On Saturday, Full Throttle Endurance raced the Pat Griskus Triathlon, an Olympic-distance event (one-mile swim, 25-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run) that served as USA Triathlon’s Northeast Regional Club Championships. And we took home the team crown!
Situated in Connecticut’s Quassy Amusement Park (tri/local folks: it basically takes place on the Rev3 Quassy course), this race boasted a gorgeous swim—and brutally hilly bike and run courses.
They say you learn more from a loss than a win; and by extension, you learn more from a tough race than a cake walk. No, I didn’t “lose” this race—I actually finished second in my age group—but this outing challenged me and ended up being a beneficial learning experience. And that’s what this sport is all about: training, racing, and learning.
Swim – one mile – 27:29
So remember my “swim solid” pre-race goal? I actually accomplished this objective. The calm water and wetsuit-legal conditions (temperature measured 69 degrees Fahrenheit) made for a smooth, fast swim. And there were folks who complained about the diamond-shaped course, but thankfully, I had no problems sighting and swimming a relatively straight line.
Anyway, as a smaller race with about 350 athletes, the waves included several divisions: men 39 and under; women 39 and under; men 40 and older; women 40 and older; Clydesdale, Athena, aquabike, and relay. My wave started third, and I seeded myself near the front of the pack. It was a land-start, so we began on the beach and charged into the water. I had no issues finding clean water and settling into a rhythm. Hands down, I had a great swim. I felt smooth and strong, and even though I dialed into a “solid” pace, I stayed out of the red.
During the swim, I noticed how much water I was taking in. I made two mental notes, actually, but I didn’t think it would be an issue. In hindsight, this should’ve prompted me to back off the pace and focus on breathing, but since I felt good, I maintained my speed.
Bike – 25 miles – 1:25:07
As I hit the mount line and started pedaling, I immediately noticed my both stomach and legs felt awful. Throwing up seemed inevitable, and my legs refused to turn over. It was going to be a long, long ride.
Overall, the course was brutal. Absolutely brutal. The hills made the route challenging, but I definitely underestimated the false flats. Basically, there were constant climbs, which made it difficult to get comfortable and settle into a rhythm.
For the first five miles, I worked with one of my teammates; we took turns on the front (no drafting, don’t worry!), but my body was not having it. I hoped the stomach and leg issues would vanish as I warmed up, but if anything, both progressively got worse. At this point, I abandoned my coach’s advice to “go for it on the bike” and decided to ride based on feel—which essentially meant spinning for 20 miles and trying not vomit. Eventually, I caught another teammate, and he pulled me through the course. We rode together (again, no drafting, promise!), and he cheered, sang songs, and above all, helped me keep my head in an OK place. Around mile 15, I forced myself to take a gel; my stomach improved slightly, but my legs still felt horrible.
Bottom line, this was the toughest bike course I’ve ever completed, and even though I wanted to unload and see what I could do, Saturday was not my day; some days you have it, and some days you don’t. Also, after talking with some more experienced triathletes, the consensus was I should’ve pulled over, purged my system of the gross lake water, and continued riding. Race and learn, right?
Transition 2 – 0:57
As I neared T2, I started thinking about my game plan for the run. Since I felt like junk on the bike, I decided to settle into the run and see how things progressed. Again, instead of aiming for specific splits, I would run on feel.
Run – 6.2 miles – 49:25
The run was a two-loop out-and-back course—net downhill on the way out, uphill on the way back. Luckily, it contained a ton of shade. As I started the run, my legs felt OK—probably because I spun for 25 miles!—but my stomach still felt uneasy. This was a frustrating situation because endurance-wise, I was good to push, but my stomach said no way. Begrudgingly, I “mailed in” the run and settled into a steady pace.
Some days you’re on, and some day’s you’re off. You hope the off days don’t coincide with races, but that’s the nature of the sport.
And since I was cruising on the run, I made an effort to do the little things right: staying positive, maintaining my form, and above all, cheering for my teammates. It wasn’t my day, so the least I could do was help everyone else.
Official finishing time – 2:44:56
So, what did I learn?
Cranking the swim resulted in increased water intake. I should’ve made adjustments either in terms of speed or breathing.
Biking 25 hilly miles with a distressed stomach is no bueno. And sticking to your nutrition plan is important. I had to force myself to take in fluids and probably didn’t drink as much as I should have. And it’s gross, but I should’ve thrown up.
Listening to your body and revaluating goals mid-race is OK. This was the main takeaway. I would’ve loved to hammer the bike, but my stomach and legs were not up to par.
On the bright side, I have a shot at redemption this weekend at the Stamford KIC It Triathlon—game on!