Caution! Athletes in Pain

It’s been a long time and a lot has happened. There was a trip to Vogel State park for a training camp and then Mountain Madness. I wanted to do 2 separate entries but things have been so busy lately I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write. Work has been nuts again but in 3 more weeks we will finally have our 5th PA so we won’t be so short all the time. Ok, so let’s rewind 2 weeks…..

After work that Friday I hitched a ride with Peggy and caravaned up to Vogel State park with Adrienne and Kim in the lead car. We were headed to the No Boundaries Multisport Training Camp. There would be biking, hiking, swimming, running and s’mores. Let’s go! John had left earlier in the day to set up camp. The girls opted to share a cabin. I have nothing against camping but didn’t relish sleeping on the ground and then biking in the gaps. The drive up was pretty uneventful except Adrienne and Kim missed the turn into the park. I had no cell service so we couldn’t call them so we found John at the campsite and then checked into the cabin. Adrienne and Kim made it back and found us at the park office. The cabin was very nice. 5 beds and two full baths plus a kitchen and a great back porch. Too bad we spent barely any time there.

Teesha arrived just as we were getting ready for a little swim. We donned our wet suits and hopped into the cool lake. I didn’t swim too far before I started to feel cold. My ears were feeling numb so I decided to head back into shore. A bunch of the swimmers were way off in the distance. When I got back to shore I found out that when Teesha tried to get in to swim she was told by the park ranger that we were only allowed to swim a the beach. That was rather ridiculous since it was a roped off area that comprised about 60 sq feet. Um, ok. This nice lake and we all had wetsuits but no swimming. Boo!

Of note, this is where I first met Willy “Natureboy” Syndram. I would later learn that Willy was heading up to Vermont to take on the McNaughton 500. A 500 mile foot race that had never been completed. I am proud to say Willy crushed that race and finished in 8 days, 8 hrs and 20 minutes!!! Totally nuts and totally cool!

Willy on the left with Coach Phil on the right at the McNaughton 500 – this is what spring in VT looks like

So, back to the cabin we go. We rinsed off and headed to the camp site. We had a grab bag of dinner items and enjoyed the campfire and a few s’mores. Then it was time for bed – we had a big day ahead of us.

We got up, packed our gear and headed to the campsite. We had a great camp breakfast, did a few strength exercises and then split up for our respective activities. Coach Mike, Teesha, Coach Phil and his daughter Grace headed off for a Coosa hike. Coach John, Coach Sandy and Peggy set off for the back part of the Skeenah Gap ride that would miss Wolfpen Gap. Peggy referred to this option as “the baby gaps ride”. Harry, Adrienne, Kim, Tripp and I headed to Wolfpen for 50 miles of fun. 

I did this loop twice last summer as a final century ride before Wisconsin but it started on the other side of Wolfpen. I was a little nervous since it was early in the season and I was not sure I was quite ready for this much fun. In addition to Wolfpen, which was steep but relatively short, there are a LOT of nasty little climbs on this route. Wolfpen sucked but not too bad (we saw our hikers about 1/3 of the way up) and soon we were flying down the other side. It was about this time I started to remember exactly how nasty this ride really was. Every stinkin’ climb started coming back to me and I was dreading the rest of the ride. We all took things pretty easy except “rocket pack” Kim and her fancy new tri bike. We played catch up with her all day! Thankfully, the weather was nice and not super hot and we got through the ride. It was tough but I got it done except for the last 4 miles. John drove by to check on us and well he offered me a ride so I took it. I can’t believe we did that ride twice last year. Wow! 

When we got back to the camp instead of soaking our legs in the lake we decided to just sit our asses in the creek near the campsite. 

Back to the cabin to rinse off again and then over to the camp for dinner. We had a great dinner cooked by Coach Mike while John went through some Ironman packing and logistics stuff with the group. Then the beers came out and the “salty talk” began. It was a fun night but we were all pretty wiped out by 9:00. Back to the cabin to pass out.

The next morning was another great breakfast at the camp and then we split into 2 running groups. John, Phil, Willy, Mike, Sandy ran the Coosa Trail with Berta who came up that morning. Kim, Tripp, Peggy, Adrienne, Teesha and I ran/hiked the Bear Hair Trail and had a great time. 

Soon it was time to head home. It was a great weekend full of training, fun and friendship.  Can’t wait to do it again!

The next week was actually a nice one at work – we were fully staffed and things were rather slow. The week passed super quick (almost too quick) and soon it was time for Mountain Madness – cue the sinister music.

Training race, training race, training race. I had to keep telling myself that the results didn’t matter that it was just a long training day. I was still concerned about the time cutoffs but knew that if I made it through the bike the rest didn’t matter. We drove up Saturday morning to check in, drop off our bikes and listen to the race briefing. I got race number 8 and was at the first bike rack in transition with about 5 more people. Knowing the race directors has it’s perks! At the briefing we found out we had until 1:30 on the bike so I knew I would be fine. I might not make the 8 hr cutoff time but I would be able to complete the entire distance, medal or no medal. 

We checked into out hotel and a big group of friends went out to dinner. The No Boundaries tri people were all there and a bunch of friends who came up to volunteer. Dinner was a lot of fun and then it was time for sleep. I slept great, got my gear together and it was off to the race site. We parked, got our gear setup, pumped up tires, sunscreen applied and wetsuits were put on. 

John, Tripp and Harry before the swim
Tripp, Adrienne, Harry and John before the race

It was time to go! After a little panic of trying to use my Garmin in multisport for the first time, I gave up and decided to just go with changing modes in transition. Mike L helped me get it back in regular mode and it was time for the swim. I was a tiny bit nervous since my swim was not where it should be but felt better knowing the wetsuit would help. I was in the third (and last) swim wave. We all gathered in the water and then it was time to go! Swim, swim, swim. I was moving along sighting the buoys and then I looked up and I was alone and could not see the pack. Where the hell was everyone? There were a few people around me but I was surprised to be almost alone out there. I tried not to think about that and to keep swimming. Soon I was at the farthest point then turned left and the sun was in my eyes. OK, ignore it, close your eyes when you sight and just keep swimming. Soon I was at the next turn buoy and headed to shore. Almost there and then I was out of the water. I checked my watch and my time was 49 min. That really wasn’t too bad for me and I was shocked that I was nearly last out of the water. No time for worrying about that just get your ass on that bike.

Into transition, bike gear on and then it’s time to climb that first ridiculous hill out of transition. It went better than I expected with “swim legs” and then it was just pedal, pedal, pedal. I had already done this ride twice so I knew exactly what to expect. I kept my cadence high and anytime I felt any real resistance on the legs I geared down. I wanted to save it for the Mountain and for the final hills. Three people passed me on the bike and then it was me alone. I stopped for a minute very early into the ride because I looked down and noticed I put my gloves on the wrong hands and backwards – seriously??! As if I had never done this before. I quickly remedied that piece of stupidity and kept going. About 10 miles in I noticed some irritation on my left ankle and realized I had my timing chip strap under my sock and it was starting to rub. I am not talented enough to tend to this kind of thing while riding so I kept pedaling until the first rest stop. I made a brief stop, fixed my ankle issue and then topped off my aerobottle. Around mile 18 I saw the first guy heading back on the bike. He was hauling a***. Wow! The next group were a while back but seeing as I was last or nearly last out there I got to see them all. 

One last turn and then it’s up the mountain. This was my third time up Fort Mountain and it was just as fun as the first time. I was in the smallest gear but I kept it easy. There were times when I could have gone faster but I tried to keep my breathing as easy and as light as possible. Along the mountain there were lots of fun motivational signs that kept me smiling. Finally I was almost at the top and there was Sandy. I said hello and kept pedaling to the top. Sandy came running up and chatted with me while I quick ate a sandwich and then made a pitstop. I was feeling good and still had plenty of time. 

I hopped back on the bike and headed down the mountain. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful and I made the last couple of climbs and sighed with relief as I headed back into the park. I knew I was last at this point and eventually saw all the runners on the course. I had a bit of a panic when I had to yell at 3 guys running on the wrong side of the road and in my path. I pulled into transition and pulled on my run gear. I was very happy to finish the bike and ready to get that run over with. 

I started the run with a guy in a yellow shirt and we started chatting about the race when he told me this was his first triathlon. Wow!! He really picked a hell of a first race. He took off running up the hill while I just used my ultra training and walked quickly up the hill. I soon found that the run was going to be as hilly as the bike. It was also getting really hot by now. I walked up every hill and ran on the downhills and flats. I saw all my fellow No Boundaries racers out there – Harry, Adrienne, John, Kim and Tripp. John even gave me a little hug(!!) Harry said he wanted photographic evidence that actually happened. I also saw lots of friends racing and volunteering as well as the rest of the No Boundaries tri group. It was great!! At one point a fellow racer said he didn’t know he was running with a celebrity since everyone knew me on the course. This was especially nice when I was starting my second loop and there were only a handful of runners left. At one point Chris Green (one of the race directors) drove by on the run course. He asked how I was doing and I told him I was doing great but wouldn’t be making the 8 hour cutoff time. He assured me that wouldn’t be a problem so I felt a little better.

I kept plugging along and still had some energy to run those downhills and flats. Soon, I was back at the finish line and I saw the guy I started the run leg with. I was gaining on him and we were together at the final turn. Just then he kind of paused so I started running down the hill to the finish line. He started really running too and we finished together. I got my medal and we both went straight to the lake to soak our sore legs. 

I did it!! Wow, that was a really hard race, with a really serious group of competitors. Almost everyone racing was an Ironman. When I really started thinking about it that’s why I hardly saw anyone on the swim. It’s still very early on in the training season and with 4 mths to go I had already finished a tough, tough, half Ironman and didn’t feel all that bad when I finished.  Look out Louisville!!

Quick aside – Zone 5 Events put on a fantastic race, and I am not just saying that because I know these guys. This was the first year and you would never know it based on how well it was run. The volunteers were great and everything went super smooth. This is a tough, tough race but I highly recommend it!

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