Race Report: Rev3 Quassy Olympic (My 1st Triathlon)

Saturday morning was the Rev3 Quassy Olympic Triathlon – the first of 2 tris put on by Rev3 this weekend in Middlebury, CT (the 70.3 was held Sunday AM).  As most of you know, this was my first triathlon – and I’m happy that I can finally call myself a triathlete =)

Below is the (lengthy) race recap from the race.  Instead of hearing me go on about one sport, you now get to hear me go over three (plus transitions) – Lucky you! HA. I am going to do another post this week on things I learned / tips to help any other first time triathletes out there!

This certainly wasn’t a speedy race for me nor was it executed exactly how I wanted…but the most important thing is that I got some experience under my belt – transitioning, swimming in open water, and practicing a ride and run on a very hilly course. (Quassy is touted as one of the toughest triathlon courses in the country.)  Based on how things played out, there are about 10 things I would have done differently on race day that likely would have helped take at least 10 minutes off my time.

Friday

My husband, oldest son, and I drove up Friday afternoon – we left our youngest at home with my mom, sister, and sister’s boyfriend.  We decided that it would be too chaotic for my husband to try to watch them both during the race.  Plus, we knew traffic would be rough – a Summer Friday afternoon in the Northeast is synonymous with parking lots on highways (it took us over 3 hours to get there!) and our youngest is not a fan of car rides or his car seat.

The expo, transition, swim start/finish and finish line are all held in Quassy Amusement Park.

Quassy was selected in order to offer the athlete and their families a unique, safe and fun experience. Founded as an amusement park in 1908, Quassy sits on the south shore of Lake Quassapaug in Middlebury, Connecticut.  – Race Website

We picked up my bib, sat through the athlete briefing, picked up a few last minute essentials at the expo, and then dropped my bike off in transition.

triathlon

They asked me if I wanted my picture on a poster…I passed this year (HAHA).

One of the best parts of the weekend was getting to spend some time alone with our oldest son.  Having two children often means that we play zone defense – one parent gets one child.  So it was really nice to have us both focus solely on my oldest son.  He was beyond excited about going out to dinner and happily colored, read books, and practiced his alphabet throughout dinner.  And he didn’t stop smiling (despite it being almost 9:30pm by the time we left!).

dinner

Saturday (Race Day)

Alarm went off at 4:35am and I spent the next 45 minutes nibbling on some solid food (whole wheat bread w/ peanut butter), pumping, getting dressed, putting my race numbers on, and double checking my transition bag.  We were on the road to the start area by 5:45am and arrived just past 6:15am.  Hindsight, I wish I could have gotten there even 10 minutes earlier as I felt pretty rushed and flustered getting things ready for my first-ever transition.

I laid out my towel and all of my transition items, filled my water bottle for my bike and camelbak (it’s in the tubing of my bike), lubed and sunscreened up, and put on my wetsuit.

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LOVE my new tri kit from MooMotion – will do a post on it soon!

Transition closed at 6:40 so I made my way to the swim start to get into the water to warmup.  I purchased this wetsuit a few years ago when I planned on training for a triathlon (ended up becoming pregnant) and despite wearing it a few times on trips to my husband’s family home in Alaska (the lake water stays in the 60s), I had never tried swimming with it. I was glad that I got into the water before the race started because it took me a bit to start to feel comfortable in it.

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Happy to see my cheering crew!

I was definitely nervous at this point – but it was a different type of nervous then I felt a few weeks ago for the NJ Marathon.  I was nervous because I didn’t really know what to expect, how things would unfold. But, it wasn’t as stressful as I thought – I had zero expectations in terms of pace, finish time, etc. And more than anything,  I was EXCITED. To be at the start line.  To try something new. I was proud of myself for overcoming my fear of doing the unknown and of teaching myself how to swim.  I was ready to become a triathlete.

Eventually they called my wave (I was in the 2nd to last wave at 7:25), I lined up and the gun went off (well, it was actually just a countdown).

Swim

My plan was simple.  Let all the speedy females run out ahead while I took my time in order to stay close to the rear and side of the wave. I was most nervous about the swim – not necessarily because of the open water – but because of all the horror stories I had heard about getting swum over, kicked, etc.  So, I decided that I would minimize the interference – and that I didn’t mind if that meant I swam an extra couple of minutes.  I wanted to come out of the water relaxed with my heart rate under control. ]

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I have to say, I loved the swim.  There was something so incredibly refreshing about being in a gorgeous lake on a warm morning.  Laps in the pool seem SO mundane compared to my experience on Saturday.  And I am itching to get back into open water to swim again.

The first 5 minutes was a bit busy – I ran into several people, touched a few legs and had a few people grab my legs, but honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. After that, I was on my own for the most part and was able to concentrate on breathing and swimming the way I had practiced.  The hardest part for me was sighting.  I had practiced how to sight in the pool and was trying my best to follow the buoys, but after we made the first right turn (we swam in an upside down triangle route), the sun was directly in front of me and I had a really hard time finding the buoys in the middle of my stroke. (This is really my only complaint about the race – it would have been much easier if we were swimming in a counter-clockwise direction so that the sun was behind us.)

My inability to find the buoys during that stretch threw me off and at one point, a kayaker had to yell at me to swim the other way – you can see where that happened based on my Garmin data:

swim course

The only other confusing part was when the fast swimmers from the wave behind me caught up and passed me just before I made the final right turn.  I knew it was going to happen so I was prepared for how crowded it became.  That was really the only time I was worried about getting knocked around and so I played it safe and gradually made my way over to the side again to avoid any contact.

Before I knew it, I saw the beach up ahead and the finish area for the swim!  Came out of the water in control, relaxed, and ECSTATIC to be finished with my first open water swim!

swim

Despite the slow(ish) swim time, this time would put  me at sub-1:30 for the Ironman.  And even better is that my Garmin registered the swim at 1.05 (instead of .90) – likely because of the extra swimming I did to swim a straight line.  That puts me at sub-2 per 100 yards (and sub-1:20 for the IM) – a HUGE step in the right direction for me.

Transition 1

This was a huge debacle for me.  I came out of the water, unzipped, took off my arm sleeves and headed to my bike.  Took off my cap and goggles.  Sat down to take off my wetsuit.  And then I hit a roadblock – I could NOT get the wetsuit off. I was beginning to panic and totally freak out when I saw my husband outside the transition area. He helped me calm down and ai eventually got it off. I spent just under SIX minutes in the first transition.  Looking at some of the other times, most participants averaged between 1-2 minutes.  UGH.

Bike

I knew the bike course was going to be hilly, but I was not prepared for just how hilly it was.  My Garmin calculated almost 2,700 feet of elevation gain (the website claims it to be less than this).  There literally was NO flat part of the course – we were either going straight up or straight down.

elevation

Mile 0-1 was the swim (once I realized I had it in wrong setting, I left it so that I could at least capture some data for postrace)

I feel that I handled the hills really well.  I tried to maintain a pretty high RPM and I spent 90% of the ride shifting gears to ensure that. The best part was that I was only passed by two people on the bike (both guys) and ended up passing a lot.  Although the hills were tough, I felt strong on them and was able to recover quick enough to fly down the other side (rather than coast) which helped the next uphill portion. I wasn’t exhausted by the end of the ride so not sure if I should have tried to push harder, but I didn’t want to give too much too soon since I knew the run course was even tougher than the bike.

bike2

Coming in to T2

bike3

So happy to see my boys!

Two negative things:  First, I did not have one sip of hydration. For some reason, when I tried to drink out of the camelbak on my bike, nothing came out.  And then the water bottle on the stem of my bike was stuck in the holder.  I tried about 4-5 different times for each and eventually gave up because I had to focus on the course.  I was ready to stop and figure out what was wrong if it got to the point where I really needed a drink. Thankfully it was *just* 25 miles and not anything longer, but with the 90 degree day and high humidity, I was really, really thirsty by the end of the ride. Second, my watch had reset from multisport to open water swim so I had NO idea how fast I was riding.  I was only able to figure out (roughly) my average after every 5 mile sign on the course. Not sure if seeing my pace would have made me push harder.

bike

Transition 2

Not nearly as long as the first transition.  I probably would have been able to take another 30-45 seconds off, but I wanted to drink a good amount of water before I started out on the run b/c the first water station wasn’t until a mile or so.  Time: 2:19

run2

Heading out to the run

Run

Started out the run feeling really great.  First mile split was 7:22.  I was expecting to speed up from here.  But the heat, humidity, and hills started to take their toll on me. Mile splits: 7:22, 8:24, 9:08, 7:57, 7:59, 9:47, 7:10 (avg for last .31). 

The run course had more elevation gain (almost 600 ft) than one loop in Central Park (under 400 ft) and while there were some rolling hills, what hurt the most were three pretty big climbs – especially the last one that came around mile 5.5 and lasted almost 1/2 mile.  It was demoralizing.  At one point, my pace dropped to almost 10 min/mile – I was still shuffling along and was just glad that I was not walking – there were only 1 or 2 people around me still running up that last hill.

run3

The hardest part (besides the hills) was the weather – it was so incredibly hot and humid out.  By this point in the race (past 10am), it was over 90 degrees.  The water points could not come often enough on the course and I was SO thankful that they were handing out ice cold cups of water (and just cups of ice if you wanted it).  I was gulping down one full cup and then pouring another cup on top of my head to try to stay cool.

run4

Coming in to the finish line

After I crested the last hill, I made one last push to the finish line.  I almost ran right by my husband and son who were waiting for me in the middle of the finish chute.  Thankfully, I finally heard my husband yelling and was able to grab my son’s hand and run/carry him to the finish line.

run5

run6

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I ended up finishing 24th (out of 55) in my AG and 112th female out of just under 300.  I’m happy with how I placed and especially how I did in the swim and bike.  But I would be lying if I said I was pleased with my time for the run (over 52 min is almost 10 min slower than my normal 10k time).  However, looking at the top females run times, I can’t be too upset – the top females in my AG were around 7:40 – 9:30 pace/mile – so clearly not speedy times on the course.  I just couldn’t run any faster up those darn hills!

There are definitely things that I need to improve upon (glaringly obvious) so I’m chalking this race up to a learning point.  And I’m excited for triathlon #2 which is less than 4 weeks away (more on that later this week!).

Any tips for first time triathletes that I can use in my upcoming post?

Have you raced Quassy?

Did you race this weekend? 

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    47 thoughts on “Race Report: Rev3 Quassy Olympic (My 1st Triathlon)

    1. The web has truly changed the way we communicate and made it far easier to stay informed about the lives of our loved ones.
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    2. Cheers to “strippers” if you are doing an official Ironman branded race! =) But also, I stand up to take mine off when I come out of the water. And when I do bricks with a swim-bike, or swim-run, I try to actually transition really quickly, like a race!

      I don’t know what kind of bike shoes you have, but mine have velcro “tongues” that sometimes come lose, so I put duck tape on them to keep them from sliding out when I put them on my feet, and I also use “Yankz” on my running shoes. What else…..socks IN each bike shoe, and if possible, fold them over so you can get them on really quick.

      Otherwise, just race more and you’ll get the hang of it. That bike course did look like a BEAST! Congrats on getting through that. Oh, and if you can, try to make it out for an open water swim at least once every-other week. I find it difficult, but it helps a ton.

      All of those little things will be the least of your concerns during the “big daddy”! Just make sure all your nutrition (and esp electrolytes) is spot on, and you’ll kick butt!
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    3. Congrats on finishing your first tri!!! I’m excited for you. I love the picture of you before the swim! As for T1, I’m not sure if this race had them, but the big 70.3s and full Ironman races will have “strippers” — people who are there to help you take your wetsuit off so you won’t have this problem at Lake Placid. I’m sure you already know this, but as soon as you get out of the water going toward T1, you’ll unzip your wetsuit and pull the top down to your hips. When you see the strippers (all lined up in a row), you’ll lay down in front of one of them on your back and they’ll pull your wetsuit off. It will take a total of 5-10 seconds. At Augusta 70.3 last year, I used a stripper and my training partner did not. Her T1 time was about 1:30 longer than mine.

      The bike course on this race gives me anxiety just looking at the elevation. Wow. You are a glutton for pain :) LOL! Remember that you are inevitably going to be slower on the run than you are when you don’t have all that swimming and biking, especially on a tough, hot course. During my half Ironman last year, I ran the 13.1 10 minutes slower than a normal half marathon.

      Best of luck with the rest of your Ironman training. You are going to do great.
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    4. I’m so freaking proud of you!!! You are a triathlete and did a great job! Sighting is hard. Good thing that the one and only Tri I’ve done was NYC which was a straight shot down the Hudson. haha. You are going to do so great at Lake Placid!!!
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..A Life Off the MatMy Profile

    5. Sounds like you had an awesome time. I really enjoyed reading your recap! Tri’s are very exciting o me. I still haven’t done one.
      Britt recently posted..MemoriesMy Profile

    6. AMAZING! I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to take on a triathalon. Great accomplishment! I like how you went out there w no expectations, just trying something new and getting experience.
      Love the photo of you running with your son, very sweet :)
      Congratulations!
      Karen @cinderella_runs

    7. Awesome job, Michele!! We have no doubt it’ll just keep getting better from here! At least when you Ironman Lake Placid they should have wetsuit peelers (we like to say wetsuit strippers better though) to help you out! We just volunteered at Ironman Texas and that was our job! We are a rockstar for real and so neat to carry your son across the finish!
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    8. Congratulations Michele! You did fantastic! I can’t wait to read your tips for first timers. I can’t wait for my first one in July, but I’m starting with a sprint (though I’m 99% sure I’m signing up for Miami 70.3 in October…). You were awesome! Amazing job on your swim and your bike, and good job keeping your cool in the first transition when you were panicking. I’m so excited for you for your Ironman! Also, out of curiosity, why did you choose Lake Placid? Was it because of location or was that where the group that sponsored you wanted you to be? I just know it’s hilly and am interested in finding out the pros and cons of some of the different courses (in case I find myself in that boat one day…..).
      meghan @ little girl in the big world recently posted..Weekly Workouts: 5/27-6/1My Profile

      • Meghan!! Thank you so much =) =) Hopefully I’ll have the post up tomorrow – trying to work on it a bit now!!
        So, I chose LP for a few reasons. 1. Yes, that is where my sponsor had access for me to enter. 2. It’s always been at the top of my list b/c of proximity. I want my family (entire family) to be at my 1st IM and there is no way they would be able to go anywhere more than 3-5 hrs driving away. So this is really my only option. I was signed up for NYC last yr but got pregnant so couldn’t do it.
        It’s a super hilly, tough course, so I’m trying to taper my expectations in regards to time and how I feel =)
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    9. Love the recap! And I love that in all of the pictures, even though I’m sure you were struggling, you’re smiling. It’s so fun to read about, and get inspired by, people like you who genuinely love the sport (s). I’m in SW Florida and the heat and humidity will take a lot more out of you than you realize!
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    10. Great job!!! Sounds like you did incredible for your first triathlon!! So much learning curve involved (especially on the swim and transitions)!!!
      Km recently posted..Early MorningsMy Profile

    11. Congrats! I love the pic of you running in with your son! so cute! I cant wait to read your tips! I got talked in to doing a sprint triathlon this October and swam laps for the first time in years yesterday. I figure by mid week I’ll be able to lift my arms again.

    12. This weekend was my first triathlon too!!!! I did the Keuka Lake sprint triathlon, and in 6 weeks I do my first half-iron (I know you probably get the same crazy looks as I do from people when I tell them I am doing something long after no tri experience, even though you are one upping me by doing IM!! haha, you are going to do awesome!). I definitely swam way long in my swim (my swim ended up being about 5 minutes longer than I planned :/ ). But I did decent on bike averaging 17.6 and my 5k time was the second fastest for women! It was a good learning experience for sure!
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    13. Awesome job, Michele! So inspiring! Spectacular first tri. You ALMOST make me want to train for one – but I’m definitely not there yet. Maybe a duathlon in the not too distant future. :)

    14. Whoop Whoop! Triathlon #1 done. :) Loved reading this, especially less than 2 weeks away from my first. (spring though) Looking forward to hearing your tips. I’m so with you on the swim, staying out of the way of the fast gals and doing my thing… a bit nervous about the siting… def don’t want to be swimming extra! Good job on the hills, that’s a tough bike/run on such a hot day with monster hills. Teared up at the pic of you carrying your son across finish. :)

    15. You did SO well! My first triathlon was on a day when it was 107 degrees. Not ideal but there was even less pressure. From what I’ve learned in my limited triathlon experience is that fueling and hydrating are half the battle. You might be able to run really fast but if you mess up fueling on the bike you can blow your run.

      I love that picture of you carrying your son across the finish line. Too cute!
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    16. COngratulations! I love your positive and optimistic outlook. I’m in need of that right now, so thank you for shedding some light this Monday morning. Rest up!

    17. Great job Lady! Just a thought, but at most half and full ironman events they will have volunteers there to help you get your wetsuit off. They should have an area right when you get out of the water that you can sit down and put your feet up and a volunteer will strip your wetsuit right off you. It helps a ton! Especilly when you’re out of breath. Every half/full I’ve raced of volunteered at has offered that extra help so check with your Ironman in advance and see if they’ll have that available.

    18. Congrats on finishing your first triathlon! Olympic distance is pretty ambitious, so you should feel proud of your accomplishment. I love that you got to spend some quality one-on-one time with your oldest son before the race. Try not to get too hung up on your run times. Sounds like the course was super hilly, plus it’s always an adjustment for runners to see their triathlon run times. You think you should be much closer to your ‘run-only’ splits/times. Sounds silly, but your mind doesn’t want to remember/acknowledge that you just swam and biked. When I did a Half Ironman, I had pretty unrealistic expectations for my run time. When it ended up being a hot day and hilly course, I wasn’t anywhere close to the time I was expecting. I also had a wetsuit debacle in one of my first tris. I’d borrowed an older suit from a friend, and I thought I’d never get it off! Plus it was an awful silver color, so it looked like I was wrestling with a giant marshmallow!
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    19. Congratulations!! I also did my first Olympic distance triathlon this weekend (not my first tri though) and our finishing times were about the same! Great job! Tips for new triathletes: practice the open water swim if you are not a strong swimmer because it WAY different than swimming in a pool. Sighting, fighting for a spot, and even handling the waves can be a huge factor in whether people have a panic attack or not. Also, practicing transitions can help take some time off, doing bricks are a great way to practice.

      Great job again!
      Jamie @ couchtoironwoman recently posted..First Tri of the SeasonMy Profile

    20. Awesome Michele! I love the Oly distance..so glad you got one under your belt!

      So on the wetsuit..did you use Pam on your legs? If not, do it, regardless of whether or not you’ve heard it’s bad for your wetsuit. I still have my 15-yr. old wetsuit and have used Pam every time. Makes a bit difference in getting it off. Also, practice your transitions.

      On the swim, learning to sight is huge and makes all the difference in your time. Being alone out there is always a sign you are likely off course. Learn to lift your head while stroking–you can practice this in the pool by picking something up on deck at the end of the lane to look for.

      And finally–lots of bricks. Lots of bricks, lots of bricks! You’re going to do a great job at IM!
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      • Thank you, as always, for your insightful suggestions/comments. I did not use Pam – I used bodyglide…I have never heard of using Pam but I will definitely use it next time. I saw some other people spraying things on their ankles/wrists but had no idea what it was.
        The transition is what killed me – honestly, that is the #1 thing that I wish I could have done differently. I felt like such a newbie during that first one…it was a huge kick to my self esteem after I had come out of the water happy and on top of the world. UGH.
        And I think I’m going to start running after every bike – even if it’s just 2 miles – to practice. My plan only calls for a 2 (sometimes 3) bricks a week but I think I need to practice it more.
        nycrunningmama recently posted..Race Report: Rev3 Quassy Olympic (My 1st Triathlon)My Profile

    21. It’s AMAZING to me (in a good way) that you registered for an Ironman before ever having done a triathlon. Dream Big, right?!

    22. Congrats Michele! This weekend was a miserable weekend for racing and training and you did a great job. My first triathlon’s transitions were terrible and made me that much more motivated to figure out how to get the time down. Stupid wetsuits! :)
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