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Race Report:French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016

The French Creek Triathlon was my first triathlon event of the year. I didn’t know a whole lot about the race, but the timing of it fit well into my schedule. After checking out the race course and past results on their website, I knew I was up for a challenging event. Most of the prior years’ Olympic distance finish times in my age group were hovering around the 3-hour mark. A bit long for typical Olympic distance events. Usually, I am around the 2:30 time frame for Olympic distance tris. Having mountain biked at French Creek in the past, I knew it was hilly and the bike and run course solidified this.

I drove an hour up to French Creek State Park on Saturday, via the beautiful back roads of the Oley Valley, to pick up my race packet and do a little bike/run brick workout to preview the course a bit. The bike route was definitely hilly and most of the roads were in nice shape except for a partial stretch of Rt 345 that is in dire need of repaving.

I had to delay my course recon ride a bit while the French Creek”Tough Kids” triathlon was finishing up. It was pretty cool seeing all these little kids out there giving it their all. While I was waiting a minivan pulled up and the guy driving rolled the window down and introduced himself. It was Todd Hydock, another Amrita Ambassador that lives in the Philadelphia area. I had known of Todd but had never met him in person. We chatted for a while until the kids race had finished. Todd was doing the sprint race on Sunday, so we would talk more on Sunday.

Race swag was pretty nice for a small event. They had a nice white race tech shirt and a Clean Bottle water bottle. I had always wanted to get a Clean Bottle but never got around to getting one. There was also a reusable cloth tote bag and some other items from Brandywine Valley tourism too.

It was pretty dark for the ride up and it was just barely cracking light when I arrived at the race venue. It had rained heavily overnight and was still overcast which kept things dark until I got to transition.

I found an empty space on the rack right at the swim-in/run-out end of transition. Everyone else seemed to be congregating towards the other end. I preferred having space. It was still quite damp out, so I was happy to suit up early with my wetsuit.

I gingerly made my down to the swim start in bare feet to get in a little warm-up swim before the race. I was the first one in the water. Water wasn’t too bad. A little cool but perfect for a wetsuit swim. The water was a light, muddy color but not so dark you couldn’t see at all.

I had a lot of time before my wave start since it was the 2nd to last wave. My toes were pretty much numb by the time the race started. I really need to remember to bring some old flips or socks or something. I chatted a bit with a lady named, Jennifer from NJ, who was also outfitted in full Amrita Kit. She was not an Ambassador but knew Arshad and was a loyal Amrita customer.

I also ran into Amy & Bill Kline who are good friends with my old tri-blogger-buddy Shanna. I have run into them a lot over the last couple years and they are really nice to talk too. I didn’t know it after the race, but it was their 17th wedding anniversary that day. Pretty cool to be doing a triathlon for your anniversary!

The Swim

Finally, my wave was up. I sauntered into the water and was trying to stay back a little and to the left. The problem was everyone was staying back from the starting line. I was not about to stay back that far, so I ended up moving past everyone to the start line which was about waist deep. Not exactly where I like to be, but if they are going to lag back I might as well take the head start.

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Swim Exit
French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Swim Exit

 

The first 200 yards kind of sucked like it usually does. It is just full of anxiety and nervous energy that it makes it hard to breathe. There was a little bit of bumping since some of the faster guys were going past or over me. Eventually, things settled out and got into my pace.

I had mostly clear water from there on out. Although I could have used some drafting help, not having to deal with others is nice too. I maintained a pretty steady swim and held steady for the rest of the two loop course. I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water.

I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water. It ready somewhere around 27 minutes, which is ok for me. I was hoping for faster but whatever. The worst thing is that the timing mats are the entrance/exit to transition, not at the swim exit. And it was at least tenth of a mile run to transition over little rocks. So my swim time ended up being around 28 minutes. I hate that!

T1

The 1st transition went rather smoothly. Ditched the wetsuit and popped on my bike shoes, helmet and off I went. Ba-da-bing…ba-da-boom!

Bike

There were practically no flat sections on this entire bike course! You are either going up or going down. Nothing in between.

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Bike Course Elevation Profile
French Creek Olympic Triathlon Bike Course Elevation Profile

The road conditions are mostly good, except for one smaller section on Rt 345 that is in SEVERE need of paving. It also would appear to be a well-shaded course, but hard to tell when it was so overcast. The road was also pretty wet

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Bike
French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Bike

from the rain the night before.

My goal on this leg was to not overcook my legs on the hills and save something for the run. I would also try to bomb the downhills as much as possible and use “gravity” to my advantage.

I feel I executed that plan fairly well. It was surely not the fastest of rides, but my legs were still pretty fresh at the end. I ate one and a half Amrita Bars and 2 bottles of Skratch Labs during the ride. It is pretty easy to eat when you are climbing hills all morning.

T2

T2 was a bit of a blunder. I left my running shoes tied in a double know…duh!! So I was there fumbling around with that for far too long. It was such a rookie mistake. I also put socks on, which cost me some more time. Despite that, I still got out in 2 minutes and looking at the results probably would not have made much difference in the end anyway.

Run

The run started out flat for about a 1/4 mile and then it was up…and up…and up…for the first 4 miles. As soon as my legs were getting accustomed to running, the hills started. There was one section along a small lake that flattened out for a little bit, but then it was up again. The Olympic course also took a left, when the Sprint athletes went right back to the finish, to enjoy another larger hill climb.  By the time I reached the top my legs were screaming. I even walked about 10 yards or so just to get my HR down a little bit.

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Run Course Elevation Profile
French Creek Olympic Triathlon Run Course Elevation Profile

 

French Creek Tri Run
French Creek Tri Run

After the 2nd turnaround at the top of the last hill, it was all downhill for 2 miles to the finish. Ihave to say that last two miles were actually pretty fun. You knew you could just coast it in at that point. I felt bad for all the other athletes who were coming up those hills and was trying to give them some encouragement as I cruised past them.

 

I crossed the finish line feeling pretty good. The last 2 miles actually refreshed me a bit. Finish time was 3:01 and a few seconds. Not the best time for a Olympic distance event, but this was not your ordinary Olympic distance race.


French Creek Tri Finish
French Creek Tri Finish

Post-Race

After the race, I met up Amy & Bill, My Amrita-buddy Todd, and also Terry & Sean Fenoff who I had met at my a strength training workshop that my strength coach had a couple years ago.

I stopped by the timing booth and looked at the posted race results.  I saw that I came in 4th in my age group, which left me a little disappointed that I missed the podium by one place! Ugh…so close!

I decided that it wasn’t worth sticking around at that point and started packing up my bike and things in transition. I was also texting my wife telling her I got 4th in AG. While I was doing that Bill had stopped by and congratulated me on getting 3rd Place in my AG???!!! What??!! He informed me that the 1st place guy in my age group won the overall 1st place for the race, so that got me into 3rd! SWEET!!

I immediately text my wife back and said “scratch that…I actually got 3rd!” She was a little bummed that she wasn’t there now. So back I went and hung out for the post-race awards. It was pretty cool since Bill & Amy both won their Age Groups and they announced that it was their 17th wedding anniversary too! Also, Terry, Sean and Todd all podiumed too.  So it was pretty cool to see everyone up there.

French Creek Tri Podium
French Creek Tri Podium

I was pretty happy to finally get a podium finish in triathlon. I have been doing this for over 8 years and have yet to get a podium in a triathlon. I got one for running races and duathlons, but never a triathlon. I think the build up of experience over the years with good coaches and my focus on strength training this year is making a difference.

Next up Ironman 70.3 Syracuse…

Thanks for reading!

Pre-Race Scouting Report: Black Bear Half-Iron Bike Course

I have the Black Bear Triathlon half iron distance race coming up in a week and half. It is a fairly local race for me, so I thought it might be a good idea to take a run up there and preview the bike course for my LSD ride for the week. I have been up to Beltzville State Park before to do some open water swims but haven’t really checked out all the roads in the area. I heard the race was hilly, but I had no idea how REALLY HILLY it was. Wild Creek Reservoir-Penn Forest Rd.-Bethlehem Water Authority

 

The half iron bike course consists of approximately two 28 mile loops around the area, so with a planned 4 hour ride today I thought I would do at least the two loops and then maybe a little extra to fill in the time. It was a very nice, partly cloudy, with a light breeze of around 7-10mph.

Here is the link to my Training Peaks Workout too…

I arrived in the main parking lot in the later morning, unpacked my bike, geared up, and started on my way out the main entrance. There were a few other cars in the parking lot with bike racks and triathlon related stickers, so it was nice to know there were others out there riding too. There was also another guy in the lot unloading a bike with a Endurance Multisport jersey on, which is a local triathlon club.

The Course

The route starts out paralleling Beltzville Lake on Pohopoco Drive, which is a bit of a rollercoaster ride to get started. A series of up-and-downs, some larger than others, that prohibits you from creating any bit of momentum throwing your legs into a tailspin. The last couple rollers before making a left onto Sheller Hill Road are the worst. When I first saw Sheller Hill Road, I thought “that can’t be the first turn”. I was wrong and my Garmin quickly indicated this by flashing a “Off Course” on the screen. As I turned around and now made a right onto the road, the Endurance Multisport rider was turning there too. We exchanged a couple pleasantries and then he filed in behind me.

Sheller Hill Road was gradual at first, but then jutted up to a short, steep little climb. I was then down to the intersection of the first out-and-back section on Smith Road. Smith Rd. was mostly downhill on the way out and then a mostly uphill starting at the lollipop-like turnaround and then back again. There is one steeper hill right before a descent back to Smith Rd. heading back again.

Wild Creek Reservoir-Penn Forest Rd.-Bethlehem Water Authority

Reaching Sheller Hill Rd again you stay right and then soon make a right onto Penn Forest Rd. You then head downhill for a good stretch, but the road is fairly beat up so you need to stay alert. It eventually levels out right as you pass a nice mountain lake(Wild Creek Reservoir) which seems to be a false flat area. Again the road is pretty beat up still. You eventually reach a new bridge right before it starts descending uphill again. I am not sure how far up the course goes before it turns around. I went half way up the first loop and all the way up the second time. It is a pretty steady climb. Then you turn around and head back again. The ascent up was to Sheller Rd again was not as bad as I thought, but it is another climb in easy gears nonetheless.

Next, is back down to Pohopoco Drive for another roller coaster ride. One big uphill and then make a right on what I think is Lakeside Dr. After a sharp left you come to a fork at Lovitt Rd. When I first saw this road and the steep climb I thought we could NOT go that way, but again I was wrong. This is yet another short steep section. There is a nice long quiet descent through the woods after though.

The course usually turns right onto Owl Creek Rd, which I did, but the road is marked closed and the bridge is blocked off further down the road. It is actually a nice little stretch that you can gain some speed and I was able to slip past some barriers and the large pile of dirt on the bridge to get through. Not sure what they will do for the race though.

 

Bridge Out! Road closure and bridge out on Black Bear course.There is one pretty steep climb after the bridge. I found myself saying “you’ve got to be kidding me” when I made the turn. The really were not bashful with this bike course. The rest is mostly flat or downhill to the park entrance before doing it all over again.

Course Summary

I heard this was hilly, but holy crap it was brutal. Granted I was doing a long, slow distance ride, it still kicked my ass. Last year I did Rev3 Quassy and I though that was a hilly course, but after checking my logs this course has almost 1000 more feet of climb over the same distance. It is 1000 less than the FULL Lake Placid Ironman bike course of 112 miles.

This is definitely not a course to go out like gangbusters. You could really cook your legs in a hurry and have a rough half marathon to run afterwards. The only solace is that the run does not appear to be quite as hilly. I ran part of the course for a brick run and it wasn’t too bad, but it was on dirt road and trails. I think this would be a good race to ride a road bike instead of a tri bike. There is a ton of shifting to do! Unfortunately, my old Cannondale road bike is NOT race ready. Oh well it is my B training race, so it will be a test of my fitness.

IMLP Training Week 12-Less Than 100 Days

On Friday morning at 7AM the countdown timer ticked off less than 100 days until Ironman Lake Placid. Hard to believe it is just over 3 months to go. The hard training is about to begin and the races are beginning. Next week I will be running the St. Lukes Lehigh Valley Half Marathon with my wife as she does her first half-marathon. The week after will be the first triathlon of the season with the NJ Devilman Half-Lite tri in Cedarville, NJ. Should be a good race to get me feet wet for the season. The distance falls somewhere between a Olympic distance and a half-iron distance event(800m swim, 40mi bike, and a 8.8 mile run). A bit odd, but should be a good practice for pacing and nutrition for the Rev3 Quassy Half in June.
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Ironman Muskoka 70.3 Quick Recap

Despite the fact that I missed my goal of finishing under 6 hours, I had a really great day today. But the bike was actually 58.5 miles instead of the 56 mile standard for a Ironman 70.3 race and I finished 2 minutes and 55 seconds past 6 hours, I will consider that goal reached. I know 2.25 miles take much longer than 3 minutes. Given my average speed of 17.6 MPH, that would come out to .3 miles/min. So 2.5 miles would take around 8 minutes at that same speed. So figure a typical course distance would have given me a finish of 5:55. 5 minutes under 6 hours. 🙂

The swim was awesome. I finished in ~38 minutes which was around a 1:40 min/100yd pace which is really good for me, especially when swimming 1.2 miles. It ranked 36th in my age group. The water was nice and clean and there was plenty of open water to swim without getting beaten up. I really enjoyed the swim and it was nice to pass the pink and blue caps from the 2 waves ahead of me. I guess that is what happens when you have a kick-ass swim coach!

T1 was a bit crazy. It was about 0.35 miles in distance and included a large hill to run up. Took a little longer than usual. I also put socks on since it was a bit chilly out. My toes ended up being numb the entire ride anyway,so I wonder if it was worth it.

The bike was pretty hilly, but beautiful. There didn’t seem to be too many flats on this course. The start of the bike was a bit crazy too. My back wheel was loose and my tire was rubbing against the frame. I straightened it out enough to get going, but I felt it rub a little every once in a while. My pace was around 17.8mph which is a little slow, but given the hillage no wonder.

T2 went well. 2 minute quick change. Kiss for the wife too which made her day.

The run was great compared to last year. Course was hilly as well, but I felt good and was able to pull it in under 2 hours. No cramping! Thanks Skratch Labs and Salt Stick!

In addition, the weather was incredible. Sunny and cool. After yesterdays, damp and raining day it was greatly appreciated. All in all a great day. More details to come soon depending on whether we have internet access. Heading to do some camping tomorrow.

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Ironman Lake Placid 2012 Trip Report-Last Day in LP

Our night of camping was accompanied by thunder, lightning and heavy downpours all night. I woke up several times because of it, but it wasn’t a horrible night sleep either. Fortunately the rain had subsided by morning and the wind picked up to dry out the tent and the ground. We never got wet during the night either. We ran up to Wilmington for some breakfast at the Country Bear Diner which was awesome. They have some special French Toast which my wife persuaded me to order. Glad I did cause it was outrageously good. Just stocking up on my B12! After breakfast I headed out for 1:30 of hill repeats. It worked out well cause we were right near Whiteface Memorial Drive which is a killer climb. I did three repeats from Wilmington to North Pole, NY which is around 15 minute climbs each and are rated at Category 3. You can only go so far anyway as the stop you at the gate not too much farther past that. The descent down to the bottom is pretty fast and only takes about 3-4 minutes. There were a couple guys coming up the mountain as I was coming down from my first repeat. I caught up to them and passed them and they made a comment about me doing it twice. The one guy asked how far to the gate and I said I wasn’t going that far. He said “how come?” I said “because I am doing it 3 times!”

After the ride we headed down the river from the Flume and I jumped in the water to clean up a bit. There was a family swimming and goofing around. We then packed up the tent and headed down to Keene Valley. We stopped at the ADK Café for lunch on our way out. The service today was awful! It wasn’t even that busy either. People came in after us and left before we did. We were having salads too. How long does it take to to make a salad? I think our waitress was the issue and I did tip her appropriately.

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The ride home was uneventful which is a good thing. We stopped at Karma Road in New Paltz, NY again for some organic goodness. I think this will be a regular stop for us now. It was a good weekend in Lake Placid but very busy. I think I was exhausted from the poor nights of sleep I had. It will be a weekend I won’t forget since it is the start of what should be an wild and crazy year. One I am looking so forward to though.