Sociable

Alaina's Triple-T Race Report

By Alaina Neary Case

Quick Recap:
This race is just awesome. Everyone should do it at least once in their triathlon career. The course is hard, but gives you a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the weekend. I paced everything just right, and if it weren’t for the heat on the half-ironman run, we would’ve crushed our time from last year by even more. As it stands, as a team, we beat last year’s time by over 15 minutes and won the Co-Ed division again. First race of the year was a win!

The American TTT is a unique event that is a must-do for every triathlete. The race is a 3-day, 4 race event in the gorgeous foothills of Southern Ohio, in Shawnee State Park. Over the course of the weekend, racers complete almost 146 miles of racing on a very challenging course.

Michigan has been dealt some particularly nasty weather this spring, and I’ve only been outside on my tri bike about 10 times, and hadn’t been able to swim in the open water yet. All of the rain and cold just made this event seem even more surreal- like doing a triathlon in Mid-December. My fitness was spot on, though, and I’ve made some gains since last season. My husband and I were racing as a team again, and this year, the pressure was on. We were the reigning Co-Ed champs and the targets on our backs were flashing neon.

Race 1: Super Sprint- 250yard swim(53rd), 5 mile bike(86th), 1 mile run(39th)- Total Time: 24:15. 62nd Overall, 2nd Female

Before the gun goes off at 5:00pm, Ryan and I donned our wetsuits and swam the course in the frigid 58F water. I LOVE my De Soto T1 wetsuit- it kept my body magically afloat, propelled me like a motor and kept all the cold away from my body. Only my face and feet let me know just how chilly that water was. Now that my first open water swim of the season was done, it was time to race. This super sprint is so short and sweet that it sets you up perfectly for the weekend. You get the kinks out, practice your transitions, but don't need to get all nervous or worked up for a hard race. 

The swim was over almost as soon as I started, and I got of the water in just under 5 minutes. Transition is slow, as per usual, but it was worse for me because my wetsuit got stuck. The bike course starts downhill, then has you climb 2 very steep miles till you turn around and come screaming back to T2. My Garmin battery had died on the car ride to Ohio, so I just went off feel- stay right under threshold. No problem. I just needed to add 2 10lb rocks to my bike to keep up with all the big boys on the downhill!! Also, I am always surprised at how much people go over what must be their threshold on the uphill portions. Now that I’ve learned a great deal from Coach Jorge, I know how silly it is to burn your legs up on the hills, and even without my PT numbers, I could pace myself just right to not do any damage.

T2 was a breeze. I’m at the point where I’ve done this so many times now that even though I haven’t had any practice so far this year, my years of experience make this easy and stress-free.

The run is a quick out and back, and I took the pace hard, but didn’t max out my lungs. It felt like I passed a ton of people and my legs were SO happy to be racing- nice and rested and ready to fire. It was over so quickly, but it got me fired up and excited for the rest of the weekend, as well as for the rest of the season!

Race 2: Olympic, Saturday AM, Individual, regular format
Swim: 21:06 (71st), Bike: 1:17(86th), Run: 45:32 (44th) Total Time: 2:26:20 (56th)

There are so many things that went well this weekend, but one of the issues that I’ve been struggling the most with is staying calm, mentally, and not getting myself all worked up over the race. Since this event is so chill, and so long, I got to practice staying calm and having a lot more FUN during each race.
Transition was a quick set up and everyone at the race was in a great mood. After a quick dip in the lake, I was ready to go! On the swim, I stayed in my zone and tried to push it, but the entire race, I kept repeating ‘half-ironman, half-ironman’ to remind myself that this entire weekend comes down to tomorrow’s run. For having no OWS practice, my sighting was dead on, and the whole swim was really enjoyable. I seriously can’t mention enough how much I love my wetsuit!! 

Transition was slow, but that’s the small price I pay for having to take off the 2-piece suit. If I actually practiced this, I would improve...but that would require work ;)
The bike course this year was different from last year due to weather interference, so this year, we got to climb the infamous ‘Thompson Hill’ and descend on ‘Little Itch Road’. The RD gave us tons of warnings about changing our gear before the climb, and BRAKING for the descent- they had an ambulance waiting at the bottom of the hill, it was that serious. On the bike, I just watched my power, and was amazed how easy 190watts felt. Climbing the hills felt SO much easier than last year, too, and I could turn over my pedals without spiking past threshold- something that seemed nearly impossible last year. Well, I had to spike my power at Thompson Hill, since it starts off at 22% grade, and averages 18% grade for the half mile (or so) climb!! After all that climbing, the descent wasn’t even worth it, it was so insane-HA! I had to brake SO hard that my hands hurt. The road turned to crap, the turns were 180 and the path was pitched with holes. Wow, it was almost easier to climb than it was to descend this little ‘itch’. If i were a braver rider, i could've gained back m ore time, but my cautious nature really slowed me down on the bike. 

The run course for the entire weekend is a 6.55 trail run that is all dirt, rocks and ruts, with horseflies, hills and snakes to keep you interested. Luckily, almost the whole trail is shaded. I took off for the run feeling excellent, but also knowing that I wasn’t even close to half way done for the weekend. I only paid attention to my mile by mile splits, taking the uphills steady and flying down the downhills. The course is uphill for the first 3 miles, than down a big hill to the turn around. Coming back up sucks, but once you hit mile 4, you get to just FLY back to the finish. It’s a fun run, and I am very happy with this pace because it really felt like I was just on cruise control. While I was headed up the trail, Ryan was flying back towards the finish, at least a mile ahead of me. He was just speeding along, and I was incredibly impressed with how far ahead of me he was.
After I crossed the finish line, I felt great. I was happy with my time, and knew that the race had felt ‘easy’, which was good, since we still had a long way to go. I went straight over to the icebath creek and soaked my legs. I chatted with the female leader, former pro triathlete Paolina Allan. I made sure she wasn’t on a co-ed team, and she made sure I wasn’t gunning for top OA female- and then we were friends :). Even though I still wanted to be first place female, it doesn’t really count, since I am on a team and can draft on the bike course.
Bike Course:



Race 3: Olympic, Saturday PM, Team- Format: Bike-Swim-Run
Bike: 1:14:48 (51st) Swim: 22:35 (35th), Run: 49:27(34th) Total Time: 2:31:48 (37th)

The third race is funny, because you start off on the bike, then you swim, then run. It’s also different because now Ryan and I could race as a team. This race is also on Saturday, about 6 hours after we finished the first race. In between races, I ate as much as I could, and took a brief nap at a friend’s hotel. When we started, I wasn’t really feeling very perky, but luckily, Ryan was, so he pulled me along on the bike course. Funny thing, though, even though I was drafting behind him, my power numbers were almost the same as when I was on my own! This course was an out and back, with 2 major climbs. I pulled on the climbs, but Ryan did most of the work on this ride. My average power was only 12 watts lower than the morning, though!

We got back to transition in what seemed like the blink of an eye, and I was finally feeling better about racing. It took me quite a while to get my wetsuit on, so Ryan just left for the water, since I’m a faster swimmer anyways. Putting on your wetsuit, while in a hurry and all sweaty just isn’t fun. Depsite that, I still had a good swim- only 1 minute slower than the morning’s swim. The key to this swim is to not use your legs at all, because if you kick, you risk cramping. So, even without kicking I managed a great swim, and still had to wait over a minute for Ryan in transition. No big deal, I like slow transitions! When Ryan got in, I was ready to run and we took off for another tour of Lamp Black trail. Although we were both feeling good, we held back a ton because we knew just how tough tomorrow’s race was going to be, and we also knew that slowing down on this run is key to having a good Sunday race. We wanted to hit 7:30s and we that pace on the nose. We felt terrific at the end, took a dip in the creek and headed back to the hotel to eat and rest for tomorrow’s HIM! We were finally half way through the weekend!
Bike Course:


Race 4: Half-Ironman, Sunday AM, Team-Format: Swim-Bike-Run
Swim: 31:07 (68th), Bike: 3:03 (40th), Run: 1:48:10 (34th) Total Time: 5:26:14 (36th)

Last year, Sunday morning was one of the most brutal mornings all season. I was completely sore and miserable, and had absolutely no desire to race a Half-Ironman. This year, I can’t say I was ‘excited’ to race, but I wasn’t stiff, I wasn’t fatigued, and I generally just felt good! I knew that I paced the races on Saturday just right, and today wasn’t going to be as awful as last year. When we got to the race site, we checked the team results, and found out we were at least 15minutes ahead of the 2nd place team- if not more (they list the results kinda weird). AWESOME! We were already faster on all the races, so barring any major disaster, this race was ours. This was a huge relief, because at this point last year, we were only a few minutes ahead of our rivals, and had a lot of pressure going into the half.

Walking down to the beach on Sunday morning is a death march- someone described it as a zombie walk. The race is supposed to start at 7:00am, but virtually everyone was still in transition. If we don’t line up, the race can’t start, dangit!! Ryan and I again started together, but since I’m the stronger swimmer, I took the swim pretty easy. I don’t exactly have an ‘easy’ gear to swim in, but I really focused on not expending a lot of effort. I can’t even tell you how happy I am with how I swam- none of my efforts were too taxing, my sighting was nearly perfect, I took the course as short as possible and managed to have hardly any contact with any swimmers. Rather than take any credit, I will say that all of those good things happen because of my wetsuit- even the sighting :) I walked up to transition, and was dreaming of eating a pop tart while waiting for Ryan. I put my bike stuff on, just in case, before eating that poptart, then all of a sudden- there he is!! Omigod, he swam so FAST! No poptart for me- gotta race! So we ran outta there and hopped on our bikes for one last tour of Shawnee state park.

This bike ride is my favorite. It is harder than both of the other courses, because there are steep, hard climbs as well as longer sustained climbs, but the scenery and roads are just so friggin’ cool. I wish I could take this park home with me, and ride it every weekend. I was feeling great today, so I pulled just as much as Ryan on this course. I would tend to pull a bit more on the climbs, because I’m better at not spiking my watts, and get more of an advantage off of Ryan on the downhills and flats, than he does off of me. It really felt like we had a strategy, and worked perfectly as a team. We stopped briefly to pee after completing one loop, and it was just great that we felt so much better than last year. We took over 6 minutes off of our time, felt a ton better and averaged lower watts.

Once the bike was done, we could tell how hot it had gotten-it was going to be the hottest day of the year, by a long shot. We’d only trained in temps above 75 maybe twice all season, and today it was going to hit over 85 (and humid, of course). At the start of the run, Ryan said he wanted to do 8’s to start with, and possibly pick up the pace on the second lap. I was fine with that, and within 2 miles, we passed our rival team. They had always been ahead of us off the bike, but we had already outrun them once, so we were pretty confident we had passed them for good this time. That was a huge relief, because it meant we were DEFINITELY going to win first place Co-Ed team. Now it was just a matter of not blowing up and doing something catastrophically stupid. 

As we kept plugging along, it was obvious that Ryan was in a bit more distress than I was. He was overheating and his chest and lungs were not handling the heat very well. We already both know that he needs about 2 weeks to acclimate to heat, and that just wasn’t possible this year, so we had to manage this issue by slowing down whenever he was feeling panicky. This is where the good and bad of being on a team happens- when one of you feels like shit and the other isn’t- how does the team handle this- especially a married team! Luckily, we handled it perfectly. The one thing I could do was calm Ryan down with my words, and work hard on not pushing our pace and paying attention to his signs of distress. I also made sure to let him know that walking didn’t matter, because we were already winning and it wasn’t worth killing ourselves at this point to run hard- there just wasn’t a point! So we ran as much as we could, but walked a few of the hills. I helped instruct Ryan to eat and drink and dump ice down his pants, and it all seemed to help. By focusing on him, I didn’t feel much of anything on this run, and was very happy that my breathing and stomach all felt excellent- something that hasn’t happened during a race in a long time. Despite being slower on the run last year, our overall time was faster, and we had a much better time during the race, even with the heat.

Bike Course (x2):

After the final race, we cheered on our friends, chatted with new friends and ate some more food. It felt great to know we won, for the second year- both of those $1500 gift certificates were OURS! A huge shout out and thank you to Jorge at E3 Training Solutions for all of your amazing coaching, and helping both Ryan and I with a plan to win for the weekend. I seriously owe any successful race to your careful preparation and confidence in my ability. Thank you Jorge!

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