Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm a Eurekan ... with my first Triathlon podium

It's called the Eureka Springs Multisport Festival. It is three days filled with all kinds of athletic events. It started on Friday with a super-sprint triathlon, many distances of bike rides and races on Saturday and a 10K run on Sunday. If you completed the triathlon, 100 mile bike and 10K run, you got special recognition as a "Eurekan" competitor. A bit hokey but also extremely cool for those of us who do these sorts of things.

I have to open by saying this is one of, if not then, coolest events I've ever been a part of, let alone heard of. Here in NW Arkansas we don't have a ton of multisport events, so anything is good, but this was extraordinarily fun and challenging.

I've laid out the triathlon details and then the rest of my commentary is below. I got my first podium finish (top 3 in overall or age group) in a triathlon. Difficult to remove my smile for a while.

Pre-race routine:

The race didn't start until 3pm, so I just had a normal morning. Left for the race at 10:30. Had to go to packet pickup first, which closed at 1:00. Had lunch with some friends, went to transition and took my time getting ready.

Event warmup:

Very short swim warmup.



Swim was only 300 yards, so even a bad swim would go reasonably quick. I started toward the outside with a good friend. I took a line toward the buoy and got mixed in with the madness. The pulling and hitting and tackling was ridiculous. I should've known better than to get in the middle of it. My friend stayed completely to the outside and never touched or was touched. I wish I had done that, because even swimming a longer distance would've been faster. Still, I got out of the water with a faster per 100 time (by far: 2:16 vs 2:31) than my last sprint.

What would you do differently?:

Get to the outside and stay there!



Reasonably quick transition. No real complaints. Big benefit by using my new tri-specific bike shoes.

What would you do differently?:

Learn how to get in the shoes with them already on the bike.



Short but very intense ride with some nasty curves and constant elevation changes. Had a bit of trouble getting my legs going again coming out of the swim. I'm obviously using my legs too much in the swim. The start was a bit uphill which added to the problem. Very sharp curve about half a mile in. It should've been marked better or had someone there slowing people down. I locked up my brakes and barely stayed on the road. At least one rider went down pretty hard. Ultimately it is the rider's responsibility to know the course but the race director has a responsibility to keep people as safe as within reason.

My swim once again put me behind a lot of folks, so I started passing people constantly. My strength is cycling and specifically hill climbing, so this was a well-suited course, although a difficult one. Some of the roads were very rough chip-n-seal with some loose gravel, so that cost some speed.

I had the 3rd fastest time out of 156 people, so it's hard to complain.

What would you do differently?:

Might have gone a bit too hard because my run hurt a bit, but it was worth the risk.



Probably my best transition to date. Bike racked quick. Shoes swapped fast.

What would you do differently?:




The run started on the same start of the bike course. Then at the sharp turn I mentioned earlier the run course moved to the golf course cart path. It was hilly. Way hillier than I (or anyone else I talked to) thought it would be. My calves were hurting a bit when the run started, but when we moved to the course my hamstrings really started to lock up on the first hill. I had to really shorten my stride to keep from seizing.

I had caught up with my good friend on the bike, since he beat me on the swim. We are pretty close to the same pace on the bike and the run, so we ran with each other until the last hill about quarter mile before the finish. I got a small gap on him and finished just four seconds ahead of him.

My time was 10th best overall and 2nd in my AG. My first triathlon podium! I couldn't believe. It was a short but intense triathlon.

What would you do differently?:

Don't know really. I went hard but not all out on the bike, but I cramped on the run. The hills were the issue and I didn't take them into account enough.

Post race

Warm down:

Got some water and a little stretching.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Swimming was better but still needs a lot of work.

Event comments:

This race was part of a 3-day multi-sport festival. It was the kickoff event with a 100 mile bike ride the following day and a 10K run the third day. That's the reason it was so short.

So, that was day one. I got second in my age group and 10th overall of over 100 competitors. This is obviously really small in the big scheme of things, but for those of us who train constantly and race what few races we can get to, getting a podium finish is really the big payoff. Finishing and feeling great is awesome, but getting some feeling of accomplishment compared to your competitors is incredibly rewarding.

Okay, on to Saturday. The big day. 100 miles through the Ozark mountains. I've done two previous century rides (100 miles) but they were in Texas and flat as a pancake. The total opposite from this. The route took us from Eureka Springs to Green Forest up to Missouri, back down to Berryville and then back up to Missouri and across one of the busiest highways in the world (86, which is a route to Branson) and then back down to Eureka Springs. The last 30 miles were the hilliest. The last 15 were the worst. Yeah - it was HARD. Even for someone like me who can climb.

We started off like bandits. Holy crap! The first part of the course included a lot of flats and downhills. We had some packs develop and averaged 24+mph the first 15 miles and then 22+ for the first 26 miles, before the turn toward Missouri.

We had some smaller packs develop as the hills thinned the crowds. We had a good group of about 9 people who, more or less, rode together most of the ride. The next 40 miles or so were pretty uneventful. We all stopped at the aid stations to refuel quickly. The aid stations ROCKED! I had some of the best homemade oatmeal cookies I've ever had at the first station and an incredible gooey, hot (half) cinnamon roll at the next. These endurance events require sugar and these snacks were 100000000% better than gels. I wish I had some of those cookies right now :(

The final 30 miles of the ride is where it got really interesting. The hills became steady and increasing the further we went. It was pretty much constant ups and downs. You were either climbing or descending. We were all starting to suffer a bit but made it to the aid station at mile 85. That's where the real fun began.

At that station I got some homemade pumpkin muffins (little mini bites) that were awesome! And then two really, really, really difficult climbs hit us. Those of you who have traveled to Branson on 86 are probably familiar with the area of Eagle Rock. Yeah, trying peddling up those hills. Goodness.

I made it up the two biggest climbs to that point and each time was first in the group over the climb and just coasted to wait for the group to catch up. We FINALLY got off 86. What a relief. That is such a busy road and is a bit scary. So, that meant we were on the final stretch down 23 to Eureka Springs.

We regrouped, I think we had 6 or 7 remaining of the pack, and got to mile 91 and that's when the fun began. OMG. The worst hill of the day was at mile 91! Pure torture, I tell ya. Pure torture. This hill pretty much shattered the group for the finish.

I worked with another rider to get to the finish. After the mile 91 hill it was up and down until mile 95 and then the most euphoric downhill I've ever encountered was upon me. I don't know the actual distance but it was a good 1.5 mile descent and it was fast. Over 50 MPH. Words can't even explain how AWESOME this was. I want to drive over there right now just to go down that hill.

After that it was smooth sailing into downtown Eureka Springs. My one remaining buddy and I cruised in the remaining few miles and were welcomed with applause from the fans. It was great! Super support from the community.

I crossed the line in 5:37 (5 hours 29 minutes total ride time). Considering the incredibly hilly course, I was very happy. I soon found out that I was the 2nd (Yes, SECOND!) Eurekan competitor to finish the 100 miler. I was 6th overall, but there were 4 riders who just did the 100 mile ride and weren't doing the other races.

I could've finished faster had I left my group but it was extremely fun riding with other folks. I have no regrets at all and am so proud to have finished where I did.

Post race - I got a massage to help get my legs ready for the 10K run on Sunday. Ate and drank to refuel and congregated with friends. Honestly, while I do love doing well at events, hanging out with fellow competitors is my favorite part. Well, second favorite part, but that's what is so fun about the entire event.

Quick trip back home. Compression hose on to sleep in. A few hours rest and up before dawn again. The 10K run race was the final stage. I was 2nd overall in the Eurekan competition. I was first in my age group (40-49) and my buddy was 2nd in the AG 4 minutes behind me and 3rd place was 15 minutes behind me. The 3rd place guy was a really fast runner, so that was my biggest concern. My buddy in 2nd place is pretty close to my speed, so I just had to make sure I stayed close to the speedy guy.

I was really worried I'd be super sore from the ride, but the massage and compression hose must've helped. I felt pretty good and took off pretty fast. The run course had some nasty hills, so I knew if I could hold steady I could do well and hold my finishing position.

Not much to report from here. Several brutal climbs and a downhill finish, which isn't easy for a run. I crossed the line at 42:50, easily my best post-hip replacement 10K time, and in 7th best finish on the run and kept my 2nd overall and 1st place AG.

Pretty damned good weekend and a fun one to boot. I finished in 7 hours and 1 minute. 10 minutes behind the winner and 6 minutes ahead of 3rd place. Even though I finished with a great time, the best part of the weekend was hanging out with fellow competitors.

This truly was a challenge to be a "Eurekan."

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