2014 marks my 4th year at TTT! After three times through it, I knew what to expect…lots of hills, little rest and some sore legs! Yet, 2014 was the first year for freezing cold and as if getting motivation to race when you are tired, it is sooo much harder when you just don’t feel like freezing to death.
I (aka Puppy) headed out with the east side gang of my husband (aka Shooter), John Mack (aka Hops) and Eddie Police (aka Matches) in the RV to Shawnee State Park. Upon making the nearly 5 hour drive, we rolled into the park just in time for the rain to start. In rolled fellow Team Bicycle Hub teammate JCaruso and his wife and then GAKurilko and GA Sandy to complete site 30. CTC was taking over the top area of the campground with the rest of the CTC party bus gang just a couple of sites away.
As we grabbed our packets on Friday, the sun came out to tease us just for the rain to move back in about race time. I stood by shivering crammed under and ez up with some other racers. After a short delay, I found myself on the beach ready to start the race. I opted to go see how cold the water felt and it was a balmy 60 degrees or so. Good thing for the full wetsuit I was wearing on a 250 meter swim! As the race kicked off, the next 25 minutes flew by and I was crossing the finish line. It was a good teaser to open the weekend! Within a few minutes of finishing, I was chilly and packed up my backpack and hopped on the bicycle to head back to camp. We sat out by the camp fire with the NE Ohio gang grilling up some chicken and BACON of course! Like good kids, we hit the hay early for Saturday was to be a big day.
The alarm went off at 5:30 am Saturday morning and I did not need to go outside of the RV to know it was cold, but it was time to get to work. There was a fair amount of head scratching trying to figure out what was going to be the best choice of biking attire. As I rode to the start, I sported some new biking attire for me, my wetsuit! Now that we were all vets of a TTT race, the Saturday morning transition was a laid back vibe, much more so than your typical Olympic tri start. I walked over to the water with my super cool neoprene cap on and forced myself in for a little warm-up. Luckily as the race started and I started working a little harder, I warmed up and got into a rhythm. By the time I completed my second loop, I was warmer than I expected. Transition was not fast. I put on socks and put them into my tri shoes which have toasty toes in them and toe covers over them and grabbed my jacket. I placed my wet butt on the bike seat and off I rolled. Three decent climbs and endless rollers later and I was back at transition to start the run. As I started the run, I thought I had somehow got some rocks in my shoes, but knowing that the whole course was rocky I motored on realizing it was just the numbness in my feet, not rocks in my shoes. I was working hard on the run and breathing a little labored, but kept thinking I need to meter myself for the long weekend. The best part of the run is the out and back nature and seeing all of the racers out on the run course…that and the second half is much more downhill!
Again upon finishing under the new HFP finish line, Matches directed me to the computers they had set up with race results. I typed in my number and there were all my splits and you could just print off your little receipt with your info! SO AWESOME! I headed over to transition where Playa got some grind on Matches…oh the look on some of the other racers faces who witnessed this! Then there was Matches dancing to Beat It claiming that’s his jam and off I went back to the RV to grab a shower and some food. On that note, HFP puts on a mad spread of food after each race but I had also brought my own. As I sat there eating lunch, all of the sudden I became so tired so I decided a nap was in order before race 3. Someone must have pressed the fast forward button because right away I found myself back over at transition to start race 3.
The second Olympic tri of the day (Race 3) starts on the bike and I was excited to start dry!!! It was a time trial start format and Matches and I rolled out at the same time. I fell back to a legal draft zone and was again thinking about metering my effort knowing Sunday was a long day. Matches and I had swapped positions a couple times but were in the same area for a while which was not surprising, given how often we train together. Yet, at mile 8, we made the hard left onto Thompson road (the wall) and Matches rode away from me. The next 8 miles I could see him way up ahead and I worked so hard trying to close the gap. It is definitely helpful to have a carrot in front of you on these roads as they can get a bit lonely. Finally I closed down the gap with about 9 more to go. As I pulled into the transition, I embarked on the transition I never practice…preparing for the swim. Some Trislide, some grocery bags on the feet and my brand new sleeveless wetsuit went on pretty quick. The volunteer questioned how to close up the back, but I was not sure as it was the first time I had the wetsuit on. As I made my way to the water, it now felt colder than ever. I walked a bit and tried to get going. It was a super slow start. I could tell early on the wetsuit was rubbing my neck, so I was wasting some time trying to fix it. It was a lackluster swim and over 4 minutes slower than my morning swim and also had some nice neck chaffing. I never did get warm on that swim in the sleeveless wetsuit. By the time my feet hit the sand, I was in full shiver mode as I pulled on my running shoes. I kept thinking, I need to run faster just to get warm. Out onto the fire road and heading uphill, I see the CTC posse (BM and MD) out on the run course bellowing away with their funnel, beverage in hand! With a few laughs, I keep moving on trying to stay steady. The way home always feels better and I pick up the pace as I passed on the beer up with less than a half mile to go. Again, I hop back on my bike and back to camp I went for a shower, food and some relaxing time!
5:30 AM Sunday morning, the alarm goes off. It is even colder. I would be surprised if it was 40 degrees outside. I might have said, “This is stupid,” more than a few times! This ½ IM race was to start at 7:00, so I had to move through the morning routine a little quicker and I this I had the slow motion button stuck on. Again, I put on my wetsuit to ride over to transition and shivered the whole way. With all of the TTT participants in our American Flag singlets (yes, same shirt, 4th race!), we listened to the National Anthem and before long, I was back into the freezing cold water. I actually had not warmed up on Sunday because I just did not want to feel cold waiting to start so it took a minute to settle into the cold water on my face. I actually felt like my swim was pretty smooth and I was out in 32:53. As I got out of the water, I tried to hurry through transition but I was just not fast putting on more layers for the bike and it took me over 4 minutes which seemed like forever. I had decided since I was sore and I figured the course was hilly that I would ride my road bike. I pretty much spent the majority of the race regretting that decision as there plenty of areas to just stay aero and I knew it was costing me time. I just felt slow the whole bike and I wasn’t sure if it was the course or just that I was tired. I was very ready to get off the bike as my neck and upper back were very tight. Again it seemed like another slow transition and I was out onto the run course. It was any easier to get going up the hill in race 4. I was steadily making progress as I ran along but definitely jogging pretty slowly up some of the uphills. I did carry my handheld full of EFS sportsdrink and that was nice so that I could drink whenever I wanted. Again, my favorite part was seeing so many local friends out on the race in every direction of the run. I felt better every time I saw one of their smiling faces. CTC friend, MD, who was racing the Lil Smokies half caught me as we headed into the woods on the second loop of the run. As much as I wanted to stick with him, I ran my own pace. Finally as we hit the last turnaround with 3.25 left to go, I started to get more motivated. I put my head down and climbed up that last long hill before opening the legs up for the rest of the way in. I thought I was clipping along pretty well but alas I got passed by two speedy ladies in the final two miles. For some dumb reason, as I came through the final 200 meters or so, I went into a near full sprint and I paid for that at the finish line as that hurt!
It was a solid weekend of racing, training, laughs with friends, camaraderie amongst racers and definitely the coldest triathlons I have completed! While it may not have been my best race(s), I like to look at it as a great springboard to the season. Finished 1st in the TTT Female Senior (age 24-39) Division and 4th overall solo female.