One week ago I would have been excited to say that I was going to be starting the triathlon season at the Parris Island Sprint Triathlon. That was before I received a text from good friend, Mike Lambert, saying that he had an opening on his Palmetto 200 team that needed to be filled. The Palmetto 200 is a 200 mile relay race between 12 people that begins on a Friday morning in Lexington, SC and ends in Charleston, SC during the day on Saturday. After unsuccessfully trying to find someone to fill the spot, I agreed to fill in if we could make the legs work around the Parris Island Sprint Triathlon which was Saturday morning. This may sound crazy, but how often do I get the chance to literally do 2 races at the same time!
I arrived to the start line of the Palmetto 200 at 5:10 am Friday for the 5:30 am start and met my teammates in Van 1. Normally, 6 people will travel in 2 separate vans to rotate runners throughout the race. Since I had to maneuver other travel arrangements, I brought my car so I could take care of business between legs. I was the lead runner for our team and would set the pace for the group. I had only met a few people on our team before and was told that we were starting an hour earlier than most teams because they were expecting to run slower. This probably confused some people as I took off at the start at a very intimidating pace.
Wearing my neon orange Strictly Running jersey, neon yellow compression socks, reflective vest, front light, back light, and headlamp, I blazed through the night to give my team an obnoxious lead. The goal was to cover ground efficiently so that I would have plenty left for Parris Island, yet still provide a buffer to the next team. The course was rolling country roads through Red Bank that ended at a local church after 6.7 miles. I managed to cover the distance averaging 6:21 min/miles without feeling too bad. I got to hand off to Mike who had about a 10 mile leg to do. After finding him on the course and cheering him on, the team captain, Heather (our team name was “Heather Made Us Do It”), drove me back to my car so I could go pack for my trip to Parris Island.
After getting everything ready, I made the trip to St Matthew’s for my next leg which started around noon. This course was only 5.5 miles but had a couple longer hills and it was starting to heat up a bit outside. Heat always has a tendency to bring up my heart rate a good amount so I knew I had to be extra careful on this leg. My dad came to watch this leg on his motorcycle and got some good footage with his new GoPro. You can see me at about minute 8 after he catches up to me from passing the 2nd and 3rd place runners. We still had a great lead but the teams that had started later were starting to reel in time quickly. I managed to cover this leg in 6:12 min/miles with a little more effort than before, but still not more than what I might do for a harder endurance run in workouts.
After this leg, part of our team traveled to Santee to grab food while the rest waited on their runner. We had some delicious sandwiches from Craig’s Deli while socializing and getting to know each other better. Not everyone knew each other to begin with but everyone in the group was awesome and I was very happy with my decision to join them in our 200 miles of running! After eating, I headed down to Beaufort, SC via country backroads to stay at Granny and Pop’s house (Rebekah’s grandparents) for the night which is a short 10 minute drive to Parris Island. I recovered well that night and got a good amount of sleep to be ready for what I knew would be a tough day on Saturday.
I actually woke up before my alarm due to being used to waking up at 5:15 am for work, and took time getting ready for the race. I headed out and arrived at Parris Island with plenty of time get everything ready and took my time enjoying the morning by talking with many friends I knew at the race. Everyone was excited for their first race of the season and to shake off the rust. I was no different and really wanted to see how I compared to my times from the past 2 years.
Soon enough, we were lined up by the edge of the pool for our 500 meter swim to start the race. They start the race with 1 athlete jumping in at a time with the next going once the previous athlete hits the end of the lane. I was number 3 to go behind friend Herbie Reeves and stud Jack Felix. I had identified Jack prior to the race as being a force to be reckoned with. He has recently placed very well at a couple Elite Development Races and is part of the Collegiate Recruitment Program for USA Triathlon. He hasn’t done many triathlons yet from what I understand, but has quite the resume in all 3 sports.
I jumped in and quickly got to work maintaining a strong form and executing flip turns while pushing off under lane lines. This was my first race in my new Team Kattouf speed suit made by Champ Sys. The suit was pretty tight up top but did not move around as much as other suits have while swimming. I came out of the water and crossed the timing mat in 7:01, which is about 30 seconds faster than previous years for me. It may not seem like much, but that is a huge amount of time to improve in the swim. This is particularly exciting as I’ve always viewed swimming as my weakness in triathlon.
After running quickly through the rocky pavement in transition, I boarded my bike to start getting to work in my strongest discipline of the race. I have recently been doing 95% of my bike training on an indoor bike trainer, which has helped with my power output and consistency a large amount. I have also begun to pay close attention to my aerodynamic position and equipment choices to optimize my speed, as these are all key aspects of a fast time trial cyclist. This includes my previously mentioned new Team Kattouf speed suit which has it’s tight fit specifically for the bike portion of the race. I quickly closed the gap to Jack in the first few miles and spent the remainder of the course holding a steady, high power to put time into anyone that may have been following. I could tell my lead was growing and that I was going much faster than previous years and ended up going over a minute and a half faster than my previous year’s bike time. I averaged about 26 mph on the 10.4 mile course and more details can be found at the link below.
My legs didn’t feel great after the ride and the previous legs of the Palmetto 200, but I felt that I could manage to put together a decent few miles at a fast clip. Not even a quarter mile into the run, though, I came to a dead stop. There was a military platoon directly in front of me. Every year the race organizers warn racers not to cross a platoon that may be on the course due to being on a military base. I always knew it was a possibility, but had never heard of it happening to anybody. After about 20 seconds of standing there awaiting Jack to catch me, one of the men from the platoon asked me if I needed to cross. I told him I should only need to use the side walk. After he said it was okay, I took off and tried to regain the time I lost. After losing almost 30 seconds of race time, I still managed to cover the first mile in 5:46 with no sign of anyone approaching behind me. I knew my buffer on the bike must have been bigger than I initially thought, but kept the effort high to ensure no surprises.
The second mile came in at about 5:30. Still a solid pace for me and I was confident I could finish it out as I began passing by people heading out on the run. I was thrilled to come through first in this race as I finished out the final mile strong. The past 2 years I have placed 2nd at this race which has always left me hungry for the win. This year, not only did I take the win, but I did it by setting a COURSE RECORD by almost a minute! This was including the dead stop during the run too! This gave me a great boost of confidence that I’m sure will help drive me in training for my upcoming races.
I found out shortly after that my Palmetto 200 team was ahead of schedule! To make it in time to run the final leg, I had to miss the award ceremony at Parris Island, but was ready for my last challenge of the day. I arrived in Charleston with about 15 minutes to spare and was changed back into my Strictly Running jersey ready to go! I got the handoff and took off to improve upon my paces from the previous day. After the first mile and a half on busy Charleston streets, the course began going up. Up the Cooper River Bridge that is. I never realized how long or steep this bridge was, but I thought it would never end! Probably close to 2 miles later I had made it to the top and began the fast descent down. This portion was simply a matter of how well I could keep my form together without just falling and rolling.
Upon reaching the bottom I met a fellow Team Kattoufer wearing a pink tutu, named Garrett Molzer. Luckily for me, he seemed to know where he was going and helped me with a couple directions where I almost got lost. Back on track, I picked up the pace to finish strong for the team who was waiting at the finish line. The finish line was very exciting and everybody was ecstatic that we had finished and it was over!
The rest of the day involved me hanging out and learning more about my spectacular Palmetto 200 teammates. My body also decided to hate me in many different ways throughout the rest of the day, but I was well aware this would happen well before I began on Friday morning. This weekend was the most fun I’d had in awhile. The most fun I had was frequently just talking to old friends and making new ones throughout Friday and Saturday. I hope to have much more of this in the coming weeks and am really excited for everything coming up!
Next up is the 5k in Newberry next weekend. Otherwise, more training to prepare to dominate the next couple months!