Well, I wanted to get 3 1/2 IM’s in and I was debating between Half Full, the Skipjack, and Poconos. A small group was heading north and I could not convince anybody to head out towards Columbia so signed up for Poconos. This was the 2nd year for this race. Plus with issues last year, the revamped the course this year. We left early Saturday morning and man this was some logistics that really took some planning. T1 was about 15 miles away from T2. I had to check my bike in and my run bag on Saturday. That also meant that I had no access to either one after that. I could bring some things to T1 Sunday morning but would not have access to T1 stuff post mounting of the bike. That said, I had two sets of socks, 2 body glides, etc. for each bag. Plus my kitchen sink tri bag had to stay in the car which I really had zero access to once I got dropped off. This certainly played on my OCD tendencies of trying to remember what/if was in what bag etc. I finally said, ok, this is my “C” race and so be it. I’m just going to have fun. Doing my recon lap of the run course I realized man this is a hill going out. What we really did not know what the exact turn around spot since it was not all that well marked distance wise. So at the top of the hill where we thought was half way, we stopped and turned around. I then did a quick run when we got back and that told me that my jacket would be way to hot run in. We then drove the bike course. This was helpful and we really knew and got to see firsthand the sink hole. It was as deep as my knees. We were running out of light and missed a turn and really got lost. This was not a good sign since we really never got to see the last 16 miles or so.
Race morning man it was a cold 48 degrees. The water temp was 64 degrees. The swim course seemed a bit different than marked. The sight buoys bowed out on the swim back and made watching the pros interesting. After all, those are guides and the turn buoys are what you have to follow. Again I was in wave 8 with yet another hot pink swim cap the same as Steelhead. This time I elected for my full sleeve suit since it was pretty cold out. I also walked down to the beach with my disposable socks to defer the investable. Once my wave was called, that cold water took me forever to use to. Having swimmers ear and not being in the pool for 2 weeks, I knew my swim would be rusty until I got going. Compounded with the water temp, this really took me a while to get comfortable. Basically by 1/2 mile in, I got settled and could stick with just free stroke. Not sure if I finally said the heck with it or my face was so numb anyway. Plus I was able to keep with my wave for the most part doing mixed stroke but when I made the turn back, I sighted on the final green turn buoy and took the straightest line. Keep in mind, that was inside of the sight buoys but I know I was doing ok. By the time I got around the last turn buoy, I was starting to kick to get blood flowing in the legs and then took my time out of the plywood ramp figuring it was going to be slippery.Got into T1 and man that took some time. I had to fold and stuff my wetsuit into a small bag. Plus make sure my goggles, cap, etc all got in there if I wanted to see them again. That certainly took extra time in addition to putting arm warmers, a vest, UA beanie plus the usual stuff. I already had toe covers on my shoes. I started to run out of T1 and went past the mount line and was off. Started at a pretty good pace out of the park and then started down the mountain. People were just dive bombing that hill. It was super-fast with a great road surface but man it was more than I wanted to descend. Plus my quad were shaking they were so cold. It was about 51 degrees at this point. The out and back was nuts. Drafting everywhere and all I kept thinking is where is the official because I did not want a penalty. Now about 10 miles into the bike, I had to pee. I was like what the heck since I already broke that seal twice on the swim. The first aid station was cluster. You had to dismount to get stuff vs taking things on the fly. I guess this was because the out and back was on the other side of the road and not your typical ride on the right shoulder. It made sense so you would not have cross traffic coming down the mountain and people finishing the out and back. But, it still took some getting used to. My pace on the first hour was crazy fast. I was like I cannot keep up at 24mph and have a decent run. I tried to keep it within Z2/Z3 but then the hills started. I would jack right up climbing (even sitting in the saddle and a higher cadence). Granny was my friend and I used her often. On the descends, things were fine. Now with my HR yo-yo every time I took nutrition, my stomach felt like crap. I just could not stomach anything. I also really had to pee. By the time I hit mile 40, this was starting to get painful. I did take some water at the next aid station. Again, the climbing, even the liquid calories my stomach was not having it. Once I made the turn (that we previous got lost on), I was majorly cramping around my kidneys. It was hurting so back, I could not get aero. I had to ride the horns all the way back in. Plus, it was hurting so bad, I could not even let things go while on the bike. Yes that did cross the mind but the body was not having it. I was about 2 miles from town when I saw people waving slow down. See a guy that looked pretty bad shape, man did I hit this bump. I darn near got airborn. Ah the joys of no depth perception. Able to regroup, that just meant I really needed to PEE. Once I racked my bike, run shoes on in record time, belt, visor, and then portipotty. It seemed like a minute in there but so good. I then raced out of T2 pain free.
I got running and we went thru town. Knowing that this was a pretty big grind up as you left town, I kept my pace. Also realizing that I did not take on hardly any nutrition, I was taking coke more than water on the aid stations. This time as I was running thru the neighborhood, I was seeing a lot of pros coming back in. Maybe I noticed them more this time. I was previously luckily to just catch the 1st female around mile 1 as she was coming in. This time, I was much further out and seeing a lot more pros out there. I was like ok this is pretty good and I’m running ok. Once on the main road the run got pretty boring. I was not able to find anyone to talk to and pass some time or pace. People were passing me at a much faster pace than I wanted to run or the opposite. I then started the big climb up to where we thought the turnaround was. Once we hit the summit, we were down the back side going out another mile or so. Talk about a ball buster. At that point, I was starting to see some peeps and cheering them on as they were me. Once I reclimbed the hill and back down the other side and was thru the next aid station, I was truly blessed to run into a 23 year old who was about the pace I could keep. We started chatting. That really helped get thru that boring section. During that stretch I also saw a car that look like mine, had Maryland tags, had ATC tags, wait that was my car. Then I saw this crazy lady hanging out of it cheering. That certainly brought a smile to me when I needed it. Plus this was about mile 9 or 10 and the wheels were starting to come off. He was struggling too. We were able to talk each other thru it and maintain our pace. About mile 11, I looked down and saw we were going in stride at a 7:45 pace and he was picking it up. I was happy with my pace and told him have a great race and he hit the gas home. Once we hit town I was expecting to turn right back to T2 but was told to turn left. This was quite a shock. Next thing I know I’m running down main street into a block party. This was freaking amazing. The chute was blocks long and people just screaming, cows bells ringing. Next thing I noticed I was across and they were removing my timing chip. Running the entire time and never walked a single bit. I was elated. When I saw the timing splits, I was even more elated because I negative split the run which was a major goal for this race. Getting a PR was the last thing that crossed my mind with swimmers ear, not running as much as I wanted to prior. The rest did me great. Third 1/2 IM and Third PR.
I got a bottle of water and downed that. Then walking around I got two well-deserved cookies. Next up was the massage tent. I looked at the guy and he said put your name down and I’m about 45 minutes out. Walking around a bit, my buddy Jeff then crossed. Having nobody else nearby, I was like Starbucks. I tucked away $10 in my tri tank and it was still wet. We walked up to the counter and said the two biggest coffees $10 can buy. She was kind enough to calculate out scenarios and give us our drinks. After that, it was massage time for me. That 15 minute leg flush was money. The masseuse hit my left IT band and I damn near jumped of the table. Next up BEER. After all, it’s Oktoberfest season and they had it one draft. I know that this was the last thing my body wanted / needed after I went thru but my mind was like oh my that was yummy! We then packed up since the storms unloaded and everyone was in safely. Then fueled up and drove home. The next day I saw my Chiro and that leg flush did wonders. It was the cleanest I have been on the table and by today, I was walking around fine.
I think this race gets a bad rap for being a mountainous course. It was hilly but I never saw anyone on the bike walking up a hill. The town support was amazing and overshadowed the PITA logistics. I really enjoyed this race that was not too far from home. Granted, getting a PR does not hurt either but it was a picturesque bike and the town support was again amazing. Final result was 5:17 and my splits were the following:
Swim – 35:45
T1 – 5:27
Bike – 2:44:12 or 20.46 mph
T2 – 4:29
Run – 1:47:10 or 8:10 m/m
Even though that bike felt horrific, I was able to PR the swim, the run splits and overall time was a PR. What a great way to end the season!