneakers as suggested for the long run back to transition from the lake. I rationalized that it couldn't be too bad... a decision Eric and I both regretted later. On the way there... I quickly realized that I needed the porta-potty, another auspicious sign and we made a detour there. After getting out of the toilet, I realized that
A) I forgot to take my pre-race gel, so I was starting with not enough gas in the tank
B) The stones on the path up from the swim finish were going to hurt a lot running to transition and I probably should have brought the shoes
C) There was no time now to go back for either
D) My stomach was already not happy with me... and I could feel the lethargy already

Swim (.9 Miles)
Not a good start, but we headed to the beach and put on our wetsuits. Very quickly we were lined up and headed off, so I didn't get a warmup swim, but with almost a mile to go I didn't think it would matter. Just take it a bit easy at first, then settle into a steady pace. The swim was very rough, especially on the way out I seemed to swallow a lot of water. I think it was just a bit choppy. The water didn't sit real well in my stomach, and I could feel the empty feeling as my body started to call for nutrition but it wasn't available.

Out of the water I yanked off my wetsuit and started the run painful walk to transition. I had bumped into Eric a few times in the swim, and we came out of the water together and ended up walking up the hill next to each other. My transition was a lot quicker than his, which is standard but it would be the only leg that was faster this day!

Bike or at least the Attempt (23.7 miles)
We ran down through a field to the road with our bikes and I jumped on. My next problem... I couldn't clip in. Running through the grass had jammed my pedals with enough crap that they wouldn't engage. I had to stick my foot through the bike frame so that I could reach it with my hand and try to clean it out. It would clip in, then pop out again with any pressure. This slowed me down a lot for the first few miles, but eventually the stuff worked it's way out and I was able to stop worrying about it.

I could tell this was going to be a bad ride... my body was demanding energy and my stomach couldn't provide it. I took the first gel right away, and the second one shortly after to try and get some food in, but my stomach just churned. I couldn't deliver any power on the uphills and just tried to keep a steady cadence on the flats. It was only about 8 miles in when my uncle rolled past, a bit of a surprise although it shouldn't have been. I'm generally a stronger rider, but definitly not on this day. Still, for the first 15 or so miles I managed to do okay since it was downhill. We had been warned about the painful uphill at the end of the bike, and I wasn't looking forward to it. I started to regret not having another gel, thinking it would help a little although I wasn't sure I would be able to digest it. The hill came... and it was painful. I was now in a full-scale bonk and I didn't could hardly find the energy to turn the cranks over. I was mentally debating dropping out of the race as my speed got slower and slower. Finally the hills were over and I got of the bike. I walked slowly back to the rack just trying to compose myself.

Run (6.2 Miles)
Once I got into transition I never really considered stopping, I just grabbed my extra gel and headed off. The run starts pretty convoluted, winding through the park in a clear attempt to add a bit of mileage just so they could get in the 6.2 needed. I grabbed a cup of gatorade immediately and just started jogging. I actually felt okay, my legs were in decent shape I just had no reserves. Out of the park and the hills started. I guess the use of Hills in the name of the race should have been a giveaway, but the course just seemed really brutal.

I walked many of the hills and tried to jog the flats and downhills. I ended up having to stop just a mile or so into the run to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately there were no porta-potties available, an experience I will leave un-elaborated. I managed to catch a young woman who was doing her first olympic distance triathlon and we ran together for much of the last few miles trying to encourage each other. That helped and I managed to finish okay with a total time of 3:19:12, about 4 minutes behind my uncle.

The gruesome aftermath :)
In retrospect it probably wasn't a great idea to do the race, I suspect that it hurt more than helped. But, ultimately it was nice to spend the day with my uncle and it will make him happy to say he beat me in a race :) Plus, the post race food was good... although I still couldn't entirely appreciate it, and the post-race massage felt great.

Final splits
Swim - 35:21, T1 - 4:54, Bike - 1:26:29 (ouch), T2 - 1:18, Run -1:11:12 (Ouch again) - Total 3:19:12


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