Last weekend I once again made the trip down to Portsmouth, OH to participate in one of the best triathlon events on the planet. The HFP Triple T Triathlon, held in beautiful Shawnee State Park is in my opinion what triathlon is all about. Lots of racing, lots of camaraderie and a true “grass-roots” feeling throughout. The word to describe the weekend that best suits it in my mind is like going to camp. The first time you go you are a little nervous at the beginning but by the second day you are cutting it up with new friends and loving life, wondering why you had never been before. In the second year and beyond it becomes a ritual where you get to share the same joy and excitement you have known in the past and you are able to rekindle friendships with those racers who have made the trek to OH once again.
One great thing about this race is that everyone who comes to the race means business. It itself is a hard enough race as it is since it covers over 140 miles in basically 2.5 days. However, add to that a drive of 8+ hours for most of the competitors and you truly get the people who WANT to be there! Which is how it should be right? I will wrap this introduction up by saying that once again this race was special in many ways…including the fact that top-level talent was once again present giving myself and my good friend Mike Corona a great challenge.
The 2012 edition of the TTT saw beautiful weather in the low 80’s for both Saturday and Sunday and the lake was a comfortable 60’ish degrees. The water temperature was a good 10+ degrees warmer this year than in 2011 which made it much more enjoyable and easier to stomach on Saturday and Sunday morning.
This is such a short race that you hardly have enough time to breathe, and the type of event which is pretty challenging for me. However, I was able to drop my time by about a minute from last year so that improvement in a sub 25 minute race was good enough for me to be happy with. The swim was a bit of a mess as I dove in way to early putting my hands right down in the muck of the lake and making my garmin HR strap go down to my waist. After fussing with that thing so I didn’t lose it I made my way around the buoys, my arms churning like windmills….my form was anything but good. Out of the water and onto the bike was next. I avoided any disasters on the climb and decent and finished the race up by running around a 5:30 mile. Its a fun way to start the weekend but I wish it was a bit longer…25 minutes is really short!
Since I was a part of a team this year the first two events would be my chance to go relatively hard and try to put us in the best possible position. I guess you could say its a delicate balance because you want to save a little something for the 2 other races since you want to have enough in the tank to lead your pulls on the bike and run up the hills. Because let’s be serious you still have another OLY race in the afternoon and a 70.3 the next morning. None the less, I still raced pretty hard by biking around a 1:10 on a very hilly course and running 40:xx which comes out to 6:15 miles on again a hilly trail run route…which I absolutely loved. This effort was good enough for 7th Overall and kept us in around 4th or 5th overall team.
This event kicked off the true Team Race where by which teammates had to start and finish together and were allowed to draft while on the bike. Working together Mike Corona and I managed a 1:06 bike split for the first leg of the event. In a bit of a different style Olympic distance race we quickly transitioned into the swim which is by no means easy as you have to quickly get off your bike and put your wetsuit on before make the run into the lake. We were pretty proficient with the change and were in the water quickly. After completing the two loop swim we headed out to the run course to finish the day off. The PM Olympic on Saturday is definitely a hard race as it take a lot of effort to execute correctly. Not only do you have to deal with the fact that you did a race of the same distance just 4-5 hours prior but you have to be on your game in regards to nutrition during the time between. If you screw that up you can pay for it big time in the afternoon race. Mike and I really didn’t have any issues on the course and we brought it home with a respectable 2:22, putting us in 4th place OA team heading into the half iron on Sunday.
As always the Half Iron had a late arriving crowd and started a couple of minutes after 7:00AM. Many will say it is a bit of a death march for some as they make their way to transition and then to the swim, however I wouldn’t quite go that far. I would have to say that last year was worse because the water was still so cold that hardly anyone even wanted to warm up in the freezing water. However, this year with the warmer temperatures everyone was in getting loosened up for the final event.
As for our race, Mike and I took off in the TT style swim start together and swam the two loop course together, utilizing drafting to ensure that we were going as fast as we could. My watch gave me a split of a little under 12 minutes for the first loop which was about 150m short of a true half lap. This was fast and it was confirmed when my watch said 25:xx when we exited the swim and made our way to transition. I am anxious to see the split times for the race because I think the swim was probably a good 200-300 yards short. But it was the same for everyone…so on we go. The bike course is a beautiful one with about 4k of climbing included. The two laps were pretty steady for us and we ended up splitting around a 2:50. Yeah, pretty slow for most 70.3’s but this is not like most 70.3’s 🙂 This left us with only the run to complete. I’d say we eased into the run taking the first loop relatively conservative and then completed the second loop a bit quicker but overall relatively at the same pace…just a bit more exertion was required. Nothing to crazy happened on the run…at least nothing exciting enough to mention here. However, the fact that we stayed pretty steady throughout the half gave us a 5:03 finishing time. We were shooting to be under 5 so I guess 3 minutes on the other side isn’t to bad.
The 5:03 pushed us into 3rd place. We really would have been 4th place team except for the fact that the team which was ahead of us had a few issues during the half. But then again that’s why you race, you just never know whats going to happen. Ultimately placing top whatever team really isn’t what this race is about. It’s great to be among the leaders and score some swag for the efforts but the real reward is the experiences that this race provides. There is just no event like this one, it is simply UNIQUE. I personally feel that every triathlete should take part in this event at least once. It’s different from an Ironman even though the distances are similar…some say its tougher others don’t. Me, I just think its different…and in a good way. So do yourself a favor and find a year to fit this race in. At less than $250 for the entire weekend + $100 for lodging in a cabin with your buddies, you won’t find a better deal!
Here are a good batch of pictures from the weekend. Three of them are from the finish line of the Super Sprint on Friday night which consisted of a 250 meter swim, 6k uphill bike and a 1 mile run. The guy I am running to the line with started right next to me in the TT style swim start (he was #32 and I was #31) so since he got ahead of me in the swim I felt the need to make up a little ground on the run. We ended up crossing the line at exactly the same time, however my name showed up first on the results sheet so I am gonna say I got him by a couple of inches 🙂