2016 Pitch Pine Olympic Triathlon Recap

I had one goal for this year’s Pitch Pine Olympic distance triathlon. That was to not take as much time off between the Timberman 70.3 and this race. I more or less succeeded with this as I hit nearly every workout I had scheduled. I was pleased that I was able to race as well as I did with significant work travel in the weeks leading up to the race. For results, I finished 20th overall and won my age group.  Below are the splits.

(1.0 Miles)
(27.4 Miles)
(6.2 Miles)

Read on for more.

Week Of

Two days before the race, I left for a business trip to Minneapolis. The good news was it was a single day trip. The bad news was it meant getting home around 2 am on Friday morning. With a busy Friday due to additional work travel the following week, I got to bed a little later than I’d have liked on Friday night. The race was about an hour and a half from my home so it also meant an early wake-up call.

The big challenge I have when I travel for work is staying hydrated. I have a bit of a spotty track record with this. Sometimes I do quite well, while other times I get super dehydrated. This race happened to be one of those I was dehydrated for. Oops.

How it Went

Race Morning

Race morning was met with an early morning wake-up call. Knowing I had to drive through Meredith, NH on the way up to the race, I was able to get a small coffee. I was dragging when I woke up so thought this would be a good idea given my sleep up to that point had been horrendous.

When arriving at the race venue (White Lake State Park) you had an option to park in the lower parking lot which was closest to transition or an upper parking lot. The distinction was whether you were expecting to stay for awards. If you were going to stay you could park lower. My friend Dan was participating in a different race on Sunday so he wasn’t there. This meant someone who I knew would beat me in the 30-34 age bracket wasn’t going to be there. Winning!

Prime rack location
I seem to be missing some hair
In summer, this area is filled with people
Swim out up to transition. Wood chips hurt.
View down the racks

Picking up the numbers was uneventful and unlike last year’s race, there was no fog. The race organizers pushed out the start of this year’s race a bit in anticipation of fog. What was a larger issue was the drought conditions New England was experiencing. This was notable as you walked out in the lake 30 yards and still had water only up to your shins.

The Swim

Due to the drought in New England and the lower than normal water level, the race organizers had to push out the starting location of the swim start. The swim course measured the normal 0.9 miles, however there was at least another 10th of a mile waiting to run in the super shallow water up to transition which would technically make this swim longer than 0.9 miles.

I did this just for the photo
I did this just for the photo

The swim start was in-water. The course was shaped like an arrowhead and shared part of the sprint course. We would follow a single orange buoy, two neon yellow, turn around have another yellow and then two orange buoys swimming counter clockwise. Thankfully, the swim caps were purple and did not blend into the buoys.

Waiting for the swim start
Time to go!

I started towards the back of the group. In hindsight, perhaps this wasn’t the best place to start given my swimming strength. Honestly, I still wasn’t totally awake and was just chilling out. Once we started, I noticed a few people hanging way right. There was one guy though I swear was swimming with his eyes closed despite visibility in the lake being quite clear. There was no wind so sighting wasn’t an issue. He kept swimming into me and pushing me wide. Unfortunately for me, he was swimming roughly the same speed. After the 5th or 6th contact in the water I may or may not have been a little aggressive with my swim stroke letting him know I was tired of being pushed into and being pushed wide. I then proceeded to give a little swim burst to pass him.

I never really did settle into a great rhythm which later made a bit more sense. One funny thing though was a guy who had done quite well at the race in year’s past was on the race staff and was flying a drone to make a movie of the race (shown below). As you are sighting you see a drone zipping past you overhead. It was kind of funny and reminded me of an inside joke my friends Kevin, Dan, and I had while open water swimming earlier in the year.

Once I got to the part of the beach where you couldn’t swim any longer I got up, started running and pulling the wetsuit down to my waist. When I grabbed the collar to pull it down, I also managed to yank my necklace off and broke it. I wound up dropping it into the lake and spent what felt like an eternity searching for it. I did find it so all is well there. You can actually see me go back briefly in the video linked below. Oh well. Compared to last year, this year was longer. Given the extra time searching for a necklace, I was ok with, but not thrilled with my swim. It felt good enough, but it didn’t “click” like it normally does.

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    The Bike

    After the run up a very painful series of wood chips, I got to my rack with small rocks and pebbles all over my feet. Dang. I wear socks so I spent some extra time trying to get the dirt off, but did a pretty poor job of this knowing I was going to have a super slow T2 to fix it before the run.

    Leaving transition
    Getting ready to settle in

    In the pre-race meeting the race director indicated the course changed slightly as there was construction and some paving going on. No matter, this was a two loop bike course. I remembered that there was a decent hill on the backside of the course. This was something you’d need to do twice.

    My goal was to keep my power between 75-80% FTP given it was a shorter race than Timberman. Overall, I felt strong enough to maintain power on the flat sections, felt better on the hilly section than last year, but had trouble pushing the false flat downhills. Something just felt a bit sluggish and I couldn’t hold my desired power. I originally chalked it up to lack of sleep. At some point on the first lap, I started to feel my ear clog. That’s interesting, it’s happened to me before and usually after really long bike events when it is really hot and I sweat a lot. Hmm…I think I know what this is. I’m dehydrated. Yup, that’s what it is. So I start thinking to myself that I had better start pounding my fluids (which were two bottles filled with Nuun tablets.

    After finishing the first lap, it was time to head out for the second. Given that this is a smaller race, all the sprint riders peeled off back into transition. The second lap of the course had significantly less people to see so it actually meant riding mostly by yourself. That’s less than fun in a race as you have far less people to point at and try to pass. I picked off a few people that last lap, but it was tough to motivate yourself when you have nobody in sight.

    Coming into transition I looked down and knew the course was about a mile and a half longer than last year and generally felt better than I did last year at that point. I had thought I recovered some hydration and would be in good shape for my run…it was about to change rapidly.

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      The Run

      The second I stepped off my bike I felt like a vacuum had been attached and was sucking all energy out of me. I knew it wasn’t due to calories as I had that covered. It was my hydration level. It was going to be a really long run. But, before I could even head out on the run, I spent extra time in transition taking my socks off, brushing off my feet, and shaking out the socks of rocks and pebbles.

      I’m glad I decided to bring my Nathan running belt with water because I felt horrible getting out of transition and knew I’d need more fluids on the course. Shortly after leaving transition and running through the White Lake campground, a guy passes me. Not long after that, I see him take a right turn. It was odd because there were three arrows pointing straight. Perhaps he didn’t see them or wasn’t paying close enough attention, but I saw he had a 30 on his calf which meant that he was in my age group. I had no idea how many others in my age group were in front of me on the course, but I figured that was a lucky break.

      That break only lasted a few minutes as he caught me again a half mile later. After a quick exchange of “what happened back there?” he passed me. I figured he was running 15 – 20 seconds per mile faster. I simply didn’t have the energy at that time to try to match his pace. “OK” I thought, at best I’m second in the age group. Worst case I don’t podium. Based on how I was feeling with hydration, I resorted to a “slow and steady wins the race” mentality. I knew my average split last year was around 8:35/mile. This year I wasn’t even cracking 9:00. I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations as the wheels were starting to fall off the bus.

      At aid stations I took Powerade, which is not something I normally use but know it agrees with me. I took my on-course nutrition in hopes that I could just keep the engine running. My goal at this point was to just focus on cadence which interestingly I was able to hold in the 88-90 range. I’m a bit perplexed by this in that usually when I’m having a poor run, I can barely hold 85-86. I’m thinking that perhaps I let my mind get the better of me and just didn’t allow myself to push it.

      With about a mile to go, I see off in the distance someone doing the run/walk. At first, I thought this was the guy who made the wrong turn, but as I got closer it appeared to be a woman. After coming around a bend, however, I do see that same guy and he’s doing the run/walk. Immediately, it’s “game on”. At this point it was a matter of personal pride. Can I pass this person? I sure a heck was going to try. My legs just felt like lead weights, but I at least for the first time in the race (yea with a mile left in it!) to race with a purpose. Step after step I was gaining on him. Finally with about a half mile left, I caught him, patted him on the back and gave a quick word of encouragement. I held him off to the finish line and beat him by 12 seconds.

      And we’re done!

      I certainly wasn’t expecting much from results given how poor I felt. I was very surprised to see that with a 20th overall finish, I won the men’s 30-34 age group. Despite not having the race I wanted, I’d certainly take a win! It’s my first age group win. Too bad next year I move into the very competitive 35-39 bracket.

      Top step! A first for me in triathlon.

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        What I Learned

        My trophy
        My trophy

        As I complete these races and finish races I realize that there’s some great trends and things you think I’d learn by now. These are:

        • For the love of Pete, stay hydrated in the days before the race. Good hydration equals a great race.
        • If you feel your ears clog in a race you are in for a world of hurt. It’s too late, but you’d better hydrate as much as you can.
        • Small races are hard for motivation, but you never know how you are doing compared to your age group. Don’t give up, push to the end, and you might surprise yourself.
        • Don’t wear ANY jewelry on the course.
        • Next year bring an extra water bottle and hose off your feet. It’ll save you time in transition.
        • I tested out 250 calories per hour (a shy less than I usually do) and felt fine from a muscle energy standpoint. It was hydration that caused me issues.
        • Nuun works quite well though for me. I don’t like the lemon lime flavor though.
        • Tri Tek events still puts on great races. They are passionate for what they do.

        Race Video

        As noted above, here is the video produced of the event. You can see me going back for my necklace at 1:20 in the video. With that, thanks for reading!