Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Santee Off-Road Triathlon 2012. I love it when a plan comes together

Drove down from Greenville to Santee State Park on Friday evening. On the way, we encountered some gorgeous country in some perfect weather. Of course, if you were in South Carolina on Friday, you know we also encountered some AWESOME thundershowers!

A Greenville Spinners Team-mate and I were headed to Santee to compete in the Santee Off-Road Triathlon. Like the Winter Challenge, this event consists of a trail run (3 miles), a flat water paddle (3 miles) and a Mountain bike (8 miles).

This time, my team-mate and I decided to work together as a 2 person relay team. She would do the run, while I would do the paddle and mountain bike.

During the morning, as we made our preparations, I was thinking the event didn't start until 1030am. However, it actually started at 10am!! I was feeling pretty relaxed as we made our final preparations. We dropped the boat at the put-in, got the bike transition set up, then headed back to camp to get changed into our kit. We arrived back at the start / finish line at 955am!!!!

Had I known the race started at 10am, not 1030, I would have been a basket case! Thankfully, we were actually there in plenty of time to get lined up. Everything was ready and she just had to walk to the start line.

They started the race, I started my garmin. Even though she was running, I was keeping track of our overall time. After the runners were out of sight, I walked the 1/4 mile over to the boat transition. This is actually an added distance for the run, and the distance I'll have to travel from the boat to the bike.

I waited at the boat and chatted with some other folks who were also on relay teams. Interestingly enough, both of the guys I spoke with were on c0-ed teams as well. I dreaded seeing the boats they were paddling. These are real flat water racing boats. As compared to my 16.5' flat water touring boat!

I was expecting to see the leaders come through at about 20 minutes, but it was actually closer to 22 or 23 minutes when John Wellens came crusing in. He jumped in his boat and was gone with one guy right on his tail and another about 20 seconds back.

I didn't wait long before I saw my team-mate, however, there was a pretty good number of people rolling in between those first three and her. She rolled in at about 27 minutes. Not a bad pace for a 3.5 mile trail run! I didn't count (should have) the runners who came in before her, but I am VERY certain she was in the top 20, and pretty certain she was in or nearer to the top 15. We switched off the timing chip, and I jumped in my boat.

I set out trying for a solid pace that I could maintain for the 3 miles of the paddle. I was quickly catching and passing some of the paddlers that were close, and I had my sights set on those further out. By the time I reached the far buoy for the first time, I had passed most of the people I would pass while in the boat. My garmin automatically counts a lap every 1 mile, so looking back, I see that my average pace on the boat was about 10m30s per mile. Not too bad.

As I approached the near buoy at the end of lap one, I was very close to passing the last guy I would pass. After the turn, I hit it hard and got past him. There was one more guy I was trying to catch, but it would turn out that I was only able to match his pace.

As we approached the far buoy for the 2nd and final time, I felt a presence behind me. Sure enough, as I came around the buoy, there was one of the two relay guys in his racing boat right on my tail. I pushed hard to keep him at bay, but a fast boat with a decent paddler is always going to beat a slower boat with a decent paddler. He passed me about 1/3rd of the way into the last leg of the paddle.

He probably got about 30 seconds on me as we approached the landing, and I basically followed him all the way to the transition area. At the transition area, I kicked off my shoes, put on my bike shoes and started fastening them up. Unfortunately, in my left shoe was what felt like a huge boulder! I had to take the shoe off twice and shake it out to make sure the (I'm sure tiny pebble) was gone. Meanwhile, that dude is riding away from me.

As you know from my last post, I'm obviously not the strongest bike rider out there, but in fact, I am a pretty decent rider. I have the confidence perhaps of someone stronger than me, and I take advantage of that whenever I can. As I mounted my bike, and set off in chase, I felt certain I could overtake that guy. I wasn't about to lose 1st place! My team-mate had worked too hard for it!

I was actually pretty surprised at how quickly I was closing the gap with that guy. Within a half mile or so, I had caught him and passed him. I kept pushing, now in time trail mode.

Unlike the last off-road tri I did, this time I did do the proper maintenance and test ride of my bike before leaving home. I did the best I could with the rear derailleur adjustment, but I was expecting a little bit of shifting issues. Thankfully, I knew exactly what I was getting into, and I knew what I needed to do to make the shifting work.

I only had a few spots where I had to play with my shifting to push it up into the easier gear. No problem at all, and totally fine with it. That being said, it is time to do a chain replacement, cable replacement and COMPLETE cleaning of that poor bike. It has been so neglected!!

I kept pushing on the bike, essentially riding by myself. At one point, I thought I saw another rider in front of me, but I didn't seem to catch further sight of him, so I thought I would be alone to the end.

The last several miles were technical in the fact that the route was very twisty. This meant a lot of slowing and re-accelerating between turns. Thankfully, the course was quite flat, but this constant re-accelerating was tough! Plus, the roots and rocks (and pine needles) were a bit wet, thus they were quite slippery. I must have had at least a half dozen close calls as my tires nearly slid out from under me.

After taking a turn a couple miles later, I did again see a flash of white jersey. YES! there was another for me to pick off. This gave me additional motivation and I pushed hard to catch him. Again, I nearly crashed probably twice before I got close enough to call out "coming behind". I always like for the rider in front to pick the place for me to pass, so he can make sure he is ready and we have enough room. He didn't waste any time telling me I could go around.

Of course, as soon as he said that, we came upon a chicane between some trees, and I knew I couldn't pass there. He pulled aside as soon as we got past the trees, and I accelerated past.

Now, I truly was alone for the rest of the ride. I kept pushing though, because just like I came up on him, I didn't want anyone to be coming up on me.

As I took the final turn to head back to the finish line, I clicked it up a couple gears and started mashing the pedals. I was flying as I crossed the line! As I turned to watch the next rider come in, I realized that I hadn't needed to worry, I had enough gap between the next rider that there was no way he was going to catch me. In fact, it was the guy I had last passed crossing the line a couple minutes later.

According to my garmin, I crossed the line at about 1h42m. Not sure how far the leader was in front, still waiting for the official results to be posted.

We loaded up all the stuff and headed out for lunch at the Lone Star BBQ. Chris Williams is the proprietor of this restaurant and catering business, and does a great BBQ. We had a fine lunch, then we all gathered for the results.

Turns out Team Greenville Spinners Racing did in fact finish first amongst the relay teams. We were quite stoked about that! In looking back, it looks like we finished 7th in the overall results. I may not be a great bike racer, but I feel pretty good about the results we had today, and the results I had last month at the Winter Challenge. Maybe this multi-sport thing is for me.

Tomorrow (sunday) I'll compete in my first 'on-road' triathlon. This is the more traditional swim, bike, run event here in Downtown Columbia, SC.

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