Over the 7+ years I’ve done a lot of triathlons. I’ll likely be approaching the 100 mark in the next couple of seasons if I had to guess. One thing I’ve always considered but never actually done is take part in a relay for a triathlon though. Meaning that different people take part in leg of the race. I’ve been a part of a Palmetto 200 relay team and have even done a duathlon relay with Rebekah at one point, but never for a triathlon. Whenever I’ve thought about it, I just remembered that I could just do the whole thing instead! But yesterday, I raced the bike leg of the Mountains to Main Street Half Triathlon on the team Melinda AF and had a blast!
A couple weeks ago I was planning out the build-up into the beginning of my season with my coach Jesse Vondracek. Initially, my plan was to race at Raleigh 70.3 on June 3rd since it is close to home and convenient. Since things have been going so well at home with Charleigh, we decided to shake things up and pick a race that hopefully suits my strengths better, even if it’s less convenient. So in 2 weeks I will be beginning my season at Victoria 70.3, which is a fairly hilly and cooler race up in BC Canada. Rebekah and Charleigh will even be coming along for the trip!
So in preparation for this change in races, I was looking to add some fast and hilly riding in the weeks leading up to Victoria. Mountains to Main fit the bill perfectly and is even longer and hillier with the relay option allowing me to go hard without pushing too much fatigue before the season starts! Two Greenvillians answered the call to join the relay team in the form of Melinda Walker-Lindberg (swim) and Austin Fowler (run). Given Austin’s initials matching mine, team Melinda AF was born!
I was fortunate to be able to get off work early on Friday to head up to packet pickup just in time to grab everything. Rebekah, Charleigh, and I then headed over to Farmhouse Tacos for some pre-race dinner. We were joined by friend and Feighathlete Mike Lambert and his friend Eli. Mike would be racing the entire Half Triathlon while Eli would be racing the half marathon that was also taking place. Rebekah, Charleigh, and I then headed out to get some sleep and were super thankful to have a place to stay thanks to Rick Kattouf. Sleep went well that night as Charleigh is a great little traveler and is an expert sleeper herself!
The morning and travel to the race site at Lake Keowee went super smoothly and before long the race had started with Melinda and the other swimmers taking off! I was left waiting and rolled around on my bike to get warmed up before the big effort coming. The bike was in good working condition luckily after some TLC from the guys at Outspokin the day prior. It’s amazing how problems always like to pop up the day before a race, but everything was running well and I wouldn’t be able to blame the bike for any issues today.
I made sure to get in position with plenty of time to spare and started watching the swimmers come in. When I saw Mike come out of the swim I knew it would be any second for Melinda to come, and then there she was! I grabbed the timing strap from her and quickly realized that the adhesive was no longer working to go around my ankle. So after passing the timing mat, I took a couple seconds to shove the strap in my rear pocket and then got to riding!
I quickly got to work passing many of the athletes that had come out of the water just before Melinda on the hills at the start of the course. I kept having to remind myself not to go out too hard because even though I was only doing the ride, it would still take well north of 2 hours of riding. I came by Mike on a screaming descent right about the 1-mile mark and things started thinning out a lot after the first few miles. Then it became pretty much a one-man time trial from Lake Keowee to downtown Greenville!
While we avoided any downpours during the ride, the roads were constantly wet with a good bit of mist and the occasional light rain. Initially, the visor on my helmet kept wanting to fog up from the humidity and hot air I was exhaling. This probably lasted about the first hour before it resolved a bit to actually allow me to see where I was going! At mile 16 I was actually concerned that I may had made a wrong turn as I spotted a downed sign at a fork in the road and couldn’t tell if I was supposed to turn or not. I second guessed myself for the next 4-5 miles as I didn’t see any other racers or signs. My nerves were calmed when I finally approached the first aid station meaning I was indeed still on track! So with renewed confidence, I kept on rolling through the mountains to Greenville.
Not long after I came upon Thomas Skelton III who I learned was riding in 3rd place at the time. The course was getting a lot more technical now and many of the fast descents ended up having sharp turns that required careful braking and killed a lot of momentum, especially with the wet roads. I found myself having to ride more and more with my head up and ready to react since I really didn’t know the course directions well. I managed to keep the rubber side of the bike down though, which is a win for me even if I took a couple extra seconds on the turns.
Around mile 47 I came up on the last 2 riders before I would take the lead. Considering they had started about 14 minutes before me and looked to be pace-lining each other behind the motorbike, I was pretty happy with how strong I was riding. I made the pass quickly on a long climb and then was alone again, except now with a police motorcycle escort.
Initially, the motobike was staying fairly close ahead and was likely providing some drafting opportunities on the flats and descents. After a mile or so of me trying to wave him forward, he got the signal and went further up the road. When talking with him later, we discussed how it was difficult for him to measure how far ahead to stay since my speed varies so much with the changes in terrain. On top of making sure the now increasing amount of intersections and turns as well as having to frequently check behind him, I’m sure it wasn’t an easy job!
I could tell my legs were getting fatigued in the final miles and pushing out the watts became more and more difficult. But I kept trying to remind myself that I wouldn’t have to run after and to leave it all out there! I finally rolled into the bike finish and handed off my timing strap to Austin in an official 2:21:45 which put our relay team well ahead of the field. I was pleased to look at the data after and see that made for an average of 25.1mph over a very hilly and twisty 59 miles of riding. And for all you data geeks out there, this came out to right around 304 watts NP at about 74kg. All in all, mission accomplished.
Austin, of course, went on to crush the run course and put our team nearly 19 minutes ahead of anyone else in the race! After a splendid shower at Carolina Triathlon, we spent the rest of the day talking with new and old friends and watching the exhausted athletes come in to a well-deserved finish. I’m so glad that I was able to include this race in my schedule and I love the community of people that put on and take part in these races.
Typically I would take the time to call out every person that I encountered during the race, but I’m now going to use the excuse that time is tight and I have a baby to tend to! So to EVERYONE, congrats and thank you for making this a wonderful weekend for myself and my family. I will do my best in 2 weeks to represent South Carolina up in Victoria, Canada.
Of course, a special shout-out to Mike Lambert though for placing 8th Overall though. Looking pretty fly in that Triathlon AF Epix kit.