Sunday, January 17, 2016

Survival Of the Shawangunks Traithlon 2015 Race Report

I can't exactly remember how I found the SOS Triathlon.  I do remember that when I did I was in love.  Getting a short(er) ride over with at the beginning, running through magnificent trails and swimming through crystal clear mountain lakes - and doing that over 8 legs instead of the normal 3.  Sign me up!  Well, not so fast.....

Registration opens at 12:01 am the day after Halloween and sells out about as fast as my kids eat their 1st piece of candy.
I found myself on the wait list and didn't think about it again until my husband called me about a month later and asked what I had just spent hundreds of dollars on......and just like that I learned I was off the wait list and he learned I had signed up for another "crazy race".

I was concerned about a small torn labrum in my right hip so I worked with a coach on a non-traditional training plan that combined swim/bike/run with cx fit and mobility work.  It was VERY difficult for me to trust that I would be prepared without the traditional mileage build up.  I think having done the Escarpment race in July using the same training plan I felt more confident than I had before then.

The weather stalking started about a week before the race and it wasn't looking good - at one point there was even hail in the forecast.  There were 2 concerns about the weather being bad: the first being that this was the 1st long race Mike was bringing our kids Michael and Mary, to help crew.  It's a long day as it is, and even longer in the rain.  The second concern was that I had very, very little experience riding in the rain.  At the race briefing the night before there were serious warnings about a very sharp turn on the course that included a graphic photo of some poor guy who wiped out.  It was tough to sleep the night before the race as the rain was pounding down outside our hotel room window and I was playing scenarios in my head on repeat.

I was pretty nervous at the start of the race at the Ulster County Fairgrounds, but it wasn't raining hard and the temps were fairly mild so that was a huge relief for me.  Unexpectedly, my daughter Mary was really worried about me - which was incredibly cute, but I felt bad for her!  I went pee about 5 times before the race started and at the last minute decided to take Mike's sunglasses because I was nervous about getting something in my eyes on the bike leg.  That was absolutely necessary and I am so glad I had them.  The excitement of the small field at the wave start and friendly racers was a great way to begin a long day.

The 30 mile bike leg is generally rolling and ends with a 5 mile climb that broke my back.  Cycling is my weakest leg and climbing on the bike is not my strong suit.  I do think that all of the box jumps, dead lifts, and squats I did helped allot.

We passed an incredible sunflower field, roaring creeks from the recent rain, and even saw a rainbow.  I imagine that on a clear day the views would've been breathtaking.

At the 1st transition, Mike and the kids were there to take my bike, hand me a banana, my shoes, cap and goggles.  You need to carry every thing you need for the rest of the race.  Mike told me afterwards that they got there about five minutes before I arrived after taking some wrong turns from the start.  He said he was a nervous wreck that they had missed me!
Coming in to T1

I took my sweet time at the transition and then headed off for run #1.  This was ~4 mile run and the trails felt really manageable compared to what I had experienced at Escarpment earlier that summer. But really all I was thinking about was the swim coming up.  We passed the swim out transition around halfway through the run and after that there were points along the run where we could see the swimmers below.
I found myself at transition 2 with Lake Awosting stretching out before me and knew it was time to get in the water.  I took off my shoes and stuffed them into my tri shorts.  I had only swam in open water with my shoes twice before the race, but was confident in my swim nonetheless,  I was also determined to get the transitions right on my Suunto Ambit 2S so I was careful to hit the right button.  Success - it read swim!  I jumped in the water and it felt amazing.  It was chilly, but I knew that staying calm was the biggest favor I could do for myself.  

This was the longest of the 3 swims at 1.1 miles.  Every time I breathed one view was more beautiful than the next .  It was incredible to see the cliffs rising above and even runners up on the ridge at times.  I felt comfortable with the kayakers and loved the clean water (unlike the murky Schuylkill River that's my main training for open water near Philadelphia).  I was moving along nicely when all of the sudden I looked down and saw a body beneath me.  We had been warned that there were scuba divers in the lakes for safety since people's legs would often cramp up from being warm on the run and then in the cold water.  No amount of warning could prepare me to see that diver below and I swam like a dolphin until I hit the shore!  
Run 2 from Awosting to Minnewaska was when I got to have my 1st wet sneaker experience.  I was wearing my light weight New Balance Minimus sneakers so they weren't heavy, but  they were definitely wet.  I had only practiced running with wet sneakers barefoot a coupe times and there's nothing good about it.  It was a little under 5 miles and not a ton of elevation gain.  Everyone was friendly on the run -acknowledging each other and knowing we were all doing something pretty unique.  Unfortunately it was socked in so there weren't many views, but I could feel the edge of the cliffs and the vast amounts of space below me on some of the ledges we ran on.

I knew there was a good chance that Mike and the kids would be at the other side of Lake Minnewaska and I was super excited to potentially see them.  At that point the sun was out and the swim was excellent.  I probably could've pushed it a bit harder on the swim, but I was being conservative.  It felt amazing to cool down and "recover" on the swim after running.  I should do that more often!
Mary started run 3 with me and I knew this was going to be the longest one.  It was so good to see my family and was an excellent distraction.  Run 3 was 8 miles to Lake Mohonk and at this point I knew I was finishing the race.  I saw a man ride by on a mountain bike with a shoe and asked me if I had both of mine.  Turns out that a diver rescued a shoe in Lake Awosting and was looking for it's owner.  He found her about a mile ahead and I imagine she was very grateful!  There were 3 aid stations on this run leg and I ran with a guy from Long Island for awhile.  He had done the preview course so knew what was ahead.  We saw a bunch of climbers and it was nice to have someone to talk to.  The end of this run was the only real technical trail that I remember.  
Finally I reached the last swim at Lake Mohonk!  I was excited to see the Mohonk House on the swim and it did not disappoint!  I had a couple people pass me on the swim, so I tried to kick it up a gear, but didn't have a whole lot left in the tank.  Getting out of the water was pretty tricky at the last transition where you almost had to scale a small ridge.  

I was wondering where Mike and the kids were when I got out of the water, but they were on the trail climbing up to the finish line.  It was pretty steep, but only .7 of a mile so I could keep pushing!

The finish at skytop tower was incredible.  I survived!  The crowd was celebrating and there was so much support to get warm and hydrated fast.  I got acupuncture right afterwards and am not sure that was the greatest idea.  It don't think it hurt, but I got pretty cold and really just wanted to talk to Mike and the kids.

The Mohonk house put on an incredible buffet dinner like no post race I've ever been to.  It was top notch and the space was incredible with a huge roaring fire.  Michael and Mary even played for awhile on the play set right next to the pavilion so Mike and I could catch up! We had a couple drive back to Philadelphia so we didn't stay around for the awards, but I got a cool results report in the mail a couple weeks later.  I ended up getting 3rd in my age group with a time of 6:21:09!

This race was a perfect fit for me and definitely holds a special place in my heart.  I missed registration for 2016 and there is no wait list this year.  I hope to be back in 2017!

Lessons Learned:
1. If I had swam more I don't think I would have swam faster, but I think I would've been less fatigued running.  I was a slacker preparing for the swim.
2. Not sure what I would do different about running with wet shoes, but something definitely needs to be researched and changes made.  Sock maybe?  A couple blisters on my heels was pretty much my biggest complaint.
3. Take Monday off and enjoy New Paltz.  Maybe splurge and stay at the Mohonk house.
4. Eye wear for the bike leg is a must.  Be prepared for that next time regardless of sun.
5. I'd like to go back and ride the route and hike with Mike on a clear day to see the views.
6. There are divers.  Don't freak out when you see them!  Ha - good luck with that.
7. Don't mess with something totally new like acupuncture after a race - even if it ends up positive it's probably not the best time to figure that out.
8. This race fills up fast so be ready at midnight on 11/1.

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