Thursday, August 27, 2015

Challenge Poconos Race Report

I've been slacking on the blogs and race reports this season, but I think it's been hard to keep up with everything going on with the move to the new house, the construction going on at the new house so the wife, Riley, Thunder, and I are living with my parents for 2 months (help me), and with training/racing, it's been so hard to sit down and put everything into words.

But my final triathlon of the season was last week at Challenge Poconos.  I was originally signed up for the Half, but over the course of this year (and it started last year), I realized that I really enjoy shorter races compared to longer races, so I switched to the Olympic.  I have always wanted to race this course, from the time it was the Ironman race to last year when it was Rev3, to this year when it was Challenge.  It's close to my house, I used to snowboard in the region, they have a Nascar race in the region, and it is naturally a beautiful area.  So this year, Leo and I signed up and headed out last weekend.

In my experience, Challenge/Rev3 always puts on a great race.  They care about the experience and not just about making money.  I'm always disappointed when it comes to the race expo, but overall, its a pretty good experience.

Practice Swim with some Cobb Mobb gear
Leo and I got there Saturday in time for the practice swim and bike check.  I'll get to the swim course later, but the Expo/packet pick up/Bike check was a total cluster f%&ck.  They were in 2 different locations and trying to find parking at either was horrible.  It took hours to get from one to the other.  But we made our way to the practice swim and had some fun.

After that, we headed out for some dinner and an early bedtime.

Race Morning:
Getting to the race was a little logistical nightmare.  Since there wasn't a lot of parking near the venue, we had to park in the ski resort and they bused us to the transition area.  Not a big thing, but kind of annoying having to deal with it race morning.

Finally at transition, we checked our gear in, and I got to see an old friend who I went to high school with.  It was nice to catch up and spend some time talking.  We have been speaking for a while now since I've gotten him to use HoneyMaxx, Rudy Glasses, Fusion Gear, so I'm glad to see someone likes my recommendations.

Once we were ready to go, they Half athletes were getting under way, and the Olympic athletes were started a little while later.

The swim course was both good and bad.  The course went about .5 miles AGAINST the current, which sucked, no wait, it SUUUUUUCKED.  It was like swimming through quicksand.  What also happened was I got punched in the face twice.  I have never been punched in the nose during a race.  We all kicked, claw, scratch, etc, but I got a direct punched in the nose to where I had to stopped and check to see if I broke my nose and was bleeding.  Even the kayakers asked me if I was ok.  I was, so I went after it.
At the turn buoy, we finally went with the current. WHOA this pace changed.  I was flying.  Every stroke felt like I was being propelled through the water.  The about halfway through the return swim, the water got shallow and there was a wall of seaweed.  We all had to stopped and figure out a way to get through it.  It was crazy, but it hurt all of us and not just me.
Finally through the wall of seaweed, I got to shore and started my run through to transition picking off a lot of people.  What sucked was I lost my goggles on the run.  Boo, these have been with me for 2 seasons and I really liked them.
Swim: 30 minutes- not great but I was 8th in AG so the currents effected everyone so I don't care about time.

Having driven the course the day before, I knew what to expect.  The first 4 miles were uphills, and the next miles were easy rolling hills.  I grabbed my bike and headed out on the course.  I actually strapped my GoPro to my aero bars and filmed the entire bike course, so I'll upload my videos in a bit.

I didn't mind the hills of the first few miles, but the roads weren't paved so my arms were vibrating so much it hurt.  They closed the roads so it was great to open roads to go after everyone.  I found a guy who was riding about my pace and we worked together to pick off the field.  We were doing it legally, which was good because we saw a group of 4 in front of us get penalties for pack riding (more on that later).

The course was very scenic and fun to ride.  Nice rolling hills, but flat enough to really push the pace. Nothing special, which in my opinion was a good thing, so I got back to transition and was ready to roll.

Bike: 1:08- happy for the most part.  Probably would have liked a few minutes less, but I'm good with it.

I figured I was about in 6th in AG after the bike since I saw people in front of me on the bike on the turn around so I knew I had a chance to pick some racers off.  I was ready to go.

I also had my fathers GoPro in my tri kit so I was going to take some pics of me on the course, which I was excited for.

I guess I never learn from my mistakes.  About 1/2 mile into my run feeling good, my left hamstring cramped up.  Bad! I couldn't move.  It was the same exact thing that happened at the Great Six Flags Triathlon in May.  I was feeling good, in contention and boom, a huge knot forms in my leg.

Trying to take a pic on the run
So I was forced to rest on a tree and watch my competition go by while I'm just sitting there for about 3-4 minutes massaging the cramp out.

Finally after kneading the knot out, I got back on my imaginary horse and went to work.  My legs felt great and I picked up the pace to hit miles of 6:16, 6:21, 6:19, and 6:24.  I kept passing everyone who passed me while I was stopped and they were all shocked and how I recovered so well.

Just some (blurry) shots of awesome scenery
For some reason, I thought there was a chance I could still get on the podium, even after me stopping.  I kept passing everyone and noticing the ages on people's calves, and no one was in my age group.  So I sucked it up and gave it one last push.  I caught one runner about 1/2 mile from the finish and realized I couldn't get anyone else so I coasted in while taking a few pictures of me in the finishers shoot.

Run: 45 minutes- great run except for the 3-4 minutes I was stopped on the road

Post Race: 
I waited for Leo and my high school friend to cross the finish line and hung out. Due to them not opening transition for close to 3 hours, Yes, that's right, 3 freaking hours, after I crossed the finish line, there was nothing to do but wait.  This really needs to be fixed for next year's race.  It was so boring, nothing to do, and we then had to wait for shuttles to take us to our cars, then drive to the bikes, and this took a while because the roads were closed.

As the awards ceremony started, I said to Leo, if I lose out on AG podium by 3 minutes or less, I'm going to be pissed.  As my Age Group came, 3rd place podium was 62 seconds in front of me.  62 damn seconds.  Which meant I would have been up there sans cramp.  I was pissed.  I stewed for a good hour after that, and then kept checking the results and found out that the 3rd place AG was actually one of those who got a 2 minute penalty, so he really beat me by 3-4 minutes (though I saw him get the penalty and didn't really think he deserved it).  But knowing he beat me by that time, it helped ease some frustration because even though it would have come down to a sprint finish, at least I know he wasn't as close as I thought.

All in all, the race was great.  I think the transition, bike gear check, bike pick up, and timing could definitely be improved upon for next year, this race is one that I will likely do again.  I loved the course, I loved the atmosphere, as Challenge always puts on a great race.

Now that Triathlon season is over, it's Marathon season.  Let's get running people.