My final ‘A’ race triathlon of 2014 was at Rev3 Poconos. The Poconos area is not unfamiliar to triathlons, and on paper does appear to have all the elements a race could want, but it does seem to be a bit cursed. Ironman has tried repeatedly to put on events here only to have logistics or acts of God (a hurricane) scuttle their efforts. They pulled the plug last year. Rev3 stepped in and gave it go this year with a half and an Olympic event. Like all debut races, not everything went perfectly and there are areas for improvement, but it has all the elements to be a successful race venue for Rev3 in the future. I’d race it again.
You probably think this is pretty obvious, but when I was planning out my season and signing up for the race in May, I was not considering the temperature up in the mountains in mid-September at seven a.m. This is the race that I remember being cold. Really cold. First tip to organizers? Move this race to July or August please.
One reason this race was appealing that we have family that have a place in the Poconos, so I’d have a place to stay. My Dad and I drove up Saturday morning and arrived at the Shawnee Inn around noon for packet pick up and the first mandatory athlete meeting. This early, packet pick up was a breeze. Speaking of breeze, the weather was cold, drizzly and windy. It was beginning to sink in that I maybe I should consider ending my tri season in August in future years.
After the athlete meeting and walking through the small expo, we headed off to check out the swim start and T1. The Poconos race is point-to-point, not really my favorite, just for the added logistics, shuttles and less spectators out of the swim. This was a lake swim. After a few wrong turns going up a mountain, we found it. I’m glad I wouldn’t have to deal with currents swimming down in the Delaware River, but it was spooky up here in the fog and the rain. It appeared to either an old campground or old resort. It was very isolated. Think Camp Crystal Lake. Given the temperatures and the increasing rain. I opted to skip the practice swim (there were very few brave souls in the water, though it was probably much warmer out there than up on the bluff for T1. I set up my bike, covered it as best I could with garbage bags and jumped back in the warm car.
The morning didn’t raise the mercury any and I was seriously starting to worry about the effects of the temperature. Not so much on the swim, but after, on the bike. Steering, shifting, basically staying in control would be difficult if I was shivering and couldn’t feel my hands. Our hosts didn’t have much in the way of athletic gear, but did have a long sleeve tech shirt which I gratefully took. Anything was better than nothing.
With the point-to-point race, we drove back to the resort/hotel area to set up T2 first with the running gear then jumped on a school bus to get up the mountain to T1. Race officials would bring any leftover gear back down to T2 for pickup after the race.
It was cold, wet and drizzly at T1 and it was quickly apparent I wasn’t the only one stressing out about the temperature and potential lack of warmer gear. After checking my bike tires and setting up my remaining gear, I headed down the hill to the lake. I’ve never been so happy to jump in a lake at 7 in the morning. It was the warmest place for miles around.
Unlike my last tri, which often felt like swimming in a wading pool, Second Lake was large and deep. It was an age group, in water, mass start, not my favorite way to start, but my group was small and there was plenty of room and as I’ve mentioned we were all quite happy to get moving. The first half of the swim was relatively calm as the group starts were spaced out well enough and there was a long straightaway to further spread folks out before the first turn bouy. The course was a simple square and for three sides of the square things were mostly uneventful, but as we made the last turn the sun really came into play and we also started picking up the 70.3 swimmers that started ahead of us and swam a larger rectangle. So, the last stretch was crowded and almost blind, but I eventually pulled myself out of the water and charged back up the hill to my bike.
The course was either a little long or my sighting wasn’t quite as good as I thought. My Garmin had me swimming slightly over 1700 yards in 28:22 or 1:39/100, a very solid pace for me over that distance. I was 4th out of the water in my age group.
Swim: 28:22, 4/18 AG, 26/146 overall
My lasting impression of this bike was cold (I know, a recurring theme) and downhill. Over the first four miles, you drop from 1200 feet down to 400 feet before the course flattens out to a pancake inside the Delaware Water Gap National Park. After existing the park, things get more technical with some twists and turns and short climbs as the course winds along the river back toward the Shawnee Inn and T2.
I whiteknuckled it down those first four miles, topping out over 40 mph and averaging just under 30 mph for the first 5 miles before settling in to a more normal speed/cadence for me over the last twenty miles finishing with an average speed of 20.15 mph. I held my position in my age group, being passed in T1, but passing 2 guys at the halfway point before getting picked off by one guy in the last ten miles, netting out where I started in 4th. Overall I slipped a bit, not a huge surprise on the bike for me, need to work on that, going from 26 to 31. Still better than past races.
Bike: 1:14:26 4/18 AG, 31/146 overall
In the days leading up to the race, the stomach-churning issues of the last race were definitely on my mind. I kept my diet pretty plain, stayed hydrated and basically crossed my fingers. Up to this point in the race, I was feeling fine. I’d stuck to my nutrition plan on the bike and had another gel ready for the run, plus water at the aid stations.
The run course was an out and back, the first 5k was basically uphill, then we hit the turnaround and ran back downhill to the finish. By this point, I should also mention, the sun was out and the temperatures were getting warm.
The big downhill section on the bike definitely gave my legs a break, but with the first half of the run uphill, it was hard to tell just how good or bad my legs were as they burned right from the start. By the top, at the 5k split, I was averaging 7:28 per mile for a 23:10 first half and was holding in fourth place for my age group (I’d actually dropped a few spots overall). Not great, but not terrible, given the climb. Later, looking at the grade adjusted paces on Strava, I’d see a really solid and consistent effort near 7:00/mile. I didn’t know it at the time, but my legs were feeling good, really good, when I made the turn.
With 3 different disciplines and different courses and different weather, it’s sometimes hard to mark your progress in triathlon. You could have a great day in one leg, but not another. Or maybe the course just didn’t line up with your strengths. Or maybe your nutrition was off. Or you over trained. But occasionally, everything lines up, you peak in your training at the right time and things come together for a great race. This was one of those races for me.
I took the turn and recovered a bit during mile 4 (7:27) as my legs adjusted to going downhill now, then I picked it up, dropping to 7:06 for mile 5 (it was during this mile that someone told me there was only 1 other person in front of me in my AG) and then dropped the hammer (for me!) in mile 6 for a 6:52. I had a big negative split on the back half, doing 21:49 for 7:02/mile, reeled in a bunch of people, including the 3 people in front of me to take the top podium spot in my AG! My first AG win! In the second half of the run, I managed to pass a total of 16 people to get into the top 20 overall. Not a bad way to finish the season.
Finish 2:33:13 1/18 AG, 18/146 overall,
There was a nice post-race buffet including some local microbrews, though I spent much of the time watching the leaderboard and checking the updated splits to see if the guy that tipped me off about the AG place actually new what he was talking about. Turns out, he did. My AG win confirmed, we waited around a bit for the awards ceremony.
I got the nice Rev3 winner medal that fits inside the race medal, plus a pint glass and a bag of goodies (box of powerbars, bike socks, Rev3 merch gift certificate among other things). With that, we loaded up the gear and drove home. A big smile on my face the whole way.