Going into this race I honestly thought my chances of finishing were about 30%. I had been slowly and steadily rehabbing my knee from the injury I sustained during the Cali 70.3 but not at all confident in its ability to take me uphill 13.6 miles and downhill 13.6 miles in 3 days. Miraculously, thanks to ice baths and TP massage, when I woke up on day 3 it wasn't hurting at all! Not to say I wasn't in a world of hurt. I spent the night tossing and turning from the soreness and the sound of my heart exploding in my ears. But that is to be expected coming off back to back olympic distance races in the heat.
We got to transition about an hour ahead of time and slowly got the transition area ready. People were definitely moving slower than the past few days but not quite the zombie walk that I remember from last year. One thing that was obvious, though, was there were not nearly as many people starting race 4 as there were at race 1. Curious to see the numbers...
Here I am putting on my race chip. Hurts to bend down a little. Not the best way to start the journey of 70 miles, but that's life.
The forecast was for rain, but there was not a cloud in the sky. I was really hoping for rain. The humidity was 92% at 5am.
Being goofy before the start:
The start of race 4 is pretty funny. Rather than a full on sprint into the water, most people leisurely walk to the first cone before slowly starting to swim. The contrast from day 1 is hilarious!
Doing my best to run in:
The swim went really well. It's the only discipline that doesn't suffer very much with fatigue. I'm not sure if the course was short or not, but when I looked at my watch on the exit it was under 32 minutes. Which would be a new PR!
Heading out onto the bike is when things get interesting. The course for race 4 is again very challenging. Near the start is a long 1.3 mile switchback climb. My rear derailleur wasn't loving my 27 tooth in the back and was trying to shift down. Making it to the top is a minor victory. It becomes major on the second loop... The descent out of that climb is very technical with several 90-150 degree turns. I am a big big wuss and always err on the side of safety. I'm sure I lose some time on these, but I'm a big fan of skin and collarbones, so it's all good.
Later on during one of the other long climbs on a single lane fire road an ambulance came screaming by. There wasn't room for him and us so I had to jump off my bike. I felt something give in my bottle holder but was more concerned with how on earth I was going to clip into the pedals in the middle of that hill. After walking for about 20 seconds I just gave it a go and was able to get moving again. Towards the end of lap 1 the legs were definitely starting to feel the fatigue. The hills just keep coming and coming. The only saving grace is the last 3 miles which are all downhill. It was getting very hot and I was really thirsty. I made the big mistake of trying to drink some gatorade while descending. So of course at 30 mph with my hand on my bottle in the aero position I hit a bump and the water bottle went flying out of my hand and down a steep ditch. DOH! This race is self supported and I just launched one of my 3 gatorade bottles. crap.
Headed into transition to grab my last gatorade bottle from the special needs table I noticed what gave when the ambulance went by. I managed to break one of my rear bottle cages. Double crap! I took one of HFPs water bottles that they supplied at the turnaround and just wished that it would hold:
And then ate a banana!
Loop two was pretty uneventful besides my rear derailleur having increasing testiness with the 27 tooth. Oh, and getting stung multiple times by a bee that got stuck in my singlet... Towards the end of the loop my legs were so tired I started to doubt my ability to get up over the final hills. It's a very lonely bike course, often going several minutes at a time between seeing another racer, so I was happy to have some company going over the final hill. We were all complaining about having to do that run. One guy told me that he was ok with it since he needed to finish in order to go to the Golden Corral to eat an entire carrot cake. I thought that was hilarious!
Coming back into transition was so bittersweet. Happy to be done with the hills on the bike, but REALLY not wanting to tackle that run course...
This was one of the last smiles in quite some time!
As you can see from the pictures, the rain and overcast day hadn't happened. The humidity was still in the 90's and the temps in the high 80's. At high noon there was no shade on that run course. And being in the middle of the woods there was also not a hint of wind. I simply could not believe how hot it was. I made a decision to allow myself to walk up the steepest hills. The problem was, every time I would walk I would get immediately hot, light headed and I thought I would pass out. Not good. The saving grace was the best volunteers on the planet! They would fill my Nathan bottle with ice and water and were so fast with getting us all the water we needed and even had some salt tablets ready.
I think that if the run course was designed in the opposite way there would be a lot of DNFs. But having the last 2.5 miles before the turnaround be all downhill is a nice boost. Coming into the turnaround I knew that I would finish, but also knew that it was not going to be fast. I told my mom not to expect me to finish quickly and headed back out. The best thing ever happened during loop 2. The clouds rolled in. The temperature dropped (slightly) and I stopped feeling like I was going to pass out every time I walked up the steep hills. To give you a taste of how steep some of the hills are, my heart rate never dropped below 165 walking up them. The run course is so brutal.
Getting to mile 10.5 is HUGE. From that point the rest of the run is downhill. The only drawback is that since you have already run countless hilly miles up to that point, every single step sends shocks of pain up your quads. Running downhill is killer on the quads, shins and knees. But at least it's not uphill...
I was so happy to finish I would have done a cartwheel if I thought I wouldn't faceplant.
The finisher's medals and T-shirts at the Triple T are more coveted than my Ironman finisher's stuff. I really think this race is harder. The courses are harder than any Ironman I know of (except maybe Silverman) and you have to pull yourself out of bed two mornings after racing, sore and beat up to start another tough day.
But although it is a grueling race, it is honestly the most enjoyable race I have ever done. The race organizers are absolutely top notch! HFP and everyone involved with the organization are the most positive, caring, adaptable and fun group of people putting on races. Their attitude is contagious and attracts a truly outstanding group of competitors. Everyone out there cheers on everyone else, regardless of whether or not the person who needs encouragement is your direct competitor or not. This race is a celebration of the sport of triathlon. A race that I think every triathlete should experience at least once. And then promptly say there is not a snowball's chance in hell they will do that race again. And then sign up for next year...
Ruster Sports vs Jordan Rapp
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