Triathlon Across the USA: State #8 – New York
The Catskill Mountains in eastern New York, home of the legendary Rip Van Winkle, provided the mix of water and hills for a challenging triathlon and overall great time in this chapter of the ‘Triathlon Across the USA’ adventure. Read the full post for new experiences and lessons learned during this weekend with the HITS Triathlon Series.
It was late in 2011 when I began to prepare the 2012 triathlon season. To achieve the goal of completing triathlons in all 50 states by age 70, I needed to complete triathlons in the remaining 47 states within 11 seasons. In other words, I need to complete an average of just over four races per season.
Since Joy and I were living roughly half-time in western Massachusetts as a result of my work situation – a situation that would last for two more years only – the focus for the 2012 season was on completing triathlons in the remaining New England states.
With the ‘race schedule fairy’ working on my behalf, I was able to complete races in the remaining New England states and, as a bonus, this one in New York, all within the 2012 season.
Registration for the HITS Series Triathlon (http://hitstriathlonseries.com/) in Hunter Mountain, New York was completed on January 13, 2012.
Travel to the Triathlon – June 8, 2012
Hunter Mountain, NY is about 2-1/2 hours drive from Chicopee, MA. Since the race started at 7am, we decided to stay near the race venue the night before. Certainly, I could have gotten up at 3am (as on the previous weekend for the Connecticut triathlon) and made the drive in the morning.
However, I was still new enough to the activity that I wanted to pick-up my race packet before race day and get to the race site on race day near the time that the transition area opens (which in this case was 5am).
In fact, Joy and I would have had to leave Chicopee at 2:30am, rising at 2am – life is too short. Besides, we would have missed seeing much of the beauty of the Catskills had we driven to the race site in the dark.
We decided to stay at the Copper Kettle Motel Cottages (http://www.copperkettlecottages.com/) in Windham, NY, primarily because of the link on the race website. There was nothing fancy about the rooms, though we felt good knowing we were supporting the young couple that had purchased the cottages one year earlier.
Little did I know that there would be yet another good reason for traveling to the area on the day before the race.
One week before the triathlon, I received a call from Dave Kiviat, who was working for the HITS Triathlon Series. Dave asked if he could interview me about my ‘story’. Weeks earlier, I had received an e-mail from HITS Triathlon requesting stories about participation in the triathlon.
I had responded to that e-mail with information about the ‘one triathlon in each state by age 70’ mission. Apparently, they found it interesting and decided to see if it could be used for promoting the Series.
On Friday afternoon, Joy and I drove first to the Copper Kettle, following the back roads from exit B2 on I90 in NY, and then to the race site for both the interview and pre-race meeting. Before the meeting with the Hudson River Valley at Saugerties, NY as a backdrop, Dave videotaped an interview of me. Following this, we attended the pre-race meeting and went back to our cottage for the night.
While I never did see the video interview, Joy learned the next day from a race spectator that the story had been published in one of the local newspapers.
Race Day – June 9, 2012
We left the Copper Kettle a little before 5am on race day, driving the roughly 15 miles to the North-South Lake State Park. Of course, we stopped for coffee at a local gas station along the way. By the way, if you have not yet seen the pattern through the various posts, ‘coffee’ is part of the pre-race ritual.
The sky was overcast, threatening rain, with temperatures in the lower 60’s °F (around 16-17°C).
HITS Hunter Mountain Triathlon
This particular event included five distances – super sprint (which HITS calls ‘open’), sprint, Olympic, half ironman, ironman – over two days.
Distances for the individual legs of the sprint triathlon in which I participated were:
- Swim: 750 m (0.47 mile)
- Bike: 20 km (12.4 mile)
- Run: 5 km (3.1 mile)
Joy volunteered first in the transition area and later at the finish line to place finisher medals on Olympic distance finishers. She also served another important function – see comments under the ‘Run’ below.
The 750 m (just under a half mile) swim leg of the triathlon occurred in South Lake. As this was early June in an area popular to snow skiers, the water temperature was in the lower 60’s F. The swim was comfortable, even though I had my first experience with my goggles being struck by another swimmer and partially filling with water early in the race.
During the swim leg, a light drizzle had begun to fall making the roads wet (and possibly slippery). This was the hilliest course that I had ridden to date.
Early in the course, after coming out of the park (which involved a slight climb), the road became flat to slightly downhill. Of course, I was in a high gear trying to take advantage of the slope to gain some speed.
All of a sudden, the road made a sharp right turn with an incredible hill in front of us. As I quickly shifted the chain from large to small ring, the chain came off and became jammed between the small ring and frame.
I dismounted when it was obvious that this was required. However, I was unable to get the chain loose as would normally be the case.
Flipping the bike upside down, I found that the chain was being obstructed by a screw. A short time later, the chain was back on and I was riding. Of course, in flipping my bike over, I lost all of the Gatorade in the water bottle between my aero bars. Fortunately, the weather was cool and I did not need the liquid.
All in all, I guess that I lost about one minute so this was not a catastrophe even though the tips of my fingers had been cut in the process of releasing the chain from its jammed position. Another lesson learned.
With the recent pain in my right knee, I had been instructed by my chiropractor to avoid weight bearing exercises. I had been only swimming.
While swimming is great exercise for general fitness, it does little for the specific requirements of running. The run was the most difficult of this year’s races, requiring a combination of running and walking. Near the end of the race, the muscles above the front of the right knee acted as if they were going to cramp. Fortunately, they did not.
One other lesson that I learned was that it is good to have someone looking out for you. Early in the run, a woman (who happened to be passing me) made a comment about her wet shoes. Odd, I thought, since my shoes did not feel wet. Since I run without socks, I am sure that I would have known if they were wet.
After the race, I found out why my shoes were not wet. My dear wife, who was volunteering around the transition area, had thoughtfully covered my shoes when the drizzle began.
Even today, you will find that my running shoes are covered with a towel in the transition area if there is even the slightest appearance of rain.
I completed the course in 1:38:45, fast enough for a first place in my age group. However, I need to qualify this.
The HITS Triathlon Series offer awards for each age, based on the age of the person on January 1 of that year. This meant that I raced as a 58 year old (even though I was now 59) and, surprisingly, was the fastest 58 year old.
- First interview about my story – to do a triathlon in each state (done as a promotional video for HITS Triathlon Series).
- First triathlon in which there was light rain.
- First triathlon in which I had a mechanical problem with my bicycle – chain came off upon downshifting while climbing a steep hill.
- First triathlon in which I received a plaque for a first place finish.
- Make sure to go into the lake before the race if for no other reason to see what you will be running/walking and swimming in. The lake in this case had a lot of sharp rocks that could have hurt my feet or resulted in a twisted ankle had I blindly run into the water and stepped on one of them. Based on what I learned before the race, I took a much more conservative approach to entering and exiting the swim.
- Having lost all of the liquid when I stopped to reinstall the bike chain, I have learned to carry extra liquid, at least on hot race days.
- Get business cards or at least e-mail addresses of fellow participants of each triathlon. I have met such great people, many whom I would like to stay in contact with in the future.
- ‘It’, a jammed chain in this case, happens to the best of us. The picture below is a scanned image of an article from the June 12, 2012 issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The article describes the experience of an Olympic cyclist who lost her chance at a medal when her chain jammed on a hill climb (sound familiar?) and she had to dismount in order to reinstall the chain.
The return trip followed the same route as we had taken to travel to the race location, with one extra stop to enjoy the Kaaterskill Falls. In traveling around the USA, we have often taken side trips to visit waterfalls and other of God’s creation in order to further appreciate the beauty of this country.
The HITS event was well run, so well run that Joy and I left convinced that we should include others triathlons in this series as part of our schedule. I am quite certain that we will make our California triathlon the one that HITS holds in Palm Springs, CA each December.
Which year is the only question.