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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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).
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. ]
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?