Yesterday was the Clemson Sprint Triathlon which is in its 20th season of being put on. It was also the Championship race for the South Carolina Tri Series this year. The past couple of weeks for me have been some of the largest weeks that I’ve ever done in training due to having off from work which meant that my fitness is super high, but so is my fatigue! This would be my first time racing this course and I was excited to go show those Clemson Tigers how to race a triathlon! Upon looking at previous year’s times and course records as well as the course maps I realized that with a solid effort, I could very well attempt to set a new course record on the 20-year-old course. Though it wouldn’t be a walk in the park.
The afternoon before I drove up to stay with friends Garrett and Beth Molzer who live in Greer, SC. This was a bit closer to the race site and it was fun catching up with them at their home throughout our slumber party. Wake-up time was 4:50 am and we were out the door just after 5:30 and on our way to the race site in Clemson. Garrett was also racing and Beth was responsible for all pictures throughout the day (including most of the ones here). The weather upon arriving was a bit warm and very humid and I was already beginning to sweat just setting up transition. I got to talk to a lot of friends while setting up around transition and during my warm-up run. Pretty much all of the people from the upstate area are super nice to talk with and I always enjoy racing in this beautiful area of the state, despite it typically being a bit hillier.
Eventually, I got the wetsuit on and headed down to the water. I didn’t do much of a warm-up other than a couple accelerations as I felt pretty ready to go and didn’t want to raise my core temp any more than I needed to starting out. Soon the canon (yes, canon) went off and the race had begun! I had identified Alvaro Velez as likely being the fastest swimmer in the group and decided he would be a good guy to swim with. Luckily, he had positioned himself just to my right before the start and took off with a huge surge at the start! This put me slightly behind his draft for a number of strokes before I was able to reconnect and stay right on his feet. The first two-thirds of the swim essentially involved my focusing on good turnover while staying close to Alvaro. This pace felt comfortable despite me slacking a bit in the water in training lately due to my recent road rash. At the last turn buoy, Alvaro drifted a bit to the right of what I thought would be a straighter line to the finish so I decided to exit his draft for a straighter line to the left. The difference of a straighter line was negated by not being able to draft his feet though and I ended up exiting the water just a few seconds after him.
There was a moderately steep climb up the sandy beach to get to T1 after exiting the water which wasn’t particularly easy after just becoming vertical again. I ended up exiting T1 just ahead of Alvaro and set off on the bike in the lead. The bike course was just over 10 miles long, and after looking at the elevation profile in the previous days, I knew that most of the elevation would come in the first 8 miles. I made it my goal to target my threshold power of 330 watts for that first section of uphill. My legs were pretty unhappy with the previous weeks of heavy training and my lungs were still sucking down air from the climb out of the water, but I got to work immediately despite the discomfort. There were a number of turns and short climbs throughout the bike which made for a good bit of surges and my legs were continuing to hate me, but I ended up maintaining my power goal all the way until the first large descent in the last couple of miles of the ride. I kept the pressure on where I could in the last couple miles before getting ready to hop off the bike. Coming around the transition area I nearly ran into a couple small children that didn’t see me coming, but I made it into T2 with a new bike course record of 25:18 with an average of about 26 mph.
Upon exiting T2, I learned that my legs did not like me at all for what I just did to them. The run course luckily starts with the 1st mile being mostly downhill so I was able to begin opening the legs up without having to push the effort to 100 immediately. I passed through 1 mile in about 5:35 which is where the course began to get difficult. A very steep climb came up just after the mile mark which slowed the pace dramatically for about a minute before flattening out and heading onto a trail of grass and wet dirt (not quite mud). My goal for this section was to maintain a decent pace without eating dirt since my shoes are lacking in the traction department. This is where the turn-around was and I soon saw that I had just over a few minutes on Peter Kotland and Jeff Brandenburg who were running very close to each other. The course was an out-and-back which meant I then had to descend the monster hill which was almost as bad as climbing it. I took it pretty carefully as I didn’t want to do any damage to my legs and picked up the pace immediately after. The 2nd mile ended up coming back as 5:54 which I was fine with given the difficult terrain. The last mile involved me passing many of the runners coming the other way and many of them told me I was on pace for the course record. The last mile was mostly uphill but actually felt the best as I was really starting to warm up into the effort. Soon enough, though, the finish line approached and I came through with an overall time of 55:58 which was good enough to beat the course record held by Parker Roth by about 20 seconds.
I enjoyed hanging out after the race and talking with many of my friends from the upstate before the awards ceremony. Garrett even let me have a bit of his root beer float after he finished courtesy of Abby Russell! Frank Roth was also super nice to provide a great massage after the race which has me feeling great. Later in the afternoon, I joined in a cake tasting and Texas Hold’em Tournament put on my Beth and Garrett to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I ended up losing twice, despite attempting a buy-in after my first failed attempt. At least it was for a good cause! If you feel like contributing to the cause then just follow the link here!
Next up will be a couple more local races before Chattanooga 70.3 where I’ll be fighting to see if I can’t place a bit higher against another strong pro field!