OVER THE MOUNTAIN

So it’s been a good three hard three weeks of training with several long sessions on the days I have off from work. I am working more on my bike and hills have been the predominant focus on all of my interval sessions. It has started to get hot and humid here so acclimating to what would be even hotter and humid in Texas has also been tested.

There have been plenty of soaked clothes, towels, and sweat puddles when I ride indoors on both the Spinner and CT, but the runs have been just as challenging and “wet”. Hydration is key but it doesn’t take long for me to get use to this weather. The trick is not to get fatigued from it while at work during the hottest part of the day. In fact, I welcome it. Gina and I haven’t touched the AC yet, but will soon, and do well with the ceiling fans in our place.

I received my Aquaphor gear and product and immediately put it to use. The body wash is awesome and I started using the sunscreen and lotions (gotta pat dry, moisturize, shave down, etc.) Gina took some to sample as well. I needed a test though with one month to go before Buffalo Springs and found one in a local olympic distance triathlon called Over the Mountain.

My friend from Triple Threat Racing – Donny (who as a Masters kicks some serious tail) – mentioned it one day as a good prep for Texas. Gina and I looked over the specs. We were curious in that it was a point-to-point race with 2 separate transition areas. From the wording on the race website, it seemed totally confusing. But then again, so was Ironman Japan and we did well on that one. We’ve done several of these A-B-C races before too, and quickly got out the maps.

The course was rolling hills throughout the bike and offered a scenic ride through a small town of Kings Mountain, about 45 minutes from here. I had hotel points saved up at HI Express so we found one right in town. We got a free night out of it so we could at least make it seem like a “getaway”. But even before we left, we still were unsure of how to navigate everything, since most of the maps don’t indicate how far each area is from one another.

I figured I would continue with my training for Texas and use the race as a good test to see how I am stacking up – especially since I haven’t “swam” since November, and have yet to take a serious ride outdoors. I do plan to enter some tours, but they don’t start until June. I also took Bob’s advice at IOS to race the Zipp tubulars for a change after he checked them out and gave the ok.

The store has been slow, but I’ve been there on the feet for 9 hrs a pop and I don’t ache until after 3-4 consecutive days of that coupled with the training I get done all beforehand. So I took the opportunity to have Molly do the usual assessment but this time after a long brick session. She gave some great pointers and showed me some key stretches, but she made it clear what areas were weak and needed some work. I felt great and refreshed after that and armed with some new material.

The day before we left I felt too much ache in the right hammy to warrent a yellow flag. Knowing the same feeling prior in the left a few months ago, I knew I had to make sure I was smart on this one. BioFreeze was on board and icing was in play by the hour. The weather was still holding in the 60-80 range so packing for this trip would require minimal gear to race in. Simple enough.

We left in the afternoon on Friday and got there quick. We had time to check-in and read the paper in the outdoor pool (USA Today is the best newspaper). Despite the hum of cars and trucks on I-85 it was quite tranquil. We especially loved the options of Firm or Soft pillows (always get a double bed so you have plenty of them), and the shower was the bomb. Man, we love HI Express. It would be possible for us to shut the thick curtains, tap the AC, and sleep a whole day.

But we had re-con to do. Off we went to packet pickup which took 10 minutes. Nice schwag too. We met Donny and I had thought he had done this race before so I asked him what he thought about logistics. “Man, I don’t know, I’ve never done this race.” (he finished in the top 5 anyway). We were going to rack the bike the night before, but we figured based on the distances we now knew and the kind of traffic that MIGHT be a problem, Gina felt she had a great solution – and she did.

We went to the swim finish area which was in John Moss Park and were greeted by the happiest non-triathlete volunteers you could meet. Turns out the swim finish was a half-mile away at another lot. We got some great scenic shots (we always do so on road trips) but Gina saw rain clouds ahead and decided that we should do the following (and you’ll get an idea of what you have to plan for a ABC race)

We would go to the finish line in the morning to pick up the timing chip. This is also where the bike ride ended so you had to place your run gear there.

We would then drive to the swim finish area to rack the bike and prep that. This was only a 10 minute ride and pretty much a straight shot. From there, we would drive the half mile to the start and she would then be able to get to the see me start, finish the swim, and still have time while on the bike to get to the finish. That was it. Always listen to the Sherpa cause it was the ideal plan. And she winds up nailing it too come race day (but almost killed a squirrel).

Wholla.

We had brought some leftover delicious pasta Gina made and some other pre-race meal items and made comfy at the lounge dining area in the hotel. We cued up CNN and had our dinner (the room had a fridge and microwave) while others came in wondering if the hotel actually had a restaurant after seeing our spread. We then slowly itemized our things for the morning and tucked in nicely for a quiet restful sleep. Well for a few hours. It was a race night. Those pillows were nice.

Up at 5am. Quick change and checked out. Following the Sherpa’s plan to a tee we managed to get all set and done, and were ready for the 8am start by 6:15. No joke. We even found alternatives just in case she would have trouble finiding parking. No worries. Sweeeet.

My leg felt ok and I knew my objectives – swim well and practice getting the “feel” of the water again. Bike hard and work the hills. Find a grove. The run was a crap shoot since I was prepared to go under 6 minute pace per mile but would have to reel it in slowly if the leg acted up. The mind was ready and set. The water was warm. We met up with Bob and Melissa of IOS since she was racing so Gina had a Sherpa companion. The sun was up and it was warm. The water was warm. I lathered up on my Aquaphor stuff since it has been since November since I donned a wetsuit too.

I was in the thrid wave so I had time to get wet and check navigation. It was an L shaped swim but once we make the final turn half the race would have the sun in our eyes. Been there. We would start IN the water a few yards out so that was a plus. The usual kiss from G and we took our spots. At least this time G wouldn’t have to wait more than 3 hours. Into the water and took the 3 deep breaths.

Call it weird but there was a dead fish floating by the dock. Mmmmmmm, not gonna be me. It was actually a cheerful group so I put myself right up front to avoid any hastles and elbows. Ok bro, time to go.

At each bouy I practiced my bilateral breathing and kicked continuously. My strokes were smooth and I had sweet real estate throughout to focus on everything. Even made up the 5 and 10 minute stagger on the first two waves on a few folks. It was getting warm though towards the end and I loved my test on the swim.

Out of the water in 27 minutes, I had to climb this HUGE STEEP INCLINE with little pebbles to get to the bikes. Ouch!!! I was fifth in my group out of the water.

The wetsuit came off nicely and off I was on the bike. I love hot weather since you don’t have to think about what to wear. My Aquaphor top and tights I had under the suit was more than enough. G got some great shots. See you next in town. Show me some hills.

Everything was humming nicely. Ever have someone blow in your ear? Now amplify that to a cool, continuous stream 20 times harder (and more comfortable). That’s all you hear. That and “Rollin’, Rollin” by Limp Bizkit playing in my head. I expected a field of riders to swallow me up but that never happened. I maintained a moderate heart rate, pushed the hills (and there was plenty of them), and made my share of passing. I felt good and strong despite the amount of training I still I had been accumulating. This was a nice ride for me.

A great scenic ride too. We actually rode into South Carolina and had a nice, but hilly section through Kings Mountain Park. There was one part where a dog ventured out to the road to bark at us, but luckily the ref was riding in the motorcycle at that point and scared it away. Otherwise I pushed and hydrated at 10 minute intervals. Soon enough it was back into town. 27 miles down in 1 hr and 23 minutes.

I still will never get the logic of not being able to draft on the bike – since you can on the run and swim. The games people play when it’s a hilly course makes this rule worthy of being cut.

A quick transition and off it was to run. Steady state and I passed the first mile at 6 minute pace and knew I would have to ease it down. In order to avoid aggrevating the leg I focused hard and went mile to mile. I felt very comfortable making sure not to bump anyone off the sidewalk, which was mandated we run on. I knew so far that everything was going well and the test was complete. I actually saw 5 people I knew from Charlotte and gave high-fives and the old “Yo!” yell. One happened to be Colin from my run group. I haven’t seen him in months though and he actually picked me out. I told him I’d wait for him at the finish.

Boom, and that was it. The race that is. My run was a 41 minute jog and I finished in 2:37 but later found out I got penilized 2 minutes for not having my race number in front while crossing the finish (it was on my side). So I had a 2:39 time for the 1 mile swim, 27 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run. I placed 51st overall out of 500 and came in 6th out of 47 in my age group. No hint of fatigue but my leg was sore. Confident, happy, and now a month to adjust and fine tune!!!

I quickly went into medic mode. I hugged and kissed G as we celebrated another race day and I placed a bunch of ice in a towel and used my tights as a wrap to soak my leg. I walked around while switching out the ice with cans of Diet Coke and Diet Sprite (which is sometimes colder than ice on the leg (try it – take an ice cold can – they usually give them out at races – and place on sore area like your hamstring with tights on). It was so warm and sunny out I hardly felt the chill though.

But nothing beats putting a 20 oz bottle of ice and pouring a big can of sugar free Monster into it, only to savor and rehydrate!!!! Get those vitamins in and nibble at a half a Metrx bar and you are good!!!!

Colin finished well and we chatted and caught up. He is getting into tri’s and has done several small ones as he builds up to an Ironman. He looked great and it was fun to see him. We gathered everything up since I had to get back to work. Dana and Chatham were holding down the fort so I was coming in later when we were finished. I changed and “showered” using those wet wipes that Gina had in her medical bag. On the way back it was recapping all the stories of the day. And it was only 12:30.

Got into work and Dana as usual had the bagels ready and Gina went to get everyone an iced coffee so we could make it through. It was BioFreeze on the hour before the day was up at 5pm. Wasn’t too bad and it felt good to continue moving around. But the real treat was to come – RITA’s!!!

Dana joined us as we capped off the week as usual. A big gelati would make for my real “meal” of the day – and best in any race condition. Need to unwind, recover, or heck hang out (John got the TV hooked up) – head to Rita’s.

Sure enough we were in bed by 9pm. Wasn’t much to unpack, but now with a month to go and into June, the next 3 weeks are going to be max. I got my results from this test and as mentioned, gave me confidence in what was being trained on to now. I do have to manage my energies on this phase and make sure I mix some things into the plan. It will get hotter. The days are getting longer. And I am ready.

Notes: Gina’s birthday is today!!!!! She got her gifts early, but I am making sure she gets treated EXTRA special today (and everyday anyway). She is something special and I’m glad to get to witness it each day.

Congrats to Eimear who I have been training to help her break 45 minutes in a 10k. She came close in 45:35 but PR’d by over a minute and won the race she was in! The woman works hard and she will get there in her next race. She only had 2 months to prepare but certainly her effort allowed her to get confident she can do it.

Esse non videre.

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