race report: rev3 quassy half

While I’m happy that the 6+ hours I spent playing around in the Connecticut countryside involved minimal misadventures, I must say, uneventful races make for boring race reports. Here’s the short version:

I posted a decent time on a brutal course in beautiful weather (though it was a bit windy). I’d forgotten how much of an ass-kicker Quassy is, and while I’m satisfied with how I finished, I wish I had done better. I’ll almost certainly be back for more.

If you want more details on the course and my day on it, here’s the long version:

When I raced Quassy last year, I had just returned from 10 days in Japan, where I did pretty much no training. I had also been dealing with a health issue that made me decrease the intensity of my training for several weeks.

All that is to say I thought I could easily improve on last year’s time, because none of that was holding me back this year.

Nope.

In retrospect, the result is unsurprising. At this point last year, I had four solid months of ironman training behind me. That put me in way better shape (duh), even after you factor in the problems immediately leading up to the race. You know how coaches and pros and pretty much everyone says focused, intense training has much more value than a lot of mushy volume? Yeah, that’s true. (Mushy volume is a lot of fun, though.)

Quassy takes place in and around Middlebury, Connecticut, and offers an extremely challenging course at both the olympic and half distances. That’s why I like it so much — as difficult as it is, crossing the finish line is particularly satisfying, and the feeling stays with you for days.

the swim // 1.2 miles

If you enjoy swimming, this is the easiest part of the race. (And if not, you just start suffering early.) Rev3 opted for a self-seeded, time-trial start, which went smoothly. The triangle swim started going northwest, so things got a little tricky when we made the right turn and headed northeast — into the sun. The wind also made this a bit of a choppy section — I swallowed a lot of water, and sighting was very difficult. The home stretch wasn’t nearly as sunny or choppy, but it was the most congested part of the swim leg.

In the greater world of open water swimming, those are minor issues. Lake Quassapaug is a pleasant body of water, the course is great, and this year it was accurately measured. (Last year, my GPS recorded it more than a tenth of a mile short, and my GPS is usually long)

time: 34 minutes 41 seconds

charging into the water [credit: MW]
and gracefully belly-flopping into it. [credit: MW]

T1

It’s a short, mildly uphill run from the beach to transition. I don’t recall seeing any volunteers stripping off wetsuits. (No big deal to me, but I know some people like the help.) The transition area is one of the things I love about Quassy: They set up wheel boxes, so everyone’s bikes have equal space between them, and there’s no danger of a rack collapsing. (See image at the top.) It’s on a parking lot, so there’s no soggy grass, and the pavement isn’t too bad to run on barefoot.

Wetsuit off. Socks, sunglasses, helmet on. Shot bloks, salt, chapstick in my pockets. Run out. Mount bike. Go.

the bike // 56(ish) miles

Not only does this course have a lot of elevation change, the changes are extreme. I rarely get out of the saddle to climb, but I did so three times during the bike leg. But there’s a flip side: fun descents. The roads were in pretty good condition, and the course wasn’t too congested, so I enjoyed flying down several hills. But the climbs are punishing, especially if you get stuck behind people who are seriously struggling. On one ascent, I came up behind a guy who was all over the place, and I seriously thought he was going to fall over. I didn’t feel I could safely pass him. Some other dude didn’t seem too concerned, and he swerved around the struggler, crossing the yellow line on a blind hill in the process. Dumb.

Generally, I thought most cyclists raced respectfully. I have a hard time not getting irritated when I see people block or draft, but this race was OK — much better than many others I’ve been in.

In perfect conditions, I’d consider this a somewhat technical course, with a fair amount of curves. 10mph winds made it even more so. It was definitely a day to focus on bike handling skills, as wind gusts blew me around a bit, particularly in the last 20 miles, when the course cuts through some open farmland (gorgeous views, though).

That’s the great thing about this tough course: It’s super scenic. Tons of trees, a lovely river, lakes, and spacious, rolling fields. It’s decently shady, too.

I earlier noted the good condition of the roads — there were, of course, rough patches. I’ve never done a 56-mile ride on buttery smooth roads. Pretty sure that doesn’t exist. But relative to some other 70.3 courses I’ve done, this one was pretty good.

After riding through a bumpy spot about 20 miles in, I realized my bottle cage was super loose. And during every stretch of rough road after that, I got distracted by the rattling, wondering if the cage would fall off or if the banging could somehow damage my frame. I got through the ride with no issues, but man, it was annoying.

About halfway through, I really struggled to stay positive — I was behind, and there was no way I’d beat last year’s time.

Why is this SO HARD?

I mean, I know it’s supposed to be hard, but still.

My legs didn’t hurt so much as they felt like they’d had the life sucked out of them. Part of me wanted to push them to the brink, but the other part of me thought that would be dumb, given the whole running thing that was yet to come.

I told myself to keep it under control, to push when I could and hold steady everywhere else. The last 10 miles aren’t too bad, elevation-wise, but my feeble legs could hardly keep it together. A lot of people passed me. As much as I love riding my bike, I was thrilled to get off of it.

One thing I wasn’t thrilled about: the short course. GPS put it at 54.5 miles. So even though I clocked a better time this year than last, the 2017 course was actually 56. Not a huge deal, but worth noting.

time: 3 hours 15 minutes 35 seconds

happy that’s over [credit: MW]

T2

Super easy in-and-out bike to run — the wheel boxes make it easy to rack. And because BTC had enough people register, Rev3 grouped our team together in transition, so some of my teammates who had done the olympic were there when I biked in. Not only had I enjoyed getting ready with everyone that morning, it was nice to get a little team encouragement before heading out on the run. (Thanks, Deirdre.)

the run // 13.1(ish) miles

I thought last year’s course was hard.

Quassy run 2017. [elevation gain is accurate, but max elevation is not — my watch takes a while to adjust after a flight.]
This year’s was harder.

Quassy run 2018.

THOSE HILLS.

But anyway. I shuffled out of transition and immediately realized I needed to make a pit stop ASAP. That definitely put a dent in my pace, but it was necessary. I figured I’d gain speed, but as much as I tried to stay conservative on the bike, I think I still overdid it. At mile 6, I started to feel like I usually do at mile 9 (and by mile 9, I felt like I was in mile 20 of a marathon). I walked the aid stations and a some parts of the early hills (almost everyone was), but walking the hills didn’t actually help, so I abandoned that “strategy” pretty quickly. Oddly enough, I walked every single hill last year, and I ended up finishing the run leg faster than I did this time, so maybe that would have been a good idea, after all. Who knows.

The hills are nasty, but the course is beautiful (relatively shady), and the crowds are great. I enjoyed seeing so many locals out cheering, and the volunteers are truly spectacular. (Shout out to the aid station manned by a local Boy Scout Troop: I was going through and gasped “Gatorade” and the boy nearest to me looked panicked, because all he had was water, so he ran and grabbed some from his friend and ran the cup back up to me, “I’ve got Gatorade!” Bless him.) I had a long, hard day out there, but I enjoyed myself.

My GPS registered a course length of 12.9 miles, which was better than last year’s 12.7.

time: 2 hours 23 minutes 43 seconds.

almost there. [credit: MW]

finish: 6 hours 18 minutes 23 seconds. (last year was 6:07:18)

I gave the race everything I had, but it felt like I didn’t have that much. Time aside, I’m happy to have conquered that course for a second time, and I hope I can improve in the future.

other things about the race

pro: price is OK. I paid $289.25, including registration processing fees. I’ve paid less and I’ve paid a lot more for other races of the same distance. as far as lodging goes, I got an airbnb in the area for a little more than $100 a night. (Unfortunately, we lost power right as I was going to bed on Saturday night, which caused some pretty bizarre stress dreams, but my host was great, and I had power by the time I started making coffee at 3:30 a.m.)

con: live tracking costs $25 extra.

pro: Rev3 is a very family friendly race company. Quassy is actually set at (and named after) a small amusement park, which I imagine would be a nice way to kill time for spectating families with little kids. Rev3 even lets you cross the finish line with your family or dog, if you want to.

con: they let people cross the finish line with their families or dogs. I like the concept in theory, but it’s terrible in execution. these family celebrations get in the way of other racers’ finish line moments.

pro: good swag, including a gender-specific t-shirt, visor, large Gatorade towel, cool finisher medal. bonus: we got co-branded trucker hats with the BTC logo because we had so many people in our club register. very cool.

con: post-race food is meh, in my opinion, and not vegetarian-friendly (burgers, hot dogs, unappetizing pasta). I ate some pickles to keep me happy till I got my post-race pizza elsewhere.

how do you spell recovery? P-I-Z-Z-A. [credit: MW]
pro: free finish photos

con: you get what you pay for [credit: finisherpix]

nerdy stuff

fuel

[before] breakfast: oatmeal with an apple, peanut butter and granola. coffee. water. // while setting up: a quarter of a pb&j. coffee. water. // right before: gatorade.

[during] bike (carbs every 15, water every 10, two salt sticks every 30ish): hammer nutrition perpetuum (caffe latte) the first hour. then the rest of my pb&j. then shot bloks. about half a bottle of gatorade endurance. // run: water and gatorade every aid station. shot bloks between every other aid station. and a sip of coke after I got really sick of gatorade (weirdly refreshing, even though I don’t like pop). two salt sticks every 30ish.

gear

goggles: Roka R1 – Dark Amber Mirror (they hurt my face but have great visibility)
wetsuit
: TYR Hurricane C1
bike
: 2017 Cervelo P2 with Di2
bike hydration system: Xlab Torpedo Versa 200 (love) + Profile Design RM-L Rear Mount Hydration System (hate)
helmet
: S-Works Evade Tri
running shoes
: Saucony Freedom ISO
socks: Stance Spaced Out Crew Socks – Green
chafe prevention: 2Toms Sport Shield Roll-On along my tri suit waist band and around bra seams. Chamois Butt’r where the Chamois Butt’r goes. Tri Slide kind of all over under my suit.
the rest: BTC two-piece tri kit from Castelli (free speed top, free tri short). TYR sports bra. Headsweats visor. xx2i sunglasses, France2 white. Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask.

results

age group: 5 of 14
women: 66 of 207
everyone: 340 of 703

{main image: transition, before the race, featuring my trusty Lightning McQueen towel.}

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