Harriman Olympic - Race Report

Date: 5/18/13
Race: Harryman Olympic
Location: Harriman State Park, NY

The Harriman Olympic/Half racecourse is challenging. To start the water is pretty cold, usually around 55 degrees. The bike course is anything but flat which makes it difficult to get into a rhythm. The run course is just as hilly and presents the same problems. On top of all that there is limited fan support and the field is very small which can be mentally daunting. All of these negatives are exactly why I love this race. This race truly tests your athletic abilities.

One unique feature about the Harriman Race is that it is self-racking. I actually like self-racking, being able to set up my transition where I desire has its advantages. The down side to self-racking is that if you don't get to transition early enough you’re forced into a less desirable rack. Today’s first objective, rack my bike right next to the main drag out of transition. Objective number two; get a rack that is equidistance from the bike exit and run exit. Disappointingly I had to set up my bike four spots deep from the main drag and at the second rack from the run exit. Not ideal but it was very easy to remember where my bike was coming in from the swim.

In between setting up transition and the start of the race I was able to head down to the water and watch the Half athletes start and finish the swim. I also made a few pit stops to the port-a-potty, listened to some music while visualizing the race and squeezed in a very light warm-up in the parking lot. I would have really enjoyed and benefited from swinging out my arms and using pull chords but I wasn't confident in my shoulder tolerating that type of movement.

10:15 the race director gave his final directions before we were allowed to get into the water to warm-up.

Objectives for swim warm-up; get comfortable and acclimated to the cold water, loosen up arms/shoulders and elevate my hear rate. I didn‘t want to start the swim cold and have to deal with that initial pump in the arms and having my heart rate skyrocket. I was able to swim a couple of laps between the shore and the first buoy. Warm up was a success, I felt ready to swim.

The swim course was triangular and was to be swam in a clockwise direction. The shape of the course made it very easy to break down the course into smaller manageable parts, 1/3's. Swim objective, establish and maintain a comfortable effort and to not push it. I positioned myself to the left side of the wave and about two to three people back from the front. I was going to let the real swimmers go so there was no chance of anyone making accidental contact with my shoulder.

The countdown started, the horn went off, the race had officially started.

I saw Matt get out in front before I dove in. Within the first ten feet someone had already swam over my back. Not sure how one can be that off course in such a short distance. Then someone made solid contact with my left arm and then I was bumped on my right side. So much for avoiding contact. I pulled up and let these athletes pass me because I wasn't going to compete for space with these guys for the entire swim and risk hurting my shoulder. I was able to find clean water and get into a solid rhythm shortly after. As I made it to the first turn I realized I only sighted twice! Holy $hit, I can't believe how straight I just swam. The icing on the cake, I passed a couple athletes. The middle third of the race I swam by myself in very clean water. My form and technique were on point, I was sticking to the game plan. In a repeat performance I made it to the second buoy with only sighting twice. This was awesome, I couldn't believe how straight, relaxed and confident I was swimming. Now, typically on the final stretch of the swim my focus starts to drift. I start to think about other swimmers, how much farther I have to swim, what my pace is, etc. Knowing this about myself one of my swim goals this season is to maintain focus for the duration of the swim. Now was an opportunity to reach this goal. It was very difficult for me to find something to sight off of on the way into shore. As a result I sighted quite frequently. I also got off track a couple of times. Despite the minor hiccups I can proudly say I stayed focused until my hand hit the sand. Was it a fast swim, no. It was the swim I planned for though. Phase one of the race was a success.

As soon as my hand hit the sand I had a flashback to last year. It was at this very moment that I realized something was wrong with my legs. I would later find out from blood tests that I had contracted a rare disease that eats away at your red blood cells. As my hand touched the sand I went to stand up hoping not to have the same feelings in my legs as last year. One foot down, two feet down… my legs were solid, they felt great! I was about to have a great day. The realization that my body was back to normal was so uplifting and gave me such positive energy.

I made it to T1 with a smile and was very excited to start pedaling. T1 was very smooth and managed to gain a few spots because of it.

I had a slight issue sliding into my shoes on the bike (I have now remedied the situation) but nothing that threw my focus off. The plan for the bike was to keep my wattage at 85% of my FTP. The first lap I would ride conservatively and then ride progressively the second lap. First lap went exactly to plan. I kept the reigns tight so I wouldn't get caught up with my adrenaline. I wanted to feel as strong at the end of the bike as I did in the beginning. I managed to pass a few people on the first lap and took mental notes of those that I knew I would reel in on the second lap because they were going too hard. At the completion of my first lap all had gone to plan and my nutrition was on point. I had taken in 300 liquid calories and was excited to start riding harder for the second lap.

My plan for the second lap was to push it on all down hills, "flats" and on 3 specific hills. Right off the bat I caught and passed a couple of athletes, which only added to my confidence. Half way through the second loop and everything was going to plan. I felt strong, hydrated and confident. Let’s push a little harder. I came upon two more athletes on a grinder of a hill and wanted to make a statement. I was going to stay aero and make them feel like they were standing still. As I passed both of them I noticed them look at me out of the corner of my eye, I just kept my head down and powered up the hill. To really rub it in I didn't let up on the gas and continued to push it after cresting the top. I was actually racing and it felt amazing. There is a long false flat before the final series of short climbs that preceded the downhill. I made sure to keep charging through this “flat” area and was able to pass two more athletes. Obviously I made sure to pass them correctly, I blew past them. Finally it was back to working up the “Three sisters”. Push hard on the first two then stay aero and charge up and down the third. This was my section of the course and I had to own it. Coming over the top of the Third Sister I knew I had to hammer this downhill in order to take time from those in front of me and put time into those behind. I quickly shifted to each successive gear as I spun out each one. I passed one athlete on a turn and then caught up to and flew passed another that was attempting to make up time also. He tried to keep up, he couldn't. As I approached the tight 180-degree turn around to start the final climb I gave myself a “systems check”. Mentally I was good, heart rate was good, legs felt great, and nutrition was on point. I slowly built my effort on this final climb while paying close attention to my breathing. About 3/4 of the way up two athletes that I had passed caught up to me, both had something to say about my descending (haha). As I finished up the climb and approached transition I took one last gulp from my bottle and prepared for my dismount. I finished the bike with a smooth dismount and had put down 450 liquid calories. Phase two was a success.

I was able to pass another couple of athletes in T2 and exited with two others. I love making moves in transition; it's such an easy place to get ahead.

It took me a couple of attempts to get my Garmin to start, which started to piss me off, but it finally started. After I got my watch going I realized I needed to pee. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem however I was wearing a one-piece kit for the first time. I didn’t’ want to stop to relieve myself so I began to think of ways to remedy this situation. I thought that if I could just relax my waist area I could just relieve myself while running. After a couple of minutes I realized this wasn’t going to be possible. Option two and three involved different ways of removing my suit. I couldn’t figure out a quick and efficient way to do this so I decided to just run and try to forget about it. I wonder if and how I should practice this before my next race?

I started off at a good pace and had about four athletes in front of me. Instead of running based on pace I was going to race and slowly reel these guys in. Within the first mile I had passed three of them and then returned to running based on pace. A couple of guys made moves to pass me however each one shortly stopped thereafter because of cramping. After two miles I saw Matt in passing and he looked smooth. We gave each other some cheers and went back to work. I continued to run and started to look less and less at my watch and ran based on how labored my breathing was. As I approached the turn around I did another quick systems check; legs were good, mentally still on point, breathing was good, I wasn't hungry and felt hydrated. The second half of the run pretty much mimicked the first half in terms of effort and pace. I did see Ant around mile 5 and it looked like the bike took something out of him. I also remembered that he was a runner in college so he was about to get into his strength. I crossed the finish line feeling strong. Matt was there to greet me with a big Hi-5 and a hug. The run was a success.

This race was a success.

The splits weren't posted after the race and to be honest I could care less. I executed my game plan perfectly. I'm also over the moon with finishing strong, both physically and mentally. It has been a very long time since I have tasted success at a race and boy, does it still taste great.

BIG UP to my coach, Matt Wontz of Organic Endurance for standing by my side over the past year and preparing me for Harriman.

BIG UP to my support crew.

BIG UP to Ignite Naturals for my nutrition on race day.

Next "race" is Rev3 Quassy Half in Middlebury, Connecticut. Once again I'm using this race as another stepping-stone in my preparation for Vineman 70.3, which is about 2 months away.

For the next two weeks, recovery and race prep before the final build to Vineman 70.3.


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