Double Race Report (Adventure Challenge and NEMO Triathlon)

As a follow up to yesterday’s riveting report, I give you TWO, not one, but, TWO race reports.

About the first of August I was exhausted and buried in my last “build” week for the Lifetime Triathlon in Chicago.  I had discovered that, even though I wasn’t doing a “long” race.  Doing 3 races constituted training at about the half iron level.  If you have done this, you know that unless you are the most positive person in the world, you will hit a point where you begin to question your own sanity and wonder “What the hell am I doing?”  Shortly after that, as you start that glorious period known as “the taper”, you also begin to wonder… “Then what?”  After I finish this crazy quest I’m on… I have nothing to live for.  My life is a void…

OK… Maybe that was a bit dramatic… but still.  I think one of the things I have learned over the years is that to maintain motivation and hope for the future, at some point you have to look PAST that “A” race you are training for and decide what life will be like.  I found it very important about a month or so out from a goal race to begin looking for, signing up for and planning for “THE NEXT RACE”.  Otherwise I find myself kind of lost and lacking motivation.  Obviously, you need time to recover, but something a month or so post apocalypse gives me hope that I will survive and that life can be fun again… still.

So as I was looking, a couple of things came up.  First, the NEMO Triathlon, which is always a well put on, fun race.  Not quite olympic distance, a little more than a sprint.  Definitely doable without much extra effort or change.  The only problem was that it was on the same weekend as a new race, the Finger Lakes Adventure Challenge.  This one is something completely different.  A 4.5 mile kayak, followed by a 3 mile (mostly) trail run.  Basically a race in my back yard, on my home course… inexpensive… great weather…

I can’t say no to that…

So I signed up for both.  The Adventure Challenge on Saturday and NEMO on Sunday.

So, first… The Adventure Challenge

Do you KNOW how long I have been itching to get dirty…?  Do you?  I have been missing trail running something fierce.  But I hesitate to trail run when I am trying to train for a road race because I’m still chicken of getting hurt and having to DNS a race.  But the weekend after Chicago I went right out to the trails again.  Rolled a couple of ankles, fell a few times…  Got really muddy… Ahh.  Good times.

The Finger Lakes Adventure Challenge is put on by Missouri State Parks.  It is a part of a series at parks around the state.  Most are just runs, but this one had the added advantage of being a kayak race.  Something I have never done (and was VERY poorly trained for… like, I kayaked ONCE all year).  It’s a flat water race around a water trail on a really cool series of connected lakes that used to be a quarry.  Then you haul your boat out and take off running down to a multi use trail (bike/run) for a little 2.75 mile trail run on a pretty, if a little snotty, singletrack trail.

First let me say.  DAYUM… I had no idea at the kayak racing subculture.  These guys showed up in multi-thousand dollar racing kayaks that were long, narrow and screaming fast.  And then there was the guy that showed up with a canoe that he had made from scratch!  It was BEAUTIFUL, light and also very fast.  I suddenly felt very underdressed in my little Otter.  Kinda like showing up at a triathlon with a Huffy and looking at all the crazy racing bikes.  They were all very nice guys and gals though, patient with my questions and poor navigation skills.  I can paddle fast enough… but let’s just say I get my money’s worth out of the course (note: I swim and play golf the same way…).

We started en masse from a standing start between two officials boats.  There were about 50 of us.  You had the option of doing the paddle, run or both.  Most of the really fast guys just did the paddle.  Thank goodness… because they were out of the water 15 MINUTES before me.  Kinda hard to catch up with that kind of speed.

After a few final instructions, the horn sounded and we were off.  My vision of a WWII naval battle did not, thankfully, materialize and we all politely and even pleasantly let each other settle in before engaging in battle.  The course made several turns and followed buoys around the trail.  Most places were easy to pass and paddle with room but there was one narrow straight that was pretty exciting as the fast guys were coming back out of it as we went through.  It was amazing how fast they were.  Yes, I had boat envy.  Until I watched them try to negotiate a tight turn around a buoy.  Not so easy in a boat designed to go straight.  Think NHRA dragster trying to race on a road course…  They still kicked my butt though 🙂

As predicted, 4.5 miles in a kayak when you have never gone 4.5 miles in a kayak before tends to be a LONG DAMN WAY.  My little Otter did well though and save for one unfortunately crowded turn where I made the old “don’t look where you don’t want to go” mistake, the main issue I had was simply not being in “kayak” shape.  I suffered pretty bad for the last mile and was REALLY glad to see the transition area.  I beached my boat.  Wobbled precariously getting out and nearly added a swim to my race, then drug my boat up out of the way and took off on the run.

I love running… Did I mention that?  And trail running especially?  It was good to be on familiar ground.  Or actually, just ground really.  I charged off down the hill and into the woods with way more excitement than I should have.  I caught two people before we even got into the woods.  I followed my next victim… stalking him, really… for about a mile before sneaking by at an aid station and then it was wide open all the way home.  Romping up and down the hills, through the mud, rolling an occasional ankle… you know, the fun stuff.  I popped out of the woods and back on to the road and was REALLY disappointed we didn’t go around for a second lap.  So I sadly made my way to the finish line *sigh*.

The volunteers, course and planning for this event were great.  Any brand new race won’t know everything it needs until after it’s over, but I never felt lost or unsafe in the water or on the run.  This was a really fun race and I hope they do it again.  I will be first to sign up.  And maybe rent me one of those Epic racing pencils… I wanna go fast too!

 

And now, for Sunday.

The NEMO Triathlon in Kirksville.

Look.  This a great little race.  It’s a beautiful venue.  It’s well run.  The volunteers and community support it.  I’m sad that it’s not better attended.  After being in a FLIGHT of 150 athletes (of which there were 47 flights) in Chicago, I was sad to see that this race only had about 95 people in it total.  For a 30 year old race… that’s sad.  People need to support this race or it will die.  I would hate to see that.

The swim is a .75 mile (.82 in truth) point to point swim in a beautiful lake with great surroundings, then an 18 mile ride up and out of the park and through some farm land around Kirksville, then a 5.5 mile run with a tough hill on a beautiful course through the park.

Everything is well organized and they bus us to the start.  Waves go off every 3 minutes (there were 4 waves.  Men, women, teams, youth) and the course is straight with one turn at the end.  Good volunteer support at the end to help you out of the water.  The water, this year, was 74 degrees.  With an air temperature around 60.  I wanted in the water as fast as possible!  I love fall races like that where the water is warmer than the air.  There was a little fog on the lake which made sighting a bit of a challenge, but not too bad.  It was a beautiful swim.  Slow, but beautiful.  With a big lake and so few people, I never felt crowded and only got contacted once, by the lead females as they went flying by.  I’m REALLY slow…  I came out of the water in 40th place, fell face first into the carpet when I tripped over a wrinkle in it (which, of course, was caught on camera so it really happened), and headed to transition.

Transition was smooth and easy.  I jumped on the bike and was immediately glad I put on arm warmers.  CHILLY!  Luckily there is a big hill right at the start of the ride (which is really a mean thing to do… BTW) so I was warmer by the time I got to the top.  The rest of the ride was completely uneventful.  I passed a few people.  Didn’t get passed at all.  And rolled back into transition with an average just under 20mph.  That put me in about 30th position.

Again a nice, easy transition and I was out on the run.

Here let me stop and talk for a second about gear.  I’m not a triathlon “fashionista” and don’t usually buy into the “next big thing” in gear, but I have been looking at and reading about compression socks/calf sleeves for a while.  After first brushing them off as a fad and honestly thinking they looked kind of silly, I was listening to a couple of the elite triathletes in Chicago rave about them.  They were saying that they didn’t necessarily help with performance, but endurance and recovery.  Since I had been noticing that my legs were feeling pretty fatigued, I decided to give them a shot for this race.  I bought a pair of SmartWool compression calf sleeves with about 25-30% compression and after this race I. AM. SOLD.  I know it sounds weird (and maybe it’s just mental) but where I really feel it is when I get to the top of a hill.  I used to suffer a bit as I recovered from the effort, but not with these things on.  I feel good all the way up and over.  And yes, when I stopped I felt much better than usual and didn’t get tired or sore.  I love them!

Now, back to the run.  Um… It was good.

OK… I felt fine all the way through, ran a few more people down (including some dude wearing  a very disturbing mankini…) and again, was almost sad that it was over when I crossed the line.

With that, my triathlon season is over.  Now I spend my time split between my trail shoes and my mountain bike (with the obligatory swim here and there as well).  I have a 25k trail race and two half marathons planned, plus a 5K or two as I try to get down under 22 minutes before the end of the year.  I’m hoping I can carry this momentum and positive year over into next year.  I’m definitely thinking a spring marathon, a 50K and MAYBE… just maybe… a shot at redemption in the half iron distance.  I got my head handed to me the first time I tried it.  I want revenge.

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