American Triple-T Race Report
May 20-22, 2011
The American Triple-T is a race I have heard about and one day wanted to do, I just didn't realize that I would be doing it so soon! I have heard that it is just as hard if not more difficult than an Ironman. I have heard that it takes a long time to recover from this event and that it would not be wise to do it so close to my Ironman. However, all this went out the window on our way to Portsmouth, Ohio.
A little background about the Triple-T. This is a three day event where you do four triathlons! Yup, FOUR! So that means you do two of them in one day. The first day, you do a super sprint tri in the afternoon, also known as the Prologue. Here you swim 300m, bike 5 miles, and run 1 mile. One the second day, you do an Olympic distance tri in the morning (1.5km swim/40km bike/10.5km run). Then in the afternoon you return to do a second Olympic distance tri but this time you bike first, then swim, then run. The third day you do a half ironman (2km swim/90km bike/21.1km run). The race in Ohio is based out of the Shawnee State Forest Park located at the foothills of the Appalachians which means HILLS!
On our drive to Porstmouth the guys I was with brought up that I should switch from the Little Smokies Half (Sunday's half ironman event that I was signed up for) and do the whole Triple-T weekend. I jokingly said sure, sounds like a good idea. As our trip went on, I decided that I was going to stick to just doing the half. I wanted to race the half hard and see what I can do. And I kind of also wanted to win my age group. I had checked how many people were registered in my age group and there were only three of us and I figured I had a good shot at winning this. That is my selfish side wanting a win in something, I don't get them very much! But in hindsight, I am very happy with my decision because I got way more out of completing the whole event than if I were to win my age group at the half. Well we arrived at Shawnee State Park with less than an hour before the race start. In my mind I was still just doing the half. I somehow got my stuff together anyway and made our way to the race site and at registration I asked if it was possible to switch to the whole event. I even told the volunteers it was no big deal, do not worry to much about it, I just wanted to say at least I asked. Well, a couple of minutes later the race director came up to me asking me if I wanted to switch and I honestly did not know what to do. I wanted to say no but I could not make this decision on my own! (side note: I am VERY indecisive!). I found David and asked him what I should do as he has done this event before and was the one who initially told me to just do the half. Well, he said yes. And I said crap! Lol! So I went back to the race director and confirmed the switch. Quickly got my arm band, timing chip, and racing singlet that we would be wearing for the whole event. I was directed to where to rack Limey, and started getting my gear out. Brent thankfully found me and helped me out a bit as I was not at all in race mode and was just trying to quickly get all my stuff together. Before I knew it, I had my wetsuit on and was ready for the Prologue!
Race #1: Prologue - super sprint triathlon: 300m swim, 5 mile bike, 1 mile run.
Since I switched races at the last minute I was also seeded last. So I was the last racer to go for all the events as they were all in a time trial format. We swam in Turkey Creek Lake and the water was somewhere around 55-60F. Funny enough I ran in the water with my goggles on top of my head and started swimming that way. It took a couple of strokes for me to realize something was wrong and that I did not have my goggles on. I abruptly stopped and pulled down my goggles over my eyes and resumed swimming. Got out of the water and ran to Limey and started the ride. The course was only 5miles but it was one long hill for a 328ft. My gearing was a bit off so I had to ride in my middle gears otherwise I was getting a clunk each time I turned my pedal. Then the mile run was mostly on paved roads to the start of Lamp Black Run where the rest of our runs for the week continued onto. My time was 30min flat. I didn't go out to hard but had a decent pace. Race #1 done.
Race #2: AM Olympic - 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10.5km run
I did not have a great night sleep. Part of this weekend adventure involved me sharing a two bedroom cabin with seven other guys. I tried to sleep in the living room but I was not successful. This was made worse by one group of guys getting up at 4am for a 7:30am race start when all we had to do is bike down a hill. I then resorted to sleeping on the floor in one of the rooms for the rest of the weekend.
The swim had the same time trial start format. This time we had to swim two loops in Turkey Creek Lake. The water was cold but manageable. Now for the bike. At the pre race meeting they informed us of two major points: 1- a steep climb from a 90 degree turn and 2- a dangerous switchback decent. The race announcer emphasized this so much that I have never been so nervous about a bike course in my life. From my previous experience in North Carolina with downhills I knew this wasn't going to be pretty. Since I did not know exactly where this steep switchback downhill was anytime I hit a downhill I was on my brakes. I had probably the most pathetic ride EVER! I was soooo scared of the downhills it was really ridiculous. At one point during the ride I also almost lost my aerobottle so I actually had to stop to rescue it before I lost it. At about 11km into the ride I got to the steep climb which started off at a 22% grade and averaged 18%, also known as Thompson Hill. This wasn't too bad for me. I just tried to spin up the hill. Then I eventually came to the dangerous corner and dangerous it was! I was riding my brakes the whole time and another racer told me I sounded like a mini 747 which is what my brake pads sounded like on my carbon rims. Once I got passed this turn I then was so disappointed with myself and the way I was riding that I started to hammer it a bit knowing very well this was the last thing to do in a three day event. I passed some cyclists and was feeling strong. We climbed a total of 1526ft. Got to the run and was feeling pretty good and just tried to keep a steady pace. The run course was on Lamp Black Run which is a gravel and dirt trail that kept going up or down for a total of 463ft of hills. Nothing about this weekend was flat. I kept a steady pace and averaged 5:55min/km. I completed the first race of day two in 3:11:02.
After the race we soaked our legs in the cold creek and went back to our cottage which involved riding the same long hill we rode for the Prologue. I ate some fruit and rice. I put some compression socks on and just relaxed before we had to head out for the 3pm start of race #3.
|ice and compression socks in between the two Olympic races|
Race #3: PM Olympic - 40km bike, 1.5km swim, 10.5km run
The afternoon race is quite unique with a bike start. This race makes you understand why the swim comes first in a triathlon. After some discussion with the guys as how to approach the swim, I decided to go sans wetsuit and hope my singlet did not cause too much of a drag. We started the bike in a time trial format as well but this time 10 seconds apart as oppose to three. This race was also draft legal for teams. If you were registered as a team you can work together with your partner on the bike. I was racing solo so no drafting for me. It was really hot by the afternoon and I was sweating up a storm just waiting to start my race. This time the bike course was an out and back. I really liked how each of the four bike courses were completely different. This one had a long decent out but not before some good climbs which meant a long and tough climb back. This was the longest climb for the weekend - Blue Creek Pass. We climbed a total of 1614ft on this course. Again, I was on my brakes for the decent. I maxed 60 kph on the bike the whole weekend. I have gone faster before. Ah well! Got back from the tough ride and headed out for the swim. Since I decided to go without a wetsuit my transition time was super fast, 48seconds. However, since we normally do not do a bike to swim transition I left my sunglasses on and realized this after I got out of transition. Luckily for me, two of the Nacho guys racing the Little Smokies were cheering us on and I passed them heading towards the water and handed them my sunglasses. Pheww! They were my Oakley's too! Thanks guys for being there! I was happy to jump into the cold water. It really was hot and it was nice to cool off. I had no issue swimming after the bike. As I was starting the swim I heard guys yelling in pain from cramps. I just took the swim easy and tried not to use my legs much. I believe I have Torture Thursdays to thank for not cramping during the swim! I started to have a little twitch near the end but just relaxed my legs and made it to the end albeit much slower than the morning swim. Unfortunately, my race singlet was causing a huge drag in the water. At least I didn't have to fight to get the wetsuit on after being all sweaty from the bike. I saved at least five minutes in transition. Got out of the swim and put my running shoes on for the run. I got my sunglasses back from one of the Nacho guys as he was there at the run exit ready to hand them back to me! Yay! Huge thanks for that! We ran the same Lamp Black Run trail and it was definitely much harder this time around. I was actually wheezing quite a bit for the first quarter of the run. So much so I started to panic a bit as it was becoming increasingly more difficult to exhale. I backed off to try to get my breathing back under control and it did. On the return trip I decided to push it a bit and passed a whole bunch of people. I averaged 6:22min/km on this run and completed race #3 in 3:16:10, just five minutes slower than the morning race and apparently by the appropriate amount. We soaked our legs after the race in the cold creek to help with inflammation and swelling, equivalent to a cold ice bath. Eventually we made it back up the hill, refueled and rested for our final race.
|Limey ready for some biking action before race #3!|
I heard about the Triple-T zombie march for the morning swim and the Triple-T shuffle as oppose to the Ironman shuffle, and boy, they were not kidding. The race was to start at 7am but most people was still in transition at this time. We eventually all made it back to Turkey Creek Lake for our final two lap swim. I was really tired by this point. I have not had a good night sleep yet and I felt it. I could have gone right back to bed. David told me to take it easy for this race and that was my plan. I was in survival mode, lol! The swim started and I just took it steady and easy. I pushed the swim a little but did not go all out. I posted a decent swim time of 34:23. Then off on the bike for easily one of the toughest bike courses I have ever done in a half Ironman. And I am not exaggerating. The bike was a two looped course with four category one climbs which are apparently the hardest climbs. These were switchback mountain climbs and descents. I just took the bike easy because I wanted to finish the day. So I focused on keeping a high cadence and spinning the hills. The descents were tricky and one switchback came to us as a quick surprise! Geez...I almost missed that turn! Great, now I am back on the brakes! Lol! I got a bit better with the descents as the course went on though. This course was also self supported with a chance to refill bottles or grab more of your own bottles at the start of the second loop of the bike. I decided to carry everything and rolled right through the turnaround with my three bottles: two with water and one with Eload and CarboPro. I drank all of it by the end and could have drank more if I had more. We climbed a total of 3816ft and this was easily my longest half iron bike time ever, 4:01:53...yick! By now, I can run off the bike as oppose to my race a month ago and it was time for the Triple-T shuffle. This was the same run course as the previous races just that we have to do it twice now. The first loop was a bit of a struggle. It was hot, humid, and my legs were tired but I was determined to not walk. However, when I got to some of the steep hills my feet were barely making it off the ground so I walked the steep sections of the hills. I was a bit better on the second loop and managed to negative split the run. I really started hoofing it at the last turnaround on the way back to the finish. Unfortunately, the aid stations had either run out of cups, water, or coke and that made it harder. I was desperate for something at times and took anything that was available. They did restock but I was on my last 4km by the time they had more stuff. I had passed quite a few people on the run, or should I say shuffle. I averaged a 6:53min/km pace, not fast at all! I just managed to shut off my brain and told myself to keep my feet going. Finally made it to the finish line in 7:05:56! I had a huge sense of accomplishment for finishing the whole event. This definitely was not easy and it was a great training weekend leading up to France.
Happily, I was not completely trashed. I needed a couple of days of rest but I am right back into training. For the whole event I finished 18th out of 30 in the solo women 24-39 age category in a time of 14:03:09. Next time I plan on racing this instead a bit more and see if I can improve. I was in survival mode all weekend. Oh, and I checked the results of the Little Smokies half and I think I could have won my age group if I did it on fresh legs. The girl who won did it in about 6:55. I could have done that if not better! Who knows!? Lol! This was way more rewarding though and I can proudly call myself a Triple-T finisher!!!! This is just an awesome race. Funny enough, right after I finished I said to myself I would never do this again. I am now planning on going back! Haha! How quickly we forget the pain! On our way back home we made an obligatory stop at Denny's and tried their feature Bacon sundae! I just had a spoonful but it actually was not that bad! Could have done with less maple syrup though!
|Denny's Bacon Sundae!|
Thanks for reading! This was a looooong post! I guess that happens when you do four races in three days!