Just six days after racing Tri Louisville on a bum ankle, I was in the car with my friend Aaron on our way to Perrysville Ohio to race the Mohican Endurance Festival Triathlon. With a new addition due in mid-August, I wanted to find another Half distance triathlon to fit into my 2016 race schedule. There were limited options withing driving range, but I was excited to find another race that FHP Racing was putting on. This marks the third year in a row that I’ve traveled to Ohio to do one of their events and it’s always a well organized race.
Perrysville Ohio is 280 miles from Louisville (just in between Columbus and Cleveland) and is a town of just over 700 people. So why would there be a race in such a small town? Pleasant Hill Lake. This beautiful 850 acre lake and associated park was the perfect venue for a triathlon.
Aaron and I arrived around 1:30PM on Saturday. We drove straight to the transition area and after checking in, we attended the pre-race meeting. Most people blow off this meeting, especially people that do triathlons all the time (there were only about 15 people at this one). I always try to attend this meeting when doing a race for the first time. I had scheduled our departure time to get us there just in time. Despite having the course maps printed out, I’m glad that we were at the meeting. The most valuable take-away was the fact that the aid station on the bike would only have jugs of water. You would have to stop and fill up your bottles OR provide your own bottles to switch out as you passed the aid station each time (it was a four loop bike course). Armed with this new knowledge (it was not on the website), Aaron and I made a trip to the IGA grocery in Perrysville and got a case of the biggest disposable water bottles we could find, a small cooler an a bag of ice. The plan was to leave the cooler full of cold water at the aid station for swap outs each time we rode by. The course was described as “hard” at the meeting and we were told that those of use doing the half would “see the gates of hell”! I thought he was exaggerating a little. Turns out, it wasn’t much of a stretch!
After the pre-race meeting, we drove the course and I quickly realized that there were some massive hills surrounding Pleasant Hill Lake. None of these hills looked too “pleasant” to me, so I’m not sure who came up with the name! We ate dinner at the Malabar Farm Restaurant (very romantic) and were tucked in to our beds at the Mohican Lodge by 9PM.
My race morning routine has been the same for the last four years. Wake-up at least three and a half hours prior to the race start, take my morning poo, eat a sweet potato with almond butter, but on my race kit, mix my nutrition and get to the transition area as soon as it opens. I don’t realize how annoying this might be until I’m traveling with someone else and they are forced to follow along with my routine. Aaron’s always been a good sport and indulged my quirky behavior!
The Mohican Endurance Festival consisted of four triathlon race distances. A Mini, a Sprint, an Olympic and a Half. The swim waves for the Mini were off first and it was 45 minutes later that I was finally in the water. The water temperature was 74 degrees, so while it was wet suit legal (78 is the cut off), I was on the fence about whether or not I should wear mine. Would the added buoyancy be worth the possible risk of overheating? Based on the fact that I have never overheated while swimming in my wet suit, I decided to wear it. The 1.2 mile (~1900 meters) swim course was two loops. We started on the beach and ran into the water Baywatch style. After stopping three times to clear water out of my goggles in the first 200 meters, I settled in to a comfortable pace. The sun glare made it a little hard to see at times, but overall, I was pretty happy with my sighting.
1.2 Mile Swim
32:26 (1:41 / 100 meters)
4th out of 7 in Age Group
23rd out of 50 Overall
The run from the water up to T1 was through some sand and then grass. I attempted to get the sand off of my feet in the water tubs they provided, but by that time, all of the mini, sprint and olympic distance swimmers had already come through and the tubs were pretty full of sand. My left ankle was still pretty swollen from the recent sprain and I was wearing a compression sock on that leg. A wet sock covered in sand is not ideal for a triathlon, but I wanted to wear it during the swim to keep it from getting aggravated with all of the kicking. As I got to T1, I noticed that Aaron was standing outside of the transition area holding this bike. I was confused at first, then he told me that he had a mechanical failure with his bike literally 30 seconds after leaving T1. So he would be stuck sitting around for five hours waiting for me to finish. That sucks.
I got on my bike and prepared to conquer some “pleasant hills”. Despite driving the course the day before, I wanted to take it easy on the first loop and not go too fast on the descents. There were very little flat areas on the course and it included a monster climb (200 feet over half a mile), which is around an 8% average grade. However, what goes up must come down! The descent was over mile and a half long and didn’t have many turns, so after verifying the safety on the first two loops, I decided to open it up an fly down the hill on loops three and four. I managed to hit 48.5 mph – which I think is the fastest that I have ever gone on a bike. It’s also a little too fast as I remember getting the same feeling that I got when I was last on the roof of my house. It’s that moment when your mind is telling you that “this is not safe”.
Since Aaron’s race was over, he decided to be a good friend and hand me an ice cold bottle of water each time I passed the aid station. I hate that he didn’t get to race, but it sure was nice to be able to roll through instead of having to stop and get my bottle myself each time! Speaking of water, I was drinking as much as I could. It was getting hot (mid 90’s by the afternoon) and I knew that staying on top of my hydration was going to be important as the day went on. I had my nutrition mixed up in two bottles behind my saddle and I was drinking a fresh, cold 20 ounce bottle of water every loop. However, when I was on loop number three and I still had not had the urge to pee, I knew that I was in trouble. If well hydrated, I should have to relieve myself at least twice during the 56 miles of a half triathlon bike ride.
Since the course was four, 14 mile loops, I thought it would be fun to see how each of my loops compared.
Loop 1 / Loop 2 / Loop 3 / Loop 4
Time – 42:15 / 42:40 / 42:29 / 42:40
Nominal Power – 225Watts / 220W / 217W / 217W
Variability Index – 1.08 / 1.08 / 1.07 / 1.06
Avg. HR – 144 bpm / 135 bpm / 135 bpm / 138 bpm
Avg. Cadence – 77 rpm / 77 rpm / 78 rpm / 77 rpm
Max Speed – 45.5 mph / 44.7 mph / 46.2 mph / 48.5 mph
The main take away from looking at all four loops is that I was consistent. From the amount of time it took me to complete each loop, to the amount of power I put out. My cadence looks low, but when you factor in all of the climbing, I don’t think I could expect a higher number. With 44oo feet of elevation gain, it was without a doubt the hilliest 56 mile ride I’ve ever done. For comparison, one loop of the Ironman Louisville bike course (~81 miles) only has about 2500 feet of elevation gain.
Other than the dehydration, the only other issue I had on the bike was that my swollen left foot went numb during the second loop. My bike shoes are a little snug on a normal day, but with some swelling in my foot, it was just too tight and I lost feeling. I don’t think that it impacted by bike split, but it was still a weird feeling
56 Mile Bike
2:56:42 (19.0 mph)
Nominal Power – 219W
2nd out of 7 in Age Group
9th out of 50 Overall
I cruised into T2 and got ready for what I knew was going to be a hot run! I carefully slipped my shoes on, grabbed my hat, sunglasses and fuel belt and headed out to tackle 13.1 miles.
On paper, the run course looked pretty flat, but once I got to mile 1 and saw the hills, I knew I was in trouble! Like the bike, the run consisted of four loops. It wasn’t really a loop, it was a 3+ mile out and back that you had to complete four times. I felt sluggish right out of the gate and I kept waiting for my second wind. As the sun beat down and the thought of drinking my nutrition made me nauseous, I figured it was going to get ugly. My mile splits went from the low 9’s to averaging around 10 minute miles at the end of the first lap and over 11 minute miles on lap two. I was walking the aid stations to take in as much water as possible. By the second lap, I was beginning to understand the “gates of hell” reference. I found myself walking some of the hills and fighting a lot of negative thoughts. It’s been several years since I had to walk any portion of a triathlon run and I was really disappointed in myself. Sure almost everyone else was walking at least as much as I was, but I see other people walking in every race – I’m usually not one of those people! At that point, I negotiated a new plan with myself. I would only walk the two steepest hills and the aid stations. I would immediately start running again once I either reached to top of the hill or finished drinking my water after the aid station. I implemented this strategy starting on lap three and actually took 45 seconds per mile off of my pace from lap two. There was a lot of positive encouragement between athletes. It’s amazing how just telling someone else that they are doing good will help you pick up the pace a little. After making the final turn around on lap four, I knew that I had less than two miles to the finish and decided to run the entire way. I had to dig deep, but passing people heading for home was a good feeling. My final lap produced an average pace that was faster than laps two and three.
13.1 Mile Run
5th out of 7 in Age Group
22nd out of 50 Overall
Once I crossed the finish line, I found a spot in the shade under a tree and just laid there for probably about 15 minutes. Another guy came over to join me and we sat there talking about how difficult the race had been. With so many people out on the course doing several different distances, I honestly had no idea where I was in my age group at any point during the day. I normally like the strategy that goes into “racing” against other people, but I’m not sure if I would have had the energy to run someone down anyway! So needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the results screen and saw that I was second in my Age Group! Turns out that pushing that last lap made a big difference. Fifth place in my age group was less than four minutes behind me. Even though I didn’t know that I had three guys hot on my tail, I still felt the urge to push it as hard as I could and leave it all out there…like I always try to do.
After checking the results, I walked back over to transition to start gathering my gear. I began to feel a little light-headed, so I sat down on the pavement. HOT! My buns immediately began to burn. The heat radiating off of the ground definitely added to the brutal conditions on the course. I continued to drink water after the race and even on the way back to Louisville. It was several hours later before I felt the urge to pee and probably about 24 hours after finishing before I felt the dehydration hangover lift.
This was a very challenging race and going to do new races in new locations is one of the fun things that keeps the sport exciting!
2nd out of 7 in Age Group
15th out of 50 Overall
2XU C:2 wetsuit
Aqua Sphere Kayenne goggles
De Soto Forza Trisuit
Argon 18 E-112 Triathlon bike with Zipp wheel set (404 front, 808 back)
Bike Javelin aero helmet
Adidas adiZero adios running shoes with Swiftwick socks
Nutrition used (once again a sugar-free race!):
Pre-Race – (1) Small Sweet Potato with Almond Butter 3 hours prior to race, (30) ENERGYbits 45 minutes before race start
Bike – (2) 24oz. bottles mixed with 3 scoops of Plain Generation UCAN with 375 mL of Vita Coconut water w/ Pineapple and (3) Justin’s Almond Butter squeeze packs, (4) 20oz. Bottles of water
Run – Water at every aid station
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